Muckdwellers and giant muckdwellers might be getting a bad rap. They’re often described as pretty simple, having only a rudimentary intelligence and the barest sketch of a society. But they've actually got Int 9—the same as lizardfolk, and basically the same as your average human—and Wis 12. So they’re no dummies. It’s just that, since they’re Cha 7, they likely don't have the strongest personalities or much of a desire to mingle.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, because it’s nice to have in your back pocket. Chances are you’ll just be using muckdwellers as a random encounter or side trek. But the potential for surprise is there—given the right trigger.
Maybe one of the characters drops a charm on one, only to discover it’s quite intelligent and talkative…or your sorcerer hurls some insults in Draconic only to have even filthier insults hurled back…or the PCs try to rob a lizardfolk town’s “stables,” only to discover that the compound is actually a separate village, and the giant muckdwellers therein are no ordinary mounts… Suddenly it's a different adventure. You know how Terry Pratchett’s humanoids have a way of surprising their human neighbors, or how a single charm person spell in the course of the Dragonlance playtest changed how the playtesters (and later novel readers) saw gully dwarves? That could happen with muckdwellers in your game.
Three times in four, it won't come up. The hungry muckdwellers will spray their blinding spray, the PCs will return fire, and in a few short rounds the encounter will be over. But the potential is there, and that’s good enough for me.
Obviously you know how to use muckdwellers in swamp and jungle encounters, so here are a few slightly more unusual places you might find them:
A malfunctioning magical artifact teleported the battle-damaged galleon Heart of the Pegasus far inland, deep in a marshy wetland. The muckdwellers who found the ship, having never seen anything larger than a skiff before, became enchanted by their discovery and have lovingly restored it. The Heart is now their (somewhat listing) castle—much to the confusion of the intelligent (and still malfunctioning) artifact.
The ratfolk-led Guild of Ragpickers & Muckrakers goes on strike. A nest of dark nagas discreetly promises the town fathers that they will “resolve” the situation. But the giant muckdwellers the nagas sneak into the city aren’t schooled in the finer points of strikebreaking and they begin eating the ratfolk citizenry.
Oni pleasure barges create a lot of waste as they soar through the night sky. In many of these floating palaces muckdwellers toil at the pumps and in the bilges, talking care of the giant vessels’ more menial tasks. Adventurers experienced and brave enough to fight oni will likely have little difficulty defeating a swam of muckdwellers in combat, but more savvy parties will work out ways to sneak past, sabotage, or recruit the lizard creatures.
—Pathfinder Bestiary 5 175
Apparently I had sewage on the brain today.
Also, just for kicks I was Googling the Irish derogatory term “muck savage” when I came across a Dr. Mucksavage at U. Penn who is (I am not kidding) a urologist. Aptonym much? You do you, Dr. M.!
Looks like my sass from last entry struck a nerve! Lots of people wrote into defend the honor of the giant mantis shrimp. (I got nothin’ but love for y’all, myth-lord!) Check out their responses here.