Spriggans are a race of malicious fey originating from the mythologies of the Cornwall region of Britain. A race of mischievous (if not malicious) robbers, thieves, bandits, kidnappers and rustlers, spriggans are believed to be the ghosts of giants, and thusly whilst they are normally found in a small, gnomish state, they can also grow into huge and powerful form for a short burst of time; as a result, they are much prized bodyguards by other fairies. They are typically depicted as resembling withered, bent and grotesquely ugly old men with overlarge, almost child-like heads.
Naturally, they made it into Dungeons & Dragons as a result. The D&D spriggan is a twisted and corrupted branch of the gnome family tree; brutish, nasty little things with the ability to grow into giant versions of themselves to better bully others into submission. Weirdly, this is a trait they often share with duergar, so perhaps those fallen dwarves were also born from the myths of the malevolent Cornish fae? Regardless, the spriggans are vicious bandits, renowned for their lack of hygiene, who generally make a nuisance of themselves wherever they go until they are ultimately kicked out.
Dungeons & Dragons
Spriggans made their debut in Dragon #59 (March 1982), then White Dwarf #38 (February 1983) for the Fiend Factory... alongside their alt-duergar. The Dragon variant entered the also-1983 Monster Manual II, already setting in stone the formula they would follow for most of their depictions in D&D's lifespan.
When AD&D updated itself to 2nd edition, Spriggans initially made their debut in the Greyhawk Monstrous Compendium Appendix - here being called Giant-Kin for some inexplicable reason. They would be reprinted with new artwork as the "Gnome, Spriggan" in the Monstrous Manual, although the actual fluff - repeated below - remained identical between the two versions.
These ugly, dour cousins of gnomes are able to become giant-sized at will. In either size, spriggans look basically the same. They are ugly, thick-bodied humanoids, with pale or dull yellow skin, brown or black hair, and red eyes. On rare occasions a spriggan may have red hair, which they believe is a symbol of good luck. Their noses are large and bulbous, but not beyond the human norm. They are very fond of mustaches and bushy sideburns, but they never clean or comb them. This same policy of uncleanliness extends to their bodies and any other possessions. Spriggans smell of dank earth, stale sweat, and grime.
Outside of their lair they always wear armor and carry weapons, usually polearms, although they have been known to carry swords or maces. Spriggans never use shields. They like to carry several nasty little daggers concealed in various places in their armor. Spriggans never wear jewelry or other ornaments. They prefer to keep these things with their hoard, where they brood over them at odd moments.
Spriggans are tricky and tough in battle. They have a wide variety of options for combat. Their major ability is to change from small to giant size at will. Weapons, armor and other inanimate objects on their person shrink and grow with them. This action takes the whole round, during which they can move up to 30 feet but not fight. When small, spriggans can use the following spell-like effects: affect normal fires, shatter, and scare (with a -2 penalty to the saving throw, due to their ugliness). They can perform any one of these instead of fighting, once in any round, as often as they want. When giant-sized, spriggans cannot perform magic, other than to shrink again. In this form they are as strong as hill giants (19).
In either size, they have 8th-level thief abilities like those of a gnome with an 18 Dexterity. This high Dexterity enables them to use a weapon twice each round. They can pick pockets (75%), open locks (78%), find or remove traps (70%), move silently (77%), hide in shadows (64%), hear noise (35%), climb walls (81%), and read languages (40%). Keep in mind that their size may affect these chances indirectly. For example, it is difficult for a 12-foot-tall giant to hide in a 6-foot-tall shadow. They can backstab only while in small form, and they inflict triple damage if successful.
Spriggans can never quite get organized as groups. In fact, they are sometimes encountered with part of the group giant-sized and part of them gnome-sized. On an individual level they are very clever and use their abilities to the fullest to accomplish their goals. These goals are usually to cause great havoc and mayhem amongst other races. They seem to take great pleasure in destroying property and hurting innocent creatures.
Spriggans usually travel in packs, all of them male. The females keep to dismal burrows or secret dens in forgotten ruins, rarely venturing out farther than necessary to gather food. A female has the same combat abilities as a male except that they have only 7+4 Hit Dice in giant form.
The females mate with males from packs that wander nearby. The children are cast out upon reaching maturity, the males to join up with packs and the females to find a place to lair. Spriggan infant mortality is high, with the males surviving more often than the females.
Spriggans hate gnomes more than any living creatures, but they truly love none but those of their own ilk. Perhaps it is the similarity of the true gnomes to their race that drives their hatred. They like to terrorize, rob, and otherwise work vile deeds. They do not hesitate to attack or steal from traveling groups or small settlements in their area. All of their possessions, including their armor and weapons, are stolen from their victims. They greatly fear large groups of organized humans and demihumans, and they avoid such parties.
The roving packs of males tend to be meat eaters, preferring to hunt or steal their food. As such they must keep moving and establish wide areas of control. The females tend to eat fruits and grains that can be easily gathered near their dens. They eat meat only when offered by a male as part of the mating ritual.
Spriggans are too mean and nasty to have any natural predators, although gnomes attack them on sight unless faced with overwhelming odds. It usually takes a well-armed party to root out a band of spriggans.
In 3rd edition, the spriggan never made a debut in any "official" monster manual; instead, they were amongst the many oddballs and weirdos who appeared in 2003's Fiend Folio, with a new look and new fluff.
Spriggans are evil, nomadic gnomekin with the strange ability to grow to a large size at will. They wander in packs through woodland areas, sometimes venturing into towns and villages. Spriggans live to rob and pillage as they journey. They are a numerous people, but pose little threat to civilized races because of their inability to organize.
Spriggans resemble ugly, mean gnomes with greasy, reddish-brown hair and dull, yellow skin. They grow their hair to ridiculous proportions, proudly sporting bushy mustaches, sideburns and ponytails. They are disgustingly unclean things, exuding an almost nauseating smell of rancid flesh.
Spriggans employ tactics intended to startle or unnerve their foes. They swarm around opponents when small, only to enlarge at the last minute. This allows spriggans to use their greater reach for attacks of opportunity on advancing enemies. More dexterous spriggans serve as back-up to their kin in melee, remaining in the shadows to thwart foes by sneak attacks, stealthy thieving, or casting their shatter ability.
Spriggans only linger in an area for short periods of time before being driven out by nearby inhabitants. They usually settle underground in woodland areas in dismal burrows or in long forgotten ruins. Spriggans live by thievery and murder, robbing and terrorizing all who pass near their lair. During particularly desperate times, spriggan packs disband and individual spriggans disguise themselves as gnomes to gain entry into towns and cities. Spriggans are extremely fond of weapons and armor, which they usually acquire unlawfully.
Spriggans made their final appearance in D&D thus far in 4th edition's Monster Manual 2. Here, they changed slightly through a combination of a new base background and the assimilation of the Redcap archetype. World Axis spriggans are fallen gnomes, corrupted by prolonged slavery under the fomorians. This warped them into malicious, goblin-like creatures were green skins and a mismatched, moon-white, oversized eye, imbuing them with some of the fomorions' magic - and plenty of their madness and malice. Whilst many are still trapped in servitude, others have broken free to roam the wilderness as bandits and cut-throats. They love to soak their hats or clothes in the blood of their victims, and whether through psychological glee or some dark magic, they can gain a temporary surge of vitality by doing so. Only some spriggans, known as giantsouls, retain the classic ability to assume gargantuan stature; other spriggans simply rely on dark magic, cruelty, and bloody-minded enthusiasm - especially when it comes to using sickles or axes to cut a foe down to size so they can kick him to death with iron-shod boots. Staking out dank tunnels or old ruins as their lairs, they seek to bully and intimidate those around them into offering them tribute.
Spriggans have yet to enter 5th edition officially, but a 3rd party take on them can be found in Ulraunt's Guide to the Planes: Acheron. Here, they are presented as an attempt by the Netherese of the ancient Forgotten Realms to warp gnomes into a slave race, inspired by Urdlen, that basically succeeded. The now-malevolent and twisted gnome-kin can be found mostly on Acheron.
Weirdly, they're presented as a playable race in this book as well, although the authors admit that spriggans, being evil, are not really suited for the role. Ulraunt's Spriggans use the Gnome core race (see that page), and the following subrace mechanics:
- Ability Score Increase: +1 Constitution
- Short-Lived: Spriggans only live to be up to 100-150 years old, and mature at the same rate as humans.
- Giant Growth: Using an action, you can increase your size to Huge for up to 1 minute or revert back to your regular size. For the duration, your weight is multiplied by 32, you have advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws, and you can't be affected by other spells and abilities that change your size. If there isn't enough room for you when you grow in this manner, you revert to your normal size. When you revert to your normal size, you gain one level of exhaustion. Once you use this feature, you can't use it again until you finish a long rest.
Naturally, Pathfinder readily stole Spriggans for its own use, featuring them in the PF Bestiary 2. Although their fluff - repeated below - is condensed and takes into account the Golarion Gnome originating from the First World, it's pretty much a repetition of the same fluff seen in the last three editions.
When the gnomes first traveled to the mortal realm from the distant land of the fey, some found the Material Plane so strange and terrifying that they lost their sense of joy. Seeing only the threats of the new world but none of its wonders, they grimly resolved to survive no matter the cost. Their innate magic responded to this twisted goal by reshaping them in mind and body over the course of many generations, transforming them into the creatures known as spriggans. Love, happiness, and beauty have no meaning for these poor souls, so they lead lives of violence and malice. The best they can manage in place of positive emotions is a muted satisfaction when they make another suffer.
Spriggans resemble ugly gnomes with an alien, feral appearance. Many are gaunt and haggard. When magically enlarged, they look the same except much more hale and muscular.