Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ecology of the Flumph

Throughout my meditations on the FF, Anthony has repeatedly voiced an opinion that many (myself included) have accepted as D&D truth — the flumph is one of the most (if not the most) useless and silly monsters in the history of the game. He also implied a challenge (if only tongue in cheek) — one that I have taken half-seriously since.

Though I am not yet willing to go so far as to make them a PC class, I do have in mind a way to rehabilitate the flumph in a way that not only makes them interesting, but potentially dangerous. In order to do this, I will take full advantage of the science-fantasy feel of the FF, though my inspiration for this rehabilitation is via the good ‘ol 1e MM.

I have always been intrigued by the relationship between blink dogs and displacer beasts. The latter is described as hating all life, but particularly blink dogs. Under the description for blink dogs, it clearly states:
There is a great enmity between blink dogs and displacer beasts and the two creatures will always attack each other.
Of course, the reason for the enmity is never given — allowing me free reign to do what I will with it.

Since the two share similar powers (displacement and limited teleportation), I have always liked the idea that they are both creatures or descendants of creatures that hail either from outer space or another dimension. Though the 1e MM lists the displacer beast having a neutral alignment and only semi-intelligence, Holmes notes in his rule book that they have evil tendencies and makes no mention as to their intelligence. This, in part, helps explain the lawful good alignment of the blink dog.

One of the powers of the flumph that I imagine helps solidify it as one of the most ridiculous creatures in D&D, is actually a key in which to tie the flumph to this relationship between blink dogs and displacer beasts. The “stink spray” defense mechanism is actually a perfect weapon against a displacer beast — it is an area effect 60° arc in a 20ft. cone.

Given this weapon and that they share a lawful good alignment, flumph and blink dogs are natural allies. The description of their languages, however, suggest an interesting, if ironic, picture of this relationship. While the flumph has a limited vocabulary with the Lawful language (suggesting that much of its communication skill is body language), the blink dog has a “fairly complex language consisting of barks, yaps, whines and growls.”

This implies that it is the flumph, not the blink dog, who fills the role of the hunting/pointer dog in the relationship. The flumph uses its defense mechanism to mark a displacer beast with the distinctive smell, making them easier to track and kill for the blink dogs.

Falling back on the inspiration for the displacer beast — A.E. Von Vogt’s Coeurl — it is easy to imagine that the displacer beast is a kind of interstellar/extra-planar criminal. The blink dog, with its flumph “hound” is the grunt of an interstellar/extra-planar police force tasked with hunting down and arresting/killing the displacer beast.

It is easy to imagine, therefore, that in a FRPG setting with a dash of science fantasy that the standard blink dog, displacer beast and flumph are the descendants of an ancient crash of a prison ship. The enmity of the blink dog and displacer beast stems from this relationship and has been passed down from generation to generation. In the meantime, flumph are the loyal hunting/pointer dogs cooperating with the blink dogs to hunt down and kill their nemesis.

Thus, an encounter with the flumph, rather than bordering on the ridiculous, can be quite deadly. Since their “stink spray” is described as a defense mechanism, anyone unfortunate to stumble upon a flumph might get sprayed. This would then mark them as a criminal ally of the displacer beast and therefore for eradication by nearby blink dogs. The lawful good alignment, in this case, becomes dangerous because they will assume anyone marked by a flumph needs to be doggedly pursued until defeated.


Jeff Rients said...

I like this idea a lot. Great work!

John Matthew Stater said...

In my Nod setting, the flumphs are philosophers who serve in the court of Prester John, ruler of the Solar Archipelago. They've always been one of my favorite critters, precisely because they have an existence separate from being "things you kill so you can take their stuff".

Unknown said...

flumph are the descendants of an ancient crash of a prison ship

I like it. I used a similar premise for Dungeon From a Distant Star. The Flumph definitely remind me of scifi aliens. :)

Anthony said...

Very nice, I like the "ancient prison ship" theme. This is the best use yet I've seen for one of the FF's silliest critters.

And I was happy to provide the inspiration/nudge. :)

Gordon Cooper said...

You know, this would be a perfect set-up for classic Doctor Who, too.

Unknown said...

@Gordon Cooper There were actually creatures in the William Hartnell episodes that introduced the Daleks, that looked like flumphs in the swamps.