Hey everyone! This is a collaboration with one of our partners where we showcase a really great homebrewed monster. The monster stat block, drawing, and lore is all by Cinderblock Sally and then we have a write-up on thoughts of how to use this following the lore.
Gulper Trochilidae by Cinder Blocksally
The Gulper Trochilidia, PDF available here, looks like a bird but flies like an insect. Beautiful to behold, but keep your distance. Especially if you’ve got any small folk in your party.
Active Metabolism. The Gulper Trochidilia must expend an enormous amount of energy to keep itself in flight, flapping its wings at least 70 times per second or it’s beak (which weighs almost as much as the rest of its body) will drag it to the ground. To produce this much energy, the Gulper Trochidilia’s metabolism works aggressively fast, requiring it to hunt constantly or it will starve. A vulture or gnome will only keep it sustained for a few hours at most. As such they have adapted to completely ignore the 24 hour day/night cycle most creatures live by, opting instead to take an hour long nap every three to four hours.
The only time you will find a Gulper Trochidilia nesting for more than an hour is during their mating season.
Pellet Nests. The Gulper Trochidilia swallows its prey whole, but cannot digest everything it swallows. Bone, metal, wood, bits of clothing, etc., all of these are regurgitated by the Trochilidia in warm muccussy clumps called “pellets”. The Trochilidia will collect and shape these pellets, while they are still warm, into spherical nests. As the mucus cools, it hardens into a translucent resin. These nests can be anywhere from five to forty feet in diameter. The resin is extremely hard and the “skeletal” foundation gives them a surprising amount of fortitude. The only way in or out of a nest is an opening at the very top. The Trochidilia will make this opening as small as possible. As long as their beak can fit through, they can fit through. Because of this, a Trochidilia is at its most vulnerable when it has swallowed a creature larger than it. It must digest or expel the meal before it can return inside the safety of its nest. This is why Trochidilia will only attempt to swallow creatures larger than themselves in times of great desperation or during mating season.
Art Lovers. For a few short weeks every year, a Gulper Trochidilia will seek a mate. Male Trochilidia attempt woo the females with the majesty and size of the nests they can build. You will find that during mating season, male gulper Trochidilia will aggressively attempt to hunt creatures larger than them. Particularly creatures who cover themselves in shiny metals and other non-digestibles. This gives them more eye catching material to build with. They craft enormous garden sculptures of bone, metal, and resin - tangling out of their nests like branches from a tree. Some nests are decorated with small spires around their base. Others are encased in the biggest and shiniest bits of bone and metal they can find, making macabre mosaics of their hunts.
Monster of the Post
When Cinder sent me a handful of monsters to choose from, the Gulper Trochidilia jumped out at me over all of the others. The number one thing is that between the stat block and a small bit of lore provided I still saw a slew of opportunities to use it in a campaign. The Trochilidia feels like it fits into the established universe of D&D, most creatures in the D&D universe start off as, what if blank was huge? This time it's a hummingbird!
The Gulper Trochilidia's main feature is its swallow. Not too many low CR creatures have a swallow ability and that's because it's so frustrating and deadly for a low level party to fight. I honestly wouldn't expect a level 1 party to fight this in a random encounter. There's a pretty high chance the halfling in the party is going to get scooped and taken away. So that of course brings up the question.
When do you use such a low CR creature if not against very low level players?
You have a couple of options. If you want this to be a random encounter it's extremely simple; your small party member looked particularly tasty. If the Gulper Trochilidia does end up swallowing the PC, they are most likely going to try and flee with their meal. At any level I see this being a difficult fight to lose. At worst your small PC gets dropped to very low HP and needs some healing but more than likely your party of level 3's will rip through this in 2 rounds. The action economy is not in the Gulper’s favor.
Using it as a random encounter is dismissive of what it CAN be though. It is fantastic as a side quest for low levels. You have two avenues. First is that the Gulper Trochilidia could have taken someone. If you want to be silly it can be in the middle of the day in a village. The Trochilidia just swoops down and grabs someone. A woman yells out "Little Jimmy!" Now the party has to chase after this thing before Little Jimmy gets digested. With mating season things get a little more interesting. What I am getting is that they really just swallow miscellaneous objects in order to build an impressive nest. Now you can have a villager who's important object was stolen. Family heirloom, maybe a magical item? Whatever you can think of you could have a Trochilidia take it for their own. Now your party has to track it down, enter it's nest, and take back the item. You could definitely throw in a second one in the ensuing fight as I am sure this item would be attracting some mates. Maybe multiple come and it's up the to PC's to grab the item and run out of there. The Gulpers will have disadvantage on their bite attacks against medium creatures but if you throw 4 of these at your party I guarantee some of them are going to hit and now half of your party is swallowed.
Whether it's a random encounter or something a little bit more scripted, a Gulper Trochilidia can definitely make for a fun session and a great quest hook for your low level adventurers.
Thanks Cinder Blocksally for this awesome monster. I can't wait to swallow my party!