Tuesday, November 12, 2013

5 Unused Portions of the D&D Monster Manual (3.5 and prior)

I started playing D&D when I was 10. At the time, the latest and greatest was AD&D 2e. You may recall the "Monstrous Manual" from second edition, and how thick it was compared to it's predecessors. (They seemed to bring it back a little with the Monster Manual 3.5, but anyway...).

I used to sit and read the Monstrous Manual in my time away from the table. It was as close to playing as I could get without actually playing. To this day, there are a number of creatures that were in that book (and indeed still are in the books!) that I've never encountered, but wish that I had!

I personally never really cared about things like how fast I could level, how many bags of gold I had, or vanquishing dragons. One person I remember talking to said something like "I have a wizard so powerful he can blow up other dimensions!" Big freakin deal, I thought. I've always cared more about the story than anything else.   

Almost every D&D player though, who played in their adolescence with other folks of an age, will have stories that involved meeting some of these things, ridiculous, gratuitous, and power-gamey though they may seem, it's still a part of their memories that they'll look back on fondly, either in reverence or shaking their heads at how "Monty-Hall" that campaign was. 

Before I get into the characters I wish that I'd met, let me just say: No. I do not lament having never faced the following: 
  • Dragon(s)
  • Litches
  • Vampires
  • Tarrasque
  • Dinosaurs
  • Demons
  • Gods or other Deities
Again, those sorts of things are just so chliche, and there are so many books and stories about them that I actually feel like I HAVE faced them... Particularly vampires - God, when is that fad going to die, huh?

So anyway, here's a list of creatures that I never encountered, but wish that I had.

What an awesome critter! So many great uses for this thing... For those of you who don't know what this is, and are too lazy to click the link to go to Wikipedia and find out, it's essentially a meduim sized creature, who smacks metal with it's tail. The metal then rusts, and the creature eats the rusted metal.

How many fantastic uses for this thing can you think of!? Got a villian who lives in "The Iron Tower What Has No Door"? Grab rusty (in a wooden box, perhaps?) and make your own door!

Seriously, how many fantastic things were made of metal? Armors, swords, doors, towers, bridges... Gosh, imagine one of these things running around in a dragon's lair? How angry would that dragon be to wake up to a rust monster (or several!) eating it's horde??

I think a Monk or a wizard who rides a domesticated rust monster would just about be the coolest character in town.

The Osquip

I never did encounter the Osquip, and frankly I'm not sure exactly how amazing or exciting it would have been to have run into one, truth be told. However, it's just such a memorable picture. That thing is ridiculous looks. I mean, a rat's pretty gross, right? So, remove it's hair, and give it Freddy Mercury teeth? Does that make it look more frightning? I don't know, to be honest. That said, every campaign should have at least a half dozen of these things through the life of the campaign. Here's why:

The first time I saw this thing in the 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual, I think I laughed at it for a solid forty minutes. From then on, anyone I saw with protruding teeth, particularly the ones where gums show when they talk, immediately brought me back to the Osquip. But I was alone in my amusement, with the exception of maybe a couple of people. 

Everyone should know what an Osquip looks like, so when I'm giggling to myself, I can at least explain why.

Perhaps not the classically scary sort of critter, the Stirge is basically a bat / mosquito with 4 wings. Maybe it's because I'm grossed out by bugs, but I think this thing is just plain creepy.

I think the old pic from the original 2e Monster Manual is just the right combination of scary / goofy / distubring...
I could definitely see these little buggers being a real problem in a swarm or something. Crawl down the wrong dungeon cavern, and you're in huge trouble. 

I don't think I'm really all that disappointed that I'd never encountered them, but I definitely am disappointed that nobody I've ever played with / talked to about them have. I have to imagine that any scenario in which they're used other than a random encounter would have to be really creative, and probably kinda terrifying. Who prepares for such a thing, really? Small and agile, their beaks can poke through chain mail, tough to hit... Yeah, I'm glad these things aren't real.

Gelatinous Cube
I don't know what's weirder about these things, the fact that they're made of gelatin, or that they move, or that they're cube shaped... 

I'm not sure why, but ever since I was a kid, I thought a pool filled with jello would have been a hell of a lot of fun. ...until I realized that you'd go in, be kind of suspended, and then suffocate. That's slightly terrifying, I thought. 

Then I saw the Gellatinous Cube in the Monster Manual, and it brought me immediately back to my thoughts of the Jello pool. BUT! This thing could walk! And wasn't smart, so it couldn't reason. 

I had plans in my GMing days of having a captive one be part of a trap where it drops out of a ceiling, but alas, I never got around to it. If it landed ON the party, pretty much game over.

I can picture the round-table discussion from which the Grell was born:

Ian Livingstone: Guys, I need a creature that's just plain evil and terrifying, but I'm having some trouble... I started making a list of terrifyingly evil characteristics, and so far I've come up with "Tentacles", "Exposed Brains" and "beak", but I'm not sure what else this creature needs.
Guys: Nothing!

Thus this goofy bastard came into being. I'm thinking if perhaps it were more of a long hooked beak it would strike more fear? I still do wish I'd encountered one, maybe put a fuzzy set of earmuffs on it to keep it's adorable brain warm. Silly chicken/brain/octopus....  a Chikraintopus...

So there's five things I wish I'd encountered in my games, and still hope to, in case you're a GM of mine!

What about you, are there any creatures you've always wanted to run into, or perhaps some you wish you hadn't? Were they listed above? Should I count my blessings??