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Kermit’s Got a Knife!
Somewhat early in 5th edition D&D, WoTC tested the waters to see if they could sell very small booklets containing just a single playable race. Rather than include the little poison frog person as a logical addition to Tomb of Annihilation, they instead decided to try and sell them as a 4-page booklet called One Grung Above. They couldn’t as it turns out, and barely anybody has played a grung, which is a real shame because these colorful frogs are a wonderfully flavorful addition to the DnD roster. Grab your blowgun and make sure to get those darts nice and slathered up in your own poison as we go through everything you need to know.
Grung Traits and Culture
For a lot of adventurers all they’ll really know is that grungs are the little aggressive froglike humanoids shooting arrows at them found in tropical jungles, but assuming you’re not killed or enslaved there’s an interesting if murderous culture to be found in between the ribbits and stabbings.
Grungs are tree dwelling poison dart frog people who aggressively defend their territories and their sacred breeding pools from the “inferior” outsiders who might encroach on their land. Grung tribes are also into enslaving such “inferior” creatures, and some tribes even go out on raiding parties to capture more slaves, which they keep docile and working through minor poison doses.
The grungs have a strict caste system based on their bright colors. When grungs hatch they start off as a greenish brown then the colors of their caste come in as they reach adulthood, which takes about a year. Through special ritual magic and herbal treatments, grungs can even change color and join higher echelons of their class society, but few grungs receive this elevated grung honor.
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Green grungs are the lowest class, acting as basic laborers, hunters, and they fill out the rank-and-file bottom rung of the grung warriors. A green grung tribe member is the most likely to defect (since they're on the bottom of the pecking order), and they're the most commonly encountered type of grung.
Blue grungs are one step above the green, typically working as artisans or watching the young. The blue grungs are the least combative of the castes, and you're probably not likely to encounter a blue grung on the outskirts of grung territory.
Supervising the blue and green grungs are the purple grungs, the managerial and administrative caste. Each purple grung commands soldiers, sees to the laws, and generally keeps the society working.
Above the purple grungs are the red grungs who are always either scholars or are magic users. Red grungs keep the tribe’s histories and perform auguries for their sovereign.
Above the red grungs are the orange grungs, the elite warriors and chief commanders in leadership positions second only to the royal caste. Most orange grungs work directly with their tribe’s sovereign and it's not uncommon to see an orange grung in charge of large parts of the tribe’s territory.
The golden grungs are the absolute ruling caste of grung society and are the rarest of grung kind. Every tribe’s sovereign is always a gold grung and they are rarely seen outside of their treetop “palaces”.
The grungs were released quite a while ago before “lineages” were a thing, so they’ve got classic racial stats. This means they have specific ability score bonuses, and there are certain classes that will work best for them. Let’s go through each racial feature and then dig into each feature one by one to see how they’ll work for your character:
Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2 and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Age. Grungs mature to adulthood in a single year, but have been known to live up to 50 years.
Alignment. Most grungs are lawful, having been raised in a strict caste system. They tend toward evil as well, coming from a culture where social advancement occurs rarely, and most often because another member of your army has died and there is no one else of that caste to fill the vacancy.
Arboreal Alertness. You have proficiency in the Perception skill.
Size. Grungs stand between 2 ½ and 3 ½ feet tall and average about 30 pounds. Your size is Small.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet, and you have a climbing speed of 25 feet.
Amphibious. You can breathe air and water.
Poison Immunity. You’re immune to poison damage and the poisoned condition.
Poisonous Skin. Any creature that grapples you or otherwise comes into direct contact with your skin must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or become poisoned for 1 minute. A poisoned creature no longer in direct contact with you can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.
You can also apply this poison to any piercing weapon as part of an attack with that weapon, though when you hit the poison reacts differently. The target must succeed on a DC 12 Constitution saving throw or take 2d4 poison damage.
Standing Leap. Your long jump is up to 25 feet and your high jump is up to 15 feet, with or without a running start.
Water Dependency. If you fail to immerse yourself in water for at least 1 hour during a day, you suffer one level of exhaustion at the end of that day. You can only recover from this exhaustion through magic or by immersing yourself in water for at least 1 hour.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Grung
Now that you have the raw rules for the grung, let’s go into what each feature really does and how it works:
Ability Score Increase: Grungs have a +2 bonus to Dexterity and a +1 bonus to Constitution. These are both physical ability score strongly pushing you towards a martial class build. Fighters, Rogues, Rangers, and Monks would all be excellent classes to play as a grung.
Age: Adulthood in 1 year is pretty unusual, which means you could have some fun playing around with your fully adult character who’s actually only a few years old. Other than that curiosity there’s not much to say.
Alignment: This is one of the first stumbling blocks for making a grung character, as from base D&D lore most grungs are pretty evil. Most grung’s first reaction to spotting non-grungs is to kill or enslave them so running off to be a grung adventurer is pretty unlikely. Most grung characters will be best served as “exiles” who have fled grung society.
Arboreal Alertness: Free skill proficiencies are always welcome, and Perception is arguably the best one to get. Check that box and feel free to take more options elsewhere.
Size: You’re basically gnome-sized, but the difference between small and medium in 5e doesn’t amount to a whole lot. You’re locked out of the really big melee weapons but since you’re getting a big Dexterity bonus, you’re better served by ranged weapons or finesse weapons anyway.
Speed: Moving at 25 is pretty standard for small races and the climb speed is a welcome bonus. Climb up to wherever is safest and then let loose with ranged attacks.
Amphibious: No holding your breath, no time limit, you’re just straight up chill underwater (which is weird since actual poison dart frogs can’t). Note though that you aren’t getting a swim speed, just the ability to breathe down there. This usually means you can scout out underwater stuff with ease but avoid combat down there since you’ll be slow.
Poison Immunity: Straight up immunity to anything is RARE for players, and poison is a fairly common damage type. Enjoy this pure immunity and tank the poisons of your enemies in style!
Poisonous Skin: Grung poison is their most interesting and unique feature, but it has some major problems. At first glance, essentially having unlimited extra damage poison to apply onto weapons and a basically free chance to poison a melee combatant looks amazing. The problem is that neither the DC of your poison ability or the damage caused by it scales. This means that at very early levels, poison skin is amazing, but it barely matters at all at later levels. DC 12 is a very easy DC to pass and practically every monster past CR 7 or so will almost always succeed. This throws a weird weight onto grungs, where they’re much better picks if you know the campaign will only last for the low levels, and a bad race option for higher level campaigns.
Standing Leap: As a frog you’ve got those jumpy legs, and while it’s odd that you get this in the form of a flat distance rather than bonuses it’s still a welcome ability. A 25-foot-long jump and a 15-foot-high jump are the equivalents of a Strength 25 character’s jumping ability, which is quite frankly bonkers. Jump right up into those trees to avoid your enemies and jump right over that chasm whenever you’d like!
Water Dependency: And we get to the biggest stumbling block that stops most people from playing grungs. Assuming you aren’t in a wet environment, you’re basically going to need constant access to water. This isn’t impossible to deal with but depending on the situation it can be incredibly inconvenient. An ally carrying a big water barrel is one option, or you may need to make your grung a spellcaster specifically for the create or destroy water spell or get it using the magic initiate feat. Otherwise, you can literally die if you go so much as a few hours without a bath.
Languages: And as one final stumbling block for grung players, you don’t speak common! The xenophobic grungs don’t bother to learn languages other than their own, so you’ll need to select a background that offers languages and select common if you want to be able to talk to your fellow party members.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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