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Alignment Usually neutral evil
Type Aberration
Image image
Publication history
Source books Lost Empires of Faerûn (3rd ed. FR), Drizzt Do'Urden's Guide to the Underdark (2nd ed. FR)

The phaerimm (also called thornbacks and magic-grubs) are a fictional species of creatures in the Forgotten Realms setting, in the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. They are malevolent and highly intelligent creatures who are natural spellcasters.

Publication history[edit]

The phaerimm first appeared in second edition for the Forgotten Realms setting in Anauroch (1991).[1] The phaerimm also appeared in Netheril: Empire of Magic (1996), Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (1996),[2] and the Villains' Lorebook (1998).[3]

The phaerimm appeared in third edition for the Forgotten Realms setting in Monsters of Faerûn (2001).[4] The hatchling phaerimm, the juvenile phaerimm, the young adult phaerimm, the adult phaerimm, the mature adult phaerimm, the elder phaerimm, and the revered elder phaerimm appeared in Lost Empires of Faerûn (2005).[5]


Phaerimm are native to the Underdark. They are naturally resistant to enemies’ spells (with the exception of the Shadow Weave) and, unlike most arcane spellcasters, do not require spell components or incantations for spells. They are magically oriented and need to absorb magical energy from the Weave in order to survive. Their innate magical ability develops with age. Phaerimm can live for several centuries. They communicate with each other by changing the speed of the wind around their bodies. In order to communicate with other races, they use telepathy, often also charming or dominating their victims with spells and making them mind slaves. They enjoy making friends and allies hack each other to death.

Phaerimm are usually solitary creatures, living near their own kind but not socializing much. In times of war, however, they are commanded by an elite council of elders called a WarGather. The punishment for disobeying the WarGather is usually a merciless death.

Physical description[edit]

A phaerimm has a conical body that is shaped like a windsock. The widest part, the mouth, is located at the very top of the body. Its body tapers down and ends in a barbed stinger. The top of its head resembles the body of a sea anemone, save for the center being ringed by rows of sharp teeth. The ovoid head is surrounded by four spindly arms, each four-fingered hand ending in sharp claws. When it hatches, a phaerimm is about a foot long, but it can grow to be thirty feet long in old age.

Phaerimm have no eyes or ears, but they can still see and hear, as well as sense and detect magic. Their spiked, slug-shaped body is a greenish color covered by a rough, scaly, and leathery hide. They prefer to float upright in the air rather than slither along the ground.

Phaerimm can stab victims with their stinger, injecting poison that paralyzes them and causes them to float in the air. Phaerimm reproduce asexually by injecting eggs through their stingers into paralyzed victims. Once the eggs hatch, the hatchlings devour their victims from the inside.


Phaerimms are ambitious and malicious creatures that work only for their own individual causes. They delight in bringing pain to others and would gladly erase all other beings from existence, save for the fact that they would lack slaves to torture for sport if they did so.

The phaerimm are known to have indirectly caused the collapse of at least two empires down the ages. The sarrukh empire of Isstosseffifil fell around −33,800 DR during a war with the phaerimm. During this war, the leaders of Isstosseffifil re-routed the Narrow Sea, causing it to flood the Underdark (where the phaerimms resided) but also precipitating major climatological changes that doomed their own realm.

The second and most well-known of the empires to fall was Netheril, the great Empire of Magic. Unbeknownst to the Netherese, their enormous usage of magic was destroying the underground home of the entire phaerimm race, which depended on the inherent magic of nature to survive. In retaliation and for their own survival, the phaerimm developed a powerful spell that drained the life from Netherese lands. They first put the spells to use in −461 DR (the Year of Bold Pioneers).This was the focal point of the short story "First Flight", published in Realms of the Dragons I. This eventually would transform the fertile lands of Low Netheril into the desert of Anauroch. As the empire found it more difficult to feed its people, the stress led a series of wars, some fought to keep the restless populace entertained, while others were fought to claim more arable land. Circa −450 DR, large-scale Netherese migration into the Savage Frontier began when the effects of the phaerimms’ lifedrain dweomers became apparent. In −427 DR (the Year of Breaking Storms), the phaerimm used spells to bring down the floating cities of Lhaoda and Tith Tilendrothael, resulting in the other Netherese enclaves setting wards against this type of attack. In −354 DR, the Year of Many Maws, the arcanist Melathlar fled Netheril to Illusk. He sacrificed his life to power the spell that raised a great stone tower, walls, and powerful spellwards around the Netherese settlement of Illusk in order to protect it from the phaerimm. During that same year, the first recorded clash between the mysterious sharn race and the phaerimm occurred. In −339 DR, Karsus stole the divinity from Mystryl, the goddess of magic, and the floating cities of High Netheril plummeted to the ground. Due to the lifedraining spells of the phaerimm, the Netheril region became known as the Great Desert of Anauroch in 10 DR, the Year of Dreams. In 329 DR, the Year of the Closed Scroll, Hlondath was abandoned when its fields began to be destroyed by the encroachment of Anauroch; therefore, its citizens migrated east to the Moonsea and south into the Dalelands. That same year, the sharn defeated the phaerimm and imprisoned them beneath Anauroch, constructing a magical underground barrier that came to be called the Sharn Wall. Due to the phaerimms’ imprisonment, Anauroch ceased to spread.

On 20 Nightal, 1371 DR (the Year of the Unstrung Harp), the Sharn Wall was unintentionally punctured by the elf Galaeron Nihmedu and the Shadovar prince Melegaunt Tanthul, allowing many of the phaerimm to escape. Attracted by Evereska’s mythal, the phaerimm led an army of enthralled beholders, illithids, bugbears, and gnolls against Evereska. Several phaerimm also took up residence in the ruins of Myth Drannor and others conquered the beholder city of Ootul. On 1 Hammer, 1372 DR (the Year of Wild Magic), Galaeron brought Thultanthar, the City of Shade, back into Faerûn from the Demiplane of Shadow, hoping the Shadovar would aid Evereska. Before his death, Melegaunt was spying on the phaerimm, and it was he who was assigned to bring Shade back into Faerûn. The Shadovar explained that after Shade had arrived, they planned to open the Sharn Wall in Hartsvale and destroy the phaerimm there. Later, Galaeron and many others came to suspect that the Shadovar had planned for the phaerimm to be released near Evereska all along due to Shade’s complete disregard of the damage it was causing by melting the High Ice glaciers. The Shadovar and an alliance of many peoples including Waterdeep, Silverymoon, Cormyr, the Uthgardt barbarians, Dalesmen, Evermeet, and Evereska managed to defeat the phaerimm attacking Evereska and their armies, although the Faerûnians and the Shadovar came into conflict when Shade decided to flood Anauroch by melting the High Ice, causing massive meteorological changes throughout northwest Faerûn. Cormyr and Shade also came to war when they had a battle in Tilverton, which caused the town to be completely destroyed in the process, and Tilverton is now engulfed by a patch of the Shadow Plane.


  1. ^ Greenwood, Ed. Anauroch (TSR, 1991)
  2. ^ Pickens, Jon, ed. Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (TSR, 1996)
  3. ^ Donovan, Dale. Villains' Lorebook (TSR, 1998)
  4. ^ Wyatt, James, and Rob Heinsoo. Monstrous Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (Wizards of the Coast, 2001)
  5. ^ Baker, Richard; Ed Bonny; and Travis Stout. Lost Empires of Faerûn, 2005 Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Additional reading[edit]