Friday, 22 March 2019
Behold The Winner (And Sui Generis Monsters)
I suppose in retrospect it was obvious, but the victor of the Product Identity Tournament of Champions was the Beholder. Mind Flayers were a very distant second.
For me the answer was Carrion Crawler, just because that monster is so bound up in my earliest memories of playing the game - the very first encounter in the very first session of D&D I played was with one, and ever since then I've found it hard not to think of a dungeon delve involving an encounter with a Carrion Crawler as the quintessence of the game.
But the case for the Beholder is compelling. As Jonathan Newell put it in the comments on the last entry, the thing that makes the Beholder so special is that it is sui generis - it is not based in folklore or myth, and nor is it a "this with a this". It is its own thing. There aren't many monsters you can say that about.
Oddly, though, D&D has managed to do that trick a few times - I can think of two other candidates (who weren't in the Tournament of Champions but should probably have been) for that sui generis descriptor: gelatinous cubes and rust monsters. To be able to come up with a monster that has no origin or real antecedents and which is at the same time iconic takes quite a bit of doing. That D&D designers have done it three times at least is a powerful imaginative achievement.