NOTE: This treatise was found in the remains of an ancient druid circle, and the translation is probably incorrect in some places – as always, these things are subject to error, and outright mistakes. Caveat lector.
“A fast tongue is a sign of a slow brain.”
– Grand Druid Yannishka
The Bullywug clans in the Tangled Bloodwood Expanse rise and fall, as the species is a constant state of civil war and/or warring with the Grippli that border their territory, in White Oak Wood. The two were once one species, until the bullywug embraced the darker, cannibalistic, destructive nature present in the original species, while the grippli were more attuned with nature, and became vegetarian tree-dwellers.
While the bullywug have no name for themselves beyond "the eaters", the druids call them by their genus, "Batrakhos", or "Batrachi", with emphasis on the last syllable.
Bullywugs look like a horrible cross between a humanoid and a frog. They are usually shorter than a human, with leathery olive-green, gray, or yellow skin and webbed digits, and appear to be only 4 feet tall as they sit back resting on their long, muscular hind legs like a frog, though at full height they are substantially taller – up to 7 feet. Their head looks almost exactly like that of its frog counterpart – bulging round eyes and a vast mouth lined not with teeth, but a single sharp ridge of bone and filled with a large, extendible, sticky tongue. Their torso looks vaguely humanoid, with its elongated arms capable of manipulating tools, but is covered in the warty, grey-green skin of an amphibian. Overall they weigh anywhere between 100 and 300 pounds.
There are usually never more than 1000 to 2000 individual bullywugs at any given time, as warfare keeps the numbers manageable. Female bullywug lay a clutch of 200 eggs every year, with only 10% of those living into adulthood, and only 1% of those attaining any kind of social status (most are naked and without respect). These are laid in a collective pond and guarded by the entire clan. Bullywug can live up to 20 years, some rarely live past 5, with the bulk of the species being killed around 1 year old, either through predation or cannibalism. Like all amphibians, they require periodic immersion in water to stay healthy.
Bullywug are arrogant, self-destructive, greedy and vacillate between aggressive posturing and obsequious pandering, depending on with whom they are dealing with.
A bullywug has two ways to advance among its kind. It can either murder its rivals, though it must take pains to keep its criminal deeds secret, or it can find a treasure or magic item and present it as tribute or a token of obeisance to its liege. A bullywug that murders its rivals without cunning is likely to be executed, so it's more common for bullywugs to stage raids against caravans and settlements, with the goal of securing precious baubles to impress their lords and win their good graces. Once a gift loses its sheen, a bullywug lord invariably demands that its subjects bring it more treasure as tribute.
Bullywug warriors attempt to capture intruders rather than simply slaying them. Captives are dragged before a chieftain – a bullywug of unusually large size – and forced to beg for mercy. Bribes, treasure, and flattery can trick the bullywug ruler into letting its captives go, but not before it tries to impress its "guests" with the majesty of its treasure and its realm.
All bullywug are born naked, and those without any societal standing remain so throughout their lives, unless they do something to please their leader, or the clan as a whole. In these cases, they are permitted to wear a piece of clothing or adornment and either take a title for themselves, or one is given to them.
Bullywug that wear clothing are called "lords" (having stolen the word from the Druids). Struck with a deep inferiority complex, bullywug lords fancy themselves as chieftains, but desperately crave the fear and respect of outsiders.
Titles are both primitive and evocative, and the longer the title, the more respect the individual has. Examples include, "Long Tongue Large Eater Too Too Worthy of Respect", or "Long Legs Sharp Eye Most Respected and Feared". Bullywug names are often handed down from their parents, with a few sounds changed to prevent confusion. Examples include, Vrak, Gaigool, Brekeke, Op Op, Kero Kero, Gruung, Horglash, and Parblex.
Naked bullywug (often referred to as simply, "Meat Frogs", since they are often eaten) are never allowed to give themselves a title (but all bullywug consider themselves superior to every other creature it encounters, including other bullywug, regardless of status – this is a fundamental flaw in their innate nature – they are incapable of showing humility for long).
Bullywug language is a series of croaks, clicks, tonal sounds and staccato notes and is unintelligible by non-bullywug (even Grippli no longer recognize the language). They can communicate over large distances by the sheer volume of their voices, and they can quickly act when threatened – whether that be converging on an area to attack, scattering in retreat, or setting up ambushes, the bullywug are quite verbal with one another, and their territories are rarely silent. News of intruders or other events in the swamp spread within minutes across this crude communication system.
There is a pidgin language that the clans have developed with the druids of the Circle, whom they respect, and fear (to some extent), and whom they have had dialogue in their long history of habitation here. This language, that the druids call "Grunglish", is a primitive one, capable of words no more than 2 syllables, and spoken without many verbs or adjectives.
Bullywugs, as stated, base their culture on fear and posturing. They hoard treasure as status symbols, and adorn their homes (crude as they are) with whatever they have gathered in their lives. Bullywug who are killed have these possessions claimed by whomever gets to it first – there is no honor in this regard.
Bullywugs lie as naturally as breathing, and the chiefs often change the rules of society at a whim – this allows the manipulation of enemies without breaking "the law". This provides incentive to not be openly murderous, and intrigue (as far as that goes, in an opportunistic/cunning fashion) rules the day.
All bullywug are naked by "default". The more clothing and/or adornments means the individual is more respected by the current leader. When chiefs are overthrown, all bullywugs under their rule are stripped to having nothing again and possessions are redistributed to the chief's own favorites. Only the chief is permitted to wear a headdress and robes. The exception to this are the warrior castes, who are allowed to wear armor into battle, regardless of their social standing.
When treating with them, a show of overwhelming strength or over-fawning subservience is best. Being coy, subtle, or sarcastic is lost on the bullywug, they will only become confused, and decide the speaker is weak (and worthy of death). This applies to all things – showing weakness is bad, but showing too much strength is seen as a challenge of authority. It is a fine line that the outsider must tread.
Their civilizations regularly destroy themselves through internal wars, or external conflicts, but enough eggs are laid deep underground to ensure that in a few decades the species will re-emerge, having to relearn all that the last generation learned, and this is what keeps their technology primitive and their society from evolving.
There are some specialized roles within their society that have been documented (there may be more):
Shamans are the religious caste, and will be discussed in the next section. They show the same powers as humanoid Clerics.
Mages are rare, thankfully, and usually rise to the position of chief. They show the same powers as humanoid Wizards.
Witches are treated as outsiders, feared, respected, but generally kept on the fringes of the society, and are sought out for advice concerning large or important decisions. They show the same kinds of powers as humanoid Sorcerers.
The warriors fall into 3 categories – Raiders, Spearmen, and Guards. The first are what most bullywug identify as, and spearmen are considered the elite. They have better weapons and are tougher on average. Guards are exclusive to the chief, and protect them with their lives. They are stronger and harder to kill.
There is a final type of bullywug, though its hardly a caste – these are the Mutants, and they are, thankfully, very rare. When an egg is subjected to some kind of mutation either through natural processes or magical intervention, a mutant can be created. These monstrosities are 3 times larger than a normal bullywug, towering some 20-25' tall, and are resistant to all forms of magic and weapons, in addition to being very hard to kill and with a very thick hide. These are generally kept in strong pens and are treated very poorly – but can be a weapon to turn the tide in a battle gone wrong for the bullywug. Be warned.
The bullywug have no gods, per se, although they do venerate Froghemoths as if they were divine, and a caste of Shamans has developed to care for these creatures, but they do not "interpret" any signs or wishes, they are simply caretakers who understand the monsters better than the rest of the society. These clerics are not without power, and have some limited access to spellcasting, as do the mages and witches that have arisen in their society. They often use hallucinogens in their arcane rituals. As a rule, however, they do not have any more or less social standing than the warrior caste.
Bullywugs could be considered followers of the "cargo cult" philosophy, wherein they try to equate coincidence with causation, and will often attempt to recreate actions or conditions in which a favorable thing occurred, without realizing the correlation is flawed.
Bullywugs also treat giant frogs as revered beings, and often form alliances with them, feeding them and having them act as guards, mounts or "early warning" systems. Their ability to swallow prey whole provides the raiding party and easy means to carry prey back to their clan.
Bullywug are most at home in the water, being very fast swimmers, and have natural camouflage that allows them to be nearly invisible when still, and in foliage, or submerged under water. They can leap 20' forward, 10' high, and 10' backwards, and almost always leap into battle, trying to shock their enemies with multiple trajectories of attack from ambush.
They often ride mounts into battle, including giant leeches, giant frogs, giant lizards, and, rarely, giant crocodiles.
They are, however, quite cowardly, and will often run from a fight that they are actually winning, having no real intelligence for strategy or tactics. They will return in numbers, however, "safety in numbers" being an overarching mindset.
Spearmen almost always carry poisoned weapons, and the warriors carry crude weapons made of indigenous swamp materials – often clubs of wood or bone studded with the sharp teeth of local beasts. The armor they wear is of similar construction – being made of crudely cured reptile hides and giant turtle shells.
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More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Observations and Interpretations of Bullywug Societies" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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- Three key takeaways from the recent thread on house rules
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- To all those seeking questions regarding their worlds hoping to make some new Canon.
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