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The Ecology of the Grick (unpublished 3.0 version)


Over on the Grell thread on the General Discussion messageboards (http://www.enworld.org/showthread.php?t=129322), Andrew D. Gable mentioned that he assumed gricks and grells were somehow related, since they had so many traits in common. I replied that I had come to the same conclusion myself many years ago, and had in fact written an "Ecology of the Grick" that brought that up. Since Dragon is no longer interested in publishing "Ecology" articles in the original "fiction and footnote" format, I thought I'd go ahead and post it here.

A couple things worth mentioning: First of all, this was written in the early days of the 3.0 rules, and rather than trying to update it I just left it in its original form. Because of that, there will be some things that are no longer true. Second, the characters in the story are members of the Monster Hunters Association, a society of (mostly) wizards and sages dedicated to hunting down and killing exotic monsters and making magic items out of their remains. They were part of an ongoing series of "Ecology" articles that have so far been published in 11 issues of Dragon over the years. (Sadly, it looks like that's all that Dragon is interested in publishing.)

This article in particular was more or less a direct sequel to "The Ecology of the Flumph" (which appeared in Dragon #246), as it involved one of the same little green monastic (spellcasting) flumphs they encountered in that story. For those of you unfamiliar with the Monster Hunters, here's a list of those characters mentioned in this story:

Dreelix - the President of the Monster Hunters Association, who always calls the meetings to order by pounding his gavel on the table.

Buntleby of the Western Grove - a likeable wizard who joined the Monster Hunters out of a genuine interest in learning about the creatures of the world.

Ozzie the osquip - Buntleby's six-limbed rodent familiar, with teeth that can chew through solid stone.

Willowquisp the Zoophile - a middle-aged sage with a fondness for some of the sillier monsters in the world, like flumphs and gorbels.

Spontayne the Studious - Buntleby's wizardly mentor, a mostly keep-to-himself, quiet guy.

Rhionda the Swordmistress - the newest member of the Monster Hunters (who used to adventure with Buntleby some years before), and the Association's only fighter.

Grindle the Coin-Counter - the Association's treasurer, whose most distinguished traits are his 300-lb build and his poor hygiene.

That should pretty much do it. Enjoy!

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Dreelix banged his trusty gavel three times on the table in front of him, but before he could get a word out Buntleby grabbed the gavel roughly from his hands. "Give me that!" he snarled at the President of the Monster Hunters Association.

"But it's mine!" whined Dreelix petulantly.

"You want it that bad?" taunted Buntleby, dangling it obnoxiously in front of Dreelix's face. "Huh? Do you?"

"Give it to me!" commanded Dreelix, making an ineffectual swipe at his most beloved material possession as Buntleby deftly pulled it away.

"Give it to you," repeated Buntleby, the evil grin spreading across his face showing that that was exactly what he had hoped to hear. He reached back his arm and brought the gavel crashing full force onto the top of Dreelix's head. Dreelix made a little squeaking noise as it struck (sounding amazingly like the rodential victim of the Whack-A-Mole booth at the annual fair) and repeated it with each subsequent blow. Buntleby, meanwhile, called out the traditional opening to the weekly meeting as he slammed Dreelix repeatedly in the head with his own wooden gavel: "This!" (squeak!) "Meeting!" (squeak!) "Of!" (squeak!) "The!" (squeak!) "Monster!" (squeak!) "Hunters!" (squeak!) "Association!" (squeak!) "Is!" (squeak!) "Hereby!" (squeak!) "Opened!" (squeak!) Each blow drove Dreelix a little deeper into the floor like a hammered nail into a piece of wood--

Buntleby awoke with a start. Sweat dripped from his face and he clutched the bed sheets in a death-grip with both hands, but he slowly relaxed when he realized it had just been a dream. He let out a loud sigh in the stillness of the night. "Just a dream," he said aloud to himself.

His vocalization was answered with an unmistakable "squeak!" like that from his dream, emanating from somewhere in the darkness of his bedroom.

Buntleby bolted upright in bed and bonked his head on the creature hovering just above him. He felt writhing tentacles brush against his forehead, gave a startled bleat and dived sideways out of bed, crashing to the floor in a heap with his legs still tangled in the blankets. He spun around and quickly cast a light spell on the first object at hand (his left slipper, as it turned out, which sat with its mate at the side of his bed where he had left them last night before retiring for the evening), the better to see what he was up against.

Magical light spilled across the room. Buntleby mentally scanned his spell inventory for an appropriate combat spell before his brain fully registered the nocturnal intruder's identity.

"Sorry," said the little green flumph in its squeaky little voice, spitting the human syllables out of one of its rim-holes.[1] "No harm. Need help."

"I'll get the others," Buntleby promised.

1. Flumphs are obnoxious little creatures, believed by many to be genetically related to grells, which in turn are related to gricks. (The possible link between flumphs and grells is discussed further in "The Ecology of the Flumph" in Dragon #246.) Details on both flumphs and grells are provided in the Appendix at the end of this article, with statistics updated for their use in D&D Third Edition.
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An hour later found several Monster Hunters gathered together in Buntleby's parlor in the Western Grove. Willowquisp the Zoophile sat on an old sofa rubbing his eyes and fighting back the occasional yawn; an elderly sage in his late 50s, he liked his sleep and didn't particularly appreciate being awakened in the middle of the night. Still, Buntleby was a good friend and had demonstrated his levelheadedness on many occasions; if he said it was important, Willowquisp was willing to give him his full attention.

Next to Willowquisp sat Rhionda the Swordmistress, the newest addition to the ranks of the mighty Monster Hunters. Their only fighter, she wore her traditional black leather armor and seemed unbothered by the late hour. She sat with her legs curled up under her, sipping a cup of strong tea provided by one of Buntleby's house-servants.

Behind Rhionda stood Buntleby's wizardly mentor, Spontayne the Studious, wearing his equally-traditional black robes, black headgear, black mustache, and black scowl. Spontayne kept odd hours and had been wide awake in study when Buntleby contacted him at his keep at the edge of town.

Above Buntleby's left shoulder hovered the little green flumph. Ozzie, Buntleby's six-legged osquip familiar, sat between his master's ankles so all but his head was hidden underneath Buntleby's blue robe. He kept a wary eye on the hovering menace he knew from hard experience to be a rodent eater. One of Ozzie's pack mates - Squinty - still bore the scars where a flumph had dropped down and impaled him with its spikes.

"So let me see if I get this straight," said Willowquisp, summing up all that Buntleby had just explained to them. "A grick has entered the flumphs' cavern temple and they need our help getting it out. We're not going to inform the others for fear that Dreelix will want to carve up our client as well as the grick. And we're not allowed to use spells to get rid of the grick because it's in the flumph's holy cavern. Is that about it?"

"In a nutshell," agreed Buntleby. "Naturally, I thought we should begin by consulting you and learning all we can about gricks."

"Hmmph! Funny that it's a grick; we were just discussing them at the sages' conference. Gricks seem to be a relatively new phenomenon; nobody recalls having ever seen them before, and now they're popping up all over the place. There's certainly nothing mentioned about them in any of the old texts.[2] Still, a couple of interesting theories were raised." Willowquisp flipped through one of the tomes he had brought with him until he found the appropriate page. Turning it around to face Buntleby, he asked, "Remember this?"

Buntleby examined the creature depicted. It looked like a flying brain with a parrot's beak in front, below which dangled ten octopus tentacles. "A grell, right?" he asked.

"Indeed," confirmed Willowquisp. "Now, there are many similarities between grells and gricks, enough that we've pretty much decided at the conference that the two races must be related." He pulled out a loose sheet of parchment upon which he had sketched a grick, based on the descriptions given at the conference, and placed it next to the drawing of the grell. "First of all, notice the obvious parrot beaks.[3] A rather unusual feature on non-avian creatures, wouldn't you agree? The fact that two distinct species share such an odd characteristic seems rather suggestive.

"Next up, there are the tentacles. A grell sports ten tentacles underneath its body, each one equipped with two rows of suckers, like an octopus. The grick has four such tentacles, spaced evenly around the beak.[4] The rest of the grick's body is serpentine, but it's been observed that the double row of suckers extends along the creature's underside.[5] I'd say there's a good case to be made that the grick's body is itself adapted from an overly-developed tentacle, bringing the total count up to five, half that of a grell's ten. This isn't too outrageous a supposition, since the grick's body is only three feet long and its four tentacles are each two feet long.[6] Tentacle coloration is similar in both species: A muddy brown for gricks, while grells have a more olive tint.

"Finally, there's the interesting coincidence that neither grells nor gricks have eyes.[7] This doesn't seem to bother either race, however; they seem to get along just fine without visual organs."

"There's another link between the two that you haven't mentioned," suggested Rhionda, sipping her tea.

"Oh? What's that?"

"Their names both have five letters and start with 'G-R.'"

Willowquisp scowled. "I hardly think that's conclusive," he grumbled, unsure whether the fighter was making fun of him or not. "I'm not even sure where the name 'grick' came from, in any case."[8]

"Well, now we know a little about what we're facing," said Buntleby. "Any suggestions about how we proceed?"

"Are we absolutely sure we can't use spells?" asked Spontayne. All eyes turned toward the hovering flumph.

"No spells," confirmed the flumph in its squeaky voice. "Holy temple. Standard rule. No magic."

"Well, how many of them are there?" asked Rhionda. "Just the one?" The flumph waggled its eyestalks in an up-and-down manner, simulating a nodding human head. "One's enough," it squeaked.

"Well, hell then," said Rhionda, rising to her feet and strapping on her sword. "Let's go kill us a grick."

2. This is only natural, since the grick was created as one of the new monsters for the Third Edition, being introduced in the Monster Manual for the first time! However, gricks are new residents of the campaign world as well, for reasons that will become apparent shortly.

3. A grick strikes at -2 with its beak, dealing 1d3+1 points of damage if successful. Gricks use their tentacles as their primary weapons, usually only biting prey that has already been brought down by a series of tentacle attacks.

4. Grick tentacles differ from those of grells in that they have sharp, serrated edges at the ends and lack the grell's paralytic secretions. Thus, while grells use their tentacles to grab and paralyze potential prey, gricks use theirs to slash their victim to ribbons before grabbing it up and crawling off to devour it. A grick gets four tentacle rakes each round, striking at +3 and dealing 1d4+2 points of damage with each successful hit.

Even though the tentacles of grells and gricks differ, many sages point to a grick's tentacles as another piece of evidence linking the two races. One of a grell soldier's primary weapons is the tip-spear, an edged metal head which fits on the tip of a tentacle and adheres there by suction. Tip-spears are used as slashing or piercing weapons, dealing 1d6 points of damage (crit 19-20, double damage), and were undoubtedly patterned after a grick's tentacle structure.

5. While this feature doesn't appear in Richard Sardinha's painting of the grick on page 113 of the Monster Manual, it is prominent in both Todd Lockwood's original sketch of the creature and on the grick miniature figurine. A grick's body-suckers allow it to climb up sheer surfaces like a caterpillar, granting it a Climb speed of 20 ft. and a +10 to all Climb checks.

6. The grick's body is much thicker than its tentacles, which is a good thing since it houses the majority of the creature's internal organs. Toward the end of the body is the creature's cloaca, a thin slit located on the underside between the two parallel rows of suckers. The cloaca serves as the genital tract as well as for the excretion of bodily waste. The reproductive organs remain hidden inside the cloaca, so grick gender cannot be easily distinguished at a glance.

7. This is a common misconception. While neither grells nor gricks have true eyes, they still have a sense of vision. In the grell, these take the form of primitive eyespots at the tips of many of the smaller, one- to three-inch tentacles that fringe the base of the creature's body. Naturally, this projects the grell's vision mostly downward (a handy adaptation for a creature that lurks along the tops of caverns and drops down upon intended prey), although a grell can twist its "eyestalks" forward to see ahead if it needs to.

Gricks, on the other hand, retain the primitive eyespots but not the fringe of tiny tentacles. Instead, their eyespots appear in a small cluster around the parrotlike beak, granting them a forward-looking view only. As the eyespots are the same color as the rest of the creature's body - a grayish brown that lightens toward the underbelly - they are often mistaken for just another set of bumps and grooves that completely cover the grick's rubbery skin.

Both gricks and grells have darkvision to a range of 60 feet.

8. More than likely, it's based on the sound the creatures make when they snap their beaks shut. Gricks have no vocal cords and no language, but often snap their beaks to warn off others of their kind who are encroaching into their territory. While up to four gricks may be found in a given area, each creature looks out only for its own best interests and dislikes it when other gricks come too close.
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The Monster Hunters stood at the foothills of the mountains just north of the city. "Secret cavern," admonished the flumph. "No tell. You promise."

"We promise," agreed Buntleby. He brandished a slim dagger, as did Spontayne. Even Willowquisp sported a dagger, although his was a "loaner" from Buntleby, as Willowquisp's exploits tended more toward the academic and less toward the physical. Still, he wasn't about to miss out on seeing firsthand the interior of one of the flumphs' mysterious holy caverns. He had longed to see one from the first time he read about them in Cartificant the Learned's published papers on the subject. Plus, he figured, he had three other Monster Hunters to see to his safety.

"Right then," said Rhionda, brandishing her longsword. "Let's go. Where exactly is this entrance of yours?"

"Just ahead," squeaked the flumph, pointing with an outthrust tentacle at an overhanging rock. "Need rope." The flumph had insisted that the Monster Hunters bring a length of rope and a torch with them. Rhionda sheathed her sword and uncoiled her silken rope as Buntleby examined the rock where the flumph was pointing. Hidden in the shadows of the overhang was a narrow opening. "Looks pretty tight," he commented. "Good thing we didn't bring Grindle with us." There was simply no way that Grindle's 300-pound mass would fit through the narrow fissure.

Rhionda looked around for a place to tie the end of her rope; finding none, she pulled a piton out of her backpack and began hammering it into the stone near the narrow entrance. Meanwhile, Buntleby picked up a suitable rock and cast a light spell on it. Seeing this, the little green flumph maneuvered over to him and gave a "no-no" shake of a tentacle. "No spells," it reminded Buntleby.

"I thought that was only once we were inside your temple," he said.

"No spells," the flumph repeated adamantly. "No magic. Told you. Standard rule." Buntleby shrugged and dropped the rock at his feet, then cast around for the torch and the tinderbox.

"Is this the only entrance to your temple?" Willowquisp asked the flumph.

"One more," the flumph replied. "Over there." It pointed to a section of the foothill some distance away. In the predawn dark, Willowquisp couldn't quite make it out.

"But what about underground entrances?" he asked.

"Are none."

"Why do you want to know?" interrupted Spontayne.

"Just curious," admitted Willowquisp. "I haven't heard of a grick being sighted on the surface before. So far, everyone who's seen one's seen it underground. I was just wondering how this one got into the flumph's cavern, is all."[9]

"Through there," squeaked the flumph, pointing to the narrow opening through which Rhionda had pitched her length of rope. "Okay, we're ready, guys," she said. "I'll go first." She started crawling headfirst into the tunnel, until the flumph halted her.

"Me first. You follow. Feet first," it recommended. "Steep slope. No fall."

"Okay," said Rhionda, turning around and letting the flumph whiz by before backing her way into the tunnel. "How about you next with the torch, Bunt?"

Traveling backward through the narrow tunnel was not Buntleby's idea of a good time, especially since he knew they were heading into a confrontation with a relatively unknown creature. Most Monster Hunts weren't this slipshod; they usually had a better idea about what they were going up against and had at least made some tentative strategies about how they would take out their prey. Buntleby wished for the comforting presence of his osquip familiar; Ozzie had a lifetime's experience crawling through dark passageways, and his teeth - which could eat through solid stone - would probably be useful in fighting the grick. Still, Buntleby also realized that bringing Ozzie into a temple full of rodent-eating flumphs was just asking for trouble. He gave a resigned sigh and continued backing down the shaft.

The confining passageway had become nearly vertical, and Buntleby transferred the burning torch to his mouth, requiring both hands to hold the rope on his way down. He could hear Spontayne grunting above him, and only hoped Willowquisp was faring well even further up the shaft. The elderly scholar didn't often engage in such physical pursuits. All we need is for Willowquisp to fall down on us, Buntleby thought wryly.

"I'm out of the tunnel, at the top of the open cavern," reported Rhionda. "I'll just--" Her sentence was broken by a sudden scream and a sickening thud.

"Rrnnnda!" cried Buntleby, which was as close as he could get to his companion's name with a torch clenched in his teeth. He rubbernecked his head back and forth, trying to look down past his body to the cavern below to see what had befallen her, to no avail. When he turned his attention back to the rope, intending to increase the speed of his descent, he noticed what should have been painfully obvious: holding a burning torch against a silken rope was Not A Good Thing At All. Cursing his own stupidity, he tried calling a warning up to Spontayne and Willowquisp above with a torch clenched in his teeth while simultaneously attempting to keep a grip on the rope with his feet and left hand and pat out the flames on the rope with his right.

That was a lot to try doing all at once. The rope made it easier for him: once it broke where he had set it on fire, he didn't have to worry about doing any of those things anymore.

Buntleby hit the cavern floor hard, landing on his back and wonking the back of his head hard enough to send the world spinning. The torch fell from his mouth and singed his left ear; the new pain helped draw his attention from the old. He groaned, rolled over on his side, and came face-to-face with Rhionda. She was covered in a sheen of sweat, clutching her leg with both hands, her teeth gritted in pain. Looking down at her leg, Buntleby immediately saw why: her left shin bone jutted out of her leg just above her boot.

Like many another who found himself in a similar situation, Buntleby asked just about the stupidest thing possible: "Are you okay?" Rhionda just glared at him and fired daggers with her eyes. Meanwhile, Spontayne had apparently discovered that the rope was now ablaze; Buntleby heard his frantic cries of "Up! Up up up up up up!" to Willowquisp.

"Tried using--boots of levitation," Rhionda explained between gasps of pain. "Didn't--work."

"Told you," said the flumph as it maneuvered over by the two unbelievably stupid humans. Even with its ridiculous little squeaky-voice, the flumph managed to project an air of total exasperation, as if to say "How many times do I have to say it?" Still, it gave another try, emphasizing the second word of each pidgin mini-sentence as if that might finally make the humans understand: "Sacred temple. No magic. No work."

"We're in an antimagic field!" reasoned Buntleby. The flumph just lifted its eyes heavenward and shrugged its tentacles in an amazingly human "why me?" gesture.

Naturally, it was at that moment the grick chose to make an appearance.[10]

9. Gricks prefer an underground existence and only venture onto the surface world when subterranean prey is scarce. Even then, they return to the underground as soon as possible, not wanting to remain long under the open sky.

10. A grick's preferred hunting strategy is to remain hidden until prey comes within range. Hiding is relatively easy in rocky areas, where its coloration gives it a +12 to Hide skill checks; otherwise its Hide skill checks are at +4.

Gricks detect prey with their powerful senses. Their sense of smell is acute enough to allow them to track prey for miles (although they prefer letting their prey come to them), and all gricks enjoy 7 ranks in both the Spot and Listen skills. (These ratings incorporate the grick's Alertness feat.) A grick has no external ears, merely round areas between the upper and lower tentacles on each side of its body which house its internal organs of hearing. In this sense, a grick's internal ears are similar to a frog's.
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The creature slithered up out of a hole on the cavern floor, its rubbery body undulating like a monstrous caterpillar as it inched its way toward the hapless Monster Hunters.[11] Its four tentacles spread wide, revealing an acid-scarred parrot beak wide open in a silent scream of attack.[12] Even in the flickering torchlight, Buntleby could tell the jagged, serrated edges of the creature's wriggling tentacles were wickedly sharp.[13]

The wizard took careful aim and hurled his dagger at the onrushing creature. It flew straight on but hit the grick's beak, bouncing harmlessly to the stone floor with a clatter.

"Other dagger?" asked Rhionda.

"With Willowquisp," admitted Buntleby.

"So you've thrown--your only weapon away."

"Um, yeah, kinda looks like it."

With a wince of pain, Rhionda reached over and slid her longsword along the floor to Buntleby. "Try not to--throw this one away," she suggested, then started dragging herself in the opposite direction. She left a trail of blood on the ground as she crawled, but swallowed the pain of movement with visible effort and pulled out her boot dagger as she scooted away.

The grick was almost upon Buntleby as he hastily grabbed up Rhionda's sword. Suddenly, in a blur of motion, the little green flumph darted between the two, spraying the grick with its defensive mist. Even though he was out of the path of the spray, Buntleby got a good whiff of it and felt his gorge rise. He was more than familiar with that particular odor, having once experienced it for himself firsthand.

He wasn't the only one to have noticed it, either. The grick's body convulsed violently as it succumbed to the flumph's defensive spray. The flumph took off straight up, jetting out of the way now that it had bought Buntleby some reaction time.

Buntleby was unused to the weight of a sword in his hands, and had never practiced with the weapon. Still, he thought, how hard could it be? Rhionda certainly made it look easy enough. He hefted the sword up over his shoulder and brought it crashing into the side of the grick's body in an unconscious imitation of the gavel-bashing from his dream.

He expected the sword to slice deep into the creature's side, and was more than a little surprised to find it practically bouncing back at him.[14] Thrown off balance, he staggered back and regained his equilibrium as the grick shook its body in a final convulsion, snorted air out of its nostrils, and turned to face him again.

Buntleby raised the unwieldy sword above him in a ready stance, waiting for the grick to make the next move. He moved slowly to the side as he did so, eager to focus the monster's attention on him and away from Rhionda, but still not wanting to stray too far away from the dropped torch, their only current source of illumination. The grick followed him, then struck with all four tentacles at once.

Buntleby did his best to block the oncoming attacks, but he had only the one blade against the grick's four, and he wasn't anywhere near as proficient as the monster was. He managed to block one of the jagged tentacle-blades on the edge of the sword, but the other three cut their way through, slicing into his thigh, side, and left arm. Buntleby howled in pain, dropped the sword, and backpedaled fast to get out of the grick's range.

"What's going on down there?" came Willowquisp's voice from the narrow shaft leading to the surface. "Are you guys okay?"

"Kind of busy right now!" Buntleby shouted back, keeping his eyes on the still-approaching grick and looking around for a new weapon. "I could use my dagger back, though, if you're not using it!"

"Hang on, I'll toss it down!"

"Torch, Bunt!" suggested Rhionda from the darkness. Buntleby shuffled over to the torch, scooped it up, and held it out at the grick in an attempt to keep it at bay. The creature seemed unimpressed with the flames, striking out at Buntleby's hand holding the torch. He continued to back away, drawing the grick after him and farther away from Rhionda.

Rhionda, meanwhile, had put the time to good use. She cut the left leg of her leather armor off with her boot-dagger, then tied it into a makeshift tourniquet just above her left knee. Shrugging the scabbard of her longsword off of her back, she used it as a splint against her shin and tied it in place with its own leather strap. Now no longer in danger of bleeding to death or passing out from the pain when she moved her broken leg, she scooted along the cold stone floor of the cavern to the place where she had last seen her sword.

Suddenly, there was the clanging sound of metal on stone from overhead as Buntleby's dagger came clattering down the narrow shaft. Buntleby glanced up and repositioned himself when he realized he was standing almost directly underneath the shaft; the grick lunged at him again and, in an act that couldn't have been better coordinated with years of practice, was struck blade first by the falling dagger. The weapon buried itself upright into the top of the creature's back just behind the tentacle-junction,[15] and a thin stream of bluish blood oozed down the grick's side.

"I don't believe it!" yelled Buntleby in amazement. "You got him!"

"Really?" called Willowquisp. "You want me to do it again?"

"Thanks anyway; I'll take it from here!" The grick twisted its tentacles back toward its body in a futile attempt to dislodge the dagger. Seeing that its attention was diverted, Buntleby took the opportunity to thrust the flaming torch into the grick's side.

That got its attention back, all right. The grick whipped back at the wizard, all four tentacles slashing in unison. The torch was flung from Buntleby's grasp and several droplets of blood went flying after it as the creature's blades cut furrows into the wizard's hand. Buntleby cried out in pain once again and backed off, weaponless once more.

The flumph came whizzing to Buntleby's aid, spraying another dose of the foul-smelling liquid at the grick. Unfortunately, Buntleby was at the edge of the spray's arc and got a good dose of it himself. Rather than use the time the grick was immobilized to escape out of harm's way, Buntleby fell to his knees by the creature's side and began retching uncontrollably. He knew he had to get away, but his muscles wouldn't respond. He realized the grick was in a similar situation, and hoped against hope that the creature wouldn't recover before he did.

Fortunately, it didn't matter. Before either of the two could concentrate on returning their attention to their life-and-death struggle, Rhionda had scooted up to them, dragging her useless leg behind her. She had her blade in her hand, and she knew a great deal more about how to use it effectively than Buntleby did, or probably ever would in his life.

With a bloodcurdling scream that might have been intended to frighten the grick, or perhaps just to cover the sound of her own scream of pain as she wrenched her leg in the maneuver, Rhionda brought the sword in a gleaming arc in the flickering torchlight and cut deep into the beast's flesh, severing it almost in half. Blue blood gushed out of the grick's midsection and its tentacles writhed back and forth in an agonized frenzy, but it expired before it could retaliate against its attacker. Frothy blood spilled from its scarred beak; it lowered the front half of its nearly-severed body to the stone floor and remained still. Rhionda noticed its back half give a quick muscle spasm, drawing her attention to the serrated blades along the edge of the grick's tail, but she was too tired to be impressed.[16]

For a while, the two Monster Hunters were nearly as still as the grick. Rhionda lay on her back, panting, her left leg held straight in its makeshift splint, her right leg bent at the knee. Buntleby, meanwhile, was finishing up a bout of the dry heaves and giving the occasional spasmodic twitch.

"You guys sure you're okay down there?" Willowquisp's concerned voice called down to them.

"Fine," they croaked weakly in unison.

The little green flumph jetted over to inspect the grick's corpse. "Good job," it squeaked in appreciation, then raced up toward the cavern's ceiling and out the second of the narrow tunnels leading to the surface. After a few minutes, it returned with a dozen or more companions, most of them the same green color but a few of them yellow or white.

The cloister of flumphs set about their tasks in a well-organized fashion. Some of them approached the dead grick and dribbled their acidic secretions into its wounds, preparing to devour the intruder that had dared to enter their holy temple.[17] Oh well, thought Buntleby, So much for using the grick's body for magical experimentation.[18] Other flumphs darted down into the numerous narrow holes that lined the exterior perimeter of the cavern, only to pop up out of a different hole later on. Buntleby guessed there must be a whole network of interconnected twisting shafts down below the stone floor of the cavern. Still other flumphs kept their distance from the two Monster Hunters, staring at them warily. Buntleby thought he recognized one little white flumph from his previous encounter with them and gave a little wave. It didn't respond.

"You given any thought as to how we're going to get out of here?" asked Rhionda.

Buntleby picked up the dropped torch and scouted around to retrieve his daggers and the half of the rope that had fallen into the cavern with them. "I guess we can ask our little flumph buddy to tie the ends of our rope back together," he suggested. "Or at least to bring it up to Willowquisp and Spontayne and let them do it."

"Uh...do you know which one it is? These flumphs all look pretty much the same to me."

With excellent timing, the little green flumph spokesman chose that moment to return to the Monster Hunters, bearing an object the size of a small stone it had brought up from the tunnels below. "Grick eggs! In temple!" it squeaked in outrage, dropping its burden to the floor. Several other flumphs followed suit, forming a small pile at the wizard's feet.[19]

Buntleby picked one up. "Hey, Willowquisp!" he called. "You want a grick egg for your next sage's conference?"

"Certainly!" beamed the elderly sage. "I'd love to have the chance to study its growth stages!"[20] Buntleby dropped the egg into a pocket of his robe and snorted. "Hmmph! I guess that's our payment, then," he said to himself.[21]

11. Gricks crawl using the dual row of suction cups lining the underside of their bodies. They can do this in two ways, either by hunching up their body and thrusting it forward like an inchworm (effective for springing out at prey) or simply by using their suction cups as individual "feet," in which case the body remains low to the ground in the manner of a snake or centipede. Gricks retain a Speed of 30 feet while traveling horizontally in either case.

12. Completely aggressive, gricks attack just about anything that moves as potential prey. Size is not normally a major consideration. Even foul-tasting flumphs, whose disk-shaped bodies are filled with acid-producing glands, can fall prey to a hungry grick, although most gricks learn their lesson after filling their beaks with flumph acid.

Lacking teeth, a grick bites off pieces of its prey and swallows them whole, or uses its tentacle blades to cut bite-sized hunks of flesh from its slain victim.

13. Gricks habitually keep their tentacle blades sharp by rubbing them together in the manner of a chef honing his knives right before carving a roast. They normally engage in this behavior immediately after consuming the last of their current prey, so their blades are ready for the next combat.

14. The grick's tentacle-like body is tough and rubbery, consisting of many layers of strong muscle overlapping each other. This makes the grick resilient to blows, granting it a damage reduction of 15 points per round. At +1 or better weapon negates the grick's damage reduction. Since a grick's damage reduction is a result of its physical structure, it is an extraordinary (as opposed to a supernatural) special quality.

15. The grick's unique body structure makes the term "head" somewhat inaccurate, for while its four tentacles and beak extend forward out of the front of its body it doesn't really have a separate head as such. Lacking bones, the grick has no skull; an attempt at scientific classification would probably lump the grick in with the octopus and squid if only because of its tentacles and beak. (There's a reason D&D uses the term "aberration!")

16. Although a grick doesn't have the coordination to use its tail-blade as a weapon (it remains too far out of the grick's field of vision), the blade's existence serves as additional evidence that the grick's serpentine body is itself really just an overgrown, modified tentacle.

17. Flumphs might consume a grick after liquefying it with their acid, but most other races find grick meat to be foul tasting and overly chewy.

18. A grick's tentacle blades can be used to fashion simple weapons, usually by placing a set of blades on a hilt to form a primitive dagger, or on a longer shaft to create a harpoon. A grick's tentacle suckers can be liquefied and used in the creation of the specialized inks used to transcribe the spider climb spell. Grick blood is used in some potion of hiding formulae.

19. Gricks mate once a year. The female carries the fertilized eggs inside her body only long enough to find a good, out-of-the-way spot to lay them, then abandons them forever. Grick eggs are soft and rubbery, oblong (rather like a large grain of rice), and about three inches long. A typical cluster contains 4-6 eggs.

Newly-hatched gricks are on their own from the beginning. They look like smaller versions of the adult form and prey upon small insects, spiders, and worms. Gricks grow at a rapid pace the first two years of their life, attaining the standard size of five feet (two feet of which are tentacles, the other three being body length) at the end of that time. Gricks continue to grow throughout their lives, but at a less rapid pace once attaining adult size. Gricks have a lifespan of about 10 years. Larger specimens can grow to about 10 feet long (4 feet of which is tentacles), attaining as much as 6 HD.

20. Gricks are a bit unusual in that they have two patterns of reproduction. The first one is the "normal" one, in which a male and female grick mate to produce offspring. The second, and less frequent one, is when gricks are born from grell parents.

Grells reproduce only once in their 30- or 40-year lifespan. The female lays and abandons her clutch of 2d4 eggs in a high, out-of-reach place. Normally, these eggs hatch into young grell, which are born active and self-sufficient. However, one year out of each century, all grell eggs laid hatch into grick young. This year (called "the Year of the Great Throwback") sees an increase in the grick population and a corresponding decrease in the number of grells (as no newborn grells are born that year to replace those that are slain). Since grells perform no parenting duties, it's unsure whether they even notice this phenomenon. They certainly have no special fondness for gricks, considering them merely a form of potential food (as they view all other forms of life).

Since grells travel from world to world and set up numerous colonies, they are responsible for the grick's eventual appearance on each world that they colonize. Once the Year of the Great Throwback rolls around, a "starting stock" of gricks are brought into the world. Over the next century, these gricks gradually expand their numbers by reproducing in the standard fashion.

It's unknown whether the Year of the Great Throwback only occurs on colony worlds (perhaps as the result of some subtle difference in the atmosphere, sun's rays, or similar cause), or if the grick genetic mutation also occurs on the grell's homeworld. It is interesting to note that monastic flumphs also occasionally give birth to a "lesser species," the albino or "common" flumph. Sages point to this as further evidence of the genetic relationship, however distant, between grells and flumphs.

21. One can occasionally find treasure in a grick's lair, but it's usually just detritus left behind by the creature's previous victims. Gricks have no concept of the value of physical objects which cannot be eaten. (Unfortunately for Buntleby, flumphs care nothing for treasure either.)
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Once back up at the surface, the Monster Hunters had a long walk back home ahead of them. At least the sun had come up, so they wouldn't be stumbling in the dark. Still, Rhionda wasn't fit to travel such a distance with her broken leg.

"Carry me, Bunt?" she suggested coquettishly.

"Better yet," replied Buntleby. He turned to Spontayne and Willowquisp. "I've got one teleport spell ready," he said. "Would you mind if I took Rhionda back and looked to getting her leg attended to?"

"By all means," responded the elderly sage, looking to Spontayne for confirmation. The black-clad wizard nodded his agreement. "We'll be fine," he confirmed. "You two go on ahead."

Buntleby gathered up Rhionda in his arms. They made quite the bedraggled pair, the wizard covered in bloody scratches and his robe in tatters, with a burn mark along his ear, and the fighter with her broken leg strapped to her scabbard. He said a few arcane syllables, and they popped from existence, leaving Spontayne and Willowquisp alone to face the long hike home.

"Shame we didn't actually get to see the flumph's temple cavern," Willowquisp sighed. "I would have loved to have seen it for myself. Cartificant's notes were quite intriguing. Did you read the section on the wall paintings?"

"Indeed," replied Spontayne. "But did you notice anything about how this one was laid out?"

"What do you mean?"

"Think about it: A flat, circular cavern, with two narrow passages leading up and a mess of curving - one could almost say tentaclelike - passages coiled below. Remind you of anything?"

Willowquisp stopped short. "A flumph!" he cried. "A giant, hollowed out flumph!"

"SHHHHH!" came a sound from behind them. The two Monster Hunters whirled around, to see a little green flumph hovering behind them by the hillside. Each of its twin eyestalks focused on one of the humans, and, lacking fingers and lips, slowly raised a tentacle to its forward rim-hole.

"Secret temple," it reminded them in its squeaky voice. "No tell."

The Monster Hunters looked at each other. "Very well," they agreed. That seemed to satisfy the flumph, for it darted back into its hidden temple with a hiss of its air-jets.

Spontayne and Willowquisp turned back toward the city and began their long walk home.
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...And that's it, as originally written. (Well, actually, I followed it up with my takes on 3.0 stats for the monastic flumph and the grell, but that information can now be found elsewhere: 3.0 flumphs appeared in Necromancer Games' The Tome of Horrors and an "official" 3.5 version appeared in Tim Hitchcock's D&D adventure "Box of Flumph" in Dungeon #118, while the 3.0 grell showed up in Monte Cook's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil and then Monster Manual II, and the 3.5 version appears in the recent Lords of Madness.)

According to my records, I had originally submitted "The Ecology of the Grick" back on 11 Dec 00. It was rejected, not only because the new Dragon editor had decided to switch from the "fiction and footnote" format, but I was also critiqued (by an assistant editor) for bringing flumphs and grells into the picture. An ecology of the grick, I was told, should focus on the grick, not on other creatures.

Naturally, I disagreed. (I still do, for that matter.) However, having recently purchased Lords of Madness and reading through the grell entry, I have to say I really prefer the grell's "electrical sense" ability in that book over the "eyespots on short dangly tentacles" explanation I had come up with in this article (although my attempt at least explained what those dangly tentacles were actually there for). Of course, I had given an "electrical sense" to shambling mounds many years before in the third Monster Hunters "Ecology," so maybe I'm just naturally predisposed toward liking that concept....

In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading through this. In the process of converting my original story to chunks of Notepad text so I could post it here in the Story Hour, I got a chance to reintroduce myself to the Monster Hunters. Man, I had a lot of fun writing about those guys! I really miss those days.

Ah well. Time passes. Maybe someday the wheel will have turned full circle, and the "Ecology" articles will revert to their previous format. (Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?)

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First Post
Personally, I had the gricks related to illithids -- I remember hearing or reading that there were "arcane illithids" with magical rather than psionical powers, who had a beak; while the common, psionic, illithid had a lampreylike mouth. (In both cases, though, it's hidden most of the time by the four tentacles.)

So, the pattern of four tentacles around the mouth made me associate them together.

On the other hand, I had grells as the results of illithid experimentations on beholders -- a big floating brain-head with ten tentacles. Absolutely no eyes, though, maybe the illithid overdoing the eye-suppression step of their genetical tinkering to get rid of the antimagic cone.


That's an interesting take on it too, Gez. Did the gricks and grells of your game world go in for the standard illithid brain-gobbling?



First Post
Nah, they eat everything. Head first, but that's like many other predators (snakes and cats, for example).


Richards said:
In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading through this. In the process of converting my original story to chunks of Notepad text so I could post it here in the Story Hour, I got a chance to reintroduce myself to the Monster Hunters. Man, I had a lot of fun writing about those guys! I really miss those days.

I enjoyed reading one last outing of the Monster Hunters, although I missed Dreelix, Grindle and Zantoullios in this one. Their mutual blundering usually makes the monster Hunters more amusing.


Definitely not outside the realm of possibility, considering I had two other Monster Hunter stories that were bulk-rejected with this one when they dropped the "fiction and footnote" format....


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