The Jermlaine are one of the tricky creatures in the Fiend Folio which are too strong individually as written, but can be rewritten to make them both scale with normal folk in Dungeon Crawl Classics, yet effective against a group of adventurers. There are certain themes that recur in the various monsters of the Fiend Folio, and minuscule humanoid terrors are one of them. From a fantasy world-building lens, and from a cool adventure-building lens, these were great. However, dealing with these creatures in-game is one of the things where modern game design (and particularly the idea of swarms) allows for a better in-game experience.
If you use either of these conversions – or, for that matter, any of them in this series – I would love to hear how things go.
Jaculi: Init +3; Atk Bite -2 melee (1d3 plus venom) or launch +4 melee (1d6); AC 14; HD 1d4; MV 20’ or climb 20’; Act 1d20; SP Venom (1d4 damage plus Fort DC 12 or 2d6 additional damage), launch, camouflage; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +0; AL N.
The serpent has a long muscular body and a broad, flat head with a ridge of razor-edged bone projecting at either side. It can project itself from any high point with the force and accuracy of a javelin, but once it has attacked in this manner it can only attempt to bite at ground level. To launch itself again, it must crawl away up another tree or pillar.
A successful Handle Poison check can milk 1d5 doses of venom from a jaculi, if a suitable receptacle is available.
Jermlaine: Init +5; Atk Tiny weapon +2 melee or ranged (1); AC 13; HD 1 hp; MV 20’; Act 1d16; SP Infravision 60’, stealth +10, trap building; SV Fort -6, Ref +7, Will +0; AL C.
Jermlaine Swarm: Init +5; Atk Swarming weapons +2 melee (1d4); AC 15; HD 5d8; MV 20’; Act Special; SP Infravision 60’, stealth +5, swarm, nets; SV Fort -2, Ref +5, Will +2; AL C.
Jermlaine Elder: Init +4; Atk Tiny weapon +1 melee or ranged (1); AC 12; HD 1d4; MV 20’; Act 1d20; SP Infravision 60’, stealth +10, trap building, nullify magic; SV Fort -4, Ref +7, Will +4; AL C.
Individual jermlaine are only a foot tall. Their grey-brown warty hides blend in with earth and stone, and they always dress in scraps and rags of the same hue. Jermlaine move with a scuttling gait. They are very quiet and are masters of remaining unseen. On occasion, however, if a party or individual suddenly becomes still and listens carefully, their movement or twittering, squeaking speech can be heard.
These evil runts are cowardly and attack only when it seems probable that they can overwhelm victims without serious opposition. Jermlaine swarms thus waylay weakened and wounded parties or single individuals who are unwary, asleep, etc. In little-used passages, these nasty creatures laboriously prepare pits covered by camouflaged trapdoors, or string overhead nets entwined with silk from the webs of giant spiders, and lay in wait for passing prey. In more travelled ways, jermlaine will stretch thin but strong cords (often woven of human hair) to trip the unwary, which may then be attacked by a jermlaine swarm. The use of flaming oil, acid, and worse is not unheard of.
As swarms, jermlaine make a single attack roll against all creatures in a 20’ x 20’ area, and take only half damage from non area-effect attacks. Their weapons of choice are miniscule darts, pikes, and nets. Individual jermlaine never fight unless forced to, and then seek only to escape.
When jermlaine swarms use nets, victims which are successfully attacked take no damage, but must succeed in a Reflex save (DC equal to attack roll) or become entangled. A new save is allowed each round a trapped victim spends an Action Die to get free, but every save after the initial one is reduced by a cumulative -1d on the dice chain, until escape without outside help becomes impossible. Once one or more victims are trapped in this way, the jermlaine swarm immediately makes escape with their victims its top priority.
Jermlain tunnels are twisting mazes of small passages, and it is impossible for any creature larger than a halfling to worm their way through on their own. Even a halfling has to creep and crawl within such tunnels, exposing themselves to relentless attack. Once a victim has been pulled into the jermlaine tunnels, they are seldom seen again, although their screams may be heard for a very long time.
Some victims are eventually devoured by the jermlaine (or their rat-friends), but with a successful Luck check, a captured human is merely stripped naked, shaved and left trussed and helpless in the passageway so the jermlaine can watch the “fun” of seeing some passing monster come and devour the bound victims while the jermlaine remain safely hidden.
While strong groups or alert adventurers will not be physically attacked, the jermlaine will certainly seek to cause them harm and otherwise injure them out of sheer maliciousness. The spiteful things will steal forth and cut belts and straps, packs and seams – typically one such act of vandalism per jermlaine – before they retreat with haste in order to escape unnoticed and unharmed. Their vandalism is usually only noticed 1d12 turns later, when a weakened strap parts, a seam opens fully, and so on. If packs and other goods are placed out where jermlaine can reach them, perhaps when a party makes camp, these creatures will pollute water, sour wine into vinegar, spoil food, desecrate holy water, steal small items, wedge daggers or swords so that they are difficult to draw out quickly, cut bow strings, blunt arrows, puncture oil flasks, and so on.
Perhaps one out ever 30 or 40 jermlaine lives long enough to become very old and exceptionally evil. Jermlain elders gain a very wicked power – they can nullify the magic out of almost any object they can handle for 1d4 rounds. Powerful artifacts or relics may resist this power, if the judge so determines.