Halloween always comes early with the Doc! On top of that, one of my favorite pass times is the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. (Stop your laughing, I HEARD you!) Now, I might be invading other peoples’ turf, but I’ve always wanted to talk about D&D monsters. Now, folks like headinjurytheatre and bogleech have probably said enough, but I figure I’d chip in my own 2 cents! Specifically, I’m here to talk about some of my favorites, whether or not they jump into the batshit insane. While some could call it cheating, I’ll might be expanding into various d20 stuffs like Paizo Pathfinder for future installments, since I love the “Golarion” setting so (and it was published under D20 before Pathfinder existed.) So, let’s crack open that monster manual and get reading!
You know what monster is so awesome that fans don’t know how to handle the awesomeness? FLUMPH! You heard me! Sure, it sounds like a laundry detergent in an sci-fi movie, but it’s par for the course! The creature looks like it jumped out of a ’50s Midnight Movie! Attack of the Tentacle Ink-Spraying Pancake… IN 3-D! Besides, these space pancakes are through and through crusaders for JUSTICE! That’s right, these weird little guys are through and through lawful good. They fight to maintain the peace, wherever that may be… however. They don’t look like it, but it’s on the card! This might be strange for a slice of pita bread with eye stalks that farts ink, right? But, if that’s not enough for you, the folks at Paizo went out of their way to ‘redeem’ them for an overly judgemental fandom. Now, they hang on the borders of the Far Realm world of the Dark Tapestry. They act as guardians against things that should not be, plus updated Flumph look just plain cool! Who wouldn’t want that to fight alongside of them to make sure Eldritch Spawn don’t slip into their realms?
It should come as no surprise my next up on the list is equally alien. While Flumph are hard to discern, these guys are about as overt with law and order as one could be; they’re literally the physical incarnation of it! I speak of MODRONS! The Modron are D&D’s planar answer to sentient robots! These walking mechanical shapes hail from the Clockwork Plane of Mechanus! The shape of the modron indicates their power and role in society. The more simplistic they are, the lower they are. The more complex (and by complex, I mean really surreal), the higher they are! To them, order is maintained through an autonomous collective. Modron think as one. When one branches from the rest, it becomes rogue… or rather, a significantly smaller collective mind. They ain’t too keen on their buddies glitching out and going chaotic.
But, in many ways, going rogue is the least of the Modron’s worries. The forces of chaos are just as real as the power of law. Deep within the whirling madness of the plane of Limbo lies unfathomable horrors beyond comprehension! Okay, that’s enough faux-Lovecraftian prose. I’m talking about the SLAAD of course! These bizarre toad-like beings literally breath chaos. While Modrons are dictated by absolute obedience to law, the Slaad are driven by a compulsive randomness. If they encounter something outside their weird amorphous hellhole, they’re just as likely to try to welcome it as they are to eat it for no reason. Their illogic embodies the surrealism of Limbo itself! Its a place thats constantly shaping into something new every second. It’s an almost dream logic taken form, a Salvador Dali painting come to life. And the Slaad are imbued with this energy, making them able to warp all they come into contact with! While some seek to spread entropy, others enhance the randomness of life itself. While they’re the chaotic stupid to the modron’s lawful stupid, I’ve always found them to be quite fun.
By now you’re probably thinking, “Hey, Doc! We get it, you have a nerd boner for Planescape! What about the other settings?” Of course I love other settings and their wonderful creatures. In fact, next to planescape, Eberron is one of my favorites! Like Planescape, it takes a different stance on D&D Morality while pitting it in a strange techno-magical world far removed from vanilla fantasy. While Planescape is based on planar adventures, Eberron is based on pulp action, mystery, and magitech fun! And one of the coolest parts of Eberron is their “Last War” which nearly devastated everything, leaving the world in a stale mate that could destroy all balance if things tip a bit too far. The war brought upon a new breed of warrior, the WARFORGED! These automaton-like golems are constructs imbued with souls. Unlike their automated brethren, Warforged are living creatures like souls. In an effort to create the perfect soldier, the Artificers of old created a new form of life. Now, just imagine if these warforged were created by pure evil instead! Well, that’s a story for another day… a decent one, not that great… But I digress, these Frankenstein’s Monsters had become known for one purpose, combat! As a result, they have had trouble integrating into the world, since their prime use is long since over. But, that doesn’t stop them from looking like some sort of awesome hulking badass straight out of Iron Kingdoms! Seriously, how can you hate these guys?
So, it’s pretty obvious that I love eldritch beasties and automatons, right? My next on the list is a toss up between two tongue-in-cheek ideas from the coolest setting ever! First up is probably best known as a reference from the roleplaying game, “Baldur’s Gate.” I speak of the Giant Space Hamster of course! While Minsc has a miniaturized version (so he says), it’s nothing compared to the adorable monstrosities that mad tinker gnomes create for all sorts of whacky reasons! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “This is stupid!” Yes, yes it is! But, it also shows that D&D doesn’t need to be weighed down by ultra-seriousness all the time. Even Warhammer realizes how absurd it is most of the time! To me, a game needs to home up a mirror to itself and have a chuckle once in a while. The Giant Space Hamster embodies that and is part of the reason why Spelljammer is an awesome setting. Plus, the world takes a weird idea and rolls with it! In the GSH case, literally! These things run in massive wheels below gnomish ships to keep the power up! It’s surreal in a lovable kind of way, like the creature itself. Sure, gawk at a hamster the size of a bear! But, when this critter moves its way toward you, you aren’t going to laugh nearly as hard. If I talk about Spelljammer, I have to talk about the Giff. Here’s another concept that makes vanilla-fantasy-gamers scream “HERESY!” at the top of their lungs. For such fans, dealing with bipedal hippo aliens that love guns is much worse than planetouched humanoids, gnomish inventions, and other oddities popularized by D&D itself. Something about these charming upbeat legions of mercenaries brings a level of fun, without the level of silliness that giant hamsters bring. It embodies non-traditional race in D&D, swashbuckling adventure, and just trying something brave and new! To me, firearms and fantasy go hand in hand! And in their hands, you’d bet a few torsos are going to be blasted wide open. Plus, I can’t help but wonder if Doctor Who got a few ideas for their legion of orderly, gun toting space beast-men! from the wonderful world of Spelljammer.
So there you have it, some of my top favorite monsters! Choosing a small handful was quite the challenge. On top of that, avoiding typical monsters like Beholders, Mind Flayers, and even the Tarrasque was no easy task either. Even though every D&D gamer knows about those, I would love to ramble about how awesome they are. On top of that, I didn’t want to dive too far into obscure splatbook territory. As much as I want to talk about Cadaver Collectors, Necropolitans, Darkfolk/Darkstalkers, or even the terrifying Mist Ferryman, I want to jabber about some critters that gamers have some recollection of, whether through looks through splatbooks or a brief mention on a forum post here or there. To be honest, monsters are one of my favorite parts of D&D! So, expect another long winded rambling from me about the coolness (or even possible lameness) of monsters in the game sometime soon!