The Brownie is a helpful house- and wilderness-dwelling fey from European mythology, usually described as resembling a tiny human with magical powers. They tend to do good deeds for good-hearted humans, trading supernatural assistance with household chores in exchange for gifts of food to satisfy themselves, so long as they are treated with respect. Humble by nature, they will abandon their former homes if they are given too great a payment or if their housemate boasts about their presence.
That's... basically it. They're the English version of the "house fairy" archetype found throughout Europe and neighboring areas. They're not hugely interesting.
They are not to be confuse with the delicious chocolate treat Brownie, good for afternoon tea party and your daily war gaming dosage.
In Dungeons & Dragons, brownies are reputed to be a fey relative of halflings - sadly, this has never been explored beyond the mere statement of the rumor's existence in the AD&D 2e lore for brownies, although it likely inspired the similar rumor/theory in Hackmaster that brownies are the result of halfling/pixie interbreeding. They have a very long history in the game: first appearing way back in the original Monster Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition in 1977, they then made the jump to 2e in 1989 (Monstrous Compendium Volume 1) and the Monstrous Manual (1993). That last year also saw them make the jump to Basic D&D, in DMR2 Creature Catalog. After that, they went into obscurity; Wizards of the Coast didn't bring them back into 3rd edition until 2004, and even then only in their online article "Adventure Locales: The Silent Manse". Kingdoms of Kalamar, the Tome of Horrors, and Pathfinder also feature brownies as enemy creatures... if you can really call them "enemies".
The D&D brownie typically relies on a combination of keen senses, great agility, and a potent array of debilitating but non-lethal spells for protection. If really desperate, they can also stick you with their little swords, which is a really embarrassing way to die.
Brownies have actually also appeared as PC options in some supplements and publications. White Dwarf #29 was their first appearance in this format, way back in 1982, but they joined the ranks of many other playable fairies in Basic's "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk" (1989). A 3rd edition analogue can be found in the 3rd-party sourcebook "Celtic Age", by Avalanche Press.
Theoretically, Brownie monstergirls are a thing, but much like their leprechaun cousins, they are obscure at best, since they basically tend to come off as either farmgirl gnomes or magical halflings.
As stated above, brownies received a player character writeup in the Basic splatbook "Tall Tales of the Wee Folk". Brief notes are also presented on playing a Redcap, which is mechanically identical to the Brownie race-class, but for the fact its Charisma maxes out at 10, it suffers 2d4 damage when splashed with a flask of holy water, and it can make three natural attacks (two 1d2 claw attacks and a bite attack dealing 1 damage) in a single round as opposed to using its weapons (although it's noted in the book that they rarely bother due to how much they suck).
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 5/17, Dexterity 8/18, Constitution 3/18, Intelligence 3/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/16
- Ability Score Adjustments:
- Prime Requisite: Dexterity
- Brownies are close enough to halflings in height that they can use the following human weapons: blackjack, bola, club, dagger hand-axe, horned shield, javelin, knife, shield, short sword, sling, and throwing hammer. They may also use the following weapons as two-handed weapons: light crossbow, mace, net, normal sword, shortbow, staff, whip.
- Brownie armor must be custom-sized to be usable.
- Brownies make saving throws as Halflings of a level equal to their hit dice.
- Brownies can become Invisible to Mortals at will.
- Brownies can use any magic item usable by a Fighter, Dwarf or Halfling. From first level onwards, they can also attempt to use an item normally restricted to a Magic-User, Elf or Faerie Spellcaster, but must roll a percentile die and compare it to the results for that level. On a Succuess, the item works. On a Failure, the item does not function. On a Backfire, the item malfunctions in some way. And on an Unexpected Result, the item behaves in a completely unpredictable way.
Brownie Level Advancement, Hit Dice & Item Use:
- Level: Experience Points: Hit Dice: Item Use
- -1: -2,000 EXP, 1d8 HD, Failure: 01-100
- 0: 0 EXP, 2d8 HD, Failure: 01-100
- 1: 2,000 EXP, 3d8 HD, Success: 01-05, Failure: 06-89, Backfire: 90-99, Unexpected Result: 100
- 2: 6,000 EXP, 4d8 HD, Success: 01-05, Failure: 06-89, Backfire: 90-98, Unexpected Result: 99-100
- 3: 14,000 EXP, 5d8 HD, Success: 01-10, Failure: 11-89, Backfire: 90-97, Unexpected Result: 98-100
- 4: 30,500 EXP, - HD, Success: 01-15, Failure: 16-89, Backfire: 90-96, Unexpected Result: 97-100
- 5: 62,000 EXP, 6d8 HD, Success: 01-15, Failure: 16-89, Backfire: 90-95, Unexpected Result: 96-100
- 6: 125,000 EXP, 7d8 HD, Success: 01-20 Failure: 21-89, Backfire: 90-94, Unexpected Result: 95-100
- 7: 250,000 EXP, 8d8 HD, Success: 01-20, Failure: 21-89, Backfire: 90-93, Unexpected Result: 94-100
- 8: 500,000 EXP, 9d8 HD, Success: 01-25, Failure: 26-89, Backfire: 90-92, Unexpected Result: 93-100
- 9: 800,000 EXP, 10d8 HD, Success: 01-25, Failure: 26-89, Backfire: 90-91, Unexpected Result: 92-100
- 10: 1,100,000 EXP, 10d8+2 HD, Success: 01-30, Failure: 31-89, Backfire: 90, Unexpected Result: 91-100
|Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Races|
|Basic Set:||Dwarf - Elf - Hobbit - Human|
|Creature Catalog 1:|| Brownie - Centaur - Dryad - Faun - Hsiao |
Leprechaun - Pixie - Pooka - Redcap - Sidhe
Sprite - Treant - Wood Imp - Wooddrake
|Creature Catalog 2:|| Faenare - Gnome - Gremlin - Harpy |
Nagpa - Pegataur - Sphinx - Tabi
|Creature Catalog 3:||Kna - Kopru - Merrow - Nixie - Triton|
|Dragon Magazine:|| Cayma - Gatorman - Lupin - N'djatwa |
Phanaton - Rakasta - Shazak - Wallara
|Hollow World:|| Beastman - Brute-Man - Hutaakan |
Krugel Orc - Kubbit - Malpheggi Lizard Man
|Known World:|| Bugbear - Goblin - Gnoll |
Hobgoblin - Kobold - Ogre - Troll