Player Character Race: Gresh

Like this guy, but without the tail and the wings.

I grew up in Japan, and I speak a fair bit of the language, so I wracked my brain and did some research while I was naming these guys, trying to think of something I could use or adapt from Japanese legends. The problem is that nothing sounds right.

The obvious thing to name them is Ryujin, which literally means “dragon-people” But the “ryu” sound is pretty tough for English-speakers to say. There’s this flippy thing that happens with your tongue, which takes practice. “Tatsujin” would be equally appropriate, but again, the “tsu” sound is tough.

There are plenty of things I could name them that are NOT hard to say, but just don’t sound right. Although we don’t often think about it, languages are often limited to a small number of familiar syllables. Most people and places in Felmoor have names that should be pretty memorable for westerners, because the syllables and rhythms combine in familiar ways. I think you start to have problems if you carelessly disrupt that familiarity.

Kumawani was exactly 33% more awesome than this.

But then again, maybe I’M the problem. See, the temptation in English is to inject an accent somewhere in the word. Kumawani, for example. (Kuma, means bear, or strong. Wani can mean shark, or alligator. Oddly enough, there is a legend about an ocean dragon named Kumawani, so I guess he was a bear-shark-dragon, which is a whole lot of awesome.) An English speaker sees the word on the paper, and reads it as “KOOmuhWAni.” There’s a natural tendency to read it as syllable pairs, either as iambs or trochees. Japanese doesn’t do accents in the same way that English does, it’s much flatter. When I see “kumawani” my brain goes into Japanese mode. I hear 4 unaccented consonant-vowel pairs: “Ku ma wa ni.” The dissonance would bug me, but it wouldn’t necessarily bug anyone else.

I ended up with “Gresh.” It’s short, it’s English-speaker friendly, it’s a little bit growly, and a little bit hissy. Problem solved!


(Closest Vanilla D&D comparison: Half-orc)
Size: 6-7ft tall. ~250-300lbs.
Speed: 30ft.
Tall, frighteningly strong humanoids with green skin, long necks, and smoothly tapering muzzles filled with sharp iron fangs, Gresh are both terrible and beautiful to behold. Their claws (both hands and feet) and teeth are made of a magical white iron that is naturally razor-sharp.

Max Ability Scores
24 20 20 20 20 16

Ability score bonus: +1STR.

Ability score penalty: -1CHR
Perk: My, what sharp claws you have!
A Gresh’s claws and teeth count as an unarmed weapon with a damage of 1D10. At lv5, they become a +1 magical weapon with an additional +1 every 5 levels

Flaw: Dragonmouth
May understand other languages, but can only speak Gresh, due to not having the right mouth-parts. Disadvantage on persuasion/deception checks that require verbal communication with non-gricken. Also, any Gresh in the party will consume twice the normal amount of food.

Skill: My, what scary teeth you have!
Free proficiency in Intimidation

Misc traits:

  • Xedra’s Song: Gresh communities are famous for their choral music. There is no sound in the world that can be mistaken for dragonsong, not least on account of the volume. By spending an hour singing and listening for a reply, a player with a gricken character may discover Gresh (or dragons) anywhere within 25 miles.
  • Xedra’s Lidless Eyes: Gresh require only a few hours of sleep each night, and can sleep standing upright, if need be. While sleeping, a Gresh retains their passive perception score -2.

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