What do they eat when they aren't feasting on hobbit flesh?
Megafauna are common in fantasy, but it is sometimes overlooked that oversized animals are going to be host to oversized pests and parasites. In swamp lands, the pests and parasites grow to match their hosts, and in a setting with ogres, swamp trolls, catoblepases, giant alligators, and other tough skinned animals, regular mosquitoes just aren't going to get through.
The gallinipper is a mosquito that grows up to 6-8 inches in length, and can sport as much as a one foot wingspan. They are easy to notice when they are flying, as they have zebra like stripes on their legs, and they make a distinctive high pitched humming sound in flight. The insect has an almost painless bite, but it is a determined creature and it can take time to find a weak spot, or thin spot in cloth or even leather armors and bite through them. The pain only happens when the bug tears out of its host when it's done feeding.
Humans and humanoids aren't the gallinippers prime source of blood. The insects prefer large swamp fauna such as afore mentioned catoblepas, swamp hippos, large swamp reptiles, and large regenerating creatures like trolls.
- Swamp Exhaustion: by constantly draining adventurers of blood, gallinippers cause fatigue and exhaustion. While seldom fatal, this condition makes everything more difficult.
- Diseases: gallinippers do carry diseases, and the most common are Swamp Fever (swollen green lymph nodes, fever, vomitting, diarrhea) Swamp Flu (fever, sweating, respiratory distress) and Troll Rot (skin discoloration, necrosis)
- First Blood: Gallinipper bites leak blood, and many swamp predators are drawn to the scent of blood.
Gallinippers seldom swarm, mostly they are solitary hunters. In times of environmental distress, such as a prolonged dry period, or in the presence of smoke or other indicators of a swamp fire, the insects will form a swarm. Much like piranhas, these swarms are very aggressive and dangerous. Solitary travelers can be overcome by the insects which will swarm over them and in a matter of minutes reduce the victim to a shriveled husk. These swarms will often be attracted to livestock, large animals, or anything in distress. After a swarm, the insects will disperse and start laying their eggs anywhere they can find a place to lay them.
Countermeasures and Precautions
Gallinippers are completely mundane insects, and are easily repelled in a number of ways.
- Insect repelling balms and ointments work to repel gallinippers. Their large size and aggressive nature makes most general repellants moderately less effective (-2) unless they are especially formulated to repel gallinippers
- Repel Insect Spells and Wards function normally against gallinippers
- Body Masking with swamp mud can cover the scent that gallinippers use to hunt their prey. While loathsome in and of itself, the mud is better than getting a dozen leaking bites and a bad case of troll rot.
For a Spell: a blood mage is working on making a blood stealing spell, but to make it work, he needs a large number of gallinippers to make into a paste and then into ink to write the spell out onto scrolls. The PCs are hired to bring back a laundry list of swampy spell components as well as at least a dozen live and as unharmed as possible gallinippers
Control Swarm: A swamp druid insectomancer has started using his control over the insects to cause them to swarm near settlements in or on the edge of the swamp. While his efforts are currently only slowing the expansion of the rice farmers, he is unknowingly spreading millions of eggs that will in time hatch and produce a massive number of gallinippers, creating more swarms than he can control and will threaten to spill out of the confines of the swamp. The PCs are tasked with finding out who is sabotaging the rice farms and stop their meddling.
MegaGallinippers: several giant growth potions were lost in the swamp by an adventuring group, and one of them has become a breeding pool for a nest of gallinippers. When the larva start hatching and turning to their winged form, there are going to be thirty pound mosquitoes buzzing around the swamp.