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Malaugryms, also known as shadowmasters and collectively as Clan Malaug, were immortal and evil shapeshifters who clashed with many of Faerûn's greatest heroes, most notably Elminster Aumar.[3][7][8]

But don't you agree, that prey tastes even better when spiced with the sweet tang of fear?
— A malaugrym shortly before devouring its victim.[6]

Description[]

These shapeshifters were, both physically and mentally, superior to many if not most other races. In their natural state, which they almost never revealed, they appeared as a 4‑foot (1.2‑meter) wide spherical mass of rubbery flesh with three yellow eyes, a beaked mouth, and three tentacles, each tipped with a hooked claw. They hovered in midair with their tentacles constantly writhing.[3]

When transformed into the shape of a humanoid or other creature, that form's eyes would have an extremely faint yellow glow. This was often the only indication that the person or creature was in fact a malaugrym.[3] With concentration, a malaugrym could suppress this glow, becoming completely undetectable without the aid of magic.[9]

Personality[]

Malaugryms were highly manipulative, nearly universally motivated by a desire for power,[3] and regarded most others as little better than pawns or prey.[10] They possessed an uncanny, malicious intelligence and a remarkable charismatic presence (despite the abhorrent appearance of their natural form), which when combined with their shapechanging abilities, made it almost trivial for them to infiltrate any social structure they wished.[11] While they could adopt any form, they tended to maintain consistent personalities across their forms, and the characters they played to blend into society tended to have similar interests or backgrounds.[12]

They were compulsively cruel and sadistic.[6] Malaugryms often hunted and killed merely for amusement,[13] and preferred to capture and they eat their prey live.[3] They were also extravagantly hedonistic, seeking out the most outlandish pleasures they could acquire,[9] and were ruthlessly vengeful when denied or deprived of their desired comforts.[12]

As powerful and immortal creatures, the average malaugrym's greatest fear was not death so much as the loss of memory or of their cognitive acuity.[12]

Abilities[]

Malaugryms were said to be perfect shapeshifters, able to freely adopt the forms of any creature, object, or person they wished,[3] as well as to transform individual pieces or parts of their bodies at will into whatever they wished.[5] The only known limit to their ability was that they could not assume the forms of deities. Most had two favorite forms: a normal seeming human form in which they could freely travel among the peoples of the Material Plane, and a more monstrous form which they reserved for combat.[3] At least some of their shapeshifting ability was illusory as a malaugrym's form never inhibited its abilities.[2]

Malaugrym retained their ability to fly even while transformed into flightless creatures.[9]

Combat[]

They were astoundingly agile, far beyond the ken of a human, as well as, to a lesser extent, being stronger and more hardy than one.[3] Their remarkable durability was in part due to their tactic of constantly shapeshifting during battle, often very subtly, in order to move around or hide vulnerable sites or vital organs.[5] Even so, their primary goal in most fights was to conceal their true nature, and in most cases they preferred to flee rather than be forced to reveal their true forms.[10]

Malaugryms were notoriously quick to recover from wounds, which, with time, sealed up on their own. They were furthermore impervious to all weapons save those which were magical or silver. Blows from silver weapons were particularly devastating, and left wounds the malaugrym could not heal naturally, instead requiring magical attention. Malaugryms were also resistant to magical attacks, particularly from less experienced casters, and were further immune to all poisons.[3]

Malaugryms often had combat training as wizards, although it was not unheard of to encounter sorcerers or clerics.[3] In battle, they would make use of these skills when they wished to conceal their identifies as shapeshifters. Otherwise, they would morph parts of their bodies into tentacles or pseudopods to strike at their enemies.[5] Even outside of combat, many would regularly shift their forms in order to make themselves more difficult targets for ambushes.[7]

Despite how formidable they were as individuals, most malaugrym preferred to avoid direct conflict until victory was assured, instead sending minions or pawns to engage their enemies and using traps or illusions to beguile their foes.[10]

Owing to their human heritage, malaugrym could not be banished or removed from the Material Plane like a traditional extraplanar creature.[12]

Society[]

Three maraulgryms in various states of transformation.

Malaugryms desired power over the Material Plane, and schemed to conquer all of Faerûn[5] as well as to collect as much magic and as many magic items as possible.[14] They were particularly keen to find magic that could help them traverse the planes or which could ensure their continued immortality.[12] They had few—if any—allies, even among each other,[10] and would compete amongst themselves for the chance to wreak havoc on lawful or goodly societies.[7] Individual malaugrym would prioritized their own schemes and goals over the the wellbeing of their fellows, which often undermined any progress toward their grander evil plans.[15]

While they sought power and food on the Material Plane, their main base of operations was the Castle of Shadows on the Plane of Shadow,[5] however they were not native to that plane.[3]

Organization[]

Malaugryms were never a numerous race, and were more akin to a large family,[12] sometimes referred to as Clan Malaug.[8] Family or no, Malaugryms' desire for power meant that they were constantly undermining and trying to one-up each other, sometimes killing their rivals or superiors[3][5] or even waging centuries-long vendettas against each other.[15]

While powerful individual malaugrym were respected and feared by their peers, they technically had no hierarchy save for the one recognized as their leader, known as the Shadowmaster.[5][15] This title was held by whichever malaugrym had been a strong enough spellcaster to claim it from its previous owner,[7] and new challenges for the title were issued every few decades.[11] It was suggested that only the Shadowmaster, or perhaps those spellcasters strong enough to become Shadowmaster, processed the power of interplanar travel necessary to reach the Material Plane.[7][14] As such, malaugryms were constantly trying to gain favor with their Shadowmaster in hopes of being able to pursue their goals on the Material Plane,[7] making the Shadowmaster the only being with the influence to convince malaugryms to cooperate.[15]

Somewhat confusingly, any malaugrym could call themselves a "shadowmaster" without actually holding the position, and many of them did.[15]

Religion[]

In general, malaugryms were not particularly devout even when they did worship the gods,[11] although a rare few served as clerics of evil or chaotic deities.[3] In particular, they sometimes would follow Bane, whom they respected as an aspirational version of the ideal ruler, or Shar, whom they venerated in her capacity as a goddess of loss.[11] In the late 14th century DR, they were also known to venerate Gargauth[6], while in the late 15th century DR, they were known to respect Asmodeus but were were hesitant to worship him.[11]

Out of fear of divine retribution, malaugrym usually refrained from impersonating important religious figures.[11]

Sex and Gender[]

Malaugryms did not have sexes and could freely adopt whatever traits they wanted. Individuals often informally adopted a single gender as part of their preference for maintaining consistent personalities across their different shapes.[12][16]

Life-Cycle[]

To reproduce, malaugryms would adopt a form necessary to mate with a human, and then steal away with the newborn to raise as a new malaugrym.[7] While malaugryms did age and could grow old, they could not die of old age. Instead, older malaugryms were killed by younger ones eager to usurp their power.[3] In general, the only sign that a malaugrym was getting old was gradual memory loss and a decline of its cognitive ability.[9]

Language[]

Malaugryms spoke Common as well as their own language.[3] Malaugrym names were generally constructed around a single syllable that represented or referred to an important ancestor. For instance, many names ended in "-luth" to denote a specific influential common ancestor.[12]

Diet[]

Although they were omnivores, and were able to eat nearly any organic substance,[9] Malaugryms preferred to feed on living creatures, particularly humanoids, and would do so by sticking their hooked tentacles down a victim's throat before using their shapeshifting abilities to crawl inside to devour it from within.[7] On occasions when they used utensils (or any other tools), they avoided items made of silver.[9]

Relationships[]

There were no races or organizations on friendly terms with the malaugryms.[10] They disdained short-lived creatures, distrusted and feared long-lived creatures, and actively sought to humiliate and crush any doppelganger they encountered.[11] They were longstanding enemies of Elminster and the Harpers,[13] the drow-dragons of Chaulssin[8] and the Netherese of Thultanthar.[11]

History[]

The legends of the malaugryms claimed that their race was descended from the human wizard Malaug, said to be the first person to enter the Plane of Shadow. He became warped by shadow magic, gradually transforming into the first of the malaugrym.[17] The malaugryms further believed that their race's "mother" was an alien being from the Far Realm encountered by Malaug in his travels. Malaugryms were thus eager to travel to the Far Realm to search for this supposed parent and, in doing so, to acquire more power.[12] Although they dwelt in the Plane of Shadow, malaugryms considered the Far Realm to be their true home.[16]

Most folk of Faerûn had never heard of the malaugryms as their existence was very secretive.[18] The first recorded instance of malaugryms living in Faerûn was in the third century DR when a young Elminster clashed with the malaugrym Undarl.[19] This was, in fact, Malaug in disguise, and the malaugrym progenitor was never seen again following his defeat at Elminster's hands.[17]

They were next encountered in the Year of the Crimson Thorn, 792 DR, by the Church of Vhaeraun, which discovered that they had infiltrated the leadership of the drow-dragons of Chaulssin. This led to the founding of House Jaezred, an order of assassins dedicated to eliminating the shapeshifters, and the infiltrators were killed in a single bloody day.[20][8]

They reappeared again in the Year of the Stalking Satyr, 1179 DR,[21] and attacked Elminster, either for sport or to plunder his treasures. Elminster slew one of his attackers, and this act drew such astonishment and fury from the malaugryms that they dubbed him "the Enemy" and swore to destroy him.[7][13] Realizing the threat they posed, Elminster drew Khelben Arunsun info the conflict by luring the malaugryms to Blackstaff Tower, and subsequently involved the Harpers. When the Harpers determined that malaugrym had infiltrated the militaries of both Thay and Calimshan in the Year of the Tomb, 1182 DR, it triggered would come to be known as the Harpstar Wars.[13][21] Battles were raged across multiple planes and left both the malaugryms and the Harpers depleted. As part of this conflict, Elminster created a magic item called the Harp of Stars, and tricked the malaugryms into stealing it. Among its many properties, the Harp of Stars was designed to record the memories of any malaugrym who used it, thus it could reveal a great deal about the shapeshifters' plans and society.[13] The war continued until the Year of the Horn, 1222 DR,[22] and only ended when Khelben assumed control over the current Shadowmaster's mind and convinced the remaining malaugryms that continued fighting would be too costly. Although the war ended, the Harp of Stars was lost or destroyed before it could be recovered and learned from.[13] Thanks to this, the malaugryms never revealed their true forms throughout the entire Harpstar Wars, and for another 150 years, scholars would believe that they were just a peculiar clan of humans.[3][18]

Following the Harpstar Wars, Elminster established planar wards intended to alert him if any malaugryms returned to Toril.[7] In the Year of the Lost Lady, 1241 DR, they attacked Chaulssin once again, kidnapping a concubine of the city's ruler, Mauzzkyl Jaezred.[8] They next arrived on Toril in the Year of the Prince, 1357 DR, when a pair of them sought to acquire the secret of spellfire from Shandril Shessair, although they were beaten back by Elminster along with Rathan Thentraver and Torm of the Knights of Myth Drannor. A larger group then arrived the following year, the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, seeking to take advantage of the chaos sown by the Time of Troubles to eliminate Elminster, Khelben, and Laeral Silverhand, and to then infiltrate Faerûnian society.[7] One succeeded at impersonating a Masked Lord of Waterdeep before being slain.[9] This force of malaugryms was beaten back largely thanks to the efforts of the Rangers Three.[7] At least five of the shapeshifters remained active in the Realms as of the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR,[3][23] with another 100 dwelling at the Castle of Shadows.[7]

The onset of the Spellplague in the Year of Blue Fire, 1385 DR, had two important ramifications for the malaugryms. First, it led to the transformation of the Plane of Shadow into the Shadowfell, which had the consequence of making the malaugryms' usual means of travelling to and from the Material Plane much more difficult.[12] Second, the Spellplague severed the malaugryms' access to the Far Realm, leaving them unable to travel "home." Following this, their overall numbers began steadily decreasing[16] even as more and more found their way to the Material Plane. By the late 15th century DR, it was estimated that at least twenty individuals were present in Faerûn,[12] although it seemed that each one merely perused their own ends rather than attempting to work in a coordinated fashion.[2]

Notable Malaugryms[]

Appendix[]

Gallery[]

Appearances[]

Novels
Cloak of ShadowsAll Shadows FledCrown of FireHand of FireElminster: The Making of a Mage
Referenced only
ElfsongStormlightThe AbductionThe SummoningThe Sorcerer
Video Games
Neverwinter Nights: Tyrants of the Moonsea

Further Reading[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Brian Cortijo (September 2012). “Ecology of the Malaugrym”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #206 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 258. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 3.20 3.21 James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo (February 2001). Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 64. ISBN 0-7869-1832-2.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Richard Baker and James Wyatt (2004-03-13). Monster Update (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 5. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2018-09-10.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Dale Donovan (July 1998). Villains' Lorebook. (TSR, Inc), p. 99. ISBN 0-7869-1236-7.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 155. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 Dale Donovan (July 1998). Villains' Lorebook. (TSR, Inc), p. 100. ISBN 0-7869-1236-7.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Eric L. Boyd (2007-04-25). Dragons of Faerûn, Part 3: City of Wyrmshadows (Zipped PDF). Web Enhancement for Dragons of Faerûn. Wizards of the Coast. pp. 2–3. Archived from the original on 2016-11-01. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Brian Cortijo (September 2012). “Ecology of the Malaugrym”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #206 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 2.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 157. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Brian Cortijo (September 2012). “Ecology of the Malaugrym”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #206 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 4.
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 Brian Cortijo (September 2012). “Ecology of the Malaugrym”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #206 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 3.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 Ed Greenwood (September 1993). The Code of the Harpers. Edited by Mike Breault. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 30–31. ISBN 1-56076-644-1.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 277. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Jason Carl, Sean K. Reynolds (October 2001). Lords of Darkness. Edited by Michele Carter. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 156. ISBN 07-8691-989-2.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 259. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 Brian Cortijo (September 2012). “Ecology of the Malaugrym”. In Christopher Perkins ed. Dungeon #206 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 1.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Ed Greenwood (September 1993). The Code of the Harpers. Edited by Mike Breault. (TSR, Inc.), p. 120. ISBN 1-56076-644-1.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Dale Donovan (July 1998). Villains' Lorebook. (TSR, Inc), p. 115. ISBN 0-7869-1236-7.
  20. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 103. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  22. Brian R. James, Ed Greenwood (September 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. Edited by Kim Mohan, Penny Williams. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 Dale Donovan (July 1998). Villains' Lorebook. (TSR, Inc), p. 101. ISBN 0-7869-1236-7.
  24. Eric L. Boyd (June 2005). City of Splendors: Waterdeep. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 58. ISBN 0-7869-3693-2.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Ed Greenwood (1995). Cloak of Shadows. (TSR, Inc.), p. ?. ISBN 0786903015.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 Ed Greenwood (October 1995). All Shadows Fled (Paperback). (TSR, Inc). ISBN 0-7869-0302-3.
  27. Ed Greenwood (February 2005). Spellfire. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0-7869-3599-5.
  28. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 88. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
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