The termen looked too, well, elfy to make good weapon smiths, but Gunner vouched for them. He was our Master Smith, so we went where he sent us. When good, squared, dwarven work gave way to rounded, flowing, tubes that looked as if eroded by an underground river, I knew we had reached the terman warren. The chittering crowd that greeted us was a motley mix of sizes. The little ones were the most common. They were no bigger than gnomes, and if anything more spindly, with those four skinny arms waving about. They took the tools and ingots we brought and loaded them on those giant termites they ride. We left our gear and passed through a cordon of their warriors, tall as a good sized dwarf, but slim behind their big shields and lances that looked too awkward for a tunnel like this. They smelled like wine gone to vinegar. We were received by one of their princes. You could mistake him for an elf in a dark tunnel. He carried himself like he was used to being obeyed, and with all four of his hands on the hilts of dwarf-made weapons, I was not about to comment on his elfyness. He was flanked by some sort of holy man and another with a flute and drum. He greeted us formally, then bade us move quickly, for we were just beneath an elven outpost and there had been clashes recently. As if in explanation, he cocked his head whimsically, and showed us a shard of dark wood with elven script inscribed before popping it in his mouth. I could tell we were walking up a slight incline for about a mile when the whole column suddenly halted. A phalanx of those fellows with the big shields moved to block the tunnel ahead where a band of elves had broken in. We watched as the elvish bowmen became a blur behind the tide of arrows that washed down the tunnel. The big shields of the termen sprouted elven arrow shafts like the quills of a hedgehog. When the barrage of arrows proved ineffective, those prissy little elf swordsmen attacked. The long lances of the termen suddenly made sense, for not a single elf could come to grips with a terman in line. When the elf swordsmen pulled back, I knew what was coming. Sure enough, a brace of elven mages sprouted fire between upraised hands in a blinding flare of light. A sudden blast of sound echoed through the tunnels from the flute player behind us, a shrill note that made me instinctively cover my ears. Darkness descended once more as the fires died when the mages recoiled from the noise and lost concentration on their spells. Just then, that holy man chanted in his chirping voice and a wall of earth grew from the tunnel floor. Not in front of the elves as you might expect, but behind them. Trapped elves! It does a dwarven heart good. I looked at my mates and our hammers came out. One of those little termen ahead restrained us and said we must halt and watch. Just as I had decided on showing this little runt what happens to anything coming between a dwarf and an elf in need of thumping, an acrid smell almost floored me. One after another, those big warriors spouted off. Gouts of acid shot from their heads like so many little black dragons, and the elves clawed at the wall of earth as the flesh sizzled off of their bones. I was suddenly very happy to be arming these people. This was the use that dwarven steel was forged for. I almost felt bad for the thrice-damned elves…almost…
-Thorbald Thunderfoot, My Time Among The Termen.
Credit: Modified from images by Wayne Reynolds
Termen ate their way to sentience
They sprung from humble termites that consumed the mage-wrought wooden palaces, staves, and scrolls of the elves. Their form evolved over time with exposure to Fey magic, in form they became a blend of insect and elf. Although the Fey magic of the elves spurred their evolution, to elves they are little more than vermin. It was the dwarves that first brought knowledge of other civilizations to the termen and taught them the art of metal smithing. In many lands the tunnels of dwarves and termen intersect, leading to agreements on mutual defense. Termen have four arms and two legs, large opaline eyes, and prominent antennae. They have faces that are generally hard to read by other races, because they convey a wide variety of emotions with simple tilts, nods or bobs of the head and the inclination of antennae. Their flesh ranges from cream to light green in color, with a reddish hue to areas where the cuticle is thicker like the head, chest, and forearms. In the warm humidity of their home tunnels they were minimal clothing, but may be found heavily swathed in flowing robes when moving through the outer world.
A peculiar brand of honor
Termen are insular and secretive, and are fanatically devoted to their colony mates. This loyalty may at times be transferred to groups they join outside the colony, but conflict may arise when they expect such loyalty to be returned. There are many reasons termen adventure away from their birth hives, but most explanations are bound up with honor and duty. An adventuring terman might be building fame and followers to challenge the royals of a hive and usurp power. Alternately, a wandering terman may be one of the "Lost" who were caught outside of the nest during a breach of its walls and held off the assailants as their nest-mates sealed up behind them. By custom these termen are dead to their colony to keep them from accidentally leading invaders to secret entrances back into the hive. They must seek meaning in a life beyond the hive.
Alignment. Termen tend to be neutral, the concepts of good and evil are something they often find difficult to reconcile with their first moral imperative: Do what benefits the colony. They are usually lawful because they have been reared in the strict discipline of the colony. Individuals may vary, especially when away from the structure of the colony. Religion. Each large colony has a hive spirit that forms its primary deity. A terman worships the spirit of his home community as a goddess, with the queen its high priestess. Ancient hives will have many lesser hive spirits that interact with colony members. The one deity all termen worship is Termes the Swarm King, who represents the whole species and is shared by all colonies.
Everywhere and Nowhere
Terman hives exist around many human and humanoid cities, but go largely unnoticed. They rarely interact directly with other races, but in cases where they do, they have become crucial allies for trade and defense. Termen are self-conciously aware of the role of elves and Fey magic in their physical evolution, and of the debt they owe to dwarves for their material culture. Some insectoid Fey, like sprites have an affinity for termen.
"Although we have battled them from the birth of our race, we cannot escape the fact that elves are, in a way, our fathers."
"The dwarf was our friend when to all others we were vermin."
"There is no better place to live than beneath a human city. They are oblivious to our presence, and they throw away the most delicious wood!"
Born of magic, the strict castes that define terman society are all defined by the arcane. The castes of termen are as different in appearance and ability as the subraces of other cultures even though they inhabit the same hive.
Archon. The royal caste of termen, they increase their charisma by 1. In most hives they are Paladins of the terman gods, Stone Sorcerers, or Warlocks bound to powerful hive spirits. Slightly larger than the other castes, this caste is the most likely go adventuring as they build power to challenge for hive dominance.
Terrarch. These termen are the spiritual leaders of the hive, channeling the power of the termen pantheon to sculpt the very earth of the mound. They increase wisdom by 1. They are adapted to be Earth Domain Clerics.
Tocsin. They control communication throughout the hive, and increase charisma by 1. Bard is their usual class, College of Valor most commonly.
Termidon. The fighting force of terman colonies is primarily made up of this caste. Not only are they stout fighters, but the magic that created the termen shaped the glands of these warriors to produce a variety of spell effects. They gain an increase of 1 to strength and are a variant of Eldritch Knight specific to termen.
Swarm Lord. The Druids of the terman world focus on summoning or taking the form of vermin swarms and various giant arthropods. They gain an increase of 1 to Wisdom and are most often members of the Circle of the Swarm.
Forager. They are most often Rangers of various types and gain an increase of 1 to Dexterity.
Slaver. Within terman colonies, this class specializes is the taking of slaves to work for the hive. They usually choose the Rouge/Assasin class, and gain an increase of 1 to Dexterity.
Elf-touched. Some termen bloodlines have more than the common share of Fey influence. Both honored and mistrusted, they gain the innate magic ability of the Sorcerer, and an additional 1 point of Charisma. Their angular features betray their tie to the elves and mark them for suspicion within the hive.
Depths Dweller. Outcast clans from terman hives often move into the deepest tunnels on the outskirts of colonies. They live in feral isolation, increasing strength by 1 point. They are Barbarians.
Dwarf-Friend These termen evolved to better work with dwarven smiths at their forges. They are far broader than normal and sprout a beard-like growth from their chins. They gain 1 point of Strength and are normally Fighters, though rare individuals become Artificers or Forge Domain Clerics.
Minion. The workers of terman hives are by far the most numerous. They are stunted compared to the other classes, considered size Small. The need to sneak around those of higher caste makes them natural Rouge/Scouts, and they gain 1 point of Dexterity.
Both male and female termen have names composed of three parts: a personal name, the name of their birth colony and a caste name. Names often include peculiar click sounds.
Personal name: Zza, Kreel, D!jm, Maa
Colony names: Khopt,!zil, Ka’chri, Zrikriri, Xsifu
Caste name: Kra’en, Barz, G!huum, Mbun, Tiz
Example: Zza !zil G!huum
Ability Score Increase. Your constitution score increases by 1 and your charisma score increases by 1.
Age. Most termen grow slowly. They are not considered adults until age 30, and may live over 300 years. Some kings and queens have been known to live to be 500 or more. The exception to this is termen minions, who are mature by age 15 and rarely live more than 100 years.
Size. Termen Minions are small, between 3 and 4 feet tall and less than 40 pounds. All other castes are Medium, between four and a half and five feet tall and slim of build. Archons may be as tall as five and a half feet tall.
Speed. Your walking speed is 25 feet
Chitin. Termen have +1 to armor class due to their hardened cuticle
Multiple limbs. Termen have four weak arms. Each arm is strong enough to wield a light weapon on its own, but they have to use two arms for shields and other weapons. They need all four arms to wield a weapon with the Heavy or Two-handed property. When they wield a weapon with the Versatile property in two hands they can use the damage value in parentheses. When Termen engage in Two-weapon fighting, they can use two light weapons wielded in one hand each, all other weapons require two hands each to wield two weapons.
Gut microbes. The delicate balance of gut microbes renders them at disadvantage to saves vs consumed poisons.
Trophallaxis. You may cast the spell Goodberry as a first level spell 1/long rest. This represents the advantageous microbes you can cough up and spread on your own wounds as a healing poultice or share with others.
Temptation of wood. Your culture dictates that you may not own items made of wood unless covered in metal or leather. It is just too hard to keep from nibbling on them. If you must use a wooden item, you must save vs constitution once a day. The magic bonus to items is counted as a negative modifier to these saves.
Antennae. Blindsight 30ft.
Languages. Common, Dwarven
You inherited the ability to consume and destroy wooden magical items and borrow their power from your ancestors. You gain the following benefits:
• Increase your Intelligence score by 1, up to a maximum of 20.
• If you consume a wooden magic item, you add its magic bonus to your Saving Throws against Magic and the Damage/Effect type of the item for 2d6 turns.
You sprout 2 pairs of insectiod wings. With your wings, you have a flying speed of 20 feet if you aren’t wearing heavy armor and aren’t exceeding your carrying capacity.
Your gut symbionts produce a noxious substance that can be used against enemies. You gain the followingbenefits:
• Increase your Constitution score by 1, up to a maximum of 20.
• Once per short rest, your spittle can reproduce the effect of either the Acid Splash or Poison Spray at first level.