Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Redoing the Fiend Folio: the D-list

Still rethinking and redrawing everything in the Fiend Folio. D is for click to enlarge these here pictures...

The Dakon isn't too complicated, but, really, it doesn't need to be. It's an intelligent, lawful neutral ape. There are about a million more interesting things you could do with an ape.

Anyway, now the truth can be told: the Dakon are actually monkeys and they're chaotic evil. They can be distinguished from ordinary monkeys by the fact that they cannot see a pig without being compelled to ride backwards on it.The Dark Creeper appears at first to be merely one more product of ____(whatever DMs turned their game into the Fiend Folio)___'s perverse inability to just use a fucking goblin once in a while, but the mechanics behind them are actually interesting--their aura blots out light sources, and when slain they explode in a blinding flash. So much better than just being invisible.

The only problem is you don't want your players going "oh another thing that looks like a person only shorter and uglier and with some bizarre aversion to levelling up" So here's my take: everybody talks about Dark Creepers, but, like Grues in Zork, no-one has ever seen or described one.

"Oh, the Caverns of Grool! Go thee not hence--Dark Creepers abound! In the night they come, creeping darkly! Fearful and felonious are they!"
"Dark Creepers? What are they?"
"Horrible night creatures!"
"Yeah but..."
You'd have to make their darkness power a little better and more fairy tale. And make up some crazy shit when they PCs touch them. "Oh, the hideous rending teeth! The mournful curve of their unfathomable shinbones!"

Same for their built-in boss-species, the taller, svelter, explodes-fireball-force-when-killed Dark Stalkers...
Now the obvious problem with the Death Dog is the Hellhound, not to mention the Hound of Ill Omen, the Moondog, and the Barghest. And Cerberus, who has 3 heads, while the Death Dog just has 2.

But I just can't ignore a two-headed dog. First: because this, second: because "two-headed dog" is one of those things that homicidal maniacs see when shown rorschach blots and so can be used by shrinks to separate people trying to fake a not-mentally-fit-to-stand-trial defense apart from genuine psychopaths (and people who read this blog), third: because I love saying "two-headed dog".

So here's my way around this example of Gegenstandsverdoppelnde:
Ever notice how no matter how many dog-monsters they make it's always the same dog?
So, the keeping of Death Dogs--now renamed simply Two-Headed Dogs or Red Temple Dogs--is a bizarre affectation popular among upper class women in Vornheim. Their owners consistently and inexplicably demonstrate the following maladies:

-an inability to talk about anything other than their dogs,
-an inability to notice any problems associated with their dogs--be these ailments, behavior problems, injuries, or the fact that they have two fucking heads

Oddly enough, keepers of Red Temple Dogs do often give their dogs two names (often wildly inappropriate ones), and use them indifferently, though they seem to be wholly unaware of this.

The animals themselves are indeed deadly, though they refuse to hunt in packs.

Next up is the Death Knight, and the only real problem with the death knight is that it's hard to make a picture anywhere near as cool as the original.
The mechanics are a hot mess--fireball? Wall of Ice? Really? Is not the cold and unyielding kiss of a harsh ebon blade administered by unfeeling fingers of glowy bone not enough? But you can probably handle that on your own.

Pretty much exactly the same goes for Lolth...
...(and you gotta wonder, she summons a Type I demon and she has a 55% chance of failure. Who's that guy? "Oh yeah, I told her I was busy." Whatever, dude. The Envenomed Empress of All That Weaves called and you went. You're on her speed dial under "guy who gets me soup".)

On the other hand, the Denzelian is as mad a spasm of uselessness as has ever answered "Nil Nil Nil" to the Lake Geneva Standard Monster Manual Interestingality Inventory. Sayeth Jeff: " A super-slow non-hostile slime monster whose only function is carving tunnels around metal deposits. Sure, I could write some sort of scenario involving competing mining interests and a stolen denzelian egg, but I'm not sure I really want to." Yeah, mining is even mentioned in the entry. Mining is right after farming, pretending you are a mormon and having a relationship requiring even more talking than one(s) your in in real life on my list of things that get put in games for reasons I only dimly understand.

My denzelian hack is this: the beast...

-can only tunnel straight down,

-does so about as fast as the Alien's blood does in the Ridley Scott one,

-is intelligent,

-is chaotic neutral,

-eats gold,

-understands and can telepathically communicate in the common tongue, and

-has a metabolism allowing it to dissolve d2 levels of dungeonrock per 600 gp of gold it eats.

-it can live in condensed form in suspended animation a specially-prepared alchemical container for up to three years, awaking only to feed on sheets of gold leaf once a week.
If you can't do anything with that, it's time to hang up your DM spurs.

Styx Devil. COMESailaWayCOMEsailaWAYComeSAAAILAWAYWITHMEEEEE. Ummm, sorry...
"Their main task is to search for souls to take back to Geryon, but from time to time they will tour the Material Plane with intent to destroy all humans they meet."
This second bit would be an awesome job description if it wasn't what everybody else in the Fiend Folio was also doing. It's like saying "Yeah, we know 'Styx' means something in like, mythology, but also this is a monster".

Its encounter schtick is it casts an imprisonment spell and you defeat it with a holy word. So fighting it is one moving part less exciting than playing rock-paper-scissors.

Anyway in my infinite wisdom and desire to turn a South Park subplot into a monster hook I have decided that actually the thing is that the Styx devil strikes only those who are resurrected, reincarnated, et cetera while they are in the underworld. Its power is it can implant a message (an incantation, an invocation, a song about sailing etc.) in a victim's mind. If the victim hears a trigger phrase (usually the first word or two of the text) s/he must then speak the entire message.
Devil Dog. The problem with the Devil Dog is the Hellhound, not to mention the Hound of Ill Omen, the Moondog, and--stop me if you've heard this one before. Seriously, statwise it is almost exactly a hellhound.

We need a total overhaul.So-called "Devil Dogs" or Black Temple Dogs are intelligent, bipedal, and about 4 feet tall. They act exactly like the Cat in Bulgakov's Master and Margarita. Wait, what, you don't want to have to read Master and Margarita just to use a monster? You've already read 128 pages of crap like the Devil Dog, what harm is 300 pages of classic Russian magical realism gonna do you? Hell, read wikipedia instead: "He has a penchant for chess, vodka and pistols." There you go, nerd.

Dire Corby. Oh the sucking. Luckily I have a fast out all ready to go: it's not dire, it's just a corby and its a subhalfling-sized flightless crowman that sneaks around dungeons trying to steal PCs stuff while they sleep.Disenchanter. Hey! Let's make them fight skinny snuffleupagus! Vice Magazine can totally get back in my good graces after their anti-threesome propaganda by doing delightfully cynical, disillusioning and childhood-shattering interviews about how much pure-strain Kandahar mary jane TSR was smoking during the late-70s-early-80s period.

However the word "disenchanter" is good. And the magic-removing mechanic is totally monsterable. And I have always wanted to turn my dim and unconsciously anthropomorphized memories of the cover art for the game "Enchanter" (which I never played) into a picture.
So this is a disenchanter. He's a kind of mad antimagic zealot cleric. Hitting him with a magic weapon drains it of power and gives the powers it once possessed to him. Available in female as well.

Doombat: the doombat's not so bad on paper, the only thing is your party is probably already facing regular bats, giant bats, lots of things with bat-wings and the occasional vampire so it needs more of its own thing than "shrieking and tail barbs" to not just be a rerun. Taking my cue from the fact that Doombat sounds like a name an overconfident megalomaniac idiot wizard would make up ("FLEE BEFORE THE LEATHERY FURY OF MY DOOMBATS!") I decided it was one of those crazy alchemist inventions.So the Doombat is not gothic and so is not just a repetition of the horror-bat theme, but Kirbyesque and awesomestupid. The claw is for when the alchemist needs them to Fly My Pretties off somewhere and grab something. It also would make a really nice tramp stamp.

Dragon, Oriental: I spent way too much of my youth earning sodapop money drawing white trashy tattoo flash to have any enthusiasm for drawing every one of the Folio's boring and underdifferentiated oriental dragon variations (Earth, Water, Coiled, Spirit, Celestial and Carp), plus, the idea of this project is that I am making these monsters usable in my game--and the fact is dragons are way too fun to spoil them by using more than one or two per campaign. So I'd be lying if I said thought I'd ever get around to using all these.

However, I will use the names. An asian campaign is not an asian campaign without government officials and wise men constantly referring to obscure and unseen Dragons of the Wind Gate and what-all constantly.
Dragonfish: "Dragonfish are 2' long, mottled brown flatfish" THEN WHY ARE THEY IN MY GAME??? Dragonfish? Dragonfish? That is not a dragonfish, that is a fucking flounder with stalagmites. This is a fucking dragonfish:...it can stay poisonous.

Dune Stalker:
Big eyed naked ghoul-man who kisses you in the desert and so then you die. Creepy enough, bad picture. So I did a new picture:Next up: Ettercaps and Eye Killers and Princes of Elemental Evil.


  1. Dude, you never played Enchanter? It extended the Zork world a bit more. Worth a look.

    Anyway, these are all pretty cool, looking forward to more. The Red Temple Dogs are particularly bizarre yet intriguing.

  2. I would be tempted to have the dark creepers be permanently swathed in a darkness that nothing could breach; you'd then be able to balance out their physical weakness with their total concealment. Their attackers could try to pinpoint their location through sound, but that's inexact at best, or they could get in close, but then it's like playing blind man's buff, only with spiky things that want to kill you.

    Area effect attacks will get them though, as you just target the cloud of black which surrounds them. Fourth edition dark creepers wander about in a perfect cube of darkness, of course.

  3. Zak. If you wrote and illustrated your own Monster Book I'd totally buy it!

  4. Big thumbs up for death dog, creepers.

    The Dakon was a lot better in its original Fiend Factory form (white dwarf #9) - well, at least the art was, more Gurgi from Black Cauldron and less a sprout-eating gorilla.

    Roky reminded me of the real, super-ill Soviet experiments on dog heads. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJC5-G7KnKY from 1:00 on.

    > sneaks around dungeons trying to steal PCs stuff while they sleep

    One more in the jermlaine-mite-snyad-meazel tournament bracket. Very much the Bosch-bird, greatly improved over Heckle-meets-Tarzan.

  5. Can't wait for the elemental princes!

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  7. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

    Sent me on a trip down memory lane. I think I still have the original FF, and this makes me want to dig it up again.

    Also reminded me of the monster cards that D&D used to use, which I still have with me, and use sometimes to draw metaphors about my day by picking one at random.....

    But to be fair they were intended to be shuffled and picked at random if I recall correctly. So one could encounter a pack of wild mermaids as assassins in the middle of a cave, in a desert...so yea. Forgot what my point was.

    Anyway this shit is bitchin and was a good way for me to deflate from the last bit of amphetamines. Finals week(s) fucking blow.

    Also the dune stalker reminded me of illuminated manuscripts which is always awesome.

  8. The dunstalk is a good illustration, but the idea of a ghoul kissing you to death is really perverse, maybe a rotting transexual with claws and a clitoris for a mouth. That would scare any PC.

  9. @crowking

    I dunno. Personally I was thinking it meant more of a greeting kiss.

    Sorta like the stereotype of a middle eastern merchant kissing both cheeks after seeing an old friend.

    In fact it kind of makes that more creepy to me. Seems as if he was wandering the desert looking for his comrades which left him to rot in order to give them kissings.....NOT VERY OMINIOUS IN TEXT I SUPPOSE... but yea, freaky as fuck in my head.

  10. Riding backward on a pig, CE baby monkey!!!

    Incredible series and delicious art, sir.

  11. I read Big eyed naked ghoul-man who kisses you in the desert and so then you die

    and on the bottom half of the screen was this.

  12. @FAtlantis Ascendant

    The Zak pic works for me too. I like the idea of some aristocratic ghoul who will seal your doom with a fatherly kiss, has a sort of Clark Ashton Smith ring to it. But it's the description of a big-eyed naked man--well, that is a whole different breed of it's own and one I find much more vila and perverse in nature that could easily feel right at home in the pages of a Brian McNaughton or Clive Barker story. Between the two, that's the one I would probably sic on my players.

  13. @Huth - Thanks for that link!

  14. Regarding your Dark Stalker and fairytaleing it up, do you know Thurber's Todal? It's another monster unknown except in rumours, a blob of glup that moves like monkeys and like shadows, sent to punish evildoers for doing less evil than they should. It gleeps, it makes the noise of rabbits screaming, and it smells of old unopened rooms.

    Dire Corby == Drinky Crow. Yes. (and for just a moment I thought it was a Dire Corgi and then I was going to have to just plain give up on this FF business).

    I love the Gorey vibe I get from your Dune Stalker pic. My guess is it does its thing not because it's evil or a revenant or whatever but just because it rhymes, or for the unfathomable but possibly reasonable reasons Gorey's characters do stuff. If you engage it in conversation it talks in non-sequiturs. I'm resisting renaming it the exquisite corpse.

    And the Red Temple dogs are perfect. Maybe there are so many dog monsters because there's something uncanny about a domesticated wolf: you know it would love to eat you, but here it is jumping all over you and you let it. Like a knife that yearns to cut you or a pen that secretly hates everything you write and only wants to insult everyone.

    A bunch of the other FF monsters seem like they have cousins in Pokemon: I'd be inclined to mix your Dakon monkey with Vigoroth: maybe it gestates as a kind of long, nutritious radish sold by patronised ethnic minorities and then suddenly turns into a belligerent simian in your pack while you're not looking.

    The dark creeper reminds me of Sableye, who has the distinction of being able to stretch out its shadow to attack you, which is at least a nice visual effect without giving away too much about the source critter.

    And I like the peversity that Pokemon's obvious Chinese Dragon isn't a dragon, and is really common. And also seriously deadly.