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Frequency:Very rare
Activity Cycle:Any (nocturnal)
Intelligence:Low (5-7)
Treasure:K,M (Nil)
Alignment:Lawful evil
No. Appearing:2-8
Armor Class:4
Movement:6, Br 12
Hit Dice:3+6
No. of Attacks:3
Special Attacks:Tracking
Special Defenses:+4 save vs. poison, wand, spell
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:M (4' and taller)
Morale:Elite (13-14)
XP Value:175

Groundlings are assassins, magically altered by Zhentarim wizards. Originally of dwarven stock, they have been hideously transformed to a cross between dwarves and giant badgers. In appearance, groundlings are short and stocky, and can be easily mistaken for dwarves at a distance. Their stunted ears are buried in wild fur, and their eyes appear as narrow slits. A long, bristle snout replaces the dwarves nose, and large fangs protrude from the extended mouth. A groundling's hands end in powerful talons sharper than swords. They generally stink of spoiled meat.

Groundlings have an enhanced ability to track any creature by scent alone, once provided with an object the creature has handled. Groundlings are able to sniff out any clothing previously worn by the intended target and handled by no one else for more than a few moments. Balancing their keen sense of smell is weak eyesight. Groundlings dislike daylight and are typically encountered only at night, unless directly ordered out by their evil master. Although groundlings rarely leave their tunnels, they can burrow at astounding speeds, even through hard-packed dirt (but not solid rock).

Most groundlings know at least a few words of the common tongue and can snarl out basic conversation.

Combat: In combat, groundlings will burrow below their victims and explode upward in a shower of rock and dirt. Any creature subjected to such an attack by a burrowing grounding suffers a -3 penalty to its surprise roll. Such burrowing attacks are made with a +2 bonus to hit. Bright lights dazzle and confuse groundlings; they have a -1 penalty to attack rolls in illumination of sunshine brightness or brighter.

In combat, a groundling grabs its victim with powerful claws and sharp fangs, then attempts to drag it below the surface. If a groundling successfully hits with any two attacks in one round, it will drag any victim of man-size or smaller into its burrow at the end of the round.

Larger creatures can be dragged underground by more groundlings operating in concert. Creatures dragged into a groundling warren can attack only with small or natural weapons, and at a penalty of -2. Groundlings in their tunnels attack with a +2 bonus to hit and damage. Once pulled into a groundling tunnel, a trapped creature can be pulled out only with a combined Strength of 23 or greater, counting both the potential victim and any others helping the escape.

Habitat/Society: Groundlings are bount by highly structured guild rules laid down by their Zhentarim masters. They usually avoid killing creatures other than their assigned targets unless interfered with. If ordered to bring back the target alive, groundlings attempt to subdue the victim; otherwise, they will kill and devour the unfortunate creature.

Other than the guild structure imposed by their creators, groundlings have no true society. Most groundlings resent their enslavement, but follow the orders of their guild except in the most unusual circumstances. It is the goal of many groundlings to serve so long or so well that their masters will reverse their condition, although there is no reliable record that this has ever actually happened.

Groundlings are not very intelligent, but they can be extremely cunning. They are known to use ambushes, feigned retreats, and attacks converging from various directions against a quarry whose location is known. Even such clever measures as climbing a convenient tree might not delay their attack for long. They serve the Zhentarim by tracking down and destroying the enemies of their masters.

Ecology: Groundlings have voracious appetites; they are willing to eat almost anything although they prefer meat. Groundlings have an extremely high metabolic rate, so they need tremendous amounts of sustenance to fuel their magically enhanced burrowing. It is not certain if this magical melding of dwarf and badger can be bred; reports are sketchy and conflicting. It is believed that they cannot, and instead have their origins in the foul laboratories of the Zhentarim.

When not based in the dungeons of the Darkhold, groundling assassins might be found just below the surface of the earth, where they dig small warrens in which to rest and wait for night.