While Jack Shear detailed the gray men in his Devilmount book, there are a few details of their wider lifestyles that were not included. Here is your chance to be smarter than your friends and know some of the more esoteric lore on these odd creatures.
- As they grow more powerful, their heads swell. By the time they reach “name level” they barely touch the ground; their swelling head has odd powers of levitation and increased resilience (reflected in higher saving throws of all kinds.) They tend to spend more and more time in esoteric mathematical reflection, until when their head reaches a certain size they become something like a prized trophy of their clan. They are hidden away, and their reflections become something like scripture in complex equations.
- Their thin limbs contain the strength of creatures at least twice their size, because of the strange composition of their flesh. Their entire meat can serve as muscle, and also as fat; their strange gray skin has a peculiar anti-gravity property that focuses in the head, so even though they appear spindly they can trundle along as fast as creatures with four times the stride and carry impossible loads on their thin legs and backs.
- Their bones are an organic form of layered composite ceramic. This is not possible, yet it is true.
- Those who have tried to make leather from gray men, or take advantage of their strange physiology for anti-gravity or strength, have found that the material decays immediately after the death of the gray man. Within three hours, all properties are compromised. Experiments with vivisection have not had much more success; apparently gray men can die at will. Imaginative scholars suggest the long-lost arts of psionics may be the key, and experimentation continues.
- Gray men have hard black eyes with no inner structures. The eyes crumble to fine powder when they die. Vivisection has revealed the eyes are actually hollow, their interior covered by shifting and dancing equations of physics rubbing space-time against energy. Scholars are desperate to figure out the perceptual filters that allow gray men to detect anomalies that others completely miss, and even give them the ability to see where there is no light. The mystery remains. These extra senses are credited with their ability to make such fine metalwork, detailed with unknown alloys, and their ability to work mystic materials humans cannot shape (like mithril, adamantium, vibranium, orialchum, etc.)
- Gray men are actually grown in pods about the size of a human, over the course of about a year. They come out fully formed, and go through a process that they call the printing. Outsiders cannot discover much about this, except to suspect one of two possibilities.
- Maybe a gray man inherits the mental print of one who came before, living out several iterations before changing identity and starting over.
- Maybe batches come out and are given the same base print from their originating culture. That base print then shifts as they print their experience in the code.
- Gray men are widely understood to be the lonely expression of a shattered hive mind. They were once like an immune system, or a communication and repair system, on some star-faring vessels. Now they are cursed to be individuals, and they have never stopped grieving the loss of the Overmind. This can make them good team players, but not always.
- The psychic communication protocals are still printed in some of the gray men; they often start, end, or idle in communicating with a key word identifying a shade of their frequency. They do not always realize they do this.
Here are some randomizers to help you make a gray man for play.
Generate a name. No particular conventions, save that it should sound vaguely alien and space-like. Here are some sample syllables, roll 2 or 3. You can use them in the order they were rolled, or arrange to taste. Name first, number second. (There are many possible outcomes that sound like swearing, or other amusing and similar words. You can embrace this, or rearrange the syllables.) Roll on 1d20.
Generate a number. Roll 1d8. For some reason, that’s the range that tends to adventure. Roll 1d4 for technicians, 1d6 for leaders, 1d8 for independent thinkers, 1d10 for crafters, 1d12 for laborers. High numbers mean your type was mass produced and lower quality.
Optional “um” word. Many gray men have a word they use to initiate communication, close communication, and idle during communication. They usually use this a lot when they first meet outsiders, and it tapers off as they interact more with others. However, it is like an accent; some keep theirs, others lose them. In general, gray men use a monotone or modulated voice, usually nasal, and they favor understatement and deadpan delivery once they grasp the concept of humor. (Before then, they do it without irony.) These sounds are more like a collection of noises than a word. They do not say “zabble.” Instead, they warm up the vocal apparatus, and to outsiders it sounds like “zzabble what do you think?” Roll on 1d6.
Now you have a head start on making a more flavorful portrayal of a gray man in your game.