Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ten Monsters I Loathe

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.

23 comments:

noisms said...

Evil Sea Monkeys. Heh. There's a monster idea that has legs. For the wizard's son who has everything.

Ragnorakk said...

ha ha
good post.
a helm of alignment change is probably better than any of these jokers!

Chris said...

"Puny land-dweller is just bitter because the mighty Sons of Selokah steal his stuff and retreat laughing into the depths." :p

Pron. Sa-hwa-gin with a soft 'g' sound.

Chgowiz said...

I remember looking at piercers, smiling to myself and then making them much more like Half-Life barnacles, with spikes being dropped like porcupines and a prehensile tongue that could drag people up to it to be fed upon.

"Car Alarms of the Dungeon." You are cracking me up this morning!

Max said...

I laughed out loud over #5, Mike.

Regarding #6, assuming that a) it follows Nahuatl conventions and b) you trust the expertise of a guy who spent a few minutes looking it up on the internet, it's "eesh-eesh-ah-CHEE-tle" but should more properly be "Ixachitl" singular and "Ixixachoh" plural. Also: I am a giant nerd.

Murdoc said...

Back in the day we only had the 1e PHB and DMG. No Monster Manual, and had never even paged through one. All the key monster stats were in the back of the DMG, and that was what we used.

So one day my 5th-level ranger is walking down the 10' corridor, minding his own business, when a piercer jumps out and attacks. It's a long, hard-fought battle, but the piercer's 1-12 damage finished my poor guy off after about 8 or 10 rounds.

We thought it was some creature with big hooks for hands or something.

When I saw that picture in the 1e MM, I argued that my ranger should get another chance. It didn't happen, but I brought him "back" as an NPC in my own campaign later.

When the Fiend Folio came out, I called the Hook Horror a "lesser piercer."

stefan said...

Hee hee. I needed a laugh this morning.

trollsmyth said...

I once ran a series of undersea adventures in which everybody's inability to pronounce "ixitxachitl" was a running gag, leading up to the point where they actually met some who were extremely cranky about the whole deal.

"Look, you morons, it's simple. It's just 'iks-'... Aw crap, now you've got me doing it. Just kill them all!"

Christopher B said...

"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."

You realize, of course, that you've just planted the seed for me to spring undead piercers on my players. Piercer zombies - yeah, that's the ticket. Or, worse yet, piercer ghouls! :D

Chgowiz said...

@Chris B: Piercer shadows or wights would really be nasty, combined with Half Life Barnacles...

Oh man...

Max said...

Undead Piercer & Limestone Ghoul

In certain cursed caves, piercers are imbued with necromantic energy, and take on the paralytic abilities of ghouls. Persons slain by an undead piercer rise as ghouls (standard, save movement rate is halved). Limestone ghouls are sometimes found wandering in search of new caverns, still impaled by the piercer that spawned them (n.b. just like the picture in the 1e MM!)

(What happens if a roper eats a limestone ghoul?)

Chgowiz said...

@Max - You get a ghroper, of course! Better make sure your codpiece is in place!

Christopher B said...

"ghroper"!!

"Dude, that's f&*^%d up right there."

And of course, in later editions this is an optional character race. (I think I know a gamer or two who'll be right there in line to play one of these...)

Amityville Mike said...

I'm glad you folks found this as entertaining as I did. I originally meant to be more serious about this but the late hour had me a little punchy and hilarity ensued.

Thanks to you folks, I now hate piercers even more...

Geoffrey said...

Whoa, whoa, WHOA!

The Man-Thing did not suck. The Steve Gerber Man-Thing was freaking awesome, especially when drawn by Mike Ploog.

Can I have your Man-Thing comics? :D

Amityville Mike said...

I've got to disagree, Geoffrey. I'm a staunch supporter of Swamp Thing when it comes to shambling swamp beasts until the day comes when "Sump Thing" makes it's 4 color apperance.

In my defense, I did buy the 1st volume of the Man-Thing omnibus to see my prejudice was unwarranted. I stand by my decision, but respect your opinion.

Gary N. Mengle said...

sah-HWAH-ghin. Anybody who's been to Mexico should be able to handle that, easy. Always liked 'em myself. Now, the Ixitxachitl is too much trouble. I mean, WTF?

Habitat for Humanity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Geoffrey said...

As far as I can tell, my youthful exposure in the mid-70s to Man-Thing comic books twisted my mind to a "love at first sight" in 1980 for D&D slimes, oozes, puddings, and jellies. Then I saw those Erol Otus Cthulhu drawings in DDG in 1980, and my imagination has been filled with oozes and tentacles ever since. :D

BigFella said...

Regarding the leucrotta, I dunno if ignoring cries for help is what I'd call a pro move for an adventuring party. Alignment aside, you blow off a plot hook at your own risk with some DM's. (On the flip side, if a DM's players are *that* suspicious of a chance to be heroic, perhaps they need to brush up on their metagame a bit.)

The real problem with the leucrotta is what it thinks is a lure is really a way for the beastie to say "Come here, o heavily armed and armored adventuring party and stomp my chimerical butt for NOT being a Chr 18 princess in distress."

BigFella said...

Oh yeah, and I'm with you on Iximrmyxpltlyx.

Not just for the name, but for being a bunch of evil, conquering supergenius stingrays (Some of which are vampires.) Fear the flippers!

richard said...

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.
I've seen this theory of the zebra-herd in action, and if I were a crueller DM I would use it, again and again, to reduce PC parties to a single, paranoid, gibbering fighter surrounded by the bodies of his companions.

evil, conquering supergenius stingrays
Before Steve Irwin, I'd've blown this off, too.

Brunomac said...

Leucrotta: C’mon, you loved that picture though, right? Very effective rendering of a crappy monster. Help.Me.Spock. Heeelllp. Me.

Slug, Giant:I know for a fact that particular entry was based on a Conan tale. He was getting chased around a ruined city by a giganto slug. I tell you, it spat and spat, and just could not hit Conan. 90% is about right.

Doppleganger: I thought this was German for “Bukakke.”

Shriekers: as kids we used to go to the rich part of Marina Del Rey at night and walk around setting off car alarms, We called them Shriekers. No wandering monsters got attracted, but cops and homeowners with shotguns showed up pretty quick.

Shambling Mound: Yeah, I was a Marvel comics dude too.

Sahuagin: Deep Ones, bitches!!

Piercers: James M. at Grognardia takes issue with your insults against this noble old school monster, my friend.


"...I originally meant to be more serious about this but the late hour had me a little punchy and hilarity ensued"

What you mean is, a little too much of the sauce and wacky baccy before bedtime!