How much do you know about troglodytes? Most people stop after "They live underground"... but if you read this you'll soon know a lot more about what the Introduction describes as 'a thoroughly foul reptilian race' (not a promising start) who dwell in the underdark, and occasionally in the rocky peaks and passes of remote mountains, and are remarkably good at conducting ambushes with javelins. Are they really that bad, or do they have some redeeming features?
We start with Troglodyte Physiology, although there's a lot more here than that. OK, so they are five-foot tall upright bipedal critters with scent glands that turn anyone's stomach, and rarely seen unless they are raiding. Unlike many bipedal creatures with tails, they don't use them as a counterbalance but drag them along the floor behind them, leaving a distinctive track that doesn't take a ranger to follow. Never mind the scent glands, they aren't too good at personal hygiene either. Dentition suggests that they are carnivore, possibly carrion-eaters, but nobody knows for sure. Detailed descriptions of their appearance, mating habits, chameleon-like skins, lifecycle and more follow. They are far weirder than you might have thought!
Next, Habitat is discussed. They invariably live underground, some deeper than others. They are good swimmers although by no means amphibious, and many of their lairs are partially submerged. They also need access to a good food supply - they have virtually insatiable appetities. Moving on from this, Troglodyte Society looks at their organisation, based around tribes of about thirty to an hundred in number, including hatchlings and juveniles. They are very territorial, despite their lairs being nothing to be proud of: dirty and messy are polite descriptions of their normal state. They are always hungry - a well-fed male goes into a mating frenzy that soon means that he's after something to eat again. The more tribe members get to eat, the larger and more intelligent they become - and the more likely to challenge their leaders. There's a distict hierarchy based on age, size and intelligence with only the most advanced (read 'well-nourished') tribes boasting crafters or clerics amongst their number. However smart they are, they all are vile and cruel, even the most stupid youngster has an appetite for torment and cruelty which they indulge whenever they get the chance. After all, even their own leaders regard them as expendable. Those of them bright enough to engage in worship follow an evil deity, the Lizard Toad, about whom the less said the better.
Methods of Warfare are explored next. They're very good at ambushes and skilled with javelins. As aggressive carnivores, it's often unclear whether they distinguish between a battle and a hunt. The vanquished are likely to be eaten either way. They are remarkably organised in battle, moving as one to the attack, although individually they fight almost in a frenzy. They are most ferocious of all when defending their lairs.
Next is a look at Role-playing with Troglodytes. It's all about bringing out the otherness of this race, an alien evilness that just doesn't relate to anything else your party will have ever encountered. It's quite difficult to interact with them in any manner that doesn't involve the point of a sword or a battery of offensive spells. Only the leaders are smart enough to even be able to hold a conversation, and they generally do not wish to do so - rank and file troglodytes are just too dense to have any meaningful communication at all. This section explains how to create troglodyte communities and involve them in the world above their heads, and it is followed by a selection of Scenario Hooks and Ideas to bring them into your game. There are also details on creating crafter troglodyes, but it is highly unlikely that they will ever be more than NPCs.
Finally, The Shrine of St Darius presents a fully-developed troglodyte lair - the troglodytes having accessed a monastery through caverns beneath it that link into the crypt... to the downfall of those religious living there. Although there's plenty of detail about who the troglodytes are and their activities, no plans are provided. It's suggested you site this in a remote mountain valley in your game world and, unless the party is sent there to find out what happened to the clerics living there until recently, use the various scenario hooks provided earlier to slowly bring it into prominence.
You will still feel that troglodytes are disgusting and evil after reading this, but you will know much more about how they come to be so vile, and will be in a position to use them as potent opposition especially to low-level parties.
Return to The Slayer's Guide to Troglodytes page.
Reviewed: 29 March 2018