• emilyjeasmith

How to Role-Play a Grimlock in D&D

Updated: Feb 19, 2019


Background

Grimlocks are a creature original to Dungeons & Dragons. They are based on morlocks, a fictional race of antagonistic creatures created by H. G. Wells for his classic novel, The Time Machine.


Similar to morlocks, grimlocks live underground and are seen as subhuman. In Dungeons and Dragons lore, two Uthgardt barbarian tribes found passage into the Underdark and, after roaming aimlessly, they slowly adapted to their surroundings, losing eyesight in favor in blindsight, using echolocation and scent to map the world around them, and growing pale and progressively inhuman. These descendants became modern-day grimlocks.


Appearance


Following their barbaric ancestry, grimlocks function on a primitive level, using only dirty rags and cloths to cover themselves. Their medium humanoid forms are comprised of thick, grey skin, spotty hair, and pointed ears. Their eyes are either milky-white, having lost use through generations of inhabiting the Underdark, or entirely missing. Their limb-to-body ratio is disproportionate, with hunched, hulking forms which seem to have no care for their own appearance.


Their weapons are constructed of scavenged materials, such as bone, rock, or abandoned adventuring gear. Fighting primarily in melee, their weapons come in the form of clubs, knives, and other simple weapons. Because grimlocks lack traditional sight, they keep items which are sturdy or have intriguing tactile textures, rather than keeping items which are visually enticing.


As one delves further into the depths of the earth, many creatures, including grimlocks, become increasingly inhuman, with their skin growing darker to match their surroundings and their bodies twisting into strange hunched forms.


Behavior

Grimlocks typically live in groups, finding safety in numbers. Their societies are very reclusive and distrustful of outside creatures and races. Their xenophobia is well-founded, as other Underdark denizens regularly hunt grimlocks, and other intelligent races, such as duergar and drow, deprive grimlocks of basic necessities by harvesting resources for themselves (ex: food & water).


While grimlocks are barbaric, they are not entirely unintelligent (INT 9) and are capable of forming relationships and agreements for self-preservation. However, a grimlock will value a show of strength over the promise of riches, gold, or political allegiances. They believe strength is what has allowed them to survive in the Underdark for generations, and it is what will preserve them going forward.


Role-playing

With a tendency towards neutral-evil, grimlocks care primarily for their own survival and have no qualms abandoning allies in battle if it is in their own best interest. Grimlocks can easily fall prey to more powerful monsters in the Underdark, such as Medusas, which they worship as gods. They are also known to worship the goddess Shar. They are commonly found in small isolated colonies or serving some greater evil as servants in exchange for protection.


Without direction, grimlocks follow the path of their barbarian ancestors, roaming the Underdark and killing to survive. They are known to killing for pleasure as well as sustenance. In groups, they practice barbaric rituals which mimic those of their ancestors.


For instance, grimlocks are known to cannibalize elderly grimlocks while they are still alive, as a form of ancestor-worship. When following the trail of a grimlocks colony, characters will likely find a trail of small-scale destruction, dead humanoids or animals, and gnawed bones.


Combat

Grimlocks rely primarily on melee attacks using improvised weapons, such as clubs or knives. While these enemies are relatively easy to combat (CR ¼), they possess natural traits which can make them more deadly if used effectively.


The Stone Camouflage trait allows grimlocks to more successfully hide in their native habitat. With advantage on stealth checks and better knowledge of the terrain, grimlocks are skilled at surprising unwitting Underdark travelers. Utilizing this feature allows grimlocks to gain a surprise round, which can make a huge difference in the challenge of the encounter.


The Stone Camouflage trait can also be used to allow grimlocks to sneak away without alerting party members. For instance, grimlock spies may be able to gather intelligence on the party or alert a nearby encampment to the adventurers’ presence, without the adventurers knowing.


Grimlocks also have an impressive 30 ft Blindsight radius, allowing them to track non-melee opponents in battle. Pairing grimlocks with a monster which can cast Darkness could quickly become a deadly combination for characters in close quarters.


Because grimlocks care primarily for their own survival, they will flee if they find themselves to be outnumbered or if their companions die quickly.


Creating Grimlock NPCs

While grimlocks tend to be neutral evil and a tad unintelligent, exceptional grimlocks do exist.


An ancient grimlock seer, who has lived through many generations of Underdark violence, may serve as a quest-giver or provide characters with valuable information that has been lost over time.


Individual grimlocks may have fled their barbaric clans, choosing to live as servants among Underdark societies. Historically, mind flayers have preyed on grimlock colonies in search of unwilling slaves.


Escaped grimlocks may live alone throughout the Underdark. Other grimlocks may have split off from their society in search of a better way to live or searching for support in fighting the mind flayers.


If you're interested in role-playing a grimlock, check out our free one-shot with them as the main antagonists.



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