Deep Dive - The Flumph
These cute little flying jellyfish are one of the only lawful good creatures that now reside in the Underdark. I know we usually start off complaining about how ugly the creature we are examining is, but the Flumph isn’t as ugly as much as it is just weird looking, one might even call it cute. Visually, the Flumph hasn’t changed much at all over the editions. It has a round saucer-like body, with two long eye tendrils protruding from it and a mouth is located in the center of the saucer body. Its underneath has a mass of small tentacles and spikes and its colors have varied slightly, but overall, it has remained the same tan to blue-ish color.
Where did these friendly little flying creatures come from and how have they developed through the editions? Let’s float on to first edition.
AD&D - Flumph
No. Appearing: 2-16
Armor Class: Upper surface 0; underside 8
Hit Dice: 2
% in Lair: Nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack:1-8 plus 1-4 (acid)
Special Attacks: Nil
Special Defenses: See Below
Magic Resistance: Standard
Alignment: Lawful Good
Size: S (2’ diameter)
Psionic Ability: Nil
Level/XP Value: 11/36+2 per hit point
We are introduced to the Flumph in the Fiend Folio (1981), the tome of monsters that brought us such hits as the Gorilla Bear, Throat Leech, and Osquip… though it also gave us the Kuo-Toa, Githyanki/Githzerai, and Tabaxi. Few creatures from the Fiend Folio still exist in 5th edition, though those that have are truly iconic of Dungeons & Dragons and the Flumph is no exception, even if our hovering jellyfish friends were only published as an April Fool's joke for 4e.
The Fiend Folio Flumphs are pure white and are in a category of their own, being one of only two lawful good creatures in the Fiend Folio, the other being the sometimes lawful good creature Aleax, a physical manifestation of a god’s vengeance. It’s nice to see at least one creature that won’t try to kill you on sight is in the book. The book’s description gets interesting when it starts to describe how it flies:
The flumph 'flies' by sucking air into its mouth and expelling it through its underside. Normally it floats about 4" above the ground but can fly up to 10', particularly for attack purposes.
Fiend Folio, 1981
You got that right, it flies by farting! While they are farting, they can hover and have a decent movement speed, allowing it to zip around the battlefield as needed, all the while protecting its sensitive underbelly from an attack. Unless it’s in a vacuum, it's going to be able to fart around without worry.
Flumphs are not 'attack first' creatures, their main defense mechanism is a gross smelling liquid it can shoot out of an aperture on the creature's 'equator' -the horizontal line of maximum diameter… It pees on you. And it smells horrible. It sprays out in a 60' arc up to a range of 20'. That’s a pretty impressive range for anybody.
Creatures that are struck by the foul-smelling ‘liquid’ and fail a saving throw vs. poison flee from Flumph in disgust. It gets worse for our friends, anyone that fails the saving throw against the Flumph’s attack is shunned by the rest of the party for 1-4 hours. None of your buddies will go within 100 feet of you until the effect wears off. There is no mention of any way to rid oneself of the smell.
If squirting strange, foul-smelling liquids at you isn’t enough of a deterrent from attacking the Flumph, it will fly up to ten feet into the air and drop down on you with its spikes and tentacles. The spikes only deal 1d8 damage, but a successful hit will also inject the character with acid, which will deal an additional 1d4 damage for 2-8 rounds. Not great, but not completely horrible either, and magic can be used to negate the ongoing acid damage. Interestingly, they specify that alchemists have been unable to create an antidote, which makes one wonder how many people are attacking the Flumph to warrant needing antidotes. Just leave them alone!
Two quick things about the Flumph’s melee attack. First, by attacking in this fashion, the Flumph opens itself up to attacks on its underbelly. With an armor class of 8, any attacks on the underbelly are almost sure to hit, and with only two Hit Dice, most creatures can make quick work of a Flumph if it exposes itself this way. One would assume this is the reason why the Flumph would lead with its foul-smelling spray, hoping that a majority of the attacking creatures will run away, allowing our flying jellyfish to find a safe place to hide. The second issue to address is that the Flumph only gets one melee attack per round with its tentacles. While it looks to have a dozen tentacles, they are all very close to its body and probably operate more like a jellyfish where it just follows the Flumph around instead of being useful like the Kraken!
Finally, the Fiend Folio reveals the ultimate way to defeat a Flumph in hand-to-tentacle combat… flip them over. Seriously, just flip them over. They can’t stop you and will fall to the ground where you can squish them with your boot.
I know we said finally, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the Flumph’s most iconic role in Dungeons & Dragons that happened in 1988 when they were part of the humorous adventure Castle Greyhawk (1988) where they were part of the room/encounter known as “The Room That Lets the Party Make It to the Next Set of Rooms". In this ‘encounter’ the characters are forced to take part in a quiz show where they must answer difficult questions like: “What’s your favorite color?”, “How do you defeat a flumph?”, and even to explain the polearm’s eating habits, personal hygiene and their exploration of the planes… seriously.
2e - The Flumph
Climate/Terrain: Any Dark
Activity Cycle: Night
Intelligence: Average (8-10)
Alignment: Lawful good
No. Appearing: 2-16
Armor Class: 0 (underside 8)
Movement: Fl 6 (D)
Hit Dice: 2
No. of Attacks: 1
Special Attacks: Acid
Special Defenses: Foul Smell
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: T (2’ diameter)
Morale: Elite (13-14)
XP Value: 270
Found in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Vol. 2 (1995), not much stat wise changes for our aerial jellyfish. We get more information on the Flumphs, how they are nomadic hunters, they reproduce and how they even have a bit of a monastic tradition among the more ‘elite’ Flumphs.
A much more interesting description of how they fly is included in the description. A Flumph flies by taking in air through its ‘mouth’ and expelling it through several small holes on its underside. To be able to maneuver itself, the Flumph has several “small apertures along the thin equator of its body”. We are even given a great description of how it makes a little bit of a breeze by expelling the air through its underbelly, creating a soft whistling sound. Hopefully, it won’t ever have to make a stealth check.
We also find out that our poor friend is pretty low on the food chain. To survive, it hunts vermin like rats and frogs. It attacks them as before, flying above them and dropping down to strike with its tentacles and acid attack. It will then follow its prey until it dies and then lands on its body, absorbing nutrients through its tentacles as the acid slowly melts the prey. Unfortunately, it's pretty weak and can be easily killed by other predators… Good news for the Flumph though is that they taste horrible and only goblins will willingly eat them.
It’s spelled out clearly that the Flumph will use its stinky liquid attack when attacked by creatures bigger than it as its first line of defense. If that doesn’t work, it will shoot up 10 feet into the air and attempt to escape or fight back by dropping on the creature and attacking with spikes and acid.
Beyond shooting out weird gunk in a 60 degree arc, we learn that the little fart jellyfish are nomadic hunters, of average intelligence, lawful good, and peaceful. The Flumphs are peace-loving happy creatures that travel in packs and if you don’t attack them, it is highly unlikely that they will attack you… or squirt you. Unfortunately, most adventurers don’t realize that they have their own form of sign language and can’t talk Common which leads to them getting attacked or hunted.
A newcomer in 2nd edition is the Monastic Flumph, meaning we now get cleric Flumphs! They can cast cleric spells at the level equal to their Hit Dice, meaning that 5 HD Flumph can cast 3rd level cleric spells. These Monastic Flumphs hang out in groups, known as cloisters, and share their knowledge. Each cloister has an Abbot Flumph who has 5 HD, and is assisted by 1 Prior Flumph, 3-4 HD, per 6 Monk Flumphs, 2 HD. These cloisters are said to worship lawful gods that are unknown to the rest of the world and look after their albino cousins. Speaking of, the fastest way to tell the difference between the powerful Flumphs verse the other Flumphs is that all Monastic Flumphs are a soft gold color while the non-cleric Flumphs are albinos.
Another adorable detail about Monastic Flumphs is that they like to decorate their places of worship:
The inside of a cloister is decorated with fine, colorful paintings, made by flumphs dabbing natural pigments with their tentacles. The paintings are usually abstract, showing spirals and other curved lines, though some are vaguely representational of flumphs engaged in hunting.
Monstrous Manual Annual Vol. 2, 1995
With that description of abstract paintings of spirals and curved lines, one must consider that our Monastic Flumphs may have been experimenting with a different type of acid than can be found on their tentacles, and maybe these gods no one has heard of are just in their heads.
For the last bit of information on the Flumphs, Dragon #246 has an article titled Ecology of the Flumph. The article follows a group of Monster Hunters trying to determine how to dissect the Flumph and use the parts in a variety of magical experiments. This leads to the albino Flumph being rescued by its monastic brethren and the Monster Hunters agreeing to never talk about how a bunch of Flumphs beat them.
In the article, we learn that the Flumph’s eyestalks can move independently of one another, allowing it to see all around itself so that trying to sneak up on them is extremely hard. Also, when it goes to sleep, it’ll float up a tree, wrap its tentacles around a limb and suck its eyestalks back into its body and, as it has no eyelids, will go into a light sleep, ever watchful for predators. If, after reading all this, you still want to go and attack a Flumph, you can sever one of their eyestalks or tentacles and they will eventually grow back in about a week. Unfortunately for the Flumph, it will take a -2 to all perception checks as it lacks depth perception until it gets its missing eyestalk back.
Beyond reiterating a lot of the information found in the Monstrous Compendium, we also learn that Flumphs are a good source of potion materials. Flumph brains have a type of anti-gravity field, that only points in one direction, that can be used in levitation potions. Tentacles can be cut off and skinned, providing an essential ingredient for potions of acid resistance. Another use of the Flumph is their gland that holds their stink spray can be used as an alternate material component for the stinking cloud spell.
The end of the article features limited information about how they may or may not be distantly related to Grells as they appear to be very similar and both feature anti-gravity fields to help them float. Some believe that Flumphs snuck aboard Grell Spelljammers as Grells would never help a Flumph, and it would only take a single Flumph to begin populating a world as they reproduce asexually.
The last bit of trivia we will leave you with for 2e is that Flumphs have a limited sense of smell, really only able to smell the stench the shoot out at would-be predators. This is important to them, and probably explains why it smells so bad so that the other Flumphs will quickly rush to the aid of any Flumph in danger. The Monastic Flumphs will do all they can to help protect the albino Flumphs, and some Monastic Flumphs can even talk common in short bursts that sound like they just breathed in helium.
3.5e - The Flumph
Hit Dice: 2d8+2(11hp)
Speed: 5 ft. (1 square), fly 15 (poor)
Armor Class: 16 (+2 size, +3 Dex., +1 natural), touch 15, flat-footed 13)
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/-9
Attack: Tentacles +6 melee (1d4-2 plus 1d4 acid)
Full Attack: Tentacles +6 melee (1d4-2 plus 1d4 acid)
Space/Reach: 2 1/2 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Acidic Tentacles, plummeting charge, rancid spurt
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., helplessness, resistance to acid 10 Saves: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +4
Abilities: Str 6, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Hide +13, Listen +3, Move Silently +5, Spot +3, Survival +3
Feats: Great Fortitude, Hover, Weapon Finesse
Environment: Any temperate or underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, family (3-6), or tribe (7-18)
Challenge Rating: 1
Alignment: Usually lawful good
Advancement: 3-4 HD (Tiny), 5-6 HD (Small)
Level Adjustment: +2
The Flumph has had a pretty good ride so far through the history of Dungeons & Dragons until we get to 3rd edition. Not only does it not show up in any of the monster manuals, but it is also reduced to appearing only in Dungeon Magazine. In Dungeon #118 the Flumph finally appears in 3.5e under the adventure Box of Flumph. The story is pretty simple; bad guy wants to use the kind and harmless Flumphs for his nefarious purposes and hijinks ensue. The picture of the Flumph is the first big change we’ve seen since it was introduced, and it skirts the line of cute and terrifying. It’s ‘mouth’ on the top looks more like a mouth, the openings along the Flumph’s equator look like snouts and it has way more spikes than past editions. Another big change is that while it eats vermins and plants, it vastly prefers minerals, especially salt, where it uses its natural acids to make a type of goop for it to eat… delicious.
Flumph movement is given a twist also. It now states that it can travel slowly across the floor using its tentacles to pull itself along, but the preferred method is to draw air into itself to lift it up and then use its body as a ‘natural parachute’. By using the apertures at the equator on its body, it can push itself in different directions and can easily move around. While the Flumphs may not look like they can get around, it is reported that whole families of Flumphs live in large cities and no one realizes they live there.
In the adventure, we get some strange new abilities of the Flumphs. Ulmoapop, a male Flumph sorcerer, is the leader of the Flumphs that were kidnapped before the adventure began, but what is weird is that now all Flumphs can speak celestial and it's not uncommon for them to speak common. Ulmoapop would like the adventurers to rescue the rest of his family and this involves a smuggling operation, undead, and even more oddities.
Box of Flumph is a fun little adventure and while it can’t make up for the fact that the Flumph is mistreated in 3e, it’s a step in the right direction!
4e - The Flumph
Flumph Headstabbers - Level 2 Skirmisher
Small natural magical beast; XP 125
Initiative +6 / Senses Perception +1; darkvision
HP 38; Bloodied 19
AC 16; Fortitude 14, Reflex 15, Will 12
Speed 1 (clumsy), Fly 6 (altitude limit 2)
> Spike (standard; at-will) Acid; +7 vs. AC; 1d6 damage, and ongoing 5 acid damage (save ends).
> Flight of the Flumph (standard; at-will) - The flumph headstabber flies its speed and makes a spike attack during the move. The flumph headstabber does not provoke opportunity attacks while moving away from the target of this attack.
> Stink Squirt (standard; recharges when first bloodied) ranged 5; +5 vs. reflex; the target is pushed 5 squares and smells horrible (save ends). While the target smells horrible, any ally that starts its turn within 1 square of the target is weakened until the start of his or her next turn.
Prone Powerlessness If the flumph headstabber is knocked prone, it becomes helpless and can’t stand up or fly (save ends all).
Alignment Unaligned / Languages Common (vocabulary is limited)
Str 7 (-1) | Dex 17 (+4) | Wis 11 (+1) | Con 14 (+3) | Int 10 (+1) | Cha 8 (+0)
Unfortunately, things get worse for the Flumph in 4th edition. No longer does it even get a true adventure by someone who loves the Flumphs, now it's released on April Fool’s Day in an adventure titled: Dungeon Delve - Fool’s Grove (2009). In the adventure, they can be found hanging out with a wild-haired gnome, known as The Gnome, and his badger-minion, Francis. If the party is discovered by The Gnome or the other monsters in The Gnome’s home, they will immediately attack.
Showing no respect, the adventure’s author describes the Flumphs as:
Flumphs, pathetic creatures, strike out with the sharp blades projecting from their undersides. These creatures divvy up their attacks between several player characters, because the continuously burning acid (ongoing damage) their spikes deliver does not stack, per the rules laid out in the Player’s Handbook (page 278).
Dungeon Delve - Fool’s Grove, 2009
There is one tiny bit of information that is ‘revealed’ in this joke-adventure. The way the Flumph eat is that one spears a mushroom on one of its spikes, and then floats up above another and lets it’s acid turn the mushroom into a goop as it falls into the waiting ‘top-mouth’ of another Flumph. Sigh. That's not how they eat at all and that isn’t a real mouth!
Beyond the jokes and put-downs, these Flumphs are nerfed horribly. Their stink spray only moves a player back and weakens allies directly next to them. Unfortunately, this adventure puts them in quite a negative light and marks the lowest point for our Flumphs.
5e - The Flumph
Flumph / Small aberration, lawful good
Armor Class 12 / Hit Points 7 (2d6)
Speed 5 ft., Fly 30 ft.
STR 6 (-2) | DEX 15 (+2) | CON 10 (+0) | INT 14 (+2) | WIS 14 (+2) | CHA 11 (+0)
Skills Arcana +4, History +4, Religion +4 Damage Vulnerabilities psychic
Senses darkvision 60 ft. , passive Perception 12 Languages understands Undercommon, but can’t speak, telepathy 60 ft.
Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)
Advanced Telepathy. The flumph can perceive the content of any telepathic communication used within 60 feet of it, and it can't be surprised by creatures with any form of telepathy.
Prone Deficiency. If the flumph is knocked prone, roll a die. On an odd result, the flumph lands upside-down and is incapacitated. At the end of each of its turns, the flumph can make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw, righting itself and ending the incapacitated condition if it succeeds.
Telepathic Shroud. The flumph is immune to any effect that would sense its emotions or read its thoughts, as well as all divination spells.
Tendrils. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage plus 2 (1d4) acid damage. At the end of each of its turns, the target must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw, taking 2 (1d4) acid damage on a failure or ending the recurring acid damage on a success. A lesser restoration spell cast on the target also ends the recurring acid damage.
Stench Spray (1/Day). Each creature in a 15-foot cone originating from the flumph must succeed on a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or be coated in a foul-smelling liquid. A coated creature exudes a horrible stench for 1d4 hours. The coated creature is poisoned as long as the stench lasts, and other creatures are poisoned while within 5 feet of the coated creature. A creature can remove the stench on itself by using a short rest to bathe in water, alcohol, or vinegar.
Our friendly flying jellyfish makes a triumphant return in 5th edition and appears in the Monster Manual (2014). Though this return isn’t without massive changes to our dear Flumphs, and it might be for the better if it means they aren’t included in adventures as just a gag.
These guys keep the same basic structure but have tan bodies, blue tentacles, and its two eyestalks. While the artwork of the Flumph doesn’t show any of the normal apertures for its Stench Spray or its means of propulsion, it does mention in its lore that it has jets that make the same sound as its name. Flumph.
Little is known about Flumphs except that they float through the Underdark and feed off the mental energies of other creatures, though not in any way that might cause undue harm to creatures. Actually, most creatures would never realize that their mental energy is being fed on as the Flumphs are very considerate when it comes to how much they feed.
Their favorite meal, for lack of a better word, are the mental energies of good creatures and will run... flumph...? up to good creatures. See, they are stuck in the Underdark, home to all sorts of horrible creatures like Aboleths, Mindflayers, and even some Githyanki and they have dark twisted minds. When a Flumph senses a good creature, they will immediately approach the creature for the chance to get good mental energy, not the sick and disgusting energies that they typically subsist off of. They will also use their telepathy, as they can no longer speak, and explain to these adventurers that there are evil creatures nearby and how they can get there… even if it means the Flumph needs to find a new ‘feeding ground’ of mental energy. They dislike evil creatures a great deal, though have no real way of dealing with them. Instead they are forced to live off evil mental energies, which I can only imagine is a horrible fate for these cute guys.
Flumphs live in complex cloisters, though no one Flumph can be identified as the leader as each Flumph has an important job inside of their society. Flumphs glow softly, and so if you are ever in the Underdark and see a few faint lights off in the darkness, don’t worry its probably just a few Flumphs slowly flumphing their way over to you… or it’s a raiding party of drow, in which case you should pry start running.