Thinking about it, I should have saved the title for when I talked about Outsiders (i.e. alien beings and elementals) and Constructs (i.e. robots). Oh well, wasted play on words. But, I really enjoyed jabbering about D&D Monsters this week. Also, I haven’t gotten my copy of the Monster Manual in the mail (as of 9/21/2014) and I don’t want to delay any longer. So, I think it’s time for a different set of nasty beasties this time around. Less planars, more scary things. While I talked about the aforementioned monster types last time, this time I want to hone in on a couple more monsters that are more appropriate for the encroaching Halloween season! Muhahahaha *cue lightning and some poor sap in heavy armor failing their dexterity saving throw* Hmmm, did I do that? No matter, let’s jump right into the fun.
Neutral outsiders are tons of fun, but they’d be nothing without the ongoing fight of good versus evil! Angels by themselves aren’t supposed to be the divine humans in robes with puffy wings we see in Renaissance biblical art. They’re supposed to look like THIS! Such creatures said “do not be afraid” in biblical passages for a reason! They’re supposed to be just as alien looking as the fiends they fight against! Sadly, there hasn’t been that much art to capture this strange alien nature outside of a few bits of AD&D Planescape art. Luckily, Pathfinder and some newer D&D scratch this itch for the weird! Granted, they’re not on par with traditional descriptions of them being extremely tall beings that can have many wings, many eyes, incomprehensible head shapes, and the like. In that regard, Welcome to Night Vale and Supernatural do a better job at displaying angels than most media! That said, here’s to hoping 5th edition brings the alien aspect back into the angel.
Now, good guys can’t have all the fun! That’s where fiends come in. What would a discussion on the horrific aspects of D&D be without them. Possession, dark rituals, unfathomable torments beyond anything imaginable; fiends can do it all! Why? Because they hate us, because they’re better than us, because they wish to destroy us in their own heinous ways! The strange thing about fiends is that there are 3 base types for each alignment of evil. The devils (alias “baatezu”) are lawful evil creatures that seek to enslave and oppress all they survey. To them, the distortion of order must reign supreme. The daemons (alias “yugoloths”) neutral evil creatures that embody hatred, death, and superiority at any cost. They are the D&D version of the Daleks and perhaps even the Illuminati conspiracy! Finally, the demons (alias “tanar’ri”) are chaotic evil creatures that epitomize entropy, disorder, and bestial savagery. Luckily, they all HATE each other!
Demons are pretty damn scary. They’re strong, blood thirsty, and downright crazy. They’ll howl madly as they shred you into ribbons. The raw sadism mixed with primal rage makes them true terrors! To them, order of any kind is the enemy. It must die in the most disgusting way possible as absolute mayhem rules the day! If victims of demons aren’t killed outright, they’re so badly damaged by the experience, they’re probably as mad as the fiends themselves. The demons’ strategy is mostly smashing things, striking terror into things, and smashing them again. This isn’t to say that demons are stupid, they’re the universe’s deadliest hunters! Not only do they have a killer instinct, but they’re more than capable of understanding everything about their prey in an instant. In terms of personal favorites, the Balor has always been on my list since I started playing, even though it’s basically the balrog from the Lord of the Rings. But hey, one helped me really love the other and visa-versa! While not as strong, Vrocks have been a favorite as well. These vulture-like abominations are some of the big bad son the forefront of the Blood War! Their abilities to emit horrifying shrieks and create fields of destructive energy through ritualistic dance makes them a truly awesome foe. Plus, they’re demonic divebombers as well, which is guaranteed to help wipe out a party or two. Their summoning ability and bombardment of deadly spores combined with their other abilities truly shows off their demonic potential. Truly, they were the “Type I Demon” of AD&D for their wicked skills and terrifying powers.
Now, let’s talk Devils. These bastards want to make a pact with you in order to turn you into their play thing. They will suppress, repress, oppress, and depress you any way they can… and they’ll get away with it, because you signed up for it! They represent the terror of authority gone horribly wrong. Big Brother is child’s play. All mortals under their order will be brainwashed (or drained) and molded into the ultimate obedient slave puppet. Of course, they enjoy giving that ounce of hope, because watching your minions squirm is tons of fun as well. Among my favorite devils is the Malebranche. The Gothic-style gargoyle look is an interesting twist on actual gargoyle lore (which were supposed to banish evil spirits.) These hench-fiends are armed and ready to batter you into submission! They make up the top army of the infernal forces and look downright cool doing so. But, they wouldn’t be anything without Pit Fiends! These guys are the high commanders of a Devilish army! Not only will they bark orders at their troops, but they’ll bark orders at you while you shit out all of your organs. Now, succubi are pretty cool and all, but they don’t hold a candle to Erinyes! This mix of The Furies and the Cenobites are leather clad devils of pleasure and pain. In fact, majority of them are fallen angels being warped and twisted by Hell’s energies! In fact, they’re often used as spies against celestials due to still looking a lot like them. If succubi represent primal lust and sexual violence, one could say that erinyes equal human trafficking and other acts of diabolic exploitation. There has to be something said about Asmodeus, the great lord of the Nine Hell himself! He bleeds constantly from the lowest pit of the Hells themselves, and those blood drops become new pit fiends under his order. Plus, the reason for the Nine Hells is he used loopholes to troll the Lawful Good gods hardcore. For a cruel and manipulative asshole, he’s also a badass one.
One can’t forget the grand chess masters behind the Blood War and much of the turmoil of the multiverse, daemons (or if you prefer, yugoloths)! These sick bastards seek to pit everyone against each other while preaching themselves as the best thing ever. Their forces alone are somewhat weak, but the powers of raw hatred makes them strong. While their plans are very orderly and structured, they prefer promoting betrayal and separation in other factions. Having their rivals weaken themselves is their ultimate strength. They are almost masters of propaganda! This damned book was likely penned by one of them! My bet is on Akin the “Friendly Fiend” myself. One could say they’re taking bets and playing games to make sure the Blood War surges strong. When both factions are more than capable of kicking your arse to the curb, what better strategy could there be? The biggest of the bad have always been favorites when it comes to the ‘loths. Nycaloths are brutish muscle, oddly shaped a lot like the Malebranche in many ways. These baddies are the elite warriors and commanders of the daemons. These nasty bastards are perhaps the most deadly of all daemons, perhaps most fiends in general! Ironically, they’re the lowest rank in the greater daemon hierarchy. As a result of this, they’re constantly plotting new strategies for warfare and counter methods when one fiend army becomes too strong. If nycadaemons are the brute muscle and commanding voice of the daemons, then Arcanaloths (arcanadaemons) epitomize magic used for antagonistic purpose. These creatures horned jackal-like heads, all the more showing of their twisted nature. From their dreadful towers in Gehenna to many enclaves beyond, they perfect dark magics and fiendish methodology. In a sense, they’re the magical answer to the nycadaemon. They’re also the subtle behind-the-scenes negotiators, trying to secure deals between demons and devils in hopes of boosting firepower for each. But, none are the true ringleader of this crooked operation. That title belongs to the Ultroloth (ultrodaemon)! These creatures command over the daemon legions and may just be the brains behind their dastardly ideas. The known business of these officers and overseers outside of furthering conspiracies is boosting hirelings and controlling daemonic forces.
Now, I promised I wouldn’t turn this into another tangent about outsiders, but I guess I lied. Beyond alien-like angels and assortments of fiends, there’s much more in the realms of D&D to make skin crawl. Or in the case of these creatures, rot right off. I’m talking about the undead of course. These once living horrors prey on the forces of life, out of hunger or hatred. Mindless undead creatures can be fun, but it’s just not that hard to smash them after low level. That’s where some brutal necromancers come in. What’s worse than a necromancer? An all powerful immortal necromancer that has embraced undeath! I’m speaking of the classic creature, The Lich! These sorcerers command undead and mortal followers alike! It’s not a stretch of the imagination for a lich to lead an undead cult, just look at the Zulkir of Necromancy from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, Szass Tam! In fact, Szass Tam is such an epic caster (in addition to Lichdom) that he drove the other Zulkirs out! Seriously, liches will ruin your day!
Now, what’s cooler than that? A sentient undead colony of fungi animating a corpse! This is the “Walking Disease”, an apt name! Think something like this. Well, but worse! These grotesque horrors hail from Into the Black, a semi-obscure D20 guidebook on dungeon based adventures. These creatures are tanks built to spread plague and filth wherever they go. They practically radiate an aura of disease and decay, infecting all who get too close to their disgusting clutches. And if you manage to avoid whatever undead-transmitted diseases, you’ll still be cursed with a stench that won’t leave for at least 100 years! Ahahahaha! Undead by themselves are freaky, but these guys really take the cake!
The only thing to beat that is both undead and a planar being (I told you it never ends!) This horror is the Atropal. I mean, look at this thing! It’s a surreal nightmare in its own right. This creature is a stillborn god, a being bound to have unlimited power. Something went dreadfully wrong and die in the midst of their creation. Besides being metal as fuck, it’s an end all be all undead antagonist. It whirls around in the astral realms, growing stronger from necromantic power, hate, and force of will due to its maddening existence. When an Atropal rises, everything falls. Or rather, falls under its control! You see, they have the ability to kill anything that comes near it and instantly turn it into an undead minion. These are the harbingers of end times, even if they more or less are an undead aborted god-fetus abomination.
Now, these next bunch of critters aren’t as strong, but still pretty damn cool. I have a question for you, what happens when an elemental becomes tainted by death? Necromentals are created! Sure, the name sounds stupid, but that won’t step them from really ruining your day. These undead remnants are mere shells of their former self, as twisted and lifeless as a zombie or skeleton. Much of their former glory has been reduced to a somber reflection. These dark and dismal atrocities have each suffered appropriate fates resulting in their creation. The Dessicator is a water elemental that has dried up and seeks moisture wherever it can, often stealing it from other beings. Cinderspawn is a fire elemental whose flames have died down to a quiet roar, which kinda reminds me of Gwyn the Lord of Cinder from Dark Souls in that regard! These guys take negative energy quasielementals and make them waaay more frightening. But hey, this means they give players a reason to be afraid of what darkness lurks within even the Inner planes.
I hope all of you boos and ghouls had as much fun as I had writing this. I promise this will be my last D&D monster ramble for a while, that is unless I review the 5th Edition Monster Manual first! Stay tuned, next time I plan on covering brutal beasts, freaky fae, and shapechanging sheer terrors!