2016-10-08 Monster List

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...

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.



Oh goody! Now we can disagree about something meaningful and important!

For me, as I mentioned on G+, what made a creature for me was the art I saw about it, or it’s excellent use in a story or movie. So for a lot of these, I can point to a particular piece of art that really made these cool to my eyes:

Elephants - I use ’em all the time. They let the PCs know that they’re not in Kansas (or generic-replica-of-medieval-Wester-Europe-#846). See Frank Frazetta's Mammoth.

Ferret, Giant - mounts? Oh, hell yes!

Goblins – there’s a great pic of a swarm of goblins carrying wicked-looking hammers in Alan Lee’s Castles book. (Can’t find a link, alas.) Since then, goblins have been my Underdark budget smiths, mass-producing cheap weapons for every dark wizard’s slave army. When they weren’t these guys.

Hawk - they make awesome pets, lending an air of aristocracy to the owner.

Hippogriff - everyone with a pegasus mount cares about a hippogriff’s love of pegasus meat.

Hobgoblin - was always meh on these guys until I saw di Terlizzi's take.

Lycanthrope - I mostly limited myself to werewolves as well, until I saw this, by Elmore.

Roc - not for fighting, but rather to pick up the PCs’ trireme and flying it across the sea. Also, epic mounts for giants.

Very much looking forward to seeing your take on the critters that made your cut. 😀

Brian 2016-10-08 20:36 UTC

Oh, and almost forgot, you said, “...and I wonder about those huge bronze golems filled with molten metal.”

Have you seriously never seen this.

Brian 2016-10-08 20:39 UTC

Yes, sadly I have not seen a single Harryhausen movie! 🙂

Your links to art samples make a good point. I’m not sure the hawk needs stats but you are right about the nobility of keeping birds of prey!

Perhaps I should use more elephants... I love that mammoth (?) pic.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-08 21:07 UTC

Regarding ghoul paralysis, as I’ve heard it explained, a ghoul’s touch paralyzes because it is the touch of the grave. It is a psychological effect rather than physiological one. The victim of a ghoul’s touch can’t move, they see their loved ones about them mourning, they see the coffin lid close, they hear the dirt hitting the lid, they feel the worms & beetles burrowing into their flesh and no one can hear their screams. With that in mind, elves are extremely long lived, if not immortal, so the grave holds lesser fear for them than it does for more mortal races.

– Steve 2016-10-08 23:20 UTC

Oh wow, interesting! I had not heard of that before. Definitely an image I must use. 🙂

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-09 07:24 UTC

Moving the entries I have into a separate Referee Guide PDF.

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-16 11:18 UTC

Martin Kallies wrote The Monster in its natural habitat, “the most useful presentation of a monster is something that inspires encounters and adventures based around the creature” – and I agree. But then he goes on that he wants art to show “the creatures in action, in a context that suggests situations to steal for my own campaign” and I’m not so sure about that. Not only am I sadly unqualified to produce the necessary art, but I also don’t study the images carefully. I fear an action shot would provide input for a tactical setup: darkness, ledges, two dogs, snow, moon, lake side, campfire... I don’t know. Those are not the things I’m looking for. I’m looking for “these are the spells the Jinn will teach you” and “orcs will use boars to guard their villages”. I think the focus is not on the scene but on the background. I don’t care about Modron military organization, but I do care about a typical unit my party would encounter, and I’d love to hear what they might be thinking and saying. Are the bugbears willing scouts of the dark elves? Apparently they are!

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-24 17:23 UTC

Giant Bat with goblin riders. Or better still, Air Shark with goblin riders.

Rationalising “greenskins” is always difficult. I do like the Red Tide approach where they were all members of the same race but their abilities were different. Thus goblins were the 1 HD normals, orcs were the 2 HD soldiers, and bugbears were the 3 HD elite soldiers/special forces unit (which matches the 1 HD militia, 2 HD soldiery, and 3 HD knights and samurai of that setting). Hobgoblins were adventurer goblins with a character class.

In my old campaign orcs were a branch of humanity (homo orcanthropus) that were essentially neanderthals (bigger, stronger but with not great capacity for abstract thought). Goblins were goblins (in the same sense as the Harry Potter Gringots goblins and were masters of alchemy/potions and had insininuated themselves in human affairs. Turned out they were running a Secret War to enslave/eradicate humanity and they came very close. Hobgoblins were their alchemical half-breed slave soldiers. Humanity was probably justified in the goblin genocide.

[Always wanted to run a game where the goblins were basically unseen and unheard, but a character could be cursed with being a “goblinfriend.” and the goblins would do their collective best to help the character. For example move coins from some other purse to their friend’s.]

Camels (like moose) are a lot larger than horses - and also scare horses that were not raised around them. Actually one nice thing that Prax from Runequest taught me was that lots of different mounts is a fun thing to have , but all you really need is a generic set of rules for dealing with mounted characters rather than the individual mounts themselves, since the mounts themselves are rarely attacked. I suspect the next_13th Age Monthly_ which was mostly written by the 13th Age in Glorantha people are taking this approach.

Similarly dealing with forest animals that might be hunted is similar. Bears, boars, and wolves are not so much “dungeon encounters” but what happens when a hunt goes wrong (or right).

My old campaign dragons were always much smaller than the AD&D and movie expansions. Much more in line with medieval portraiture (and Tolkein’s own illustration of Smaug. Also inspired by The Fantasy Trip - a 7 hex dragon was a fearsome foe since it was almost impossible to pin (you’d need at least 2 3-hex giants). There are a couple of scrap statues of dragons that are perfectly sized adult dragons for me.

[1](https://au.pinterest.com/pin/466052261412028347/) [2](https://au.pinterest.com/pin/350225308495254773/) [3](https://au.pinterest.com/pin/543246773777443967/)

Although in truth the genies are only really elemental aligned in D&D games. Elementals were always more a player (or non-player) utility than a gamemater utility. Something for the wizard to summon/animate (depending on how you like to handle your elemental summoning). Golems are similar. Pointing back to Red Tide there needs to be whole classes of lesser mechamagical servitors for wizards to permanently animate. Not just the massive war golems of D&D.

Flesh golems are interesting if you consider them animated undead constructs. Try sewing eight brontosaur legs on a blue whale carcass and animating that instead. Again this comes down to how you handle necromancy/animating the dead. Do you summon dead spirits? Can lesser undead rise on their own (one of the things I like about the Overlord anime/light novels is that this is the case so the more dead/undead at a location the more chance of undead spontaneously arising - so graveyards are walled and guarded and the sites of old battlefields are haunted - cleaning up the battlefield and storing the dead somewhere safe is a survival requirement unless you want an undead army). On the other hand if lesser undead are simply animated (my old campaign skeletons were simply zombies that had been around too long - priests of the dead would create mummies by preserving the zombie-to-be corpse with tar and windings so they lasted longer as guardians of tombs against looters. No flesh-eating disease - that was the result of a curse on the tomb itself. [Although I do have a soft-spot for the Skeleton Liberation Front whose mission is to liberate all skeletons from the prison of flesh, but that is a bit too jokey even for me.]

Chimerae in general were a big thing in my old campaign with lots of players enthused with creating their own signature races of hybrid creatures. If humans were a component they were called halflings. So almost all the Greek mythology were basically magically created slave races - centaurs, satyrs, fauns, wolfmen, lionmen, minotaurs, etc. With the collapse of the Empire most of them formed their own Switzerland and exported themselves as mercenaries. The halflings were basically humans with special abilities based on their breed. The trick with chimerae was designing a creature that could breed and be sustainable without magic - anyone could just use a chimera spell to create a hybrid, but what could be done with magic can be undone with magic.

I always liked the original purple wyrm - an underground wingless dragon - which is why it had a sting in the tail. Unfortunately the OD&D illustrator didn’t know wyrm was an old word for dragon and drew a worm instead - and thus a legend was born.

Have fun. Rationalising the incredible array of D&D monsters can be interesting. Although that said it works well without rationalisation as well. One interesting game I always want to run (especially in the face of all these Old School games) is one were cities are very cosmopolotan and there is every sort of different race you can think of under the sun. So orcs and goblins and gnomes and dark elves and yeti and ogres and pixies and satyrs and humans all living reasonably peacefully in the same city (ala Glen Cook’s Tun Faire [Phil Garret PI series]), and without the racist xenophobia common to most D&D games that insist that the races be segregated and ghettoed amongst their own kind.

[Sorry for the length – need to kill time and distract myself. <grin>]

– Ian Borchardt 2016-10-08

Ian Borchardt, I always love to read your lengthy and thoughtful comments, never worry. I just hope you are not disappointed when my replies are so much shorter! I’m all for more cosmopolitan campaign settings. I realized that when I started in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and found settlements with orcs and trolls mixing with everybody else. I loved that and kept that going. And Planescape helps.

As for the elementals, I guess the only thing I really love is the City of Brass which then needs some humanoid evil doers and I want them to be different from salamanders and fire giants. Ergo, Ifrit. And I like the blue ghost like Djinn from Pathfinder. So Marid and Dao are actually me loving systematization again. The habit is hard to shake!

Sadly, we missed the dragon in St. Ursanne when we went there this summer.

Oh, and air sharks with orcs dropping green slime potions—that was actually in my adventure for the volume of Fight On magazine that never got published. (I still feel responsible for that when I think about it for too long.)

[4](Caverns of Slime), with an awesome illustration of said orcs by Kelvin Green on page 8.

It’s days like these when I miss Fight On!

– Alex Schroeder 2016-10-08

Those air sharks were ace. It’s a shame that they didn’t see print.

– Kelvin Green 2016-10-08

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