Copyright 2010 Wizards of the Coast.

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Just look at this pointy boy. They’re not even trying to hide the inspiration for him.

Anyway, D&D has had monsters named “gremlin” since almost its beginning, but the lore for them its new to this edition.

The Lore

A long time ago, the fomorians under King Thrumbolg took a large group of goblin captives, transformed them into bioweapons, and released them into the cities of their eladrin enemies. The new creatures had a great aptitude for deception and sabotage, and an engineered predilection for it. These were the first gremlins.

They did their job wonderfully, disrupting the alliance of eladrin city states arrayed against Thrumbolg by altering the correspondence between them, murdering key officials, and other such deeds. However, they also ended up doing the same sort of thing to Thumbolg’s own court, causing great damage to it. Gremlins gotta gremlin.

The little rascals were cast out, and over the ages spread through the Feywild and the middle world. Though they sometimes live openly in the communities of other sapients, many gremlins follow their engineered calling and hide out among their chosen victims, taming vermin to do their bidding and engaging in the same ghastly shenanigans their ancestors did back in the day, basically for the lulz. The worst among them find natural allies in demons, who have the same appetite for chaos.

Examples of things gremlins do, taken from the stat block descriptions: stealing documents and heirlooms from a royal court and stashing them to be found in the quarters of visiting nobles; intercepting and altering important correspondence so that a call for peace becomes a declaration of war; and plain old serial murder.

The Numbers

Gremlins are Small Fey Humanoids with low-light vision and a speed of 6. They have two signature abilities present in almost all stat blocks. The first is Sabotaging Presence, an large aura (size 5) that gives enemies inside a -5 penalty to skill checks. The second is Gremlin Tactics, a reaction that allows them to swap spaces with an enemy that misses them with a melee attack.

Skill-wise, training in Stealth and Thievery is nearly universal, and they occasionally know other “thiefy” skills like Bluff as well.

Gremlin Deceiver

Deceivers are Level 5 Controllers with 63 HP, which makes them the earliest gremlin the PCs are likely to find. Like other gremlins, their presence is going to be hidden at first, and they only fight when found out.

Deceivers fight with their claws, but their magic is a lot more interesting. They can cast a fireball-sized Befuddling Burst that targets Will and, on a hit, deals psychic damage and prevents targets from shifting or standing up (save ends). The burst itself doesn’t knock them prone - that’s what the Slip Up minor-action attack does. This is a ranged attack that targets Will and does no damage.

For added lulz, pair them with other monsters that can knock people prone, such as other gremlins, or wolves reskinned as dire rats.

Gremlin Skulker

Skulkers are Level 7 Lurkers with 64 HP, and they’re surprisingly sticky. Aside from the standard gremlin traits, they have a Shadow Sneak passive that makes them invisible while adjacent to an enemy, and Opportunistic Advantage that gives them extra damage in opportunity attacks.

Their claw attacks do okay damage and “curse” the target: if the target moves away from the gremlin, they fall prone at the end of their movement. And when an enemy adjacent to the skulker moves, the Shadow Skulk encounter power allows them to shift up to 6 squares simultaneously, following the enemy as it moves so it stays adjacent.

You want this one right in the middle of the PCs, preferrably starting the fight already there with some of those strong opportunity attcks after sneaking in undetected.

Gremlin Conniver

Connivers are Level 17 Controllers with 162 HP. That’s quite a jump in power! They’re probably similar to the OG gremlins that destroyed the eladrin alliance.

Their basic claw attack also teleports the target 5 squares on a hit. Their Connive spell is a non-damaging, at-will ranged attack that dominates on a hit (save ends!). Fortunately only one creature can be dominated at a time.

As a minor action it can also create a Beguiling Fog (recharge 6+), a fireball-sized area attack against Will that does no damage. It always dazes the enemy - a hit means it’s a (save ends) effect, a miss means it only lasts a turn.

While connivers have little direct damage potential, they can dole out some of the game’s most annoying status effects at-will. The teleport effect on their basic claw attack is also particularly wonderful in battlefields with dangerous terrain or other hazards.

Gremlin Prankster

Pranksters are Level 17 Minion Controllers, perfect for when you want to re-enact a certain 80s movie. They’re not particularly hardy, but they like to run around in huge crowds and try to cause as much chaos as possible before vanishing. They have a basic claw attack and a Slip Up ranged attack that’s similar to the Deceiver’s, but also slides the target 3 squares before knocking them prone.

Final Impressions

The teme for the Gremlins 2 movie was playing through my head the entire time I was writing this. I love these critters.

They’re also very interesting mechanically and can end up making your PCs pull their own hair out in frustration. That can lead to memorable sessions if you do it properly, but can also be frustrating for the players, so consider the examples below cautiously.

If you really want the PCs to have a bad time, make sure your gremlin encounter takes place in a site full of traps and other hazards that require skill checks to disable. Or even have the PCs deal with a gremlin battle and a skill challenge at the same time. The skill penalty from Sabotaging Presence is untyped, meaning it technically stacks, but if you’re feeling merciful you can say it caps out at the -5 a single gremlin would provide.

That skill penalty also aids grappling-centered monsters! The roll to escape a grapple is a skill check, after all.

Since a lot of gremlins can knock PCs prone, they also go really well with monsters that can do ugly things to prone PCs. Especially evil GMs might want to keep in mind that 2 Gremlin Deceivers and 2 Needlefang Drake Swarms make up a valid Level 3 encounter.