Among Dungeons and Dragons’ roster of mighty dragons, beasts, and foes sits, quietly, the humble Flumph. This goofy-looking creature is practically harmless, a floating jellyfish with little to protect it. And yet, it’s made its mark all the way from the first edition of the game.
What is a Flumph?
A flumph suits its name. These jellyfish-like creatures, with a flat disk of a head and long eye-stalks and tentacle, float through the Underdark, usually in search of psionic energy to fuel themselves. For the most part, they’re harmless little creatures, with little defensive or offensive capabilities. Mostly, they survive by simply not being worth it to kill. When they do have to fight (and they usually don’t, preferring to run away), a flumph will spew streams of acid or foul-smelling liquid at their attacker.
They tend to live in groups of up to 32, called cloisters, with their leaders referred to as their ‘abbot’ and ‘priors’, and regular members being called ‘monks’. They also sometimes recruit mindwitnesses (beholders transformed by mindflayers), turning them good-aligned.
Perhaps most oddly, monastic flumphs can often cast cleric spells, despite being commonly believed to be an aberration on the material plane, having come to the Forgotten Realms on some Spelljammer ship. Exactly who they worship, therefore, is completely unknown.
Being lawful good, flumphs are often happy to be of use to adventurers. And they can be useful indeed, since flumphs glow with an aura that reflects their mood, and sensing evil makes them give off an instant unhappy red. This help can be dangerous to the flumph, though, since they have a terrible weakness – they become entirely helpless when turned upside down.
A Brief History of the Flumph in D&D
Flumphs first appeared in the 1st edition monster manual called Fiend Folio. It featured a small black and white drawing, a brief description, and the distinction of being one of the few lawful good monsters in the whole book. This version of the flumph was also slightly more powerful than they later became, having spikes on their underside for a drop-down attack that deals 1d8 piercing and 1d4 acid damage. Not bad at all!
Changes to the Flumph
Subsequent versions of the creature removed the drop attack, but added in their telepathic abilities and general ecology. Full details about flumph society, their interaction with other creatures in the Underdark, and even the history of their arrival in the Forgotten Realms are all later additions to their lore.
The largest change to flumphs came in 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, where it did not appear in any published materials, just Dragon Magazine. This version of the flumph, too, was strange. It mostly crawled with its tentacles, rather than floating, and was considered a ‘tiny’ creature – much smaller than most other editions’ sizes of around 3 feet in height, making them ‘small’. 4e returned their size, but kept them relatively weak and uninteresting – luckily, 5e placed them back in their rightful power and interest in the Forgotten Realms.
Using Flumphs in Your Campaigns
Flumphs are a fun, lighthearted creature to be added to whichever campaign you put them in. Their history makes them readily recognizable, and the fact that your players will likely know better than to try and fight them (or quickly learn that they aren’t worth the trouble), you can utilize them as monster NPCs. The cutesy, friendly nature of flumphs helps with this, making them likable without too much effort or suspicion.
Flumphs can make for valuable allies in the Underdark if you’re using the setting in its traditional trappings. They’re a bright spot in a large, cavernous place full of evil intentions. They might be able to give an adventuring party shelter, resources, and even healing in a difficult dungeon or level. And given their telepathic abilities, they can point players on their way to powerful foes, with truly dangerous intentions that might otherwise not be revealed.
Their weakness also makes them useful as allies that must be protected. A single flumph might not normally count as prey for most of the Underdark’s creatures, but they can threaten hiding spots and secret plans for cults, illithids, and other natural bad guys in campaigns. If a flumph lends a party aid, they might need to consider how best to protect it, lest that good deed result in tragedy for their new friend.
The Dreaded Dire Flumph
Despite what you may have read, not all flumphs are lawful good. And I don’t just mean the occasional outlier, naturally mean, or corrupted by some evil influence. No, there exists also a legendary beast: Flumphy, The Huge Fiendish Dire Flumph of Legend.
This is, of course, a joke monster. It was included in a short-lived digital magazine called Knowledge Arcana, published through the 3rd edition official website. The site itself is long gone, but some trawling through the Wayback Machine can lead you to downloads of the edition (without any viruses, I promise).
The whole concept is ridiculous, as is mentioned by the article itself. But it’s just so much fun, that you simply cannot leave it out when discussing the flumph. Like most flumphs, he can only spray acid to attack. But this guy is size category ‘huge,’ with 85 hit points, and an AC of 14 (massive for a flumph). Very, very intimidating.
Have you ever used a flumph in your campaigns? Were they can NPC, or an enemy? Did your players like them? Let us know in the comments below!