Mongrelfolk, or mongrelmen, were a strange race of hybrid humanoids known for their patchwork appearance and muddled lineage. Largely shunned by society and often enslaved by true horrors, the humble creatures survived the trials of their lives and circumstances of their origins through tolerance and teamwork.
Mongrelfolk were humanoid in shape but wildly varied in appearance. Common traits for mongrelfolk included a 5‒7 ft (1.5‒2.1 m) tall figure between 125‒230 lb (56.7‒100 kg). Skin tones varied from pale to dark, and their hair ranged from smooth to rough, and from black to brown. Their eyes could seem black in the dark, and yet pale in the light and their ears were slightly wide and long, with broad noses and heavy jaws. All of these traits however were highly variable, and could just as easily be replaced with those of other races.
Mongrelmen were known to contain pieces from many others species, including dwarves, elves, and humans, goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears, as well as orcs and ogres. Even stranger possibilities included creatures like bullywugs, crabmen, lizardfolk, gnolls, minotaurs, and even satyrs. However, mongrelfolk could appear to be mildly unusual members of other races by hiding their more outlandish features.
Mongrelfolk were typically skittish, perfectly aware of their unwanted status in the wider world. Those who could would hide the nature of their existence, disguising themselves as other races. Despite their pitiful lot in life, mongrelfolk were largely accepting of other races, treating all as equals and never discriminating on account of heritage, although a lack of acceptance from the world could end up pushing some to brutal acts of self-interest with a pitiless disregard for others. To better bond with their distant kin, they would often take up their cousins' hobbies, such as archery for elves, and stonework for dwarves.
The core principle among the mongrelfolk was survival, and they would gladly suffer through humiliation and abasement to continue living. Patience was a virtue amongst mongrelfolk and even when being abused they would wait to be released via outside forces. Mongrelfolk had a strong sense of community as a result of their outcast status and would defend their territories fiercely.
Some mongrelfolk possessed fangs and claws sharp enough for combat use, although this didn't apply to all of them. Other potential abilities included but were not limited to sharp hearing, flight, superior sense of smell, darkvision, aquatic respiration, wall-crawling, enhanced leaping, multiple heads, improved strength, infra-vision, larger lung capacity, flexible eye-stalks, extra limbs, and various types of tails. They also possessed incredible vocal imitation skills, thanks to their variable vocal cords.
However, mongrelfolk deformities could very easily prove detrimental. Those without proper hands (like pincers) couldn't properly wield items. Those with mismatched legs couldn't properly ambulate, and would end up slower than others. Others with piscine or amphibian skin could easily dry out if not submerged in water regularly.
Owing to the vast differences in mongrelfolk physiology and a general aversion to combat, mongrelfolk did not possess a shared combat strategy. They more commonly employed simple traps to defeat intruders but would still fight if their homes were threatened or their masters demanded it.
Of the few shared abilities mongrelfolk possessed, stealth and pickpocketing were some of their strongest. They had long experience with camouflage, making use of leaves, grass, and pigments to hide their presence as well as disguise their extremities.
Mongrelmen had a deep appreciation for beauty, most likely a consequence of their lack of it. Unlike hags, they did not view their own hideousness as beautiful, and were perfectly aware of their gross appearance, taking even mild physical compliments as remarkably kind. Any vaguely aesthetically pleasing feature was greatly admired by mongrelmen. Their clothing often consisted of simple and filthy robes that assisted in camouflage and could be easily used to cover themselves. Mongrelmen held many artistic traditions, with music being an important one. Their songs were a combination of noises from a variety of different animals, as well as grunts and howls.
Free mongrelmen made use of agricultural techniques and domestication for food, and they were intelligent enough to build traps to guard their territories. They would build small settlements underground, however the dangerous races that lurked both above and below would often enslave them. Mongrelmen were very easily enslaved, as their passivity and ability to endure mockery made them ideal servants for many cruel entities.
However, mongrelmen did not usually forge their own settlements, instead being interspersed throughout established communities disguised as other races, especially those with a wide variety of residents. Those who couldn't might still keep in touch with those who could, operating out of nearby ruins or caves. Mongrelmen with these obvious traits would make themselves more obvious to other races, so as to better the ability for less-deformed members to conceal themselves.
Mongrelmen spoke a broken Common, interspersed with animal noises, and other random sounds. They also had a pidgin language known as Mongrel, which was composed of a series of animalistic noises, typically only used when being observed by other races. Whilst they could mimic nearly any bestial and humanoid sound, they were generally not educated enough to create codes with them. They would usually make an effort to learn the languages of other races, especially those they were visibly related to, and had no trouble with pronunciation.
Some mongrelmen adopted naming conventions from the races they emulated, and used a middle "clan" name as a prefix to their last name as a cant for nearby mongrels. Others used two separate names. The first was a "true name", usually an animal noise, and the second was a "slave name" adopted from a pronounceable name used by other races. Slave names could be demeaning or derogatory and were assigned by other entities, but this was of no concern to the mongrels. Titles did not truly exist in mongrelman society, with elders, priests, and chiefs all going by their true names without regard for station.
Mongrelfolk religion was secretive and revolved around a deity they called the "Hidden God". This was actually a twisted and warped image of their creator, an unnamed wizard. Despite lacking evidence for this god's existence, either from spells or other miracles, the mongrelmen still believed in his existence. They awaited his return so that he could restore their race to their "days of glory", allowing them to freely choose between shapes like the mongrelman infiltrators could.
Mongrelmen who did not feast for the purpose of utility did so believing that the Hidden God desired them to, either wanting a set number of humanoid forms before returning their shapeshifting abilities, or so that the mongrelmen would have a variety of forms to choose from when he did so. It was in service to the Hidden God that mongrelmen did not attempt to alter their appearance to become attractive, believing it would cause the Hidden God to forsake them and not return their abilities. Most mongrelmen communities possessed at least one priest or priestess, typically a member who could no longer physically contribute. These priests existed even in enslaved communities, although their faith would stay hidden from their masters.
Mongrelmen might also act in service to the goblinoid god Meriadar, who provided mongrelfolk priests and shamans with true divine power. His teachings of patience, acceptance, and tolerance, and his varying appearance of patchwork features neatly mirrored those of the mongrelfolk.
Mongrelmen were omnivorous because of their combination of random ancestral traits. Although their teeth typically were better at chewing through meat, they could just as easily digest plant matter. Like the infiltrators, they were capable of absorbing the genetic code of those they consumed, although they were incapable of manipulating it at will. Rather, via a process known as "feasting", they would store it within themselves and potentially pass the traits onto their offspring (although there were limits to the process).
Mongrelmen could come into existence in three ways. The first method was for humanoids to be transformed via a magical process which could be reversed using supernatural means. Those who underwent the transformation were not true mongrelmen as they were not born this way.
Secondly, they could descend from an infiltrator. Those born from this method could not be reverted and contained the genetic code of everything the infiltrator had digested.
The third method was to be born from other mongrelman. This was often an extremely random process and it was hard to predict what combination of traits the offspring would possess, although breeding with a non-mongrel had a one-in-a-hundred chance to produce a normal member of the other race. They had a high rate of infant death, especially when enslaved, making the birth of a healthy child a cause for celebration.
They were the result of an experiment by an accomplished wizard whose name has been lost to time. The wizard had wanted to find a good replacement for doppelgangers, one that could be controlled easily. His experiment succeeded, and the mongrelman infiltrators were born, able to take the shape of any being they ate, only the wizard didn't think far enough ahead for his experiments. The mongrelfolk infiltrators were unable to reproduce with their natural genes, and instead their children were born with pieces of creatures they had shifted to throughout their services, but were unable to change shape themselves.
For centuries leading up to the Era of Upheaval, the undead mind flayer known as the Beast Lord created hordes of mongrelfolk from within the mines of Dekanter, using various athanors. The Beast Lord primarily formed these mongrelfolk from the local population of Dekanter goblins, another of his deformed creations. The creation of these monstrosities grew out of control in the Year of Maidens, 1361 DR when the Beast Lord somehow managed to tap into the power provided by one of the lost Nether Scrolls of ancient Netheril.[note 2]
- Clavin Belview, a two-headed mongrelfolk that worked as a servant to The Abbot of the Abbey of Saint Markovia.
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- The height and weight ranges are the possible randomly generated values for player characters, not monster encounters.
- While the terms "mongrelmen" or "mongrelfolk" never appear in the The Nether Scroll novel, the story does include creatures fitting their description that were associated with Beast Lord, who historically has created mongrelmen.
- Christopher Perkins, Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman (March 2016). Curse of Strahd. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 234. ISBN 978-0-7869-6598-4.
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- David Noonan et al. (December 2004). Races of Destiny. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 98–100. ISBN 0-7869-3653-3.
- Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 257. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- Johnathan M. Richards (December 1997). “The Ecology of the Mongrelman”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #242 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 86–94.
- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), p. 92. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Carl Sargent (May 1992). Monster Mythology. (TSR, Inc), p. 56. ISBN 1-5607-6362-0.
- David Noonan et al. (December 2004). Races of Destiny. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 110. ISBN 0-7869-3653-3.
- Eric L. Boyd (1999). Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark. (TSR, Inc), p. 121. ISBN 0-7869-1509-9.
- Bruce Nesmith, Andria Hayday, William W. Connors (1994). “Domains and Denizens”. Ravenloft Campaign Setting (TSR, Inc.), p. 17. ISBN 1-56076-942-4.
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- Lynn Abbey (September 2000). The Nether Scroll. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 248. ISBN 0-7869-1566-8.
- Lynn Abbey (September 2000). The Nether Scroll. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 187. ISBN 0-7869-1566-8.
- Christopher Perkins, Tracy Hickman, Laura Hickman (March 2016). Curse of Strahd. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 147. ISBN 978-0-7869-6598-4.