Deep below the caverns between the surface and the Underdark, foul creatures of eerie intellect roam from a distant dimension different from our own. Dark schemes to satiate their eternal hunger, but unlike mindflayers or even aboleths, grells generally remain reclusive forming groups called covens. While grells seem akin to many intellectual predators, these odd creatures can develop complex cultures and societies alien to all but their own kind. Grells hunt in packs, preferring to ambush their prey and staying away from threats whenever possible. Grells that reach cerebral epiphany can wield arcane magic and become nefarious alchemists. Elevated Grell communities harness their arcane talents to utilize magical items designed for them and become a considerable force of their own. A grell colony may not commit to open war, but it can attack outposts for food and supplies. Special grell necromancers can animate the skeletal remains of their victims to serve as sentries and guardians of their communities.
Biology of Grells
Grells are described as follows:
[A grell] resembles a bulbous floating brain with a wide, sharp beak. Its ten long tentacles are made of hundreds of ring-shaped muscles s heathed in tough fibrous hide. Sharp barbs line the tip each tentacle and inject para lytic venom. The grell can pa rti ally retract its barbs into its tentacles to handle or manipulate objects it doesn’t want to pierce or tear.
Grells have no eyes and floats by means of a sort of levitation. They have keen hearing, however, and their skin is s ensitive to vibrations and electrical fields, allowing them to detect the presence of creatures and objects in their immediate vicinity. The creature’s ability to manipulate electricity to sense and move also allow it to absorb lightning without harm. Monster Manual
An image of absolute terror, no?
Due to their somewhat exposed flesh and brains, grells do not possess much in the way of natural hide but make up for it through their mobility and levitation. Grells can grow in size and girth as they reach old age, though size means nothing in Grell culture unless there is physical and mental superiority to match. The grell origin stems deeply from an alien dimension similar to the Material Plane, but the creatures have left it due to the lack of food sources.
Grells of High Society
Grells are gender-neutral entities that can adopt a gender once they reach adulthood. A small percentage will take male characteristics and mate with a non-male grell that will develop female features to lay dozens of eggs in a hidden nest. Once the process is finished, the female grell reverts back to its gender-neutral status while the male retains their characteristics permanently. As a result, most grell leaders typically adopt the male gender, and thus many of their social customs refer them as patriarchs.
Grell hatchlings are roughly the size of a coffee mug and spend many of their early years eating vermin. Grells that reach young adulthood or adulthood run the risk of being devoured by grell patriarchs, as a means to secure their positions. Most civilized grell that are smart enough to realize this danger often will exile themselves from the colony to grow and strengthen themselves. An exiled grell that has become large enough and possessing enough power may return to the settlement to challenge the patriarch in the hopes of controlling the colony. Ironically, while there is a defacto leader, the grell society believes that each grell has a voice, though more powerful grells can produce entourages and even factions can form within a colony.
While grells are not physically distinct from one another (other than by size), the grells themselves do not view any distinctions amongst their kind except the established patriarch, and the intellectually superior grell philosophers.
Grell philosophers are often intelligent grells who have learned arcane spellcasting (using the Wizard class) or are accomplished alchemists. Grell alchemists harness their arcane knowledge, their understanding of physical sciences like chemistry, and utilizing the power from their alien dimension where they originated. Most alchemists are crafters who create unique grafts or items to be adorned by other grell.
When creating your own Grell Philosopher, treat them like a Wizard character. Give them Wizard spellcasting (up to say, 10th level), and you can provide them with some of the class features for the various schools of magic. It’ll make each Grell Philosopher unique and distinct. You can also adorn them with rings, rods, some headwear, neckwear, even the occasional bracers (not gloves).
There are occasional Grell clerics, BUT they are seldom and far between. Most grells do not believe in these divine beings but just under an exchange for power and abilities that most other grell would not be able to acquire on their own. If you were to implement a Grell cleric, consider the Knowledge, Forge, or Trickery domain.
Grell Patriarchs are often your basic grell with a lot more hit dice, maybe some spellcasting features, and definitely, consider giving some legendary actions (like using a magic item for example) and lair actions. But understand that patriarchs are always threatened by usurping younger grells should they prove to be weak and unfit to lead.
Psychology of Grells
Grell identify things under three categories: edible (things that can be eaten), inedible (things grell cannot physically eat or they are disinterested), and finally the great eaters (things that might hunt grell). They want to devour things. They love to gorge and have large meals. If they’re presented with an ample food source, they’ll eat even when they’re not hungry.
If alone, ambush. If in a group, ambush. Strike when there’s an opportunity and take it.
The weak are eaten by the strong. The strong prevail. Physical strength is excellent, intellectual prowess is better, both are ideal.
If you want more information or ideas, I highly encourage you to find a copy of Lords of Madness, while the rules and mechanics are from a different version of D&D, there is plenty of useful insightful of various aberrations. You can learn more about Grell society, their biology, some notes on their magical prowess, and even a short adventure featuring them.
If you like this article and want to see more like it, let me know in the comments below. Help me add more future content by letting me also know in the comments below. I hope this has been a useful your guide to Grells. April is Aberration Appreciation month, and we’ll be covering some more of them later.
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