The Grippli Monster Card is the first in the series to feature, what would at the time, have been a “New Monster.” Grippli were humanoid tree frogs created by Brian Pitzer. They would premier in this Monster Card in 1982, but would then appear in first edition in the original Monster Manual II in 1983.
In addition to creating the Grippli, Pitzer worked on D&D products like Palace of the Silver Princess and the Expert Rulebook
Art on this horizontal Monster Card was by Erol Otus. It captures a human/frog hybrid, its skin a sickly pale green, climbing down from a gnarled stunted tree. This magnificent painting is a twisted mix of browns, greens and blacks, save for the Grippli’s eyes. They are buggy wet reddish-orange that are so alive they seem to leap off the card.
The stats and description from the Monster Card to the Monster Manual II are nearly identical. Only a few words and sentence structure changes. The language in the first sentence is probably the most interesting thing they change. On the Monster Card it says,
The grippli appear to be small, intelligent humanoid tree frogs.
While the Monster Manual II states,
The grippli resemble small, intelligent humanoid tree frogs.
I imagine the change to the language is because it is much clearer to user resemble rather than appear, but I might also mention that the art in the Monster Manual II actually does resemble a tree frog. In fact, it looks exactly like a tree frog with human hands. Unlike Erol Otus’ take which make the grippli a monstrous hybrid, the Jim Holloway illustration is straight frog.
This version of the grippli also looks like the bullywug. The bullywug would appear in the Fiend Folio, but would probably be better known for their appearance in the Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon from the 1980s. According to Frank Metzer in his 1987 module, Needle, the bullywug and grippli were once one people before being torn apart by a civil war.
When the grippli appeared in 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, it would be in the Greyhawk Supplement to the Monstrous Compendium (MC5). The language around the description was expanded slightly, but unchanged. The illustration however has gotten even more frog-like.
The grippli is a fun way to spice up your adventures. They have a monstrous appearance, but can actually act as an ally to the right party. So throw a few into your adventure and make sure to flash the Erol Otus Monster Card. It will give your player’s pause and could make them make a mistake that will result in combat they will regret.
Grippli Random Encounter
The party encounters a burned down village. Everyone is missing except for a single young child found hiding under a haystack. She explains how the village was attacked by a large group of frog creatures and that she knows of such a group that lives in forest along the river.
The party doesn’t know this, but the group she knows are actually grippli that had nothing to do with her village being attacked. Instead it a larger group of bullywugs who have moved into a nearby swamp. If the party parlays with the grippli, they will assist them in their trying to rescue the villagers who are still alive (for now) in the bullywug village.