Blood from a stone: a closer look at gargoyles in the Fantasy Trip

September 6, 2021 at 5:54 pm

“The monsters were his friends, and guarded him.”

― Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

In the original Fantasy Trip, there were a lot fewer restrictions on what race of character you could create — centaurs, giants, and reptile men were all on the table. There was a strange (and unbalanced) caveat that these races would take twice as much experience to advance, but as a multi-hex bruiser with a minimum 25 ST who cared? That said, not all these monstrous races seem so far-fetched, and a couple of years back we created playable options for reptile men. Today we’d like to do the same for gargoyles.

With its signature minimalism, all we know of TFT gargoyles is that they are “tough, ugly humanoids (that) have a silicon metabolism” and “gargoyles live in small tribes in mountainous areas, hunting and eating rocks. They especially love to inhabit ruins. They prize jewels, and can sometimes be hired as guards by the wealthy; they are tough and trustworthy, though sullen.” They are strong but dim-witted, and can fly in complete defiance of physics. But there is an allure to being able to play rock-skinned, flying, sharp-clawed killing machine so let’s give it a shot.

 

Building blocks to creating a gargoyle

To do this, let’s start with attributes. We give them base abilities of ST10, DX8, and IQ6 with 8 more points to allocate. To keep with the original theme, increasing IQ above 10 would cost 2 points at creation or twice as much XP later on.

The rest of their abilities can be handled as racial Talents. This balances their extraordinary aspects and also gives the player to create a more personalized character. Who is to say that their gargoyle must have claws or that all gargoyles can fly?

 

New IQ 6 Racial Talents:

Stony Carapace (2) Prerequisite: Gargoyle. While their silicon-based bodies are inherently tough and resilient, gargoyles make themselves even harder with secret treatments and mineral baths in their high mountain redoubts. A gargoyle’s carapace thus treated deflects one hit of damage per attack (AD1). This Talent can be taken up to three times.

Claws (2) Prerequisite: Gargoyle. The sharp talons of a gargoyle are deadly in a fight. They can be used either in regular or HTH combat and do +2 to damage.

 

New IQ 7 Racial Talents:

Advanced Claws (2) Prerequisite: Gargoyle, ST12. Longer and stronger than their lesser counterparts, these claws add +1d to damage.

 

New IQ 8 Racial Talents:

Gargoyle Flight (3) Prerequisite: Gargoyle. As stated in the rules, gargoyles have a limited form of magical levitation that passes for flight. This Talent gives a gargoyle a Fly MA of 16 and the maneuverability of a typical flying creature. A gargoyle without this talent can still leave the ground, but must make a 3/DX test to move up to 8, and takes penalties to attack as a wizard with a Fly spell (ITL, p.20).

In addition to these available talents, all gargoyles can stand perfectly still and blend in with their environment, and gain +2DX for Stealth or Hiding tests made in rocky terrain when they are not moving.

To offset these advantages, there are some downsides to playing a gargoyle. If you are using our Drawback system, give the player points for them, or simply let them take up to two points of Talents for free.

New Racial Drawback: Suspicious (minor habit) After generations of being hunted as raw materials for magical potions, gargoyles have a deep distrust of other races. They rarely let their guard down around others and are hesitant to make friends. Others get a -1 to Reaction rolls when dealing with gargoyles, and gargoyles take the same penalty with strangers.

They also have the Outsider drawback (minor social) and most societies have little experience with gargoyles, do not serve food suitable for them, and do not carry clothing or gear suitable for their use.

Following these guidelines, a starting gargoyle could have ST13, DX11, IQ8, have AD2, 2d-1 damage, and a Fly MA 16, as well as one spare point if they wanted to add a simple weapon proficiency or mundane skill. Which is pretty close to the monster listing.

 

A hard rock life

Most gargoyles live a stable, if unsociable life. They are hatched from eggs, and these rookeries are usually isolated hilltops aptly providing food sources. These nests are only occasionally tended and gargoyles often enter the world alone. There they begin feeding on the minerals available, growing larger and stronger. Within a month the young goglings are the size of a human toddler and often as strong as a teenager. Visiting adult gargoyles share in the teaching of the young, as the concept of parenting is alien to them and all who share a rookery are equal in familial bond. In a year’s time, they can speak their own tongue and fly short distances, and in three years they will range widely on their own and return to the nesting place less often.

This is life for most gargoyles for the next 30-50 years unless mishaps befall them, or until they fall to the hardening — a thickening of the skin and slowing of metabolism that eventually returns a gargoyle to the earth as a rocky shell, so that it can nourish future generations.

Gargoyles eat rock and stone and prize the flavor and nuance of gemstones, but they can survive on the foods of other races. It takes a tremendous amount of food to sate a gargoyle, however, and they do not relish its taste. In the wild, they roam like herbivores from one mineral source to the next. They gather only occasionally for rituals or mating, and usually only gargoyles from a single rookery are seen together.

There are groups of gargoyles that trade with humankind, and even work for them, but these are more the exception than the rule. Their natural distrust and fear of gallbladder-hunting wizards keep them on the fringes of most society. It is not uncommon for a gargoyle to know a bit of human speech.

While fearsome to behold and ruthless in battle, gargoyles are not normally aggressive and will usually only fight in order to escape. Then can be fiercely territorial if they believe their feeding grounds are threatened and have been known to brutally retaliate against prospectors or miners.

Their religion is primitive and primal and they make sacrifices to ensure safe hatchings and abundant food. The stony remnants of those who succumbed to the hardening are sacred to the gargoyles and often be found decorated with garlands and studded with small gemstones. There is little history of wizardry among the gargoyles and those that follow this path are usually disfigured or handicapped in some manner, and use spellcraft to compensate. They commonly decorate themselves with gemstones (powerstones being the most prized) to emulate their ancestors.

 

Alternative earth: variants of the gargoyles

Mergoyles have adapted to live underwater and cluster around volcanic vents in the seas. Their wings act as fins and give them an MA12 underwater, but they can not fly. While still stony, the mergoyle’s coloring favors the blues and greens of their environment

Pit gargoyles have long abandoned the surface and delve deep in the earth for their sustenance. Their wings have atrophied to little more than support appendages and their claws have adapted for better climbing. They have a climb MA of 4 and can traverse walls and ceilings with little difficulty. While no longer capable of true flight, pit gargoyles can hover in place briefly and cross gaps and crevasses on thin air. They are all but black, and commonly coated in lichen to mimic their surroundings.

Sentinels are more of a subgroup of gargoyles than a true variant. For millennia powerful wizards, religious orders and rulers have employed gargoyles as guardians over their strongholds in exchange for minerals and gems. These gargoyles have perfected the skill of motionless vigilance and often are mistaken for true statuary. They not need sleep in this state and a 5/IQ is needed to note their living state. Usually less strong and more dextrous than their wild brethren, sentinels are also more likely to use weapons. They take their duties very seriously and are very rigid in their outlook.