Friday, February 17, 2012


Famously the only lawful good monsters in the original Fiend Folio, flumphs are The Star Wars Holiday Special of monsters—not so bad they’re good, but so bad they end up being even worse than you’d heard they were.  These days they mostly show up in April Fool’s releases and as a running gag in The Order of the Stick.  That said, Adam Daigle did a yeoman’s job of trying to bring flumphs up to date in Misfit Monsters Redeemed, setting flumphs in opposition to the Lovecraftian horrors that live in the blackness of space.  (Then again, he may just have inspired just more grounds for mockery, given the note about interpretive dances in the MMR introduction.)

But.  But!  (And you know I’m serious, because I’m using a second paragraph for my intro, which I never do.)  We leave in the weird fantasy era—call it the New Crobuzonian Period—where China Miéville and Jeff VanderMeer are discussed in the same breath as Tolkien.  Rather than trying to make flumphs safe for your fantasy setting, your best bet is to use flumphs to help warp and reënvision your fantasy setting.  Make them one of the organizing elements of your campaign, like the draconians of Krynn or Eberron’s warforged.  Because nothing tells players they’re not on Middle-earth anymore like a tentacled saucer that injects acid…especially when it’s the only thing on their side.

They call it the City, the World-Tower, the Sky Seeker—a metropolis so large most inhabitants never leave it.  They say that steel-winged archons circle the spires of Civus, keeping it safe and reflecting on its marvel.  But even if it’s true—and most residents of Civus’s Undercity will tell you it’s not—the archons’ gazes never reach the Undercity, whose only sky is vaulted ceiling after vaulting ceiling.  Here humans and dwarven shopkeepers, miners, and smelters mix with ratfolk, clockwork constructs, oread separatists, fey halflings, goblin and gremlin infestations, and myceloid crime families.  The closest thing to the law is the flumphs, hovering just overhead and directing a ragtag group of rangers and inquisitors to keep the peace.

They make an odd pair, the peri Dyanne and her flumph sidekick Hess, hunting down minor divs and starborn aberrations wherever they can find them.  They’d make an even odder pair if Dyanne would let the flumph wizard train in firearms like he keeps asking to.

A flumph needs help shutting down the operation of an unscrupulous mercane, who is offloading moonflower pods to unsuspecting customers.  That the mercane also traffics in forbidden books of lore about space is an added bonus.

Misfit Monsters Redeemed 34–39 and Pathfinder Bestiary 3 118

I have to tackle two Misfit Monsters Redeemed creatures in one week?  That’s just not fair.  (And I didn’t.  This post is late; I went to Katsucon instead.)

Also, there is a lot to link up there in that intro…so much so I may just skip it.  Give Miéville a Google if you don’t know him.  Not The Star Wars Holiday Special, though.  Don’t ever.

Also, over time I’m coming to believe that organizing your world around the hardest-to-fit elements can sometimes make for the most cohesive settings.  Part of why the Scarred Lands worked so well, for instance, was that druids made sense—they served the titans.  Halflings were servants and slaves.  Gnomes lived in the southern jungles. And even the most bizarre monster tended to owe its existence clearly to a god, titan, or the slarecians.  (And the gods and titans themselves were part of an interconnected family—something that comes standard in mythology and fantasy novels, but that fantasy role-playing has been weak on since Greyhawk.)  It’s easy to pop clerics, dwarves, or hobgoblins into your game.  Know where the druids, gunslingers, monks, paladins, gnomes, halflings—and flumphs—fit in (or don’t—purposefully leaving stuff out is no sin) and you’ve answered a lot of the hard questions.

1 comment: