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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to the Slaad

Today we're going to take a good look at a really weird monster: The Slaad. My hope in writing this is to give you a nice base of information to draw from for when you use these monsters in your campaign.

The Plane of Limbo

One of the most important things to note is that the slaadi ("slaadi" is the plural form of slaad, except in 4th edition) live in a plane called Limbo. The 5e monster manual does a great job of describing this place:

"In the Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo, bits of forest and meadow, ruined castles, and isolated islands drift through a tumult of fire, water, earth, and wind. The foremost inhabitants of this inhospitable plane are the toad-like slaadi."

People with high intelligence who go to Limbo can shape the chaos with their mind, to create safe places to travel or live. This is how the githzerai exist in Limbo.

Essential Information

Here's the basics:
  • Slaadi come in different colors, and each has its own abilities. 
  • Many slaadi can"impregnate" victims with tadpoles that explode out of their chests, killing them. The condition of having a tadpole in you is known as "chaos phage".
  • There are a few slaad lords, the most powerful of the slaadi. Ygorl, Ssendam and Renbuu are my favorites.
  • Slaadi have gems in their brains which, if drawn out of them, can be used to control them.
  • There's a massive floating stone in Limbo that the slaadi are drawn to. It is known as The Spawning Stone.
  • Check out the stuff in Plane Below, which gives a really cool take on the slaadi - that they are from multiple realities.
AD&D 1st Edition

The Slaadi get a huge section devoted to them in the Fiend Folio. We are told they are frog-like beings who live in the plane of Limbo.
  • They can be summoned by spellcasters via the cacodemon spell.
  • They can understand and speak any language
  • This is crazy. They have jewels in their brains that contain their life force. If someone was to threaten to destroy it, the slaad would  grant the person three requests. Removing the gems would require a spell like power word:stun, limited wish or trap the soul.
A few different types of slaadi are detailed. I am going to list them from lowest rank to highest rank:

Red Slaad: These slaadi are slavers. When they slash someone with their claws, there is a 40% chance that person must make a saving throw or die in 3-36 hours!

Blue Slaad: They are ten feet tall and run errands for higher ranking slaadi. Blue and Red slaadi do not like each other. They have the power to use telekinesis, passwall and hold person.

Green Slaad: These slaadi have 50% magic resistance, a pile of powers and once per day they can cast a fireball that does 12d6! If they die but heir gem remains intact, they are reborn as a blue slaad in 24 hours After a year, they revert to the form of a green slaad. How weird.

Gray Slaad (The Executioners): These slaadi often have swords of sharpness and they have all sorts of spells like power word: blind. They also have the ability to create magic items.

Death Slaad (The Lesser Masters): Only four of these exist. They can take a human form and usually wield magic swords. They have a million powers, including invisibility, flame strike and cloudkill.

We are also given details on some slaad lords, which are really crazy.

Ssendam, Lord of the Insane: This thing is a golden amoeba with a brain in it. It sometimes wanders around as a naked dude with a black sword that stuns anyone it strikes. In Limbo, Ssendam takes the form of a large, golden slaad.

What an absolutely awesome NPC. Ssendam is criminally under-utilized.

Ygorl, Lord of Entropy: Ygorl is a skeletal, bat-winged man with a sickle who is always in shadow. He can command undead. Those struck with the sickle must save or die. Ygorl rides a brass dragon named Shikiv. In Limbo, he takes the form of a 15 foot tall black slaad.

Manual of the Planes

In the section on Limbo, the slaadi are "intelligent messengers of chaos". Gods and planar powers use them as messengers, warriors and servants. We get some details on where the slaad lords live:
  • Ssendam lives in a golden castle
  • Ygorl lives in a series of carved spheres that traverse the five layers of Limbo.
Tales of the Outer Planes

I've mentioned before how this adventure anthology was one of the great disappointments for me in all of D&D. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that this book presents a new slaad lord! Who knows, maybe it will be cool.

First, there's a slaad adventure in here. The heroes are hired to claim the gem of a grey slaad named Zdronvas. He lives in this maze that, once you're in it, only a wish will get you back to the entrance.

Wacky stuff happens in the maze. There's blind orange mice. Loud music.. "rock, jazz, classical, country - DM's choice"... plays. Wildflowers sprout from the heroes ears. There's even monkeys carrying typewriters. Not kidding! I won't spoil the secret of the maze, but it's totally random and annoying.

Wartle actually appears further in the book, in an adventure set in the goodly plane of Celestia. Ygorl has encased Wartle in a meteor and sent him crashing to this realm. The meteor is spreading chaotic energy, corrupting the good creatures of Celestia. The adventurers must solve this problem.

Wartle actually has his own stat block and everything.
  • Slaad form: He is a brown, short slaad with backward-pointing horns.
  • Human form: He's a short pudgy guy with a whining raspy voice.
Wartle is always covered in warts, lies a lot ..."and (most of all) crude". Wartle "...rudely and regularly insults the other slaad masters, and has more than once suffered from their violent ire".

There's a nice entry on him on the forgotten realms wikia. Wartle is barely referenced after this appearance. That's probably for the best. He doesn't really fit with the others.

AD&D 2nd Edition

Planescape really goes to town with these guys. We learn a lot of new things in the outer planes appendix and the Planescape Boxed Set:
  • The slaadi each have a symbol of power embedded in their foreheads, which signifies their achievements and status.
  • Red Slaad now emit a croak that stuns those within 20 feet for 2 rounds. Their ability to implant tadpoles is expanded upon - a blue slaad tadpole explodes out of the victim's chest after 3 months.
  • Blue Slaad now have a bite that basically gives the victim mummy rot. Then a bit further below, it is said that a blue slaad can infect a victim, causing them to turn into a red slaad over the course of three months.
  • Once in awhile, a victim infected by a blue or red slaad instead "gives birth" to a green slaad. These are nurtured by the red and blue.
  • Once a green Slaad lives for 100 years, it goes into seclusion for a year and then returns as a gray slaad. It seeks immortality from this point forward.
  • There are about 6 death slaadi. They achieved near-immortality through evil ceremonies. They direct slaadi efforts, sending slaadi to raid settlements and imprison the locals so that they can be used to spawn more slaadi.
Dragon Magazine #221

This issue has a gigantic article on the slaad lords. It gives more detail to the original 2 from the fiend folio, and also presents two new ones.

There's an interesting note on the lifespan of the slaadi. When they reach a certain age, they travel deep into Limbo. Most of them dissolve into their base essence and merge with the plane. A few ascend and become slaad lords, whose power rivals those of demon lords.

Ssendam, Lord of Insanity:
  • Ssendam is female! She's a golden amoeba that devours anything that comes too close, and is the oldest of the slaad lords.
  • She can take the form of a huge golden slaad.
  • She can also take the form of a beautiful golden-skinned female elf warrior with a wisdom of 0!
  • Ssendam is feared even by her own kind. She has no followers, no friends. She believes that insanity is the true form of chaos.
  • This is not a typo. She has 41, 251 hit points! All of the slaad lords have 25,000+ hit points. The author went a little overboard.
  • She is the self-appointed guardian of the spawning stone.
Ygorl, Lord of Entropy:
  • He lives in an ever-changing keep (I prefer the spheres from 1e).
  • He's a huge, skeletal winged slaad made of black bones.
  • Ygorl tries to lead the slaadi. He organizes efforts to create new slaadi and is even grooming a death slaad named Sorel to become a new slaad lord.
Chourst, Lord of Randomness

  • He is a 20 foot tall white slaad.
  • Chourst basically has ADD. He'll leave a fight mid-combat because it doesn't hold his attention.
  • His presence dissolves chaos-shaped land in Limbo.
  • Spells cast near him always trigger a wild surge.
  • It is said here that Ygorl created the Spawning Stone
Renbuu, Lord of Colors

  • Renbuu is 12 feet tall and his skin swirls in different radiant hues.
  • Get this: He roams the planes changing the colors of beings and things! How amusing.
  • He has the power to transform creatures of one color/type into another! Crazy.
  • He lives in a pristine and impregnable gallery (Renbuu is an artist) deep in Limbo.
  • There's some great details on the things Renbuu likes to do. He has turned some drow white. He turned gold dragons black! Amazing.
Renbuu walks the fine line between stupid and inspired perfectly. I'll have to work him into my Planescape campaign somehow.

Planescape - Planes of Chaos

There's a bit of talk about how slaad revere personal strength. Their forehead markings denote their power. They fight for food and to prove who is toughest.

There's also details on the Spawning Stone. It says here that slaadi come to the stone to mate. Death Slaads can used the power of the spawning stone as if it was a chaos-shaper. I don't understand why they're mating when they create slaad through chaos phage..?
  • The spawning stone is blue-gray and bent like an enormous horseshoe. The interior is said to have circular rooms.
  • Without the Spawning Stone, all slaad eggs are infertile.
  • Non-slaads are not allowed within miles of the stone, on pain of death.
  • There's also an adventure in Limbo in this boxed set called "Deliverance". There's a gray slaad leading raids on a Limbo settlement. The heroes must go to the gray slaad and summon a champion who can defeat the gray slaad.
There are two great packs of slaadi who hang out at the spawning stone:
  • The Lone Claw: A mass of red slaadi led by a gray slaad named  The Sorrowful Executioner. They go on raids, and are uniting for something mysterious.
  • The Quick Tongue: Blue slaadi led by a death slaad named Thurupl the Kicker. Thurrupl is one of the few slaad who other slaadi will obey.
As far as I know, these gangs are never referred to again.

On Hallowed Ground

This Planescape book details piles of deities, demon lords and other entities. It goes over the slaad lords. It claims there are only four:

Ssendam: She has mental powers that can drive people mad.
Ygorl: Ruler of the slaadi.
Chourst: He is "whimsy incarnate".
Renbuu: He has a mane of white hair (?). There's even art of him.

Tales from the Infinite Staircase

This planescape adventure has slaadi all over it. The main story is about the Iron Shadow, a thing of order that is draining away inspiration and the will to change, leaving only lethargy and apathy in its wake.

One of the adventures in this anthology is called "In Disarray", and it features the slaadi. It involves a trip through Limbo where we meet with a few githzerai linked to the slaadi:

Torpellin of the Golden Spires: She actually lives among the slaadi at The Spawning Stone, and she has a slaadi forehead symbol. She is accepted among them.

Cahm'Fel: A githzerai enduring a self-imposed exile from his people. He reveres the concept of change itself. He created a huge floating monastery in Limbo. In it is an "altar of change", which he uses to change his appearance. In this adventure he takes the form of a three foot tall human female with deep violet skin and long crimson hair. He is accompanied by a pretty major slaad entity:

Phlegamor, the Maze Master: Phlegamor once served the slaad lords Ygorl and Ssendam. They mutated him into a gigantic and powerful guardian. He fell out of favor and was cast aside. Now he lives in a maze in Cahm'Fel's temple,. He has no real corporeal form, and he commands animated servants (corpses of those previously slain in the maze).

This adventure also features a really cool secret of the slaadi:

Secret Nursery of the Slaadi: In a place near the Spawning Stone, there's over 100 slaadi chained together. These slaadi are mutants, all with different forms like four arms, or 20 feet tall, etc. These are the true slaadi, beings of ultimate chaos. Each one is an entirely new breed of slaad!

Ygorl and Ssendam put all of these creatures here to limit the types of slaadi, to make it easier to control them. In this adventure, the heroes free an orange slaad, feed it distilled essence of chaos and send it rampaging on the Spawning Stone, which helps the slaadi shake off the Iron Shadow.

D&D 3rd Edition

3rd edition really didn't know what to do with the slaadi. Lots of weird, uninspired stuff.

Now the Slaad speak their own language as well as common. The red slaad implant eggs into victims when they are unconscious. The eff gestates in one week. The blue slaad ability to turn people into red slaadi now drains charisma. Once the charisma is at 0, the victim immediately becomes a red slaad.

Not much in the way of changes at all.

Epic Level Handbook

This book details two types of slaadi - Black slaadi and white (!) slaadi.

White Slaad: A death slaad sometimes goes into isolation for a year and returns as a white slaad. It can spit globs of chaos and shatters weapons with its claws.

Black Slaad: Similar to the white slaad in origin, these guys can see in darkness and have long tongues that split into four parts.

Fiend Folio

Mud Slaad: I almost didn't want to include these in this article. These guys are brown and even weaker than red slaadi. They are cowardly and insecure. They actually have the power to "cringe", which can compel the attacker to o be unable to follow through with the attack.
  • Their bite turns the victim into a mud slaad over the course of the week.
  • They have a sonic screech which does 5d6 damage!
  • They can feign death.
I don't think I'd use these guys. The cowardly trait and the feign death ability are fun, but don't seem to fit the whole slaad concept. This whole thing feels like a mistake from start to finish.

Dragon Magazine #306

The Gormeel: These are lawful slaadi, a fluke breed born from the spawning stone.
  • Gormeel are reptilian, gray-green humanoids who are sort of like apes in that they get around using all four limbs. They have lizard heads. 
  • Githzerai team up with them to battle the slaadi, and even use them as mounts.
  • They have the ability to take the form of a githzerai..!
I like the idea of lawful slaadi, but this feels like another mis-step.

Dungeon Magazine #101 - Prison of the Firebringer

Bazim-Gorag, slaad lord
This issue has a high level Forgotten Realms adventure that features another slaad lord - a two-headed slaad named Bazim-Gorag. Bazim is trapped in a vault and bad guys are trying to unleash him on the world.

To free him, three wizards must use a scepter in a specific room to perform a ritual. One wizard must be lawful, another chaotic and the third neutral.

Bazim-Gorag the Fire-Bringer: He has two heads. He can take a human form of a guy with bronze skin, red eyes and he wields a glaive sheathed in black flame. He has an aura of flame, and he can make incinerating attacks.

There's really not a whole lot of detail on his motivations or backgrounds. He's said to be as powerful as a demon lord, and he seems to have be very into fire. A little more digging reveals that he is steeped in Realmslore.

D&D 4th Edition

4e really went to town with the slaadi. Get ready.

In 4e, there is no Limbo. The slaadi were moved to the elemental chaos. Also, a name has been given to their ability to transform others into their kind: Chaos Phage.

The plural form of slaad is "slaads" in 4e, which I prefer. Slaads believe they were the first creatures in the cosmos, and they spread chaos. All slaads now can teleport every round as a move action.

Black slaads are also known as void slaads and they get a cool new look. In fact, each slaad is given a more defined role and a new sub-name. Older versions had a big wad of spell-powers. These have a few specialized ones:

Gray Slaad (Rift Slaad): Gray slaads are now the weakest of the race, replacing the reds. They can cause planar instability (sliding people around and knocking them over), teleport and become insubstantial.

Red Slaad (Blood Slaad): They still infuse people with embryos, but it now has an official name: Chaos Phage. Chaos phage is presented as a 4e disease. Their croak now immobilizes instead of stuns.

Blue Slaad (Talon Slaad): They also dole out chaos phage. These guys are more like the hulk, stomping around and pummeling people.

Green Slaad (Curse Slaad): They can fire chaos bolts that daze, they can teleport in a way that allows them to switch places with an enemy, and they can let out a "croak of chaos" that slides enemies 20 feet.

Black Slaad (Void Slaad): They drain healing surges with their claws, fire rays of entropy and can create zones of oblivion which blocks line of sight and does damage.

Manual of the Planes

The book goes over old material, and theorizes that slaads were once demons that broke free of the Abyss.

Monster Manual 2

Slaad Spawner
This book has more slaad variations:

Flux Slaad: These slaads slip through weak points in the planes and end up ruling tribes of bullywugs (?). They are small and weak compared to other slaads.

Slaad Spawn: This is a slaad that just exploded from the chest of its host body. It must " swiftly and well, or the chaotic energies contained within its body become unstable and explode."

There's also a template for "slaad spawners". Some slaads spawn through budding. Boils appear on their body, and new baby slaads pop out (like in gremlins).

Monster Manual 3

Golden Slaad: Sometimes when a chaos storm washes over a slaad, it becomes an unstable, gooey golden slaad. It can emit a chaos croak that has random effects. It might teleport someone in a random direction or stuns them. When you reduce it to half its hit points, it becomes an ooze that attacks with pseudopods.

Putrid Slaad: Necromancers can transform slaads into these things, which eat people and then spew the remains at new targets.

The Plane Below

This book is overflowing with awesome ideas.

There's a sample encounter/skill challenge for if the heroes need to try to reason with a slaad. It could come down to a pretty fun random chart:

There's a couple of pages detailing slaad life. It talks about their conflicting origin stories, and how all might be true because they can see alternate realities:

"Perhaps multiple universes collapsed into a single cosmos, and only slaads still remember the infinite possibilities of other timelines. Now trapped in a single reality, they rebel against its strictures and embrace chaos as a way of breaking free into the wider multiverse."

What a cool idea. The rest of the slaad stuff in this book builds on this concept.

The Great Red Tempest: There's a place in Limbo called the Great Red Tempest. Slaads like to follow around chaos storms, and this one is miles across. There's a void slaad named Vinakr Abudn who meditates here, seeking to find a way to use it to tear down the walls of creation.

The Spawning Stone: There's new info on the Spawning Stone. Now it is a few hundred feet in diameter and it has burning white runes on it. The stone is protected by a slaad known as The Guardian of the Stone. It seems like poor Ssendam has gotten written out of continuity. That's a bummer, I thought Ssendam was awesome.

Then we get a bunch of new variants of slaads:

Chaos Phage Swarm: This is a swarm of slaad tadpoles that can infect victims with chaos phage.

Green Slaad Madjack: These slaads can give victims maddening visions and cause mind spasms (which daze the enemy).

Blue Slaad Digester: These guys eat a lot. They think they can eat enough of reality to force the true nature of the multiverse to shine through. They spew acid and can knock you prone with their tongue.

Gray Slaad Havoc: They can fire havoc bolts and create a fog of chaos which causes people in it to attack each other. It can also shift reality, allowing it to teleport people around.

Red Slaad Juggernaut: This is a 15 foot tall red slaad who pummels victims with giant claws.

White Slaad (Chronos Slaad): The chronos slaad can pull replicas of itself from the past and future! It can splinter into 6 versions of itself.

Black Slaad Entropic: These are 26th level minions (that means they have just one hit point). It can turn itself into an entropic void, which has its own monster stat block. The void draws you in and sucks the life out of you.

Entropics serve Ygorl, the slaad lord.

Norsar the Many: There's a mention of a white slaad lord named Norsar the Many. He has translucent skin and can pull hundreds of replicas of himself into the present.

Last but not least, this book details Ygorl. He gets a really cool redesign that really sets him apart.

Ygorl, Lord of Entropy: Also known as "The Bringer of Endings". Ygorl is basically walking death.

Shkiv: Ygorl's dragon. He is infused with chaotic energy that corrupts those around him. The dragon is old and withered. It breathes a random breath weapon - cold, fire, thunder... even psychic!

Get a load of this: "Slaad legends say that Ygorl came into being when the universe died and now moves backward through time."

Skirnex, Voice of Ygorl: This slaad is a sort of pseudo-priest, a three-armed void slaad. He may have been touched by the emanations of the far realm.

D&D 5th Edition

Their lore has been tied to that of the modrons. Basically, Primus tried to create order in the chaotic realm of Limbo by sending a huge law-stone into it. Instead, the stone absorbed chaotic energy and spawned the slaadi. This stone is known as The Spawning Stone. Slaadi attack modrons on sight.

The red and blue slaadi are given back their separate ways of creating others of their kind, though the name "chaos phage" is kept.

There's an awesome sidebar/variant about the gems in their brains. They're shards of the Spawning Stone (clever!). Some spellcasters can use magic to draw the gem out of a slaad, and use the gem to control it.

It really feels like there was a lot of tinkering with the slaadi over the years. At this point, there's more than enough cool concepts for you to run with in your own campaign. There are so many cool types of slaadi, and so many cool slaad lords, that you should be able to run some top notch stuff the next time your adventurers enter into Limbo..


Mason Peatross said...

Great article, I love how you cover creatures.

Sean said...

Thanks! This one was difficult as there was so much random stuff. For a while there it seems like the designers were throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what stuck.

Bronk said...

There's another cool bit of Slaadi lore from the Planescape book "Tales from the Infinite Staircase" that's reiterated in the 3.5 Manual of the Planes.

One of the underlying ideas from Planescape is that there are nine sets of planar races that embody the nine different alignments, and each set is native to and can be created and empowered by the outer plane that embodies that pure alignment, ultimately powered by the mortal souls that end up there. The Slaadi represent Chaotic Neutral and are native to the Chaotic Neutral plane of Limbo. Considering that, it seems strange that the most powerful Slaad Lords all have weird and different forms while the rest of the race is locked into a very orderly progression of colored toad-like shapes.

The big discovery is that in the distant past all Slaad were born with different, random forms, and with different, random power levels as well. Two of the most powerful Slaad, the Slaad Lords Ssendam and Ygorl, feared that one day a random mutation would create a slaad powerful enough to challenge their power, so they created the Spawning Stone to limit the rest of their race by imposing order on it. Random mutations still happen occasionally though, and they are hunted down and hidden away.

It's a big secret because imposing order on the rest of the Slaad like that is considered a terrible anathema.

Sean said...

bronk: Wow.. thank you for alerting me to this! This clearly needs to be in the article. I shall look into it and edit this appropriately. Thank you very much!

Dudley said...

What a terrific write up. I find it incredible that nobody else is doing these type of things given the depth of history available..and the nostalgia factor. Please, please keep doing them!

Sean said...

Dudley: Thanks! I especially like putting 4e stuff in there, as it is very overlooked and there's a lot of good ideas in there. I am working on two more guides right now.