A harpy had the upper body of a female humanoid and the lower body of an reptilian creature, with scaly legs, clawed feet, and clawed hands with knotty fingers. Harpies had coal-black eyes in faces like cruel old women, with hair that was filthy, tangled, and crusted with old dry blood. They possessed powerful leathery wings with which they could fly and carry away their victims.[note 1]
There was no physical difference between male and female harpies. The males possessed breasts just like the females did, leading to the misconception that male harpies did not exist.
The deadliest power of the harpy was its insidious and captivating song. A harpy's song, while it was heard, acted like a charm affecting all non-harpies up to 300 feet (90 meters) away. It took an effort to will to resist; those who did could count themselves safe for a day, at least from that one harpy's song. In those who succumbed, it induced a trance-like state in which the victim was compelled to move directly towards the harpy. If dangers obstructed their path, they could shake off the effect, but if they could not, they could do little but try to protect themselves. However, once within reach of the harpy, the victim was at the harpy's mercy and made no attempt at defending themselves. Creatures who could not hear were unaffected by the magical song. Elves were naturally resistant to the effects of the harpy's song.
They had keen hearing and skills in deceit, intimidation, and, curiously, oratory.
Harpies used primitive weapons, usually big bones wielded as improvised clubs, but a few harpy archers mastered the use of bows. Otherwise, they could also bite and attack with their claws. They often attacked on the wing, striking with their weapons. They had no preference over their victims, and enjoyed the killing and torture of any creature.
Harpies were notoriously malevolent and sadistic, taking enormous joy in hurting, torturing and killing their victims, and were always seeking more. They were fond of entrancing travelers with their songs and luring them to shockingly cruel dooms. When they were done playing with their captives, they slew them and finally devoured them.
They were not particularly intelligent creatures, and were prone to cowardice in the face of superior power.
Female harpies could lay as many as twenty eggs at will from the age of two, but only around three of those would successfully hatch, and any deformed young were killed by a parent. It was unclear whether harpies looked after their young or not, but if they did, it consisted of nothing more than feeding their young, similar to birds.[note 2]
They were almost exclusively carnivorous, but if meat was unavailable, they would resort to eating vegetation. Their preferred food was fresh demihuman meat, especially elves. Due to the natural resistance elves had to the harpy's song, harpies viewed their meat as an especially rare delicacy.
Harpies made homes in groups of six or more individuals within marshlands or in caves near shorelines, which were preferably near well-traveled routes. They were often encountered alone, in pairs, or in packs of seven to a dozen harpies known as "flights". However, a tribe of harpies, known as a "scream", could be as large as two hundred. There was no social structure to harpy life. There was constant quarreling, which sometimes resulted in fights to the death. When deaths did occur, harpies were willing to eat their own kind. Otherwise, harpies ventured out to hunt, and their victims were often brought back to the lair to be killed and eaten.
Harpies were generally uninterested in treasure or wealth, but they would always take at least one possession from a victim back to their lair as a symbol of their kill.
A few successful harpies took up the bow as archers, mastering this tactic and going it alone as cruel hunters, bandits, and mercenaries, usually operating as bandits when not hired as mercenaries. Such harpies acquired much wealth in the form of the tools of their trade.
It was not unknown for harpies to cooperate with other evil humanoids if it served their interests.
Harpies were known to dwell in and around the Kingdom of Nix, a goblin realm that lay upon the high Forbidden Plateau in the Utter East, beside a glacier in the Wu Pi Te Shao Mountains of the Yehimal. The harpies of Nix were known as merciless hunters, and were depicted as having long tails. Swooping from the skies, they caught foes in nets and carried them away. They would drop their hapless victims in the cauldrons of Nix; their demise produced a burst of mana to power the bloodforges. These harpies were instrumental in Redfang the Reaper's reign of terror over Vanesci Hamlet in the 7th century DR, by kidnapping villagers for the cookpot.
- ↑ In 2nd-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, harpies had the torso and head of a woman, but the legs of a vulture.
- ↑ The Monstrous Manual states on p. 184 that harpies do not look after their young whatsoever, leaving them to fend for themselves, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 states that they do feed their young, similar to birds.
- ↑ The Monstrous Manual states that it is believed that harpies live around fifty years, but the "Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of Beauty" article in Dragon #115 contradicts this, saying that they live between twenty-five and thirty years at most. Taking these together, this article assumes 50 years is a maximum lifespan and 25–30 years, which suits their violent society.
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- Ed Greenwood (November 1986). “The Ecology of the Harpy: ...Songs of death”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #115 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 52–54.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Wizards RPG Team (2014). Monster Manual 5th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 978-0786965614.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 Skip Williams, Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook (July 2003). Monster Manual 3.5. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-7869-2893-X.
- ↑ Gary Gygax (December 1977). Monster Manual, 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 51. ISBN 0-9356-9600-8.
- ↑ 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 184. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Barbara E. Curtis (Novemeber 1986). “The Ecology of the Harpy: Songs of beauty...”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #115 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 50–52.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Tachyon Studios (1996). Brian Fargo. Blood & Magic. Interplay.
- ↑ Karen Wynn Fonstad (August 1990). The Forgotten Realms Atlas. (TSR, Inc), p. 16. ISBN 978-0880388573.
- ↑ (1989). Kara-Tur Trail Map. (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-88038-783-7.