Take My Monster – Please

You'd think that after yesterday, I wouldn't really have a least favorite monster. That's almost correct.

I had said in a couple places that any monster could be reskinned as a human of some kind, but that I still did not like to use humans as monsters for the party to encounter.

So, I thought about it and tried my hand at shemping a couple monsters that are traditionally the most hated D&D monsters ever. These are stated for Swords & Wizardry. Feel free to use them, they are licensed under the OGL.

F.H. Plum, the Priest

No one knows where he is from. Many who have asked ended up under his thrall for a few hours until they came to their senses 300 miles away from where they started. Little is known or understood about this peculiar man. Many choose to leave him alone to his wanderings.

Mr. Plum is dressed in shining white plate armor, though he never covers his face with his helmet. He carries a shining white spiked mace and a dirty gray bag of various odds and ends. He is not aggressive unless attacked. Even if attacked, he first attempt to deliver a foul spittle on his opponents. Anyone that fails their saving throw will be unable to be within 300 feet of F.H. Plum for 24 hours. If the spittle doesn't succeed, he will use his mace. Anyone hit by the mace will take and additional 1d4 points of acid damage for two rounds after the successful attack.

Violence, however, is rarely neccessary. Anyone that attempts to communicate with Plum must make a saving throw or be his thrall for 2d6 hours. Otherwise, he speaks only in total gibberish. Any attempt to use ESP or Comprehend Languages will fail.

Whatever his purposes are, he appears to be mostly harmless and best left alone. He does appear to walk, but observant creatures will note that he actually walks about 3 inches about the surface. It is rumored that he can walk on any surface, an ability that he sadly does not imbue upon his thralls.

F.H. Plum, the Priest: HD 2; AC 0 [19]; Atk Acid Mace (1d8 + 1d4 acid); Save 16; Move 6; AL L; CL/XP 5/240; Special: Repugnant Spittle, Charming Gibberish, Levitation

Udyn Nubuck

Udyn spends her time living near a large lake, just outside the village where she was born. She lives in a small hut near the edge of the water. She has domesticated a large number of ducks, geese and chickens and makes a living from selling their eggs in town.

She is otherwise ordinary in appearance and usually enjoys being hospitable to anyone that visits. Anyone who visits usually marvels at her ability to feed any number of people that arrive at her door. It is said that she once fed a local nobleman's garrison.

However, if anyone threatens her fowl, she will go into a rage. Anyone who fails their saving throw will be stunned for one round. The saving throw will need to be re-rolled every round in which she is enraged. She has no ability to fight in combat.

Udyn NubuckHD 1d4 hp; AC 9 [10]; Atk none; Save 20; Move 6, Swim 12;  AL L;  CL/XP A/5; Special: Stun, Create Food and Water

Ancon Nob

On second thought, shemping a creature originally described by Pliny the Elder as hurling almost half a mile of flaming poop with the properties of greek fire could be pretty bad. If I ever played Battlesystem again, I would make a rule for this guy.

Your charge against the left flank is not effective as you were hit with Greek Fire. Well, it's not exactly Greek Fire, it came from one man. He didn't have a traditional launching system for it, either.

You get the idea. Even terrible monsters, especially those that are not interesting in combat, can be made interesting by shemping. I could see adding Udyn as a major NPC that the party visits quite a bit. I mean, who doesn't like free food, right? F.H. Plum strikes me as either a survivor of swimming in the phlogiston for a century, or a cursed priest of a forgotten god. Breaking the curse could be a pretty good story arc with the right players. I'd love to see how they would "manage" his whereabouts.

Having said all that, I guess there are some monsters that I don't like. For some reason, I'm not a fan of unicorns. I also don't like autognomes though I do like having androids and robots in my games. It's just that the autognome is a poor robot and only funny for exactly one-half of a round. Beats me why I don't like them. I mean, I like the giant space hamsters and the miniaturized giant space hamsters. Why those two gnome gags always makes me chuckle is a mystery to me, too.

When in doubt, shemp a poor monster as a human to see if it can become more interesting. If it can't, the monster may not be worth your time.

P.S. While working on this post, I discovered that a perfect anagram of tirapheg is graphite. I almost created a human named Graphite, the Illusionist. As I was working on it, though, Graphite began to become more and more like Simon and the Land of the Chalk Drawings.

No Really – What Is Your Favorite Monster

I love giants. I love dragons. I love to make up all kinds of giants and dragons. I even love to give growth potions to dragons and hurl them against the tarrasque (the party that did this was genius until they healed the tarrasque to get rid of the dragons).

I love using evil minions like kobolds, orcs, gnolls, trolls, ogres, etc.

I really really like ghosts and shadows and redesigned the psionicist to be a class developed by humans specifically to combat ghosts and shadows.

I enjoy mimics and lurkers above as well as rust monsters.

Oh yeah, rust monsters make the magic-user in the party feel manly and brutish:

I killed it with my dagger all by myself without magic!

Spelljammer let me throw in an ancient mecha as well as Barsoomian Martians. I translated the races from Star Frontiers into the game to appear as NPC races to make things interesting. I enjoyed using the draconians from Dragonlance in other, non-Dragonlance locations.

I created creatures that were designed specifically to use a different magic system, just to throw off the players.

When I got my copy of Fiend Folio, I used an Iron Cobra almost immediately. Besides that, I love golems. I think I have a golem for every conceivable material, including rust, darkness and mold.

I had a party once show up in a battle between blink dogs and displacer beasts. This give new meaning to the term crossfire.

In all of that, how could I choose a favorite?

I couldn't. I don't mean that I love every monster - that's not true. The rot grub and jermalaine were not my favorite. I also didn't enjoy the Lava Children from FF. Many of the various demons and devils created over the years have little appeal to me.

So what is my favorite monster? My favorite kind of monster is the next one.

I know. You see what I did there. Really, I'm not trying to be cute or clever.

It's just that I never get tired of acquiring monster books. It doesn't have to be D&D. I've learned entire RPG systems in an attempt to use some of the monsters in the bestiary. Just give me more interesting monsters.

Interesting varies from person to person, but you know that many of you buy monster books for the same reason. The players can recognize anything after seeing it once. Sometimes, they recognize it faster than you can say Roll for Initiative. A new monster book has the chance to surprise the players and be really cool all at the same time. More than that, it has to be tweakable. Otherwise, your clever players will read about it in their personal copies of the same book you are using.

That's the reason I'll get Tome of Horrors 4 and Synnibar someday. It's why I have worn out every copy of the Random Esoteric Creature Generator. Everything may not be useful, but something will be beneficial. When you have to generate new threats, you can never have too many creatures to inspire you...

Again, not trying to be philosophical, its just that there always a good monster out there waiting for me to find/create it. Because I'll never discover/generate all the monsters, I really can't say that I have a favorite monster, except for the next cool one I find. Is that gamer ADD? Probably. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Here Be Dragons

If I had to pick a favorite of the traditional D&D dragons, I'd have to say that I like the Silver Dragons. They like to be with humans and even take the form of humans for extended periods of time. It wasn't hard for me to imagine that at least one silver dragon, over time, would have fallen in love with a human and somehow opted to stay human for the life of their beloved. As bloodthirsty as some of the groups were, no one every killed or even attacked a silver dragon.

Having said that, I will always remember the day I borrowed a friend's copy of Best of Dragon 3. With a title like That's Not in the Monster Manual, I skipped everything else and started reading there. Since that time in 1984 (I know it was published in 1983, we were in the middle of nowhere), I have always enjoyed the Gem Dragons.

First off, these guys were neutral. That meant I could have a druid dragon, if I really wanted. More than that, these guys worked out situations for their personal benefit without the cumbersome issue of working for the greater good. When my guys encountered an emerald dragon, it offered information and a bit of treasure in exchange for some information the players had. Later on when they met, the emerald dragon fired on all cylinders because the party had nothing valuable and it wanted its treasure back.

I also enjoyed that, as written, gem dragons were psionic. When the party once arrogantly went after Sardior, the ruby dragon, they were shocked (for some reason) that the dragon was unsuprised by their attack, prepared for their tactics and employed ESP and Clairvoyance to gain a tremendous advantage. I was able to voice something along the lines of the following:

For all you know, I changed my breath weapon just before you got here. You didn't think the leader of the gem dragons would actually be alone, do you? Look up before you die, love, I would so like you to enjoy my handiwork before the trap I laid ends your life.

Dragons are tough enough, but one with a psionic blast is really tough. Without a psionic character, many PCs didn't stand much of a chance.

Nowadays, I play dragons differently. I use E.G. Palmer's Random Unique Dragon Generator to make the dragon. On top of that my dragons use their mouth to deliver any magic spell. It looks like they are using their breath weapon, when in fact, they are casting a spell. This means that all magic-wielding dragons breathe fire, but only because it is a common spell among dragons. When you think about dragons delivering spells like their breath weapons, you can easily come up with some fairly nasty spells that have limited to no use to human Magic-Users.

I also take out an old monster entry from 1984 about Striped Dragons that I wrote. Sometimes the striped dragon looks like a striped dragon, other times it looked more or less like one of its parents. Regardless of its ancestry, though, a striped dragon always had the breath weapon of each parent.

Before signing off for the night, here are some other thoughts on dragons.

  • How Dragons Are Born explains why dragons are so longed lived.
  • Granite and Thunder dragons were created as an alternative to the chromatic or metallic species.
  • One day, I'll even stat the three pearl dragons I mentioned in the Drakkangraal series of posts.

Just for fun, put a dragon you made with the Random Unique Dragon Generator in the comments. I'm curious what we come up with.