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From Diablo 3 to D&D: Treasure Pygmies

Treasure Pygmy concept art by Victor Lee

Ah, treasure pygmies. Here’s another bit of Diablo 3 that any fun-loving group of gamers should readily enjoy at their tables. Inserting a treasure pygmy into your game should be effortless, provided you have ample means of whipping up a stat block for one. So, what is a treasure pygmy? Well, it’s basically exactly what it sounds like . . . and a lot more.

Anatomy

A treasure pygmy is a small impish creature. They have often been referred to as being a treasure goblin, but it is unclear what species of creature they actually are. They have a wide range of skin colors but are typically green-brown with golden tones and highlights that give off a faint glow. Large eyes that shine with the reflectiveness of polished obsidian dominate their oversized heads. Large and somewhat conical ears flank their batlike facial features and serve as their first and primary detection method for escaping capture or harm.

Ecology

These creatures primarily show up in places riddled with treasure, namely dungeons, but any other place that harbors riches is prime territory for them. They prefer to inhabit dungeons that already serve as a home to many other denizens, mostly because of a thirst for pandemonium, but also because these locations have the promise of additional targets from which to procure treasure. These creatures have never been encountered in a place where treasure was merely a rumor.

Because so little is known of them, it is hard to decipher much about their origins. They have never been seen eating, resting, or communicating with other creatures. Additionally, a treasure pygmy has never been seen in the company of other treasure pygmies. Because of this, some people believe that only one treasure pygmy exists, and they state that anyone who has claimed to have bested one was either subject to an elaborate illusion, or is simply a liar.

Behavior

Treasure pygmies leave only two things behind them as they scurry off and away from pursuers: childish laughter and a breadcrumb trail of gold and gems.

When they see adventurers or any other creature intelligent or resourceful enough to covet the wealth they carry, treasure pygmies immediately flee. It is not known if they do this out of fear or because they revel in the mischief of teasing those who would attempt to claim their valuables. The latter guess is perhaps the best one, since any creature that carries ludicrous treasure hoards within bags of holding that are twice the size of its own body is likely to be one that is very unfamiliar with dread.

Combat

There’s not much to be said about combat with these creatures, since they do not fight at all. A pygmy will run for its life with zero reservations for creating additional chaos in its wake. If these creatures have a strategy at all, it is to duck and weave through every obstacle and hostile creature around so that they can make things all that much more difficult for anyone trying to pursue them.

When the pygmy has gained enough distance from its enemies and the moment is right, a series of spastic hand gestures serves to conjure a portal back into what is presumed to be the only means of entry into their domain. No known mortal, immortal, or otherwise has been known to have ever entered one of these gateways. The portals shimmer with golden green light, and they produce a sound described as being similar to the inverse crackling of flames. Within the centers of the portals, seas of riches beyond measure can be seen, and every now and then, the face of a grinning eyeless demon known as Greed appears.

The Domain of Greed

Believed to be the embodiment of hedonism, deviltry, and covetousness, Greed is often referred to as a demon by humanity, and he is believed to dwell within the hells or the abyss. Some of the elder races believe Greed to be a much older and much more intangible entity. Elves think that Greed is an extraplanar being that dwells within a pocket of the material world, tempting their people with power and riches. Dwarves believe Greed to be an old wives’ tale that was dreamed up by their elders to ward others off from plundering their craft halls and gilded tombs. Some gnomes regard Greed as being a more benevolent spirit and they revel in all of the shiny bits and baubles associated with his realm.

It is still unclear as to whether the pygmies serve Greed, or he serves them. The droves of treasure they constantly steal and haul back to their domain could be offerings, or they might be resources that Greed uses for some mysterious purposes of his own. Perhaps no one will ever find out, but anything is possible. One thing is for certain: Greed’s realm is surely a vast treasure hoard, and if anyone traverses it and comes out alive with even a fraction of the hoard, he or she might very well be the richest person to have ever lived.

A Few Shiny Hooks Before I Leave

If you want to add the mysterious treasure pygmy to your games, try a few of these juicy bits to lead your players in the right direction:

  • “A glimmering path of scattered coins, faceted gems, and other shiny baubles trails off into the distance leading toward ____”
  • Many locals have reported having all their valuables stolen in a single evening. Clues lead to a nearby adventure site and/or allude to a location completely unknown to you until now.
  • An order of well-adorned goblin shamans believes that their tribe was visited by a strange glowing golden “elder ancestor.” They are questioning and ritualistically killing off their own kind in attempts to re-invoke this visitor and learn its secrets.

In our next installment of D3 & D&D, I’ll be exploring weapons, gear, and other ways to protect an adventurer’s hide. Socketed items, the trinkets that go inside them, and precious gems that warrant much more than just gold will be the topic of discussion. See you then!

3 Replies to "From Diablo 3 to D&D: Treasure Pygmies"

Spiralbound

June 14, 2012 at 6:52pm

An interesting and amusing idea to be sure, however it does raise the possibility of potential difficulties for the GM which you didn’t cover in your article. First, you didn’t include any stats or even vague suggestions for stats or abilities for a Treasure Pygmy. This may seem trivial, but consider a PC group who decides that THIS time the $@#@%#ing Treasure Pygmy isn’t escaping. The Rogue has a massively debilitating attack readied, the Wizard has several powerful spells prepared to immobilize and lock down (both physically and dimensionally) the Pygmy, even the other classes are engaged with various attacks, abilities, and magic focused on looting it like a buffet table. Now what? Do you let them succeed or force a failure? If they fail no matter what, the players will justifiably feel cheated. If they succeed, then you’ve just given them a literal treasure hoard of Monty Haul proportions with the associated issues this brings.

If successful, the PCs will now want to explore Greed’s domain. Again, this may seem like a good thing at first. Yay! Player motivation for an epic adventure! But this is an adventure with practically infinite reward. Again, they can be made to fail, but this will either make them try again at higher and higher levels until they succeed, or make them feel railroaded into failure. No matter how they manage to succeed, this too will bring significant issues to the game that the GM now needs to address. Just what do you do with a party each of whom has six Dragon’s hoards worth of treasure, some of which may include magical items?

I’m not saying this can’t be turned around and made enjoyable for both players and GMs. It doesn’t have to result in overpowered characters, players sleeping at the table due to there being no challenges any more, or GMs overwhelmed with frustration, tempted to have the Gods wade into battle and take all the toys away. However, not addressing any of the potential results from including a Treasure Pygmy; not even discussing how to run encounters with this creature at all is tantamount to sabotage for many play groups who may simply throw it in, thinking in terms of the strictly controlled environment of Diablo 3 without considering that even the most rules heavy and restrictive of rpgs (which D&D is most decidedly not) naturally allow far, FAR more options for players to act beyond expectations, derail even the most carefully laid plans, and twist rules and situations to their advantage seemingly without difficulty.

This article, while well written and thought-provoking, is less than it could have been. Your job is well begun sir, but only half done. ;-) I implore you to revisit this topic and give it the concluding treatment it so richly deserves and needs. I believe you more than capable of providing as rich a follow up to the topic as this opening article was.

Debby Lieven

June 14, 2012 at 8:21pm

This series is supposed to be “rules light,” and so no stats were provided. I’d simply modify goblin stats.Greed’s domain could be another level of the Abyss or even a pocket domain.

One way to use a treasure pygmy would be as competition for items in huge trove such as a dragon’s hoard. This is one way to get items that are too powerful out of the hands of the PCs. However, it is also a way to reward the PCs with a bounty as well. Yes, there’s the temptation to create a “monty haul” opportunity, but looks can be deceiving, Of course, it can’t be all dross either or the PCs (a even the players) may feel a bit cheated.

This is a monster that has to be customized for the PCs and style of play. A treasure pygmy in a low-magic game will have a very different look from one in a standard campaign and be even more challenging in a high fantasy game. However, this article is a good springboard for ideas on creating your own treasure pygmy. Plane shift and luck bonuses are only one aspect.

I can already imagine the illiterate and bespectacled treasure pygmy charged with stealing books….

Debby

Jerry LeNeave

June 15, 2012 at 8:06am

@Spiralbound – Definitely. I didn’t intend for the article to really give constraints or ideas for boundaries as I just wanted to leave it really open for DM’s to interpret themselves. I’m giving assumption to the fact that most DM’s should be able to keep these elements under control or that their players desire more than just loot – after all if that’s all they wanted they probably would be playing Diablo instead of D&D.

However, the other parts of the series do give suggestions for balance so I should have thought about that here as well. Diablo and it’s loot-driven game play doesn’t translate well into D&D, that’s for sure. So If Wolfgang will allow it, perhaps I’ll keep writing on the topic once more as a follow up covering some of these aspects and perhaps a few more nuggets of lore. If not, I’ll publish my thoughts over at The Dread Gazebo. Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

@Debby Those are some really great ideas, consider them stolen! Thanks for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. :)

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