Gargoyles have been used as monstrous creatures in a number of roleplaying games and it isn’t hard to see why. One merely has to glance up into the fearsome visages carved into the stone grotesques and gargoyles that have decorated rooftops around the world for centuries. These stone creations have served a number of purposes aside from simple decoration for grand structures. They’re used to redirect rainwater, as a representation of evil that can be easily recognized, and to ward off evil spirits. What I present now is a version of gargoyle that could be easily adapted for use in almost any campaign for any roleplaying system.
All modern gargoyles are descended from bipedal reptiles that once laired in scattered caverns. Each cave usually contains a communal nesting group with the number of gargoyles ranging for eight to twenty. Their thick skin has the rough texture of stone, and acts as a natural camouflage allowing them to blend in perfectly with the rock. Each of their limbs ends in a five digit grasping appendage, sharp talons jut from their fingers and act as their primary form of attack. An egg laying species it is the males who build nests out of large stones and sticks, decorating them with whatever shiny objects they can find. Miners have discovered abandoned nests decorated with everything from seashells and bird feathers to stolen tools and uncut gems. Females choose their mates based on the attractiveness of these nests while the males watch in hiding. Gargoyles breed for life and when their mate dies the surviving counterpart will often starve to death.
These simple creatures are often the of victims large predators; humanoids also drive them out of their nesting caverns. However one of the most interesting threats to the gargoyle is the cockatrice. These creatures will often approach the caves where gargoyles dwell, lure the gargoyles away, and then double back to lay their own eggs in the unguarded nests. Taking no notice of the additional eggs the gargoyles continue to guard their nests until they hatch, at which point the immature cockatrice turns its guardians to stone and devours all of the other eggs in the nest. The discovery of stone gargoyles along with their natural camouflage has caused the misconception that they are actually living stone.
The gargoyles would almost certainly have died out were it not for the fact that most of their kind have migrated to ruins, abandoned fortresses, and cities. Ruins left in the wake of wars are ideally suited for gargoyles that nest among the crumbling stones and rotting timber. Many of the predators that threaten them avoid these places, having learned to fear the people that once dwelled within them. The abandoned treasures of a myriad of races now decorate the nests of the gargoyles that thrive where they once dwelled. Their keening wails have driven many passersby to hurry onward spreading stories of haunted ruins throughout the countryside.
Some gargoyles have even begun to nest in populated cities, and amazingly enough they’ve managed to thrive there. Lurking out of sight on rooftops they snatch up dogs, cats, chickens, and other small animals to feed their young. The males, who are larger and slower, will stay behind to guard their nests while the more agile females do most of the actual hunting. Incidents of gargoyles attacking humanoids are uncommon, and rarely result in any fatalities. Gargoyles are highly territorial, those that dwell in cities less so than the ones that live in the wild. These creatures avoid humanoid whenever possible, but there have been incidents of orphaned children being adopted by gargoyles.
Certain enterprising individuals have managed to capture gargoyles, breeding the creatures and selling the resulting offspring as guardians who dwell on the rooftops of manors, citadels, and great fortresses. Bred to be far more vicious than their untamed counterparts the guardgoyles act as savage protectors who show no mercy. Those who purchase these creatures will sometimes find they can no longer safely leave their front door with being set upon by them.
The leathery hides of gargoyles are highly prized, and given how difficult it is to force a gargoyle to part with their skin the cost for their hides is extraordinarily high. However they’re sometimes found in the possession of many of the thieves, spies, and assassins who ply their trade in cities in every corner of the world. The wearer of a cloak of gargoyle skin will be able to blend into stonework to the point of near invisibility, making it an invaluable tool for avoiding detection.
So when next you think you spot some movement on a rooftop overhead, and dismiss it as imagined or merely crumbling stonework, think of the gargoyle.