Once a branch of the gremlin family, mites are a cautionary tale—an example of what happens when fey lose their connection to their home realm. Even gnomes and other gremlins fare better—gnomes are exiles, but they have embraced life in the mortal world with vigor; and the other gremlin species still cling by a thread to the magic of their forebears, though their strange obsessions with the things of this world (especially machinery) continue to threaten their mystical status. Mites are bloated, warped pathetic signposts for what happens when that connection is lost.
Exploring what happened to mites can certainly be the source of a mite-centric adventure. (You might even indicate their faltering magic with prestidigitation spells that misfire, or describe successfully saved-against doom spells as fizzing out pathetically.) They’re also poignant examples of what happens when ugliness turns in on itself, then outward at the world. Mistreating a mite practically guarantees retribution, but even treating one well won’t necessarily melt its heart, as used to abuse and loathing (including self-loathing), as they are).
If all else fails, of course, mites make for a great excuse to just launch hordes of giant insects at your players. And that’s always a good thing, right?
The Beating of Ugly Tom is a local spring festival in the town of Hope Hollow. (Some 100 years back an infamous escaped criminal was caught on the day of the local floral festival. His captors suspended him from the maypole so he couldn’t get away again before authorities arrived.) Every year the townsfolk make a piñata of Ugly Tom and beat it with rods until sweetmeats come out. Unbeknownst to them, every year they are watched by mites who regard the festival with horror. This year, though, the townsfolk happen to make Ugly Tom out of blue cloth (an old bedspread)—and the blue-skinned fey, taking this as a personal insult, leap from their hidden bolt-holes and attack.
A nymph has promised a tribe of mites that she can lead them back to the realm of the fey and restore their magic. The price is the destruction of a human town. The mites lead their giant termite (use giant ant statistics) and wasp soldiers to destroy the damn upriver, never knowing they are being led astray by a magically disguised imp.
Gremlins have discovered a large mite colony known as the Kingdom of Hate, and laid siege to it with single-minded destructive ferocity. The mites send their stoutest and bravest warriors (all of these things being relative terms) to recruit human aid, promising a wealth of (previously pilfered) magic items. But if the adventurers save the day, the mites refuse to pay them (citing imagined betrayals and insults), and if the party includes a dwarf or gnome they attack outright.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 207
I don’t even remember mites having much of a character in AD&D—they were just nuisances in the gremlin family tree. So I’m a big fan of Paizo’s take on them, and am impressed that they made it into the first Bestiary.
I am sitting typing this is in the lounge at Dulles Airport, on my way to London. So yes, The Daily Bestiary is going on vacation for another week. Sorry to do this to you guys again so soon—I certainly didn’t anticipate my computer breaking earlier this month!—but I’m in need of a change of scenery, and the UK seems like a good choice, January weather be damned.
I’ll do my best to get the mithral golem entry up tomorrow so we finish out this week, then regular blogging will resume January 7.