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Saturday, September 6, 2014

@criticalhits: Here's my 10 #DnD monsters I always use & 5 I don't!


A tweet-title for this mini-blog-carnival post induced by Critical Hits!
Here is the original post by legendary Dave Chalker: quite an awesome list, especially because it reminded me of the Zaratan (a turtle-island thing!), and made me think of ways I would use it..!

As my few readers might imagine, my list is gonna be a bit counter-intuitive... But let's start with no further ado! (Usually I don't do it when I declare it, but here fortunately there's really no possibility of writing any useful introduction..!)

10 monsters I use in every D&D campaign:



  1. Gargoyles
    The gothic factor is really impossible to ignore, and where the campaign flavor is not really gothic-y, I tend to use their stats for re-flavored variants. In general, having a cool stony decoration taking life is something that makes my adventures... Mine! Ah, there's no way these monsters won't be customized by me with particularly nasty martial prowess and/or divine magic... They're just made for these things!
    (I know the illustration is that of a Malebranche Devil, but that's how my gargoyles look like, when not of stone!)


  2. Faeries (of any kind)
    The Seelie Court and even more so the Unseelie Court are always present, somewhere, in my campaign worlds. And when these beings come into play, strange things happen. For me, fey/faeries equal morality madness: it's an occasion to introduce truly strange and contrasting morals and ethics to the campaign and make the players question themselves both about these critters and themselves! Who's doing right? Who's the bad guy? When tricksters are beautiful or even cute, the lines of these questions are very blurred!
    (The illustration is that of Oona's Blackguard, from MtG: an example of dark faerie flavor!)


  3. Faerie dragons / Pseudodragons / any tiny dragon!
    First of all, obviously, it's a way to add dragons at low levels, and possibly tie them with the faeries. Second, they can be even more annoying than true dragons! A faerie dragon usually has spells and magical abilities that makes it a pain for adventurers to fight (or even ally with), and pseudodragons, with their random "save or sleep" sting are another major threat when in large numbers! Plus, the whole aesthetics of the campaign and/or setting change when these creatures are abundant. It basically means "in this world, common things are a minority"..!
    (Link to illustration: http://ironshod.deviantart.com/art/Spiny-Woodland-Hopper-70718250 )

  4. Kuo-Toa / Locatah / Sahuagin 
    There MUST be "fishy folk" in my games... No game of mine is complete without a big part of it at least related to underwater adventuring or underwater threats coming out to do some unusual above-water adventuring! Locatah in particular (in the illustration), this forgotten-by-game-designers kin, are my favorite: their very fish-like look makes them the most alien of the three, and thus the most likely to be related to some kind of cult dedicated to, spawned by, or spawning some... ->


  5. Far Realm entities / creatures
    And I'm not speaking Mind Flayers or other D&D classics... I'm speaking pure Lovecraftian horror!! And they MUST be aquatic. Aboleths are in fact among my favorites, and as many of you know, you can base entire story-arcs on them, even in traditional published worlds such as Forgotten Realms.
    The illustration is originally Juiblex, a demon prince. But the fact I found it in a lovecraft fansite to represent a Shoggoth is telling...
    But since we're speaking aquatic unfathomable horrors, I must go epic directly and call forth The Prince: ->

  6. DAGON
    YES. Even if he's supposed to be an incredibly epic level guy, his presence must be felt since low levels in my campaigns. The Prince of Depths incarnates four things that I like and I already cited in previous entires: aquatic, horror, great evil, alien, blurred morality. You would say a demon prince has nothing to do with blurred moralities, but if you go by the most complete D&D lore about him, Dagon is a demon of an older generation compared to "regular ones", even other princes. He's an Obyrith, demons that basically ended up with their universe of origin already, and crawled into this universe before more regular demons even existed, and possibly even spawning them. It screams alternate creation myths and links to the Far Realm. And just as with Aboleths, Krakens, and other related aquatic masterminds, it also calls for a cult of followers, with all that such a thing implies for a D&D setting!

  7. Hobgoblins
    Finally a classic, you'd say! And yes, I like the classic-ness of Hobgoblins, particularly the fact that they're militaristic and, in D&D terms, devil-ish, due to their favored alignments and general motivations. They're cool also because they could constitute the army of another race, and because their possible link with devils might make them connected with Nine Hells-related plots. And from a simple humanoid critter, there goes a planar campaign in the making!

  8. Ghosts
    Everybody has a favorite undead, and I go again for a rather surprising classic in this department. Ghosts can be simply everywhere, and they are basically living (undying, actually) mini-quests for adventurers. Each ghost is a side-trek in the adventure of its own.

  9. Angels
    Again a matter of blurred morality, but nobody can deny that angels can be pretty scary. Especially because when you finally manage to stop their fury (by killing them: they would never surrender), you start wondering a bit too much about who or what you angered in doing so... In the illustration, an angel that appeared in the archive of 4e's Monster Manual illustrations online, but not on the actual manual... Never solved the mystery, and yes, although it's probably a rare case of evil angel, don't think the others were less scary!

  10. NINJAS!
    Broad enough to cite more favorite monsters in one entry, in D&D ninjas can be anything, and in my campaigns this is especially true. There can be desert elf magic ninjas, lizardmen ninjas (Predator love, anyone?), naga ninjas (icing on the cake!), rakshasa ninjas (the revelation/transformation moment is golden, plus these cat-people die easily once revealed!), giant undead mantis ninjas (yes, I did it once), warforged ninjas (can't help thinking about that villain from the first Hellboy movie!) and sometimes even DRAGON NINJAS (Shadow Dragons of course)... The important thing is acting like a ninja. Mixing exotic combat styles to plain assassination-aimed lurking! In the illustration, Ink Eyes, a ratling ninja of the MtG setting of Kamigawa. It's an oriental-flavored example, so not very apt at displaying how many more "typical D&D flavors" exist, but she's my favorite by far!

... And 5 I don't:

  1. Drow
    Perhaps due to many players favoring the race, perhaps because they're too obvious, Drow never figured in my D&D campaigns as enemies, except for one time in which they were reflavored as the dominant civilization in a "real world setting" in which they were basically the civilization of Atlantis. And they looked nothing like true Drow.
  2. Orcs
    Come on... Orcs...
  3. Giants
    I find them mostly uninteresting, with the exception of Fomorians!
  4. Zombies
    Another thrill-killing critter! And I hate zombie movies as well!
  5. Elementals
    At least in their single-element standard variants, they are really boring compared to many other elemental-themed creatures!

Now blog yours!

Let's keep up the hype at least until we're not too busy reading the new Monster Manual!!
It's your turn now!