Sunday, 15 February 2009

Top 10 Monsters

It's Sunday morning and I have a hangover, so a content-lite post. These are my favourite 10 D&D monsters, in no particular order:

1. Kenku. Invisible capricious bird men, who live within human society and occasionally offer help - which almost always leaves the benificiary worse off than they were before. What's not to like?

2. Duergar. Avaricious and xenophobic; the dark side of dwarfdom.

3. Yak folk. A race of mountain-dwelling elementalists who use trickery to enslave weak-willed humanoids. I love my psuedo-Tibetan fantasy - much better than pseudo-Japanese fare.

4. Neogi. Spider/Moray-eel crossbreeds, each with an umber hulk servant, who reproduce by being slowly poisoned until they inflate and explode to release a new brood of mindless young. Need I say more?

5. Gnolls. Always the greatest low-level chaotic-evil DM's henchmen sort of monster.

6. Mind-flayers. I'd argue that illithids are the iconic D&D monster, and in any case brain-eating monsters are always good. I can't stress that enough.

7. Dragons. Okay, they're in the game's title, but there is something unutterably great about dragons. The fact that giant reptilians have featured in the mythology of pretty much all human societies demonstrates that there is something within the concept that speaks to us on an innate, instinctual level. Racial memory, or something. Just don't mention Dragonlance.

8. Rilmani. There's something about militant neutrality that I really like. It should be an oxymoron, and yet...

9. Aboleths. Ancient, baleful horrors who possess knowledge of the universe from eons before mankind even rose from the ocean.

10. Humans. Okay, a bit of a cheat, this one, but I use humans as enemies quite a lot more than other DMs seem to. And when you consider the sort of things humans can do to their enemies, it makes you wonder why you even need to bother with illithids.

The list would probably change if you asked me next week, as these things always do. But it'll do for this morning.


  1. It's weird: It would never occur to me to use most of these monsters, even in an asian setting, yet, after reading your sokushinbutsu post, I can totally see how these (mostly) esoteric, (mostly) creepy, (mostly) eerily civilized monsters would fit perfectly into a world put together by the right person.

  2. Actually most of them appear in my regular homebrew setting, calling Silaish Vo. I don't usually blog about it, but it's the setting where most of my actual play goes on. (I have this aversion to writing about my actual game sessions on this blog; not sure why.)

    I like my fantasy worlds to be esoteric, creepy and eerily civilized, so I suppose that seeped into my choices!

  3. It's like this, i suppose:

    Most of my impressions of the "nontraditional" DnD monsters come from the old DnD illustrations. Anybody can imagine a "goblin", but you need to look at the picture to imagine a "mind flayer".
    So, when I think of a mind-flayer, I usually think of the old illustrations of mind-flayers. In the pictures they seemed kinda like a comic-booky, sci-fi-ish, actiony and not-terribly arcane or creepy or medieval monster.

    When I re-imagine them in a dusty Tibetish place with old gold-and-red-threaded robes and cthuloid heads plotting in dusty Mongol-looking thrones and driving good men mad, they seem to fit right in.

    The right style can make you re-thinkt he substamce I suppose, kinda the way I didn't want airships and energy weapons anywhere near castles and horses until I read Viriconium.

  4. Yeah, and when you take something out of context suddenly it looks brand new and innovative. You're absolutely right that the style and creator play a big part though. M. John Harrison made Viriconium work because he's just such a brilliant writer - a genius, actually, as a stylist. In the wrong hands energy weapons mixed with knights would fail horribly, as would probably Tibetan mind flayers. There needs to be a strong vision behind the creation.

  5. I think the Rilmani is a new one on me. I'm going to have to google that one.

    BTW I stopped by here this morning to urge you to submit some Molluscy illos to this contest. You really add some awesome to the proceedings!

  6. "Militant neutrality"?

    I'm almost reminded of Zapp Brannigan's self-styled war between good and neutral.

  7. I definitely like the way you think.

    Neogi are an old favorite of mine two. Getting carried around by an umber strangely evocative.

    I could really see doing a D&D world where these were the only intelligent creatures.

  8. Jeff: Thanks for the link, though I'm not sure my scribblings deserve to be seen by the hallowed eyes of Otus. I'll definitely think about submitting though. Rilmani are from one of the Planescape Monstrous Compendiums; I think the second one. They're basically true neutrals who enforce neutrality at the point of as sword.

    Rach: Speaking of Futurama, have you seen the D&D feature length episode?

    Sirlarkins: I could see Neogi ruling the world, definitely. They would only compose maybe a thousandth of the world's population, and would be a pampered elite, carried everywhere by their umber hulks and having their every whim catered to by slaves of many races.

  9. Excellent list! The aboleth have long been a favorite of mine for similar reasons, and the players in my college game learned to fear and hate them. I'd just begun to warm to the neogi, but the campaign they were featuring in has probably just fallen apart recently. We'll just have to see.

    The yak-folk, however, are a new one to me. Where are they from?

  10. The Yak Folk are from one of the later 3rd edition Monster Manuals; I think possibly from the second one, but I could be wrong about that.

  11. The yak-folk were around in 2nd Edition as well, as sort of the mind-flayer stand-ins for the Al Qadim setting. They're great.

  12. The pity is that Yak folk aren't open content under the OGL. I'd love to write a Yak folk sourcebook.

  13. Great list. This prompted me to blog about my top 10 monsters.