There has been a bit of meme floating about as of late where various bloggers chime in on their personal Top Ten favorite monsters in D&D. Coming from a background steeped in iconoclasm and punkrockery, I’ve decided to buck the trend and present the ten monsters from D&D that I hate. Amongst these you will not find the usual punching bags mentioned whenever this topic comes up: No Drow or flumphs here. Instead this list is comprised of monsters that might have seemed like a decent foe for adventurers to confront, but for one reason or another, have just fallen short of the mark as far as I’m concerned.
10 – Leucrotta: Any monster based on the writings of Pliny the Elder might normally get some respect if only on sheer pedigree. And an animal with a stag’s body, badger’s head, and lion’s tail is not the weirdest collection of parts ever seen on a D&D monster. The problem with the leucrotta is that it dwells in “deserted and desolate places” and uses its ability to mimic the voice of a man or woman to lure prey within striking distance. I don’t know about you folks but every group of players I’ve ever had is not going to go wandering off the safe trail and into the haunted wastes to investigate the cries of a damsel in distress. That just screams ambush. At least a Wolf-In-Sheep’s-Clothing has a bunny that the party can see and not just a cry in the night. I’ve actually had a player respond to a leucrotta’s gambit with the words, “Help me, Spock!” Scream all you want, badger face. The smart party’s going to roll on by.
9 – Slug, Giant: I’ll admit that a lot of this dislike is based on my real-life bigotry when it comes to homeless snails. I’ve stepped on a plain old garden slug barefoot and never quite recovered from that event. That trauma notwithstanding, it’s really hard to get behind any creature whose special attack misses 90% of the time it first lobs a glob of acidic spittle at you. Add that to fact it can be defeated by luring into a narrow hallway or with a gratuitous amount of table salt and I’m just not impressed.
8 – Doppleganger: In theory, the doppleganger should have every party of adventurers shaking in their high, hard boots. A creature that can usurp your entire identity and replace you so well that even your boon companions will only suspect something is amiss 10% of the time? That’s pretty freaky and Lifelock isn’t going to save your ass on this one. In practice, however, things tend to be a little different. If your character goes wandering off unaccompanied and comes back acting even the smallest bit off, your fellow veteran players are going to stick a knife in your ribs just on general principle. A referee can of course arrange matters so as to avoid suspicion, but this usually requires a lot of asides with the soon-to-be-replaced character and a certain amount of pretending not to notice all this conspiring by the rest of the players. Quite frankly, a helm of opposite alignment works just as well without all the fuss.
7 – Peryton: This one always pissed me off for one simple reason: the illustration. I had no problem with the by this time common theme of monsters that are animals with different animals glued on to it, but the picture clearly shows an eagle-deer casting the shadow of a man. It’d be many years before I discovered that the peryton is a creature of at least medieval origin that was known to cast the shadow of a man. Somehow, despite learning such useful trivia as the peryton requires human hearts to procreate from their description in the Monster Manual, the little fact about the funky shadow isn’t mentioned anywhere! Stupid, freakin’ flying deer…
6 – Ixitxachitl: I refuse to enable any monster whose name I don’t even have the slightest chance of pronouncing correctly.
5 – Eye of the Deep: “Hey Dave! What if a beholder got drunk and fucked a lobster?” “Sure. They didn’t seem to mind the armadillo with a propeller.” Not even an ecology by Ed Greenwood could save this mess. Let’s face it: Most of the aquatic D&D monsters just plain suck. Morkoth, I’m looking at you…
4 – Shriekers: Shriekers are the car alarms of the dungeon. They worked great when first introduced, but by now, nobody’s going to pay any attention to them. Anything that starts screaming whenever something moves within 10’ of it is going to be quickly disarmed by its neighbors taking a pole-axe to it. Need I remind you that these things are mindless, ambulatory AND come in groups? What happens when one of these things gets the hankering to go off on a stroll and sets off the other 1-7 shriekers growing nearby? Pole-axe city, baby. Their codependency on other monsters for their mere survival doesn't make them any more likeable either.
3 – Shambling Mound: You know it’s “Man-Thing,” I know it’s “Man-Thing,” and we both know “Man-Thing” sucked. Stripping it of the power to burn anyone who felt fear just makes it suckier. You should have gone with “Swamp Thing,” guys.
2 – Sahuagin: SA-who-Again? Sa-wow-jin? SO-Hog-in? A pronunciation guide could have been shoe-horned into that doctorial dissertation you call a “description,” you know? Need to trim up some space? Here’s my creature description: “Evil Sea-Monkeys.”
1 – Piercers: If there’s any creature that even the most liberal application of Gygaxian Naturalism couldn't save, it’s the piercer. This mollusk spends its whole life clinging to the roof of a cave just waiting for some dumb schmuck to come wandering by before dropping on him. Once it does, it inevitably misses and then must slowly crawl across the floor, up the wall, and back onto the roof at the hair-raising speed of 10’ per minute before it can strike again. My next dungeon is going to have a cave filled with nothing but smashed piercers on the floor and ones that died of starvation still attached to the ceiling.