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Activity Cycle:Night
Intelligence:Semi- (2-4)
No. Appearing:4-200 (in lair 300-3000)
Armor Class:3
Hit Dice:1 hit point each
No. of Attacks:1
Special Attacks:Constitution drain
Special Defenses:Nil
Magic Resistance:Nil
Size:T (2” long)
Morale:Unreliable (4)
XP Value:15

The pernicon is a brightly colored insect that resembles a grasshopper. lts coloring is an odd mixture of red, yellow, ochre, and blue.

This species of insect dwells in the outer regions of deserts, and is much in demand by desert nomads and other sentient indigenous life for its powers of water divination.

Combat: As a rule, the pernicon is an inoffensive creature, but it will attack in large numbers if disturbed.

Pernicons form swarms when attacking. They leap upon their victims and grip exposed flesh with the pincers located at the rear of their abdomens. Pernicons are quite capable of worming their way under clothing or through joints in armor, so protective clothing or equipment is not complete proof against them. It takes at least ten pernicons to mount an effective attack, and each swarm of ten makes one attack each round. No more than five swarms can attack a single man-sized creature at once. For larger creatures, one additional swarm can attack per size class larger than man-sized; for smaller creatures, subtract one swarm per size class.

Attacks with blunt weapons do normal damage to a pernicon swarm. Each point of damage inflicted will kill one insect. Piercing and slashing weapons can kill only one insect per successful attack. When one or more pernicon in a swarm are killed, any additional pernicons in the area immediately join it to bring the number back up to ten.

When a swarm “hits”, the victim suffers 1-10 hit points of damage (per swarm) from the pincers. In addition, the pernicons drain water and other bodily fluids from the target, causing the loss of one point of Constitution. Each round thereafter, this drain will continue automatically (no roll required).

If a victim's Constitution falls to three or lower, the victim collapses into unconsciousness. If the Constitution falls to zero, the victim dies. A raise dead spell will recover 50% of a slain victim's Constitution, while resurrection will recover 75%. If the victim survives, he/she will recover lost Constitution points at his/her natural healing rate for lost hit points.

Spells such as fireball will kill every pernicon in the area of effect. A flaming torch or Flame Tongue sword will kill 2d4 pernicons each round; a pool of flaming oil will kill 2d8 pernicons on the round it ignites, but the insects will avoid the area thereafter. Strong winds, including a gust of wind spell, will disperse all swarms in the area of effect.

Habitat/Society: A colony of pernicons settles in conical-shaped mounds of dirt, sand, and silt ranging from 3-5' high. The surface of the cones is dotted with exit holes, which the pernicons use to get swarm out quickly. Colonies are usually spaced apart at intervals of no less than three miles, and different swarms have been known to compete for the same living space.

Normally, pernicons leave their mounds at dusk, looking for moisture and dew on plants and rocks. The pernicons' antennae are sensitive to water, vibrating and giving off a low hum when within 12 miles of a large quantity of water, such as a lake, oasis, or river. Some pernicons will even change their coloration when they are within 90' of a body of water of any kind.

Pernicons lay eggs during the rainy seasons, generally twice a year in the desert. One pound of eggs are laid per 300 pernicons.

The rear legs of the pernicon create a clacking noise when rubbed together. Some scholars speculate that this is a language, but there is no conclusive evidence of this. Sometimes, pernicon hunters home in on the insects by the noise.

Ecology: Merchants sell live pernicons for up to 10 gp per insect, claiming them to be expert water finders. Many desert creatures, such as brass dragons, sandlings, and lamias, savor the pernicons as an excellent meal, and treat pernicon eggs as a delicacy similar to caviar. The more cultured desert tribes also savor the eggs in this way, and will pay the equivalent of up to 50 gp per pound.

The pernicon is so saturated with water, that eating a dozen or so of the raw insects not only provides a human-sized diner with a meal's worth of protein, but also gives the eater the equivalent of a quart of water. This has earned the pernicon the nickname “walking cactus” by some nomadic tribes, many of whom have extensive recipes for preparing pernicon.

Alchemists and wizards use pernicons in their formulae for creating decanters of endless water, or in experimental water divination spells or items.