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In the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the Losel is an orc-baboon crossbreed. Though roughly humanoid, they are little more than tool-using animals in many respects. Their name means "lost ones."
Losels first appeared in print in the novel Artifact of Evil by Gary Gygax (1986). They were first given game statistics in From the Ashes (1992), and were briefly summarized under the "mammal" entry in the Monstrous Manual (1994).
Losels somewhat resemble hairy, ape-like Half-orcs. Their culture and society is similar in many aspects to that of primitive humans such as neanderthals. For the most part, Losels are primitive hunter-gatherers who have little interest in anything but their own survival and stay away from all other races. If a family group is threatened, however, they can be highly aggressive, tossing stones and spears while moving in to pummel with their long, muscular arms. Losels are most common in the plane of Arborea.
Losels communicate in a series of grunts, snorts, brays, and woops.
They are neutral in alignment.
Losel is a middle-English word meaning a worthless or uncouth person. It derives from the same root word as lose. However, its usage in Dungeons & Dragons can be traced back to an appearance in Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp's 1941 fantasy novel, The Incomplete Enchanter. The second half of the novel is set within the world of Edmund Spencer's epic poem The Faerie Queene. While the poem's text uses the term in its original context, Pratt and de Camp chose to use the word to describe a race of forest-welling, club-wielding monsters, the first time the word had ever been used to describe a fantasy creature. One of the novel's characters remarks that they are "hideous creatures that are half-human in form, yet eat of human flesh" and a later passage described them as "hairy seven-foot ape men." Dungeons & Dragons creator Gygax has cited Pratt and de Camp's collaborative novels as being one of the five chief influences on the design of the game, and included The Incomplete Enchanter in his recommended readings list.
Losels live to be around 20–25 years old. Females remain pregnant for around 6 months, giving birth to litters of 2-5 offspring. Infant mortality is very high, with typically only one losel in a litter surviving to maturity, which they reach at the age of 3.
Males typically hunt small mammals and similar prey, while females gather fruits, nuts, and tubers while guarding the young.
Losels have a fierce hatred of beastmen, attacking them whenever possible. They also hate sylvan elves, who are always trying to exterminate or drive them from their woods. Losels are hunted and eaten by kech.
A group of losels serving orcs may mix with their cousins or range outside their lair. Rogue males cast outside of a losel band sometimes take over a band of baboons.
While apparently native to the southern jungles and perhaps other regions (such as the Fellreev Forest) where orcs and baboons have been known to produce offspring without outside intervention, losels have been bred by Iuz and the Scarlet Brotherhood and can be found in the lands under their control. Thanks to Iuz, they are especially common in the Vesve Forest. Gellor, in Artifact of Evil, says that losels are mixtures of orc and boreamandrill, a thick-furred northern baboon, and he speculates that Iuz brought many of them from the Fellreev Forest.
A losel lair may be a cave or a copse of trees. They spend most of their time on the ground but sleep in trees, and use trees to conceal themselves. Those serving in a military force may have their own barracks, typically a large hut.
Typical physical characteristics
Losels look like baboons with orcish features and fully opposable thumbs. They are more stooped than orcs, but can walk upright if convinced to. They have very short-range infravision (10 feet).
From the Ashes gives their alignment as "Lawful (neutral) evil," while the Living Greyhawk Journal #3 gives it as usually neutral evil.
Losels are tribal creatures that largely keep to themselves, deferring to stronger creatures when forced to interact with them. They are always male-dominated, but not to the extent that orcs are. Losel tribes are loosely territorial, using scent markings and scratches in bark to define the boundaries of their lands. Competing tribes of losels may fight one another, but more often they are content with ritual combat between their leaders involving feigned aggression and exchanges of insults.
Losel tribes normally only fight when certain of victory, but will quickly relocate if they believe their foe is stronger than they are.
Losels have no recorded religion and their tribes have no clerics, shamans, or witch doctors. The rare few exposed to clerics may become adepts.
Losels speak a crude form of Orcish that is difficult for other speakers of that tongue to understand. They can also communicate with baboons.
Losels were not reported in the Flanaess until circa CY 500.
- Reynolds, Sean K. "Enchiridion of the Fiend-Sage: Third Report." Living Greyhawk Journal #3. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2001.
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