Just why this is, I don’t know. Certainly all sorts of “fairy stuff” and elder magic is hip…however, there was probably something about the LOOT factor that made the leprechaun such an enchanting creature to my greedy little heart. Pots of gold? WISHES? Who would NOT want to catch a leprechaun with that kind of swag being ripe for the taking?
I can honestly say I tried to follow rainbows to their end to look for buried leprechaun treasure when I was a kid. No lie…I may have even dug up the yard a bit, but that part I can’t remember all that clearly. Likewise, I spent a LOT of summers looking for four-leaf clovers.
So, anyway…you know what ruined leprechauns for me? Certainly NOT the series of cheesy horror flicks featuring Jennifer Aniston and a sadistic munchkin in a buckle hat (who pogosticks someone to death! Jesus Christo! What the hell kind of mind thinks THAT shit up?!). No, no, by the time that particular movie hit the theater (I was actually working for a cinema that summer…must have seen the first Leprechaun movie two or three times), I was already disenchanted with the little guys.
No, actually, it was the original AD&D Monster Manual that spelled the end of my infatuation.
Cool as it was to see the leprechaun finally included somewhere (recall I spent years of playing Basic and Expert before I ever picked up a Monster Manual), and nifty as the illustrations were (I can still think back and feel the excitement when I saw the art around the monster entry), I was totally disappointed by the Gygax take on the legendary leprechaun.
I mean, where were the three wishes? Where was the pot of gold? Where was the description with the seven fingers on each hand and the nine toes on each foot? How about the ways to catch a leprechaun? After all, the ways to trap a fairy has its own numerous myths and legends in Irish folklore.
Wow…talk about sucking the life out of something! I’m not sure Lucky Charms cereal did as much damage to my psyche as a child as the poor execution of this monster in my favorite role-playing game.
Which is one of the reasons why I threw the leprechaun into the B/X Companion. Well, that AND I needed to fill some space towards the end of the project. Folks will note MY version is a little different from the old MM's pickpockets.
And personally, I think they are the perfect kind of monster to appear in a book like the Companion. After all, the Companion is about high-level play right? High level challenges, high level rewards. And the leprechaun is nothing if not a challenging and rewarding task for any group of adventurers.
I mean, granting wishes? What monarch or high level lord wouldn’t be interested in the power to extend his realm, or his life, or his royal lineage? Not to mention increasing his wisdom, or his charisma, or any of the things we see heroes of folklore and myth using wishes for.
And catching a leprechaun? Merlin’s beard! How do you catch a critter that can turn invisible and teleport at will? Well, I suppose you could get lucky and hit it with a quick sword stroke or “hold person” spell…but paralyzed (or dead!) fairies don’t grant wishes, last time I checked. Players are going to need to get a might more clever to reap the rewards available.
[and, no, I’m not going to provide any hints on that here…go look it up in a book on folklore!]
Sure, sure…it may be a tad easier to coax an efreet into granting a wish (though you ought to make sure your stronghold has fire insurance!), but leprechauns are probably less dangerous, and generally don’t require powerful summoning spells or travelling to elemental planes of fire. Heck, it might even be possible to catch one any suitable pastoral or woodland setting…provided the moon is right and the correct “bait” is used.
[hmmm...I tried to pull a leprechaun illustration off the internet, but there seems to be an incredible amount of "leprechaun porn" out there. Jeez, people!]