Now that I’ve laid out my least liked monsters in the D&D cosmos, I figured I’d play along and follow it up with my favorite ten. Some have been mentioned on other people’s lists; others are unique to my own favorite flavor of the game. Here they are:
10 – Wyverns: While I never went through the “dinosaurs are cool” phase that a lot of kids do, wyverns have always struck me as being more like poisonous pterodactyls than half-assed dragons. The idea of a poisonous flying lizard is pretty peachy keen in my mind. Plus there’s something dashing about the word itself. It conjures up images of Zorro-like characters and flamboyant scoundrels to me and makes the perfect sobriquet for a swashbuckling swordsman.
9 – Bookworms: An often overlooked beastie, yet rightfully feared by magic-users. While bookworms are not the easiest creatures to use effectively, if you can slip them in to an adventure, the sound of them eating your spellbook is more fear-inducing than the roar of a thousand dragons.
8 – Gibbering Mouthers: Another oft-overlooked monster, this Lovecraftian horror is wrong on so many different levels. Putting one of these in a dungeon is about as close as you can get to simulating a session of Call of Cthulhu in a straight D&D campaign without introducing new house rules. “Gibbering” is a great adjective to boot.
7 – Yuan Ti: Dwellers of the Forbidden City is my favorite module. Not only is it a big playground to customize to your own style but it introduced the official D&D race of snakemen, the Yuan Ti. I’ve mentioned before that snake men are one of the great clichés of sword & sorcery literature as far as I’m concerned, and the Yuan Ti with their variable bloodlines make them versatile enough to use in so many different ways.
6 – Iron Cobra: I’m rather ambivalent when it comes to constructed monsters in the game but the Iron Cobra is the absolute perfect accessory for evil sorcerers everywhere. There’s nothing quite like a clockwork snake slithering out of the darkness to ruin your day, especially when its evil master is not far behind. It has the added bonus of sounding like a style of kung-fu.
5 –Icky Things: I need to cheat here. I could easily have filled this list with all the various vermin, bugs, oozes, slimes, and other icky creatures that are often found in the dungeon because I love almost all of them. Give me a slimy ooze or a giant bug and I’m a happy referee.
4 – Wererats: Leiber is my personal favorite fantasy author of the old school. Combine that with a love for streetwise scoundrels, shifty characters, and other black-collar hoodlum types and it’s little wonder why wererats make my list. Some consider them the weakest of the lycanthropes. I consider them the craftiest and put them to good use in my games.
3 – The Ravenous Room: Another cheat but a beauty. Trapper on the floor; stunjelly on the walls; mimic disguised as a chest in the center of the room, and a lurker above on the ceiling. Throw in a chicken and watch the room eat itself! Last monster left standing gets killed by the party.
2 – Otyugh: I’ll be first in line to admit these things are pretty goofy, being big trash monsters that live in a sympathetic relationship with other subterranean creatures in order to obtain offal, dung and other refuse. Just when that seems silly enough, throw in the fact that they’re semi-telepathic. If that doesn’t break your ridiculous scale, let me introduce you to their relative, the neo-otyugh, who’s smarter, bigger, and even more telepathic. I love them because they are so completely out there.
1 – Goblins: You can have your kobolds, orcs, hobgoblins, bugbears, ogres, and gnolls. I’m quite content with my vicious little goblins. Playable as nasty, psychopathic thugs and bumbling comic relief alike, the lowly goblin tops my list and intends to stick a knife in the back of anyone trying to knock him off the apex of the heap. They’ve got to deal with the otyugh first to get him.