Found in swamps, marshlands, and mangrove forests, Bullywugs live where the ground is damp and the air is humid. They are beastfolk- humanoid races with strong animalistic traits- and require moisture to survive. Their dependence on wet environments has shaped much of their technology and lifestyles, as well as how they are perceived by other races.

Bullywug from Monster Manual 5e

Bullywugs are bipedal creatures, ranging in coloration from green to brown to yellow. They look most akin to upright frogs, but using such a term would be seen as derogatory. Bullywugs typically stand at three to four feet in height, with females typically being on the taller side. The back legs of bullywugs are best used for leaping, which causes issues when they try to walk. Their gait is clumsy and more closely resembles waddling than walking. The jumping capabilities of this race are extrapolated in stories due to their large size and stout figures.

Bullywugs can live for a maximum of 40 years. The males can be distinguished by their larger throat pouches, with larger pouches being seen as a desirable physical trait.

Physical variations are separated by region. For example, the bullywugs of rainforests- more commonly known as pondstriders- are long limbed and brightly coloured, known for making homes in trees and wading through open water whilst hunting for prey. Meanwhile, the bullywugs of less wet regions often have warty skin and coloration in the brown and yellow spectrum.

The most known examples of bullywug society are based on plutocracy: power to the wealthy. A bullywug that eats well (and as such is typically larger than its associates), obtains much wealth, and has many children is seen as a bullywug that is worth listening to and has a good deal of understanding of the ways of the world. This association with material wealth and power has lead to many societies admiring thieves, raiders, and those that express greed, as they have the most wealth to themselves.

Artist unknown

Bullywug leaders take on royal titles based on those of neighboring settlements, regardless of whether or not they make contextual (or even grammatical) sense. The stereotypical bullywug king demands constant gifts and praise from their subjects to maintain their power and status. Should a neighbor gain a shiny object, they will demand more objects to outweigh their authority. Over time, these items will often go grimy, leading to their hoards being piled in order of cleanliness, not value. When a bullywug king reaches old age, potential successors- often those of nobility- meet in a public place to state their claims to the throne. The people then vote for who they wish to rule them, and the individual with the most votes (in the form of strips of reeds or leaves) wins.

It is common for bullywugs to compliment their leaders incessantly, in an attempt to win favour and gifts for their servitude. Some tales told by other races feature a bullywug king that, when given honest compliments by a young maiden- often in the form of a kiss- becomes the handsome and noble king that he presents himself to be. This has resulted in ‘Frog Prince’ being used both as a term of endearment and mockery.

Bullywug domestics leave much to be desired. Whether it’s due to biology or history, the bullywugs are a male-dominant race. They stereotype males as open minded, well spoken, and confident, whilst females are seen as drab, shy, and uninterested in the ways of the world. The latter view is more likely a result of their society, not (as the bullywugs believe) the other way around. This discrimination can be seen in a cycle starting at mating season. The bullywug males group together, forming mating parties. These groups search for eligible females and force themselves upon them. There is no discrimination in bullywug language between ‘sex’ and ‘rape’.

Bullywugs from Monster Manual II (4e)

After this event, the females are sent away to the breeding pools (fenced off bodies of water), where the eggs are laid. Females often live in houses nearby during this time, caring for the tadpoles. When the tadpoles are able to walk on land, they return to bullywug society and begin their education. Females are kept alongside the males and given the same education, but males are often given more praise than the females. Upon their first mating season where they are eligible to mate, the females are often treated to gifts and alcohol in an attempt to woo them. Bullywug culture prizes virgins for their naïvety to the ways of bullywug life, as older females are often more prepared to put up a fight, only willing to mate with males that show them respect and ask for their consent.

Bullywug sexes traditionally lived together, but over time they have separated into males and females. It is not uncommon to find female bullywugs on the run from their tribes, trying to live in other settlements. These females often try to learn written languages, as their vocal chords don’t allow them to articulate many other words besides those of their own tongues. These renegades are perceived by traditionalist bullywugs as unfit for their society, and are looked upon initially with disgust. However, should one become successful in life, attempts may be made to get them to return to society in order to benefit from their riches. Other females view them with respect, whilst others wish they had the courage to follow in their footsteps.

Assuming that the marshy environment of the bullywugs makes them technologically lacking as led to the demise of many enemies. Bullywugs have had many generations to practice using the natural resources of their homelands to full effect. Reeds are harvested and used to build houses, which are supported on stilts to keep them predator free. These houses often have built in tunnels into the water, so that the bullywug can get its skin moistened from the comfort of its own home. Reeds have even been used to make rafts and boats, used for long distance travel. Other plant fibers are used to make belts, baskets, and fishing nets. Bogwood is collected and carved to make art work, thrones, and furniture.

Their methods of aquaculture and domestication have been designed to allow animals to go about their way of life but also be accessible when needed. Poles of bogwood placed in the marshes provide a landing site for freshwater bivalves and snails, and nets can be strung between them to form fish farms. The bullywugs swallow food whole (they lack teeth), so the collection of small food items in large numbers is highly desirable. Giant frogs are lured to live nearby bullywug settlements with food, where they can act as intruder alarms and guard frogs. A king without at least two guard frogs is seen as a rather poor excuse of a leader.

Bullywugs have even got access to metal- bog iron. Collecting the iron and smelting it, the few bullywug blacksmiths can make a good living by constructing speartips and the like. These weapons are saved for war and must be well preserved to avoid rusting in the humid atmosphere.

Bullywugs communicate orally, with their written languages being slow to spread and hard to find documentation of. Instead, they document their lives with art, glorifying their history for all to see. Bullywug language is limited in word choice, making communication blunt and to the point. Singing and dancing are common forms of celebration, and bullywugs can spend much of their free time singing with one another about tales of their greatness, as well as recent events. These songs can travel over long distances, and as such they can be used as a form of communication with other tribes.

Frogmen by Jamie Jones

These traits are not all universal in the bullywugs. This is most clearly seen with the previously mentioned pondstriders. Pondstrider society is seen by other bullywugs as primitive and uncivilized, due to the lack of dominance their males show over the females, as well as their lack of plutocracy. Instead, the pondstriders choose leaders based on ancestry, with leadership being passed along spawnlines. With the pondstriders living further away from societies that produce gold and jewels, trinkets have less value, and as such they favour those that can gather the most food, hunt the largest fish, and live in the tallest tree branches.

Bullywugs favour those that are wealthy, trying to make themselves known amongst the economic elite, as well as collectors of various items. It is not unknown for a bullywug guest to steal items when backs are turned, and for this reason they are seen as being untrustworthy by upper classes. Others say that this distrust by the rich should also be extended to the poor, as some bullywugs will steal anything from anyone, just to have a degree of higher self-esteem and regality amongst their people.

By Conceptopolis

The bullywugs covet riches, especially as they cannot make their own due to a lack of fine jewels and metals. This means that there is a great opportunity for trade with bullywug tribes. In return for access to jewels and metals, the bullywugs can provide safe passage through swamps, as well as reed boats, fish, and other items from the marshlands. Tensions can rise, however, if bullywugs feel that they have been disrespected, especially if that disrespect is targeted towards a king. Should a king be insulted or not given appropriate tributes, a declaration of war is a likely response.

Bullywugs rarely go to war against non-bullywugs- they will say they are at war, but will only really fight if weather conditions are in their favour. This can result in bullywug tribes claiming they have been at war with settlements for generations, whilst the ‘enemy’ has no recollection of this ever occurring. They fight with guerrilla warfare and ambush techniques, using spears and tridents to fight from a distance. This is done to compensate for the lack of armour they wear. Fortunately, these wars can often be ended with the promise of riches as an apology.

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Welcome to the first edition of Over the Dungeon Wall! This was really fun to make, and I’d like to thank my draft readers- you know who you are- for going over my first drafts for me.