Army of the Ethergaunts

Derek Holland

Ever since I read the entry on ethergaunts in the 3.X Fiend Folio, I tinkered with what monsters and races they would enslave in their conquest of the world. As some of the most intelligent non-epic beings in D&D, they can select those that have the greatest advantages. Here are some ideas, mostly D&D creatures but a few d20 and some of either modified with a pair of templates (aberrant from Book of Templates 3.5 and flesh plant from Advanced Bestiary).

The first monster I considered is also in the FF, the maug. These are not native creatures, but rather a race of intelligent constructs that the ethergaunts created before they left the world and took them into the ethereal plane. Now that the 'gaunts have returned, the maugs have come with them. Unlike the other slave races, these creatures only obey ethergaunts. They are not generals but they are not grunts either. When a humanoid city falls, all the stone is taken and transformed into new maugs. The organic material, including corpses, is turned into magically enhanced plastic buildings.

Grunts are those creatures used for both their intelligence and disposable nature. Stone giants with the aberrant template, war trolls (MM III), spirit nagas, tusked terrors (MM V) and mindshredder warriors (MM III) are typical. The giants are used as artillery, the nagas for their charming gaze to add more troops and the others as strike troops. All can be ordered to take prisoners.

Monsters are less intelligent creatures used as shock troops. They come in overwhelming numbers and kill indescriminately. Giant ants and wasps with the aberrant template, battlebriar (MM III) with the flesh plant template, thessalmonsters (Tome of Horrors), greenvise (MM II) with the flesh plant template and trolls (Monsternomicon, various MM) with the aberrant template are typical.

Generals are the smartest monsters and lead the others. Very intelligent creatures (INT 20+) are not used as generals because the ethergaunts do not trust them. The avolakia (MM II), stonesinger (MM III), dark naga and ocularon (FF) are typical.

Other creatures are those creatures used for special needs. The reason many of the creatures I have listed are aberrations has to do with the soultrapper (Denizens of Avadnu) and shadesteel golem (MM III). Both are variants that look nothing like the existing illustrations. The soultrapper is a mass of canerous tissue that grows crystal spines instead of petals. It uses a form of weather control that makes the land more agreeable to aberrations. The golem is a fleshy flying disc and its negative energy traits are replaced with those that affect aberrations. When settled in and all undesired races have been removed, the ethergaunts then plant a variant of yellow mold, one that is harmless to aberrations. It is meant to keep unwanted creatures at bay as well as spruce up the place for the troops. Runehounds (MM III) are used to track intelligent creatures and ensure they are not trying to invade ethergaunt controlled territory. And then there is the thorciasid (ELH) which are brought out when epic monsters and heros attempt to destroy the ethergaunts. The 'gaunts rarely do this as the insectoids feed on the troops as well as enemies.

Monsters that the ethergaunts try to kill because they are an impediment include illithids, beholders, aboleth, neogi, dragons and anything else with a big ego. Some may bow and try to act like slaves, but they are simply not trusted at all. Attempts at alliances result in attack from the ethergaunt's forces. They also fear creatures* like the clockwork horrors- constructs that reproduce in huge numbers (I ignore the 3e ecology for them) and can not be affected by many spells the ethergaunts use to put down rebellions.

And then there is the biggest gun of all in the ethergaunt arsenal. If they are able to control territory for more than 10 years, they can use their technology to build an aberrant engine. This produces the twisted life sign from Elder Evils at the moderate level. It becomes more powerful as the engine is improved over time. The range of the engine is only 50 miles at first but this increases by 10 miles per year. And that range is in all directions- stone and metal does not protect the underdark from its influence. Given enough time and the right locations, the ethergaunts may very well turn a planet's population into aberrations within just a few centuries. And the engine has a bonus of destroying undead, creatures the ethergaunts want gone.

* They may not admit it, but they do feel fear in some rare instances.