Sometimes I wonder about writing and illustrating my own monster manual. Basically for Halberds and Helmets – I don’t really need it for anything. When I run my game, I usually refer to the Labyrinth Lord monster list and if that doesn’t help, I’ll get up and get the Advanced Edition Companion (which only ever helps for a handful of creatures) from the shelf, or rarer still, the Rules Cyclopedia. By then I usually notice that I lost focus and the game is dragging, so I try to stop doing that.
What I need, I think, is my own monster list, my own illustrations, my own treasure tables, and so on. Something specific to my campaigns.
One place to start looking would be M20 Hard Core where I tried to simplify monsters and their damage is always d6 based (sometimes multiple dice).
So, looking at the Labyrinth Lord monster list...
Ant, Giant. Boring; who needs them? Use giant bees instead? Formians for Planescape? Ape, Albino Ape, Giant. Yes please, excellent guards for hobgoblins and others. Baboon, Higher. Just use more albino apes?
- Basilisk. Definitely, an interesting solo monsters early in the game.
Bat. Boring. When have they ever been anything but a nuisance? And how do giant bats even fight a party in the dungeon?
- Bear. Yes please. Remember I wrote some spells for bear magic, Ursomancy. Also, war bears used by dwarves.
- Bee, Giant
Killer. Yes please, interesting wilderness encounters and mission generators for low level parties. Maybe this can handle giant ants and giant wasps.
- Beetle, Giant. Yes please, tough dungeon encounters for low level parties
Black Pudding. I don’t know, sounds more like a trap to me? Blink Dog. Blinking makes for a frustrating fight and they’re lawful so most parties won’t fight them?
- Boar. I don’t know. Maybe. Perhaps we need more halflings and dwarves riding on boars and goats. I guess we need goats, too?
- Bugbear. Definitely. Evil sneaky bastards, yes please!
Camel. I don’t know. For a desert game instead of horses? Or just use horse stats instead? They seem to be a bit slower and do a bit less damage than riding horses. Using horse stats seems reasonable. Carcass Creeper. Definitely. Eight paralyzingly attacks is a classic.
- Cat, Large. Yeah, why not.
- Centaur. I never used them, but they’re a classic.
- Centipede, Giant. I used them countless times.
- Chimera. I’ve never used them but I think I need Greek myth represented.
Cockatrice. A classic. But... It’s the same as the basilisk! “The cockatrice hight Basiliscus in Greek, and Regulus in Latin” says Bartholomaeus Anglicus 
- Crab, Giant. Yes please!
- Crocodile. Yeah. Also, useful as dinosaur stand-ins.
Cyclops. I like Greek myth. Then again, why not just use giants?
- Demon Boar. Best boar ever. Maybe a general demon to fight? Actually, just one of the boar variants.
- Doppelgänger. Classic.
- Dragon. Classic! Sleeping dragons, surrendering dragons, spell-casting dragons, dragon age... I don’t know. Just use the dragon stats as is and you’re good.
Dragon Turtle. I used it once, but not as a classic monster. Talk to this mountain or die, basically... Dryad. They can’t move away from their tree. I don’t know whether that makes them useful monsters?
- Dwarf. Of course.
- Efreeti. As I said above, yes please.
Elemental. As I said above, replace them all with genies. This also makes the spell conjure elemental much more interesting. The division into three kinds of elementals based on whether you used a staff, or another magic item, or a spell, is useless.
- Elephant. I never used it. Have you? But perhaps... But does keeping the elephant mean I should also keep the camel?
- Elf. Of course. Maybe have more of them in the wilderness? I guess in general I think I need to have numbers for patrols and settlements. A group of 2d12 elves sounds cool. No towns larger than 24 is strange… Perhaps that just needs an adjustment for my campaign. Or perhaps I’m simply wrong and 24 elves is good enough?
- Ettin. Another classic.
Ferret, Giant. I don’t think I ever used it. Another riding animal for halflings and dwarves like the boards? Perhaps... Then again, who cares about the differences between giant ferrets and giant weasels? Weasels it is! Fish, Giant. I never used them. Underwater adventures usually don’t involve fish in my game. Fly, Giant Carnivorous. Just use giant killer bees?
- Gargoyle. A classic.
Gelatinous Cube. Sounds more like a trap, if you ask me. They show up often enough in my games, but as a monster, they’re actually boring.
- Ghoul. Classic! Elves being immune to their paralysis is weird, though. Where does that come from?
- Giant. Yes please! I like simple hill giants shepherds, weird stone giants magic users, ferocious fire giants smiths and warriors, and classic mythic frost giants. I think cloud and storm giants are a bit lame, but cloud giants are the lamest. Also, sometimes I want norse mythology giants. How does that work? Or is any creature from 15 HD upwards practically semi-divine in D&D terms?
- Gnoll. I don’t know where hyena men come from but now that they have arrived in my game, I like them.
- Gnome. I like them as sillier intelligent encounters. I like my gnomes with long red hats. Does that mean I need giant badgers?
- Goblin. I don’t know. I liked the Pathfinder goblins. But do I need goblins to be different from orcs? Maybe not.
- Golem. Yes! But what kind of golem? I think I keep using golems stats for all kinds of artificial monsters. Looking at the Labyrinth Lord golems, I think I have no use for amber golems and I wonder about those huge bronze golems filled with molten metal. But OK, why not.
- Gorgon. I was always confused (and not alone) about the Gorgon. Wow, I just fixed a reference on Wikipedia for Gorgon!
Gray Ooze. I don’t know. All these slimes and oozes. Are they interesting as monsters? I used a gray ooze as a trap. It’s always funny when I reply to a question about the environment with “the room looks super clean... as if somebody had licked it clean, in fact.” But as I said above, it feels like a trap and the exact AC and HD and all that don’t really seem to matter much. Gray Worm. Is this a Dune sand worm? I don’t know. But I like worms. Green Slime. Another trap. Griffon Gryphon. Another mount or pet. Perhaps these need to be in a separate category. (Googling for “gryphon” gives me the right images, googling for “griffon” gives me dogs, so gryphon it is.)
- Halfling. Yes!
- Harpy. Another Greek classic.
Hawk. Useless? Is this for the one time the party gets shrunk to mouse size? Or as a pet? What about crows? Owls?
- Hellhound. I need those for the fire giants.
Herd Animals. Use horses and you’re good to go. Hippogriff. Another Greek classic. Or is it? The Wikipedia disagrees and mentions that the Greeks knew a similar creature named Hippalektryon. Who cares about their hunger for Pegasus meat.
- Hobgoblin. I like well organized humanoids. Too bad they have practically no visuals to recommend them. Large goblins are orcs? Elite orcs?
- Horse. We definitely need a list of pets and mounts.
- Hydra. A classic.
Insect Swarm. An interesting fight for low level characters. But I still prefer giant bees (or wasps).
- Invisible Stalker. There’s a spell that goes along with it and I like it.
- Jinni. Classic! I want the other genies, too. Efreeti, Dao and Marid. But sometimes I feel that they should replace elementals entirely. Elementals are boring. Actually I only ever used air and fire genies.
Kobold. I like dog men. I like fairies. But little lizard people? I don’t know. So we have kobolds and lizard men, goblins and orcs, halflings and humans... It’s a bit weird. Leech, Giant Giant Psychic Lamprey. Definitely!
- Lizard, Giant. Maybe one, as a mount?
Lizardfolk Lizard People. Sure! I keep using them. Locust, Subterranean. I never used it.
- Lycanthrope. A classic! I usually limit myself to werewolves, though.
- Manticore. A classic. Yes!
Mastodon. Perhaps if you want a stone age game? Wolf Packs and Winter Snow, for example.
- Medusa. Greek myth classic!
Men Human. Do we really need the subtypes? Perhaps we need a bit more about the various groups we can encounter in the wilderness. Or this: roll 1d100×10 for size (or use the gem table?); make a reaction check without modifier: negative = bandits, raiding party, marauding mercenaries or robber knight; neutral = a community fallen on hard times, eager for cash; positive = a mill, a guest house, a trading post, a village, then apply reaction bonus and see how they react to the party. Merfolk. Underwater adventures don’t need merfolk.
- Minotaur. Greek classic. Also a good potential class for new player characters?
Morlock. Underground men? Mule. Horse?
- Mummy. A classic. The mummy rot is usually lame in my games, though. So perhaps we need to add some more punch to mummies?
Neanderthal. No stone age stuff.
- Nixie. I like.
Ochre Jelly. Trap. Octopus, Giant. Yes! Then again, I like the giant squid stats better and there only needs to be one creature with a lot of attacks.
- Ogre. A classic brute.
- Orc. My pig men!
Owl Bear. It’s very D&D but then again, I think bears are good enough.
- Pegasus. More pets and mounts.
Phase Tiger. It’s weird. Forget about the blink dog enmity. Rakshasa are better.
- Pixie. Yes.
Pterodactyl. I have never used dinosaurs in my game. Purple Worm. This is the near divine sand worm, perhaps? My current thinking is that HD 15 and above indicates some sort of divinity or natural force. The Labyrinth Lord entry says the worm is 100’ long or more. The Wikipedia entry says: “Sandworms grow to hundreds of meters in length, with specimens observed over 400 meters (1,312 ft) long and 40 meters (131 ft) in diameter”. I don’t know. Perhaps we should keep them but change them to sand worms. Or perhaps sand worms should be a setting specific thing and since they don’t appear in my game, I can just leave them off. Rat. Who fights rats? It’s lame. Rhagodessa, Giant. It’s a giant spider and it should be listed under spiders. Rhinoceros. Unless we have rhino riding giants? Roc. I’ve never used it and if I did, I wouldn’t have people fight them. HD 36? That’s divine levels. Rot Grub. It’s a trap. Rust Monster. It’s a trap.
- Salamander. I don’t know about frost salamanders but flame salamanders show up in my games all the time.
- Scorpion, Giant. Yes please!
- Sea Serpent. I used a plesiosaur in a game of mine but I should have used sea serpents instead.
- Shadow. Yes! Two dimensional beings are great and need to be used more often.
- Shark. The only fish you need for your underwater adventure. Die, bone fish, die!
Shrew, Giant. More rats? No thank you. Shrieker. A random encounter generator? Sounds like a trap to me.
- Skeleton. Yes.
- Snake. I usually just need the Giant Python, Conan style.
- Spectre. Nazgûl. Cool!
Sprite. Another name for pixies?
- Squid, Giant. It has better stats than the giant octopus. Who wants to roll 1d3 when they could be rolling 1d4 instead?
Statue, Animate. Is that the same as robots? As golems? I’m conflicted. I think it’s like a stone golem. Stegosaurus. No dinosaurs. Stirge. A classic. I decided to do a Swamp Crane, instead. Throghrin. Never used it. Titanothere. No stone age rhinos.
- Toad, Giant. Yes please.
- Treant. Ents. Cool!
Triceratops. No dinosaurs. Troglodyte. What are these, evil cave frog men? I’m going to use Froglings instead.
- Troll. My favorite. Guarding “guardians of places of transition: bridges, mountain passes, magical gates,” as Brian puts it.
Tyrannosaurus Rex. No dinosaurs.
- Unicorn. As a pet or mount? OK.
- Vampire. The best!
- Weasel, Giant. Another pet or mount option.
Whale. Who fights whales? Is this a sick whaler RPG? No!
- Wight. Yes, I want barrow wights!
- Wolf. Absolutely. And dire wolves or worgs, too.
- Wraith. More undead stuff, yay.
Wyvern. Why have small poisonous dragons when you can have real dragons? Yellow Mold. Yet another trap.
- Zombie Zombie. Yes of course.
OK, so with that I have a list of monsters to illustrate and practice my iPad pen, haha. I’ll be adding these to Google+ while I work on them and then, when I’m ready, I’ll do my monster manual.
I think I also have to add some demons and devils to this monster manual but we’ll see about that.
Tags: RPG Old School Monsters