Lore for New Classics: Barghests, Gricks, Vargouilles, and Yrthaks
Monster Manual IV introduced a sidebar that has since become the norm when new monsters are provided: the Knowledge check. This handy item takes the guesswork out of what a character (as opposed to the player) knows about a given creature and rewards those characters with ranks in the appropriate Knowledge skill. Over the course of the next few installments, we'll provide Knowledge check results for a variety of monsters, starting with some of the most iconic that lack this sidebar.
In the conclusion of this series of articles, we'll take a look at monsters that were either newly introduced with the release of D&D 3rd Edition (and later v.3.5) or were showcased in products that came late in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons history and later became enshrined as classic monsters for characters to face.
To wrap things up, we'll look at the barghest, grick, vargouille, and yrthak.
A Peek Behind the Rules Curtain
So how do designers determine the Difficulty Class for Knowledge checks about creatures? The following is excerpted from Monster Manual IV:
The description of the Knowledge skill indicates that in general, the baseline DC of checks to identify monsters and remember one bit of useful information about their special powers or vulnerabilities is equal to 10 + the monster's HD. Every 5 points by which the check result exceeds the DC yields another useful piece of information (PH 78).
As a general rule of thumb, a DC 15 check or higher will reveal all of the base creature's type and subtype traits as defined in the glossary. This often includes information about energy resistance or various immunities. For instance, a DC 15 Knowledge (arcana) check reveals that dragons have high hit points (12-sided HD), all good saves, and have darkvision out to 60 feet and low-light vision. They eat, sleep, and breathe.
Information specific to the creature, such as its type of damage resistance, spell-like abilities, or immunities come with the high DC check results.
Combining the worst traits of goblins and wolves, these evil shapechangers are intelligent, vicious, and full of nasty abilities and tricks. In addition, they have a formidable number of skills to keep their opponents off balance.
Knowledge (The Planes)
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can learn more about barghests. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
16 This lupine fiend is a barghest, a hybrid between goblin and wolf. This result reveals all outsider traits and the shapechanger subtype.
21 A barghest can change its shape, turning into either a goblin or a wolf. It has damage reduction, but it is vulnerable to magic weapons.
26 Barghests can use the following as spell-like abilities: blink, charm monster, crushing despair, dimension door, levitate, misdirection, and rage.
31 When a barghest slays a humanoid opponent, it feasts on both the body and soul, making it extremely difficult to bring the creature back to life even with powerful spells such as true resurrection, miracle, or wish. Those that consume enough corpses grow into powerful versions called greater barghests.
Gricks are relatively new additions to the monster catalog, but have become common dungeon predators.
Knowledge (Arcana) or Knowledge (Dungeoneering)
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) or Knowledge (dungeoneering) can learn more about gricks. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
12 This wormlike creature is a grick. This result reveals all aberration traits.
17 Gricks have damage reduction, which is negated by magic weapons. They infest dungeons, caves, and other underground places, although they sometimes haunt open spaces when food is scarce.
22 The natural coloration of gricks makes them difficult to locate in naturally rocky areas. Gricks may gather and attack in a group, but they do not act in concert with each other.
Originating from the first Oriental Adventures, the vargouille is now a "staple" monster, perfect for terrorizing low-level characters. Similar to certain undead, such as the spectre and wraith, the vargouille can turn victims into even more of these horrid outsiders.
Knowledge (The Planes)
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (the planes) can learn more about vargouilles. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
12 This is a vargouille, a hideous outsider from the deepest pits of Carceri. This result reveals all outsider traits.
17 The bite of a vargouille contains a poison that cannot be healed except through the use of neutralize poison or heal.
23 Vargouilles can emit a terrible shriek that causes paralysis in its victims. The "kiss" of a vargouille on a paralyzed victim can cause a terrible transformation that slowly changes it into another vargouille. This transformation is slowed by sunlight or the daylight spell, but can only be reversed with remove disease.
Yrthaks fill a similar role as wyverns in that they act as a dragon would, which means you don't necessarily need to use an actual dragon. Yrthaks utilize sonic attacks, which few adventurers consider. The yrthak also made a guest appearance as a "boss monster" in the Xbox game Dungeons & Dragons Heroes.
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (arcana) can learn more about yrthaks. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
20 This strange, eyeless reptilian creature is an yrthak. This result reveals all magical beast traits.
25 Yrthaks are blind, but sense their environment through other means. They are immune to gaze attacks, illusions, and other effects that rely on sight. Yrthaks can produce a powerful blast of energy that deals sonic damage.
30 Yrthaks can focus their sonic power at the ground, a wall, or other large object, creating a massive explosion that causes a shower of stones and debris.
Game Resources: To use the material in this article to its fullest, check out the following resources: Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual, Player's Handbook.
About the Author
Eric Cagle cut his teeth at Wizards of the Coast, but now lives the extravagant freelancer lifestyle. Look for his name on D&D, d20 Modern, and Star Wars books. Recent credits include d20 Apocalypse, Races of Destiny, and Monster Manual III. He is also a contributor to the Game Mechanics, Green Ronin Publishing, Dragon Magazine, and this lovely website. Eric lives in Seattle where the coffee is dark and bitter like his goddesses.