Slaadi: Toads of Turmoil
Sparks fly as flames melt and ice burns in the elemental chaos around the doomed crystal island. A human ranger and goblin warrior sprint into the island’s toppled tower, evading the blast of crystal spray that shoots out from a nearby field of floating rubies. The duo know they’re coming. The goblin slams the rotted door behind him as a huge, blue-skinned toad creature plummets to the crystalline ground outside. The ranger draws his blade and the goblin clutches his dagger close, shivering. “They’re slaadi,” the ranger says. “More will come. Let’s not make this easy for them.” Seconds later, the ranger peers between a crack in the weak door. Hulking outside is a small army of the giant humanoid toads — all of them grinning maniacally. The ranger looks back inside and breathes slowly as the goblin shakes and the door breaks.
As Dungeon Masters and players, we’ve controlled and encountered a slew of unorthodox creatures. Ravenous owlbears, contemplative sphinxes, self-obsessed beholders — they’re all staples of Dungeons and Dragons. They make us squeal in agony as they consume our characters, or allow us to revel in hilarity as our characters interact with them. Unfortunately, some receive more love than others. Millions of people have sparred with goblins, felt the force of a balor’s death throes, or utilized a red dragon to scheme against a party of adventurers.
How many of us have encountered or used slaadi?
Poring over my vast book collection and the internet, I’ve discovered that slaadi are rarely featured as power players. Sure, they play a small role in some adventures, many of which can be found on adventurelookup.com, but they’re not the primary antagonists or movers and shakers.
That’s a crime, and we’re about to find out why.
Let’s delve into what’s about to be our new favorite toads of turmoil, slaadi.
Slaadi Game HistoryWe first encountered slaadi during the birth of Dungeons and Dragons. The Lovecraftian toad creatures were printed in Advanced Dungeons and Dragons’ Fiend Folio. The book called them “great, frog-like beings who dwell on the outer plane of Limbo…” In addition, they had peculiar jewels encased on their foreheads that held a slaad’s life force. Foes of slaadi could manipulate them to perform three acts if they possessed the power to destroy a slaad’s jewel. An interesting plot element we could definitely use. In AD&D, slaadi were split into six varieties: blue, red, green, grey, death, and master slaad.
Slaadi appeared again in the AD&D Manual of the Planes, refusing to surface until the Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix of AD&D second edition in 1991. Soon after, they were reprinted in 2E’s Monstrous Manual and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. Throughout second edition, almost everything with slaadi stayed the same, until a few more slaad lords, or masters, were created in Dragon Magazine #221: Chourst, Lord of Randomness and Rennbuu, Lord of Colors. Later on, Planescape added symbols of power onto the forehead of slaadi; they symbols represented how powerful each individual slaad was in their own society — definitely an interesting concept.
Sadly, the master slaad were not explicitly included during Dungeons and Dragons third edition, and only the blue, green, red, grey, and death slaad appeared in the Monster Manual. We need not fret, however, because 3E’s Manual of the Planes elaborated on what slaadi did in Limbo and other planes of existence, and the white and black slaad entered the multiverse in the Epic Level Handbook. Much stayed the same during 3.5E; the addition of a new slaad lord, Bazim-Gorag the Firebringer, in Dungeon Magazine #101 excited slaadi fans around the world, but that was it for 3E and 3.5E. Besides appearing in a few adventures as villains and gaining a new lord, slaadi were mostly left unchanged.
Fourth edition tore our amazing slaadi — or slaads as 4E put it — limb from limb and reformed them. They appeared in the Monster Manual as completely different creatures. Instead of giant toads native to Limbo, they originated from the Elemental Chaos. They were beings who thought they were the first creatures to exist in the cosmos, a fact that could be true thanks to multiple universes collapsing and slaadi being the only race to survive it. More varieties on top of the initial color palette were introduced across 4E’s Monster Manuals, breeds such as flux slaad, slaad spawn, gold slaad, putrid slaad, and various forms of classic slaadi. These awesome creatures include red slaad juggernauts, black slaad entropics, and grey slaad havocs. Juggernauts were massive red slaad, entropics were incredibly weak black slaad that turned into tiny black holes, and havocs were grey slaad who could force characters to attack their allies. That’s not all — 4E introduced quite a few slaad lords and powerful slaad like Norsar the Many, a translucent slaad who had hundreds of replicas.
Fifth edition stitched our slaadi back together, returning them to Limbo. Currently, only the base slaadi are available in official 5E products, but slaadi and slaad lords of editions past should be easy to make.
With their game history firmly in our heads, let’s dive right into all the lore about these chaotic toad creatures.
Slaadi LoreMysterious and unknown are the origins of slaadi, a race of giant, humanoid toad creatures who inhabit the unstable soup of Limbo. Depending on the edition or world we’re in, their origin changes. Fifth edition spouts that slaadi arrived in the multiverse after Primus, Overlord of the Modrons, attempted to achieve order in Limbo. He created the Spawning Stone, left it in Limbo, and the plane’s chaotic energy fused with the Stone to form the first slaadi. Tiny chunks of the Spawning Spawn are said to be in the heads of every slaadi. In other worlds and editions, this origin might be different. As mentioned earlier, slaadi in fourth edition could have been the first creatures in existence, leftover entities from the collapse of a hundred different universes. In our world, one, both, or neither might be true — it’s up to us.
Slaadi AnatomyThe anatomy of most slaadi is similar. The core slaadi are large, bipedal toad creatures with long claws and razor-sharp teeth. The arms of most slaadi stretch past their waist and are nearly level with their feet. Tiny horns and spikes rise up from their head, back, and arms, usually pale white or jet black in color. Red slaad are lanky and small, while blue slaad are hulking and huge. Green slaad dwarf blues but have wide bodies and enormous heads. Gray slaad are smaller than the slaadi already mentioned but have long spines down their back and leathery frills along their upper arms. Death slaad, the most fearsome of the core slaadi, are more muscular versions of gray slaad with bulky, dark spikes sprouting from their head and back. Legend has it that one of the slaad lords shaped the appearance of regular slaadi, knowing that their chaotic shapes could one day take a form greater than him. As a result, slaad lords are unique in appearance and anatomy while core slaadi take on toad-like bodies.
For example, Ygorl, Lord of Entropy, commonly takes the shape of a charred, skeletal hulk with bat wings. His weapon of choice is a massive scythe made from adamantine. Supposedly, it could kill creatures instantly. As opposed to Ygorl, Ssendam, Lord of Madness, is usually seen as an enormous, golden amoeba with a human’s brain as a nucleus. Ssendam is also a female. One of the newer slaad lords, Bazim-Gorag the Firebringer, is a titanic, two-headed slaad with volcanic-red skin. He wields a glaive taller than him that’s covered in dark flames. Truly, the possibilities for a slaad lord’s appearance are endless.
Slaadi ReproductionThough their origins can be disputed, all can agree that slaadi are agents of chaos. They are representations of chaotic neutral, meant to overthrow law and uphold the beauty of madness across the planes of existence, starting in Limbo — where they reside in most settings. They usually achieve this through invasion and domination. While some slaadi still arise from the Spawning Stone, the majority of their kind come from incubated or transformed victims: humanoids and other creatures from across the planes. Different types of slaadi reproduce in different ways.
Red slaad infect victims with an egg when its claw rends their flesh; that egg eventually evolves into a slaad tadpole that will kill its host and become a blue slaad, or a green slaad if the host was a fifth level spell-caster.
The bone hooks on a blue slaad’s hand cause those struck by them to undergo a horrendous disease called chaos phage. Eventually, it transforms victims into an adult red slaad, or a green slaad if the victim was a fifth level spell-caster.
Green slaad don’t reproduce, they only evolve. At some point in their life, they transform into a gray slaad after unlocking a vital piece of knowledge. After that, gray slaad can only become death slaad — a process that requires a gray slaad to completely consume a dead death slaad’s corpse. From here, a death slaad might become a slaad lord or a type of slaad not discussed — perhaps of our own creation.
The very few times I’ve used slaadi in my games, their appearance was always related to their reproductive cycle. It may sound weird, but it’s an integral part of their nature as a monster — at least if they’re used as written. One of my favorite memories was when a player rolled for a trinket on one of my trinket tables and got “a small, opaque jar with a large, red tadpole in it that needs water to survive.” It was a red slaad tadpole. The party had no idea what it was, and during a time of desperation, he opened the jar and sloshed its contents at the tree-frog folk who had captured the party. The tadpole proceeded to eat one of the grung alive and transform into a fully-grown red slaad. This was an awesome moment.
Anyways, back to the lore.
Slaadi Control Gems
Slaadi EnemiesPrimus, Overlord of the Modrons, may have haphazardly created slaadi, but they hate their creator and his mechanical creations. Modron and slaadi attack each other on sight not just because of the Primus situation, but because they represent opposite alignments of the multiverse. Slaadi are chaotic neutral, born to sow chaos and discord. Modrons are lawful neutral, engineered to ensure the universe continues to grind as it’s supposed to. In addition to modron, slaadi despise githzerai.
Slaadi VarietiesWe’ve briefly discussed multiple varieties of slaadi. Let’s delve a little deeper into each type of slaadi we can find amidst the Ever-Changing Chaos of Limbo.
- Red Slaad: These are the lightweight infantry of slaadi hordes. They’re able to incubate victims with eggs using their own claws and quickly move in and out of battle.
- Blue Slaad: Blue slaad form the vanguard of a slaadi attack. Their massive forms can overwhelm smaller foes, and their bone spikes can instantly transform dying foes into red and green slaadi.
- Green Slaad: The most intelligent of the core, colored slaadi. They can cast basic spells and even shapechange. Many of them adopt the forms of their former hosts, traveling the mortal world to find the knowledge needed to become a gray slaad.
- Gray Slaad: These are shapechanging servants of death slaadi. Gray slaad often travel to the mortal world, performing tasks for their masters. Many of them learn to wield weapons such as greatswords and greataxes, especially while in their humanoid form. Eventually, though, they turn on their death slaad master, consuming its corpse to complete their evolution.
- Death Slaad: Death slaadi are the commanders of slaadi hordes. Shaped by dark forces from the Negative Energy Plane, they’re the most evil of all slaadi, taking sick pleasure in desecrating other civilizations and transforming their most innocent citizens into slaadi. They can shapechange at will and cast decently powerful spells — though they prefer to use the weapon skills they learned in their previous gray slaad form.
- White Slaad: These rare forms of slaadi are remnants of previous universes. After centuries of floating through the cosmos, they found their way to their kin in Limbo. Most have the ability to peer into the future and see what could have been — or maybe what will be. They are incredibly insightful for slaadi, but their need to keep everything in a state of flux makes them unpredictable.
- Black Slaad: Black slaadi are massive, completely black slaadi with two pinpoints of light across their entire form. Pure and simple, they’re enigmas. Little is known about their origins, though they’re daunting foes to fight. Similar to black holes, they can implode creatures in on themselves and wipe structured beings out of existence.
- Lawful Slaad: Also called gormeels, lawful slaadi are yet another accident created by the Spawning Stone. These slaadi are dirty-green scaled, have peculiar lizard heads, and walk on all fours like great apes. They commonly work alongside githzerai against regular slaadi.
- Golden Slaad: These huge slaadi gather groups of hundreds of slaadi in Limbo and enrapture them in a song of chaos. Golden slaad are formed by the maddening storms of Limbo itself, thriving on the constant change of water to fire and empty air to stone. Their behavior is unpredictable, just like Limbo.
Slaadi IdeasSlaadi have existed since the dawn of D&D. Despite making great villains, plots, and even allies, few exist — right? Let’s make four of each!
- Gignook is a red slaad at the head of a goblin tribe. He refuses to incubate any of his victims for fear that the newly-born slaad will wrest control of the tribe from him.
- Olnyne is a death slaad who’s infiltrated the royalty of a human kingdom. Known by Captain Gendry by everyone around him, he’s confident the control gem of a powerful white slaad is unknowingly locked in the vaults below the castle. Slowly, he’s working his way toward it.
- Zirvinix is an eye slaad whose host was an old beholder. Essentially, she is the first of a new breed of slaadi — if she can keep up the cycle. Her form is that of a blue slaad but with bulky eyestalks protruding from her shoulders and a massive central eye on her forehead.
- Sinple is a centuries-old green slaad. Convinced his transformation to a gray slaad hasn’t come for a reason, he’s taken to the mortal world to commit greater and grander chaotic acts. Eventually. his time for glory should arrive.
- A wave of chaotic energy washes over a mining town built in the shadow of a towering mountain, transforming all its inhabitants into red and blue slaadi. The slaadi start tearing apart the surrounding lands, who fear another wave might arrive soon.
- Ssendam, Lord of the Insane, finds a way into the mortal world and begins roaming green country in the form of a naked man with the legendary weapon Blackrazor. The slaad lord gains a following and is headed toward a major city. Why?
- Fanatical cultists of Ygorl, Lord of Entropy, try to free his ancient brass dragon pet, Shkiv, from an ancient draconic prison in the depths of a duergar citadel. Their attempt catches the attention of Ygorl, so he sends his lieutenant, Sorel, to assist them and prove he can become the Lord of Anarchy.
- The path to a volume of the Book of Vile Darkness leads to a great, ruined tower in the Great Red Tempest of Limbo — where a particularly vile slaad lord lurks. Time is running out, for an agent of Orcus, Prince of Undeath, is searching for the piece, too.
- A slaad lord approaches the party in their Material Plane form, seeking assistance against another slaad lord.
- A green slaad begrudgingly believes his path to become a gray slaad depends on his ability to assist the party in their next adventure.
- A party member finds the control gem of a powerful slaad in a lost dungeon; the slaad will assist the party with anything to get back their gem.
- A strangely unevolved slaad tadpole finds companionship with one of the party members before transforming into a red slaad; however, it appears to see the party member as a parent.
Slaadi in Your WorldAt this point, we’re experts on slaadi. We know their history across the ages, comprehend their lore, understand their culture, and can recite every type of slaadi — down to the black slaad entropics. However, before we insert them into our campaigns, let’s think about how they exist in our world. Do we enjoy the fifth edition view point of slaadi, or do we adore fourth edition’s interpretation of slaadi (slaads)? Are slaadi only relegated to Limbo in our world, or do they span the Inner Planes, the mortal world, and even the Lower Planes? Do more slaad lords exist in our setting? Are they known? How involved are slaadi in the affairs of mortals?
These are all questions we can ask ourselves if we’d like to build onto who slaadi are in our own setting. It’s fluff, for the most part, but if we’re gearing up for a slaadi and Limbo-centric campaign, fleshing out our setting’s slaadi might be worthwhile.
For example, slaadi in my world of Eldar are integral to... a certain element of it that I can’t reveal because it might be a huge plot point in one of my future campaigns. Without saying too much, I basically combined everything I loved about slaadi lore in the past and mashed on some brand new secrets unique to my world. That always works.
Let madness reign, say the slaadi. All hail the Incarnation of Chaos, say the slaad lords.
In SummarySay it with me, folks: “I will use a slaad in my next D&D campaign.” They’re criminally underused and underrepresented. These bipedal toads of turmoil make fantastic additions to the right D&D adventure — don’t miss out! As always, remember:
- Slaadi have been around since the first Fiend Folio. They’re “original” monsters!
- These toad-like outsiders have a massive fund of lore to draw from. They might be from alternate timelines and they can reproduce using living hosts. Did I mention it’s possible to control one using a gem once-lodged in their brain?
- It’s possible to use them in a variety of ways; slaadi can make stellar villains and peculiar allies. Basing a story around them is rather easy as well.Th
- ere’s lots of space for customization when it comes to slaadi, especially if we incorporate lore from past editions into our own world. We don’t need to use exactly what the fifth edition Monster Manual says; we can construct our own idea of what slaadi (or slaads) are.
If you loved the concept of delving into a single type of monster, this is but one article in a larger series, Musing Over Monsters — check it out!
Next week, we’re getting introspective and peering into one of my failed campaigns: the Cursed Jungles of Yatar. Sometimes, more isn’t merrier.
Until next time, farewell, and remember to use a slaad in your next campaign!
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