My interpretation of whatever monster I feel like talking about, primarily from the 1st ed AD&D Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, but not limited to them, treated in a way that deals with the stuff I find interesting. That is: ecology and culture, if applicable. Stats can go hang.
The Imp is one of those bizarre little medieval inventions called a ‘demonic servant’. Why you would want a tiny servant I’m not sure, unless it was to get dropped pencils behind desks, maybe.
I once wrote a piece for Australian Realms called Trevor’s Terrible Teapot that concerned and Imp. Here it is:
This is the tale of Trevor and his cantankerous teapot. It is a simple, short adventure that can be used as a diversion in any fantasy campaign. The emphasis is on a fun non lethal little plot line, that will allow players good opportunities to role play without the whole fate of the world depending on their actions.
Trevor Olthwaite is a travelling tinker, offering his services to the scattered farms and villages of this vast continent. He walks the long distances beside his simple cart pulled by an ancient donkey called Jeb. Hammers, tongs, a tiny portable forge and anvil and spare soft metals are all packed into this cart which, when completely unpacked, converts into an average sized marquee by using the tarpaulin covers. Setting up in a field near a town or farm settlement Trevor works for a few days mending pots and pans, sharpening knives, and trading what he has made or acquired before packing up and heading off. In return for these services his usual payment is food and fodder for himself and Jeb, and this has been all that is necessary to keep them happy for many years. Occasionally he will be paid in coin or in goods which he then re-trades in other, distant parts. It was in this fashion that he came to own ‘The Teapot’.
The Teapot is a glazed green porcelain vessel which would hold 6 average cups of tea. It is well made, though unadorned, and radiates magic. In reality it is a kind of imp known as Chanoyu, spending its days as a teapot and its nights wandering around its owners’ possessions as a diminutive green humanoid. Though not evil, the Chanoyu is inquisitive, mischievous and vengeful. If given what it considers is ‘correct respect’ it makes the most magnificent tea. If offended it makes life for its owners difficult. Trevor has tried and failed to get rid of the teapot. Through trial and error he learnt the ‘way of tea’ and is hassled less as a result. None the less if he could be rid of this imp he would take the opportunity.
Trevor and his shop can either be found on the road or already set up. In either case he stops and shares an evening meal around the campfire with the adventurers. He is a small man, obviously used to life on the road and hard work, as honest as anyone who has to earn a living by the sweat of his brow. His much patched and stained clothes smell a story of far away spicy places, of sweaty roads and tea.
After the meal and the usual rounds of tall tales begin, Trevor drags out a battered ukulele, singing and playing a couple of songs that the adventurers have never heard before (and probably might not want to again). Warming to his camp fire companions he pulls out a jade green teapot, brushes it thoughtfully with his sleeve, and starts a tea ceremony.
Referees should play up this scene to their hearts content adding layer after layer of ceremony before the tea can be poured. Some examples of the ritual could be: showing the teapot the four directions of the compass, whistling a few bars to an old tune while holding the pot over the head, kissing the pot, whispering loving things to the pot, knocking the table three times before every step of adding the tea leaves and the water, and so on. If questioned Trevor will simply comment that ritual is always very important (and will follow it with some spiritual mumbo jumbo). Most importantly he will not mention the imp Chanoyu or the consequences of not observing this ritual.
The upshot of this often comical rigmarole is that the tea produced is easily the most magnificent tasting drink the adventurers have ever known. Not only does it taste good, it also has the following benefits: Magic Users will find their thoughts clearer and the nights sleep more refreshing thus enhancing their magical rejuvenation, Holy Men will find themselves more meditative and thus more in tune with their Gods demands and rewards, Fighters will gain focus, and thieves will be steadier of hand. Everyone will have a good deep, peaceful night’s sleep.
Naturally the adventurers may wish to possess this useful magical artefact. Trevor proves a tough negotiating adversary, requiring the equivalent of a weeks wages in the form of things he cannot make. This may be such things as good boots and new clothes, or new hammers, or a new blanket for Jeb, and so on. When this price is reached he will hand over the pot with a look which oscillates between regret and elation, pack up, and head off.
That night, as the adventurers settle down to camp and pull out the teapot, they find that the tea is not quite as good as they remember it the previous evening. It is impossible to fully remember the ritual Trevor performed, but the more they remember and repeat, the better the tea. If the pot was stolen from Trevor it is simply not to be found having magically made its way back to his cart.
Next morning the teapots new owners discover Chanoyu’s displeasure. The pages of books will be moist with tea (not all, just some), boots and hats will have little tea puddles in them, sword scabbards will be damp with tea etc. Results of this will range from harmless practical joke to catastrophe: spells could be washed away, un-oiled swords will rust, un-dried clothes will chafe in uncomfortable places etc. Every time tea is made without the full correct ritual (and it took Trevor years to learn it so the adventurers have no chance), events like this occur during the night. Similarly the full benefits of the magical tea only occur when Chanoyu feels correctly flattered.
By staying up all night and closely watching the pot the adventurers may see the imp’s transformation and activity if they can remain awake. Use some kind of saving throw versus a sleep spell. Once transformed into a 1 foot tall humanoid Chanoyu moves about the adventurers possessions, leafing through books, sliding swords from their scabbards, peering into boots and then urinating tea into them!
The pot cannot be broken or thrown away, always magically returning to the pack of the person who closed the deal with Trevor. He cannot be caught or harmed and is immune to all spells. If cornered he reassumes his teapot form. The only way the adventurers can be rid of the pot is to fairly trade it away to someone who actually wants it.
Finding Trevor again, the adventurers will discover that he only offers to trade old or broken goods, still based on a weeks average income, but hardly anything that the adventurers want. Even so he is reluctant to close the deal unless the adventurers include certain other ‘gifts’ (completely unrelated to the sale of the teapot of course) composed of obscure or hard to come by goods; such an ounce of Tsing Tao Tobacco (available only in the Southern Princedoms of Yeng), or a small hammer made by the reputed Dwarven smith Igor-Ironsmiter, or a bar of soap moulded by the Love Priestesses of Seducia, or some such similar. If given something like this he happily trades for the teapot and heads off into the dusty sunset.
Threatening or even killing Trevor outright will not help since the pot must be traded to someone who genuinely wants it, and if compelled (or dead in a ditch) Trevor would not fit the bill.
Many other people may be interested in purchasing the teapot if Trevor’s price seems too great. The final agreed price must always be exactly that of the average weekly income however: any more or less and Chanoyu finds his way back each night. Trevor learnt this the hard way trying to trade away the terrible teapot. It could take the adventurers months to discover this, months of damp trousers and running ink…