Friday, November 6, 2009

Top 10 D&D Monsters Sort of

I wasn't blogging yet when the 10 Favorite D&D Monsters meme went around. I keep trying to write one but I always end up with too many. Plus, really, I just love the classics. Especially compared to, like, Noisms and his Yak-men and people who actually like owlbears.

Basically, my favorites fit into these categories:

Things the Greeks thought up:

Minotaur, medusa, hydra, sphinx. Deep in the human mind is a maze and in the maze is a monster. It's a Greek monster. This probably has something to do with the invention of geometry and the Apollonian/Dionysian tension at the heart of all human endeavors. Or something. Maybe it's just me. Basically all I know is, if it refuses to die, turns you to stone, asks riddles, or is the product of an unholy union of man and beast I want to see it, then see it die.

The spooky magic kind with shrill voices that scare birds and eat babies and make terrible things happen to you if you tell lies or touch their weird magic tree.

Flail Snail:
Pretend you don't know what a snail is. Pretend you don't know what a flail is. Now look at the picture. God that's fucked.

Medieval demons, Lovecraftian demons, effete 19th century demons, succubi. Whatever. Your parents were right about this game.

Smart skeletons:
Lich, Death Knight, Eye of Fear and Flame. It is dead, yet it knows something you don't. Or, worse: It is dead, therefore it knows something you don't.

non-Draculoid vampires:
Vampire halfling queens with pet vampire monkeys, for instance, or the Hollow Bride. Vampires are generally metaphors for the evils associated with The Old World and its ways. And D&D is all about the Old World and its ways. So fighting vampires cuts to the, bad pun...gets to the, worse pun...anyway vampires seem very close to the point of the whole thing.


Worst. Eye. Ever.

Image credits:Minotaur Adrian Smith, Beholder Tom Wham, Skeleton Harry Clarke, Flail Snail--Alan Hunter.


  1. Wow, I've been (slowly) working on my own top 10 monster list, and while we part ways on owlbears (I love 'em!), we do agree on a key few of these, i.e., vampires, beholders, and liches / smart skeletons. It's also nice to see a Fiend Folio monster on your list.

  2. My other car is a Flail Snail.

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  4. Carter--3 FF monsters, actually.

    Al--Male or female?

    rainswept--it's popular among people who like books i like, but i never read it.

  5. I know this is a common refrain among old-schoolers, but I have to say no one has quite topped Tom Wham's classic illo of the beholder for me--even the elder drawing (which had a disturbing oracular quality, I thought, more Modronish) pales be comparison to the leering abomination with the pervert's grin.

  6. "Goblins:
    The spooky magic kind with shrill voices that scare birds and eat babies and make terrible things happen to you if you tell lies or touch their weird magic tree."

    THANK YOU! Now THAT is a Goblin!

  7. Flail Snail:

    created by Simon Tilbrook,

    illustrated by Alan Hunter!

  8. It's good to know there are certain things we can be sure the Internet knows.

  9. Here's mine ( in no particular order)

    8)Giant Worms

  10. Damn Beholders. Make it into (almost)every goddamn fave monster list.

    And you never see my favorite, "The Stair Stalker" (White Dwarf mag circa 1978 - rejected by Fiend Folio). Just a shaggy green thing with claws barging up and down stairs. Nice.

  11. I know this is a bit late, but I've been going through all the oldest posts to catch up. I used to be somewhat meh on goblins. Didn't hate them particularly, they were just forgetable for the most part. Filler til the PCs were able to take on something stronger. But then I got some of Paizo's Pathfinder books. I LIKE Paizo's goblins.

    And they sing.

    The Goblin Song

    Goblins chew and goblins bite,
    Goblins cut and goblins fight,
    Stab the dog and cut the horse,
    Goblins eat and take by force!

    Goblins race and goblins jump,
    Goblins slash and goblins bump,
    Burn the skin and mash the head,
    Goblins here and you be dead!

    Chase the baby, catch the pup,
    Bonk the head to shut it up!
    Bones be cracked, flesh be stewed,
    We the goblins—you the food!

  12. I love to use monsters that can end up being ambiguous targets for my players. But the list can get surprisingly large, from goblins targeted for extermination that are later discovered to be starving refugees to a lich that turned in order to keep on his research for a cure to a mysterious plague. My list would probably go as such:

    10. Vampires. Can never go wrong with vampires. Just be mindful that players hate drained levels. A LOT.

    9. Skeletons and Zombies. I put them together because they're often together, but skeletons are better. If used right, you can make wonders for the ambiance. (As pointed out by our host) Just mess with the Monster Manual rules a bit and make some variety, like they usually do in electronic RPGs, so you have the standard zombie, the standard skeleton, then a "zombie warrior", "skeleton champion", "zombie sumo-fighter", "skeleton duelist"...

    8. Titans. Although not really a monster that players ought to be fighting, they can be surprisingly alluring. Specially an army of them. Not to be used directly against players unless they've broken the epic barrier.

    7. Succubi/Incubi. A great way to make the players regret saving the princess. Or to put them in a difficult place regarding infernal politics.

    6. Trolls. Sure, every player and their grannies know by now that a troll is no big deal faced with the "Kill it with fire" approach. But its just a question of properly using dampness and making the players go for less-available acid.

    5. Goblins. The practical jokes of the Gods in all and every setting ever created, they can be fairly complex if you treat them seriously.

    4. Intelligent constructs (AKA Golems with an AI). When you're feeling the session needs a bit of philosophical pondering.

    3. Hobgoblins. Like orcs, but organized and clever... so not really like orcs. When you need an army that's more interesting to deal with than the Checkmate approach.

    2. Dragons. Gotta love them, rampaging about, destroying villages, excellent in a fight, old and marvelous. There's a reason they're in the tittle.

    1. Liches. Just ignore what the monster manual says that liches are "Always éééévil, period" and rewrite it to "Everyone assumes liches are always éééévil, suspension points". And use them as Wizards on steroids with time on their side and the most convoluted schemes you can come with, then leave the players guessing at the game of friend-or-foe. Much more fun and worthy of a #1 spot.