The Monsters of Dungeons and Dragons
Then I ran into this article: DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF VERY STUPID MONSTERS and I was inspired. (Along the lines of: Hey, I can do that too!)
So, the Procrastinator's Union of Me presents:
(ALMOST) ALL THE MONSTERS OF DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS
Oh, where to start? The current Monster Manual, which for all you non-D&D nerds is the Official Book that contains all the monsters for a D&D game, is chock-full of all kinds of monsters ripped off from all kinds of different places. So, I'm going tackle that. Yes, if I can keep going? All of it.
Who knows. Maybe analyzing all these monsters will help me figure out what makes fantasy creatures interesting, and what doesn't! Or maybe it'll just make my brain implode. Time to find out!
In alphabetical order (because that's how the Monster Manual does it), here comes:
Oh, this is a great one to start with. An aboleth is a giant, evil, three-eyed fish. Yes, three eyes – because this is D&D, we can’t just have any ordinary giant, evil fish. No, it has to have something special about it. In this case, it’s three eyes. And that’s not all! Oh no.
That’s an aboleth. Yeah. It is kind of gross, and reasonably well drawn. But it looks more like one of those ugly, tiny deep-sea fish with tiny lights hanging off their noses, not the evil super-monsters they’re supposed to be here. They just doesn’t look that interesting.
Aboleths are apparently really really smart, having inherited "many ancient and terrible secrets" through a species group mind (they inherit their parents' memories). They also get the memories of anyone or anything they eat. Since aboleths are Usually Lawful Evil, I doubt we’ll get a serious study of what kind of society such beings might create. The Usually/Always Evil thing is another big theme in D&D, note. But okay, so far. What else is an aboleth all about?
Well, aboleths have Super Mind Powers. See, these giant, evil fish hang out underwater waiting for people to get close enough to snap them up with its fishy tentacles (yes, tentacles, didn’t you notice?). To get people to come close enough, the fish use their Super Mind Powers to make the water appear "cool, clear, and refreshing". I guess since they’re Evil fish, they hang out in Evil water, which is probably slimy and gross and stuff. Ew. (Okay, so they are supposed to live underground. Something makes me thing this is based off that Water Tentacley Thing in The Two Towers.) Still, it seems a waste of Super Mind Powers to just … make the water look tastier.
But fear not! The aboleth can do other stuff, too! They can control peoples’ minds, run of the mill as super mind powers go, but only three times per day, in another instance of silly D&D design that comes up over and over again throughout this. Why only three times? Do they have a mind-control-power-o’meter? How does that work? Oh, right – it’s magic.
Anyway, aboleths can also turn peoples’ skin into a transparent, slimy membrane by whacking them with a tentacle. Their slimy new skin has to be moisturized every ten minutes or they start dying. To make things worse, it surrounds itself with a mucus cloud that prevents anyone breathing it in from breathing air for three hours. This is extremely gross and would be more interesting if it had a real point. I guess it’s supposed to be for the mind control slaves.
So in summary, someone put way too much effort into giant, highly intelligent, evil, mind-controlling, three-eyed fish. Sure, it’s creepy, but it’s almost funnier than it is creepy. Seriously, D&D.
Also, I put too much effort into this post about a giant, evil, three-eyed fish. Next one is shorter!
Hooray! We have our first 100% unredeemably stupid monster already.
Despite what the picture may imply, this is a giant four-legged bird, not just any old four-legged bird. It's fifteen feet tall, 750 pounds, and comes from another dimension (of Evil!) called Acheron, which I suppose is why it's called an Achaierai. (I guess that's a giant lizard in its claws or something.) Oh yeah, and this is an evil giant four-legged bird. No joke. It's listed as "Always Lawful Evil" in its entry and everything. According to the description in the Monster Manual, they have a "distinct taste for torture." Yeah. Torture. Now, I'm sorry, but the only thing I can think of in the way of torture when I'm looking at a giant, flightless parrot with an undersized body and four legs is death by giggling.
Oh yeah, and their Special Power (which most D&D monsters have, you may have guessed by now) is a poisonous black cloud that they can release three times per day. Again with the 'X per day' stuff. In this case, it makes more sense than the Mind Control Powers three times a day, but... come on. I think we're past the sense-making part now.
Okay, that was lots shorter. Whew!
NEXT: The Allip! ...In another post, because this one has gotten uncomfortably long already.