Of Albino Apes and Pygmies

A living wall of albino apes was coming through the doorway. Their faces twisted in snarling expressions, showing their yellow canines but making no sound, the mute, baboon-like things began to plow through the opening. The front wave had impacted the partially open door and pushed it inward. Because they had paused outside the door and thereby lost their momentum, and because the portal was heavy and not easily moved, the beasts’ initial entry was slow. The apes behind the first wave had an opportunity to build up some speed in the corridor, and they ran over the ones in front of them. The result was that a few of the apes were stunned or injured by their allies, and the haphazard nature of the charge gave the adventurers inside the room a few valuable seconds to prepare for the onslaught.
Chapter 12, Sea of Death, by Gary Gygax 1987

An evocative scene from the 3rd Gord the Rogue novel (the first one after Gygax’s falling out with TSR) where the heroes are attacked by a reckless horde… nay, a swarm of angry albino apelings led by “pale midgets”.

Did I say a swarm?

Hmmm… there’s an idea, an encounter with a swarm of diminutive baboon creatures in service to a mad derro savant, a subterranean living crazed albino monkey swarm.

Come to think of it, derro mobs might make the basis for a good swarm (or more likely a disorganised troop given their Small size)…

As they venture into the passages leading to the City Out of Mind, the heroes encounter scores of these diminutive baboon-like creatures in conjunction with their “albino pygmy” or “pale midget” masters – the latter are clearly meant to represent derro, but never named as such, presumably due to licencing issues.

Deriving Basic Stats for a Sea of Death Apeling

The apelings are described to have the following traits:

  • described as “little” (Small or perhaps even Tiny size)
  • baboon-like faces with fanged bite
  • haphazard natural weapon fighting style, not weapons
  • excited by sight and smell of blood to a frenzy
  • albino with yellow mane of hair
  • adversely affected by bright light
  • likely track by sight, not by scent (Survival skill)
  • shambling travel gait, usually loping on all fours
  • lack of speech ie. completely mute

Thus, a small baboon or similar equivalent Small primate depending on the setting, such as perhaps a charau-ka or a pygmy charau-ka of the Kaava Lands for example in Golarion would be a good starting point.

The kech is probably too large (Medium) and mainly arboreal by contrast, although its modus operandi is very similar to the derro, suggesting the possibility of a different link or shared origin?

So, basing the stat block on a common baboon rather than the larger rock baboon and adding light sensitivity, frenzy (as per the blood orc) and/or the “Crazed (CR+0)” template with some additional drawbacks (albinism, mute) offset by 8 extra skill ranks in Survival (to reflect their tracking ability) could model the base albino apeling creature.

A  pygmy version could be created with the “Young (CR-1)” template applied to shift to Tiny size, which can then be converted into a swarm modelled on the existing monkey swarm relatively easily.

Gord’s Musings On the Derro Origin of the Albino Baboons

” I think those so-called baboons are nothing more than the same species as the pygmy men, degenerated perhaps, or bred to serve as hounds.”

Leda didn’t believe him until she too had examined several corpses after they returned to the treasure room. “Devildirt, Gord! These things are men!” she exclaimed with revulsion in her voice.

“Not men, actually,” Gord said. “Pygmy spawn, albinoid descendants of once-humans who have probably dwelled underground for a hundred generations. It isn’t surprising, though. Slavery is just a step away from deliberate breeding for desired characteristics, degenerate or otherwise. I have seen the losels that the vile Iuz breeds, too – a disgusting thing to do to human, humanoid, or ape!”

This passage chillingly implies the apelings are an even more degenerate form of derro, possibly crossbred with baboons from Suloise slaves like the orc-baboon crossbreed created by Iuz known as losel (see the From the Ashes boxed set).

Later the apelings are described as “…degenerate hounds, the mute baboons that must once have been the soldiers and slaves of the shrunken descendants of Suel”, further supporting their derro origin within the Greyhawk setting.

As such, adding in the following derro trait would seem justified:

  • Darkvision 60 ft.

Other derro traits such as spell resistance, spell-like abilities, poison use and Exotic Weapon Proficiency (aklys, fauchard etc) are probably out of place however. The sunlight vulnerability weakness of the derro can be replaced with the lesser effects of albinism as noted above.

Stronger and/or larger apelings might be reflected by adding Warrior class levels. Similar larger apelings could be used as animal companions for a derro cave druid or ranger with the beastmaster archetype. Pending the GM’s permission, an albino apeling swarm animal companion might also be possible but I’d have to check the RAW how that might work.

So far, I think we’re off to a good start.

See this link for the final stat block for an albino apeling.

Next Post:  Apelings – Swarm vs Troop?





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