Looking over the stats, I just sort of feel sorry for these guys. They have low to-hit, do poor damage, and their hurl fire is a ranged touch attack with a Reflex save! We should make them earn their CR (even at 4!). Possibly boost both Str and Dex, increase the fire damage on their claws to a whole d6, and either make hurl fire a ranged touch attack or a Reflex save, not both.
As currently written, we're not clear on "the area" for hurl fire. Should we restrict it to a single target or treat it as a splash weapon? I'd rather not make it an area attack, as that would imply a Reflex save.
CLIMATE/TERRAIN: Subarctic to temperate/Grasslands, hills, and prairies
ACTIVITY CYCLE: Day
INTELLIGENCE: Very (11-12)
TREASURE: O, P, Q, S
NO. APPEARING: 5d8
ARMOR CLASS: 6 (2 in flight)
MOVEMENT: 3, Fly 12 (A)
HIT DICE: 1 hp
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 weapon
DAMAGE/ATTACK: By weapon type
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Poison
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Minor spell use, lair traps
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 5%
SIZE: T (3” tall)
MORALE: Average (8)
XP VALUE: 270 (420 with potion effects)
By far the smallest of the faerie folk, and in some respects the most beautiful, is the gorse. Averaging one-quarter the height of a full-grown atomie, gorse must be secretive and unobtrusive to survive.
In appearance, gorse have the proportions and physical attributes of human children, although they are fully mature, with, the only differences being their height, their delicate wings, and their slightly pointed ears. They have no antennae, and their simple clothing is no different in appearance than that of most humans or elves. They prefer dressing in shades of green and yellow to blend in with their surroundings, which are most often gorse, a prickly evergreen shrub with yellow flowers.
Combat: Aside from using the defenses of their thorny homes (see Habitat/Society), gorse use a number of weapons in combat, all of which are manufactured from the bushes they tend. They have minute bows with a 30' range, spears (10' range), and swords, all of which do 1 hp damage on a hit. Because of the weapons' fine points and the skill of the gorse, all of these weapons are used at +2 to hit. In addition, 10% of all gorse arrows will be coated with a weak poison that causes confusion for 2d4 rounds if the victim fails a save vs. poison.
In addition to these mundane abilities, gorse have limited magical attacks and defenses available to them. Once per day, each gorse can cast the cantrips exterminate (to defeat threats that, while minor to humans, are major to things the size of gorse), sprout (usable only on thorn bushes but useful in blocking a miniature path through a bush), and distract (see details on these cantrips in the AD&D 1st Edition volume, Unearthed Arcana, pages 46 and 48). The latter spell, along with the spell mirror image (which they can also each cast once daily) is used to confuse an enemy long enough to allow to escape. One gorse in 10 can also cast one spike growth and a goodberry spell daily to be used in defending the lair and bribing intelligent creatures not to attack them. All spell effects are at 10th level.
Habitat/Society: Gorse prefer to dwell in the green, thorny flower-bushes they're named after, making lairs forbidding to most predators too large to maneuver through the thorns as the gorse do. If creatures larger than twice their height attempt to enter their bushes, those creatures each take damage equal to 1 hp per round if of AC 6-10, or 1 hp every other round if of AC 4-5. Movement rates through gorse bushes for beings of size S to L are slowed to one-quarter normal; larger and smaller beings are unhampered. If threatened, gorse will retreat deeper into their bushes, luring attackers through the most thickly thorned regions and possibly over logs, pits, and other hard-to-see natural obstacles.
Although they must be wary of all bigger folk (and almost all creatures are big to them), gorse can be persuaded to deal with woodland-dwellers (e.g., dryads, satyrs, and centaurs), humans, and demihumans who bring them gifts of fresh fruit, bread, or milk. They become protective of any who do them favors, such as druids who defeat menacing beasts or elves who stop forest fires. Often a gorse tribe will send a few members to accompany its larger allies for the duration of the latter's stay near their lair.
Some gorse tribes have magical potions in their treasure troves. Because of the gorse's small size, one standard dose of a potion equals 20 doses for the gorse. Thus, it is not uncommon to find a large group of these faeries who can polymorph themselves, resist fire, or turn rainbow hues at will for short periods of time. Some potions, such as the various control potions, will not work unless a full dose is taken, and no gorse could swallow that great a quantity of any liquid; these potions will be undisturbed in their hoards and will often be traded for more useful ones or used as bribes or rewards for bigger folk.
Gorse have their own language but are willing and able to speak the tongues of sprites or pixies. A sylvan elf would know enough of their language to conduct a halting conversation with them, as would any druid from the same region as the gorse in question.
Originally appeared in Dragon Magazine #180 (1992).
The MC Annual 3 version is essentially the same, with some clarification on the cantrips:
In addition to their weapons, gorse have limited magical abilities and defenses available. Each day, a gorse can cast one mirror image, as the 2nd-level wizard spell, and three minor magical effects. Each of minor effect occurs if performed with the 1st-level wizard spell rip, and each takes place in its entirety within the round it is cast. Typical uses include:
Distract: Causes anyone watching the gorse to look at an area of the caster’s choice within 10 feet, those of average intelligence or better receive a saving throw;
Exterminate: Kills a single creature no larger than a field mouse, or all insect-sized creatures in a 1/2 cubic foot area, magical or enchanted creatures receive a saving throw vs. death magic;
Sprout: Causes thornbushes in a 1 cubic yard area to add an inch of new growth (good for blocking a minature path).
One gorse in 10 can also cast one spike growth and one goodberry spell each day. These are used to defend the lair or to bribe intelligent creatures not to attack them.