My Favorite Dungeons and Dragons Monsters revised

Derek Holland
 

My favorite Dungeons and Dragons creatures aren't so much the creatures themselves but the ideas behind them and how they might be used for designing other creatures. Some of these are somewhat obscure, but that has to do with the fact that the ideas behind them were never used for others. In these revised post, I added osquips, sons of kyuss and yellow musk creepers. In alphabetic order:

The Bzastra is from the third Planescape Monstrous Compendium. In effect they are lichens, a combination of two organisms that have resulted in something very new and different. Bzastra are a combination of ring animals and kelp and are found on the elemental plane of water. The plants and animals are mundane, not even worth a stat block. Together they create an intelligent being that has a few spells, telekinesis and an ability to use a magical field to defend themselves (as a damaging attack, as armor or to paralyze). It is a creation of magic as the only way to seperate the individual components without harming them is dispel magic. I have never seen any creature, TSR/WotC or third party, that is similar to this one (the symbiote template in Savage Species is significantly different). I am just a little suprised as the idea has a lot of merit but apparently not many have seen it that way (or have the book).

The Chaos Beast are a 3e creation, this critter is a blob of chaotic flesh. It isn't the beast itself that interests me, it is the survivors of its attack. These people and creatures have had their very forms warped and minds damaged. What might that mean for their offspring concieved after the attack? I am thinking feats, racial traits, templates and possibly substitution levels. They are warped because their parent was touched by pure chaos. New species may result or bloodlines ala those in Unearthed Arcana (but with some randomness in what the results are).

Conashellae are in Polyhedron 80. These Dark Sun creatures are clams that live in the soil. Though they can be mildly dangerous to those who ranch them, the clams have a much more powerful impact on their surroundings. They change the quality of the soil due to how they feed. This means the vegetation that can survive on the soil changes as well. As ecosystem engineers they aren't as powerful as mortiss (below) because the latter make habitat from dead rocks, but that doesn't mean they aren't significant. And the idea behind them, that a life form can change the land to allow new species to invade, now that has potential. This has been done, but as far as I know it is only been applied to undead. Aberrations, plants and dragons are the creature types I think work best for this, each allowing entire ecological guilds into invade and possibly take over.

Deepspawn are my favorite creatures of all. They reproduce other monsters by consuming an original and then making copies. All one needs to do to conquer the world is eat a kobold with high charisma. It orders its spawn to become sorcerers and suddenly it has access to a lot of magic, enough to make a highly defended lair, provide it with magical items for personal defense and provide weapons and armor to its armies. What armies? Well, for that a deepspawn must consume a queen or reproductive of a hive dwelling species, such as the bee people in the 3e Monster Manual II. Even without an army, the deepspawn can send its kobold sorcerers out to learn (i.e. gain levels), come back for consumption and then duplicate the more powerful sorcerers. This can also be used for science fiction games, just substitute engineers and scientists for the sorcerers. To make a deepspawn even more dangerous, it could apply templates to its spawn. I would think half templates, such as half-dragon (after it has consumed a hatchling) would work very well but almost anything that can be applied to the living will make a deepspawn that much more powerful.

Feyrs, or if you prefer fihyrs, are flesh born of nightmares (bad dreams, not demonic horses). Though they are fairly useful in of themselves, the idea behind feyrs can be used for much more. Any large population of creatures could create monsters from emotions or will. Kobolds bring forth shock troops in the form of giant weasels or giant ants to destroy their enemies. Humans creating colorful birds during a spring festival (the more and better looking the birds, the better the harvest). Dragons whose nightmares come to life terrorize the countryside even while they sleep.

Hivebrood are from the Mystara MC. They are insectoids that reproduce by converting others. What makes them supernifty is their pheromones. These odors transfer information, including spells. If a controller, one of the powerful castes, eats a wizard that has memorized a lightning bolt spell, it can cast it or it can release a pheromone so that all the hivebrood within 180' (60' per round, 3 rounds max) can cast it within 3 rounds of absorbing the odor (except for other, powerful castes which can store them until needed). Other information includes saving throws, skills and memories. This ability is easy to modify and add to other creatures to make them that much more powerful.

Magical viruses are in the 3rd MC for Ravenloft. There are rules on how they can have carriers, transmission and cures. There are 6 examples- combustion, crystal, petrification, phobia, psionic and shadow. Most kill (phobia does not) and shadow turns its victims into monsters. Though there have been rules for disease since AD&D 1e and a few magical diseases like mummy rot and lycanthropy, these were the first plague like magical diseases given a decent description. What shouldn't be any suprise, transforming diseases like the shadow virus and lycanthropy, are those that I find most interesting. They don't even have to be lethal. The reason wizards are so weak is they had to reorganize their brains with a disease that allows them to understand magic. Cure the diease and the wizards can't advance until they are reinfected. This could also be used for certain schools or even spells. Elves could become treants after suffering a fungal infestation. I could go on and on with this so I will leave it here.

Malenti are sahuagen that look like aquatic elves. They are a result of elves coming within a mile or so of developing sahuagen eggs. This is another idea that has so much potential and yet no development. Half orcs could be the result of orcs coming within a mile of pregnant humans (and possibly the reverse as well). This removes the normally unpleasant origins of half orcs and furter inflames the war between orcs and humans. For something much less pleasant, half fiends could be the result of powerful undead, such as liches, that are warping reality by their very existence.

Meenlocks are small humanoid things that capture humans and convert them into meenlocks. Yes, undead do the same thing and usually much faster, but there isn't many other living creatures that take away a character's humanity in such a total and brutal fashion. They are boogey-men and quite good in that role.

Mortiss are Spelljammer creatures. They turn sunlight into magic and use it to turn wood and stone into clay. What makes them interesting is their ability to clean air and survive without food and water. In effect they make habitat for a variety of other creatures. For planet bound settings, the idea could be applied to something that warps the land and makes homes for aberrations, elementals, outsiders or even some of the odder magical beasts. Killing the habitat forming creatures sounds like a good idea, at least until one studies the possible ripples in the ecology of a region. When the aberration dies en masse, their corpses draw scavengers who then mutate from eating tainted flesh (giant, tentacled flies that spread new plagues). Driving off elementals could be even worse as they may be the only source of some needed resource (earth elementals keep the gold mines regenerating or water elementals create rain).

Mudmen are the result of magical structures eroding and the magic seeping into the mud bottoms of ponds. They are the result of spontaneous generation, something else rarely used in D&D. In fact the mudmen and barkburr are the only ones from 1e as far as I know (and both are from the MM II). The idea is interesting but the execution is rather bland. All mudmen exist to rise up and commit suicide by throwing themselves at intruders of their ponds. Eh. There should be at least 8 different types, one for each school of magic, that act differently and have different spells to use. But even that is fairly limited in using the idea. How about weapons and items that leak magic, causing changes (good and bad) in objects they are in contact for long periods. Swords could make their scabbards rust proof, silent or unusually heavy (or just about anything you can imagine). Magical helmets could be worrying as they cause hair to fall out, change color or even turn into leaves or scales. Building that alter their inhabitants slightly over the years. And so on.

Osquips are a Barsoomian creature. They are the nightmares of rats come to life and made worse. You can't escape them because they can burrow through almost anything. They breed like other rodents so there are billions of them out there. They are tough enough to kill cats and dogs so rat killers are of little use. How does one survive an infestation of these monsters?

A very modified version of the Sons of Kyuss. Instead of being undead, they are aberrations, parts of their bodies replaced by flesh grown from the worm and the host. Without magic, one infested by a worm slowly feels their ability to control their body slipping away. They gain physical powers instead of undead resistances, powers that differ between races and sometimes individuals. One never knows exactly what a son will be until it emerges from the host's skin.

The summoning ooze is from the MM III (3.5 version). It is covered with arcane symbols that allow it to cast summon monster X (the level is dependent on its hit dice). I took that idea and expanded it a bit. Trees that form glyphs on their bark, termites that create mounds covered with runes (or mounds in the shape of runes) and birds that form symbols within their nests. The exact power depends on the creature and can cover almost any form of defense, from mage armor to gate spells that trip when the symbol is touched and a outsider version of the creature comes through. Fantasy evolution can apply here- those that make more powerful symbols have a better chance of survival and thus their species becomes more and more powerful over time (it is power versus adaptation that makes it fantasy).

Yellow musk creepers are one of the most interesting mind control monsters IMO. They are obvious yet seem to be able to draw enough people and animals to them to reproduce successfully. How do they do that? I was considering a form of minor shapeshifting into other shrubs as well as small trees or into non-living objects but that is too easy. They could hide in the dark and survive by their diet of blood and brain juice. That is okay and allows them to survive underground but all the artwork for them shows leaves. No, I think what is a better method is allies. They may be giants ants or termites or people. What they get in return are zombie slaves as well as some addictive fruit-like structure the plant produces. Whole communities could be addicted and raid their neighbors for more seed bearers for the plants that grew out of the well in the center of town.

I was considering adding dragons, but more for their lair and all the creatures that may live with them (along the lines of the many species that live in ant colonies). Xixchil, biotech using mantis people from Spelljammer, were interesting but now seem very limited. Undead don't do it for me at all (certain aberrations fill the horror and unnatural niches). I think vermin are woefully underutilized and described poorly and plants are not that much better. In fact I can't think of a single vermin species that I find interesting as it is written. Gibbering mouthers are cool but there isn't anything that makes them amazingly unique (even their ability to control the consistency of the stone around them or alter their biochemistry ala their ecology in Dragon). The few parasites (mostly found in Dragon Magazine and the first Annual MC) are pretty boring. Wow, a gold coin that drains a tiny amount of blood. How about one that uses a compulsion that forces its victims to collect as many of the parasites as possible and then feed themselves to the gold bugs? Little tweeks can make all the difference in creature design.

So why did I write this? To show you how I think, why and how I write my Mutant Future critters and to, hopefully, answer your questions of "why did he do it that way?". I don't look at monsters in the same way as most people (and am usually reminded of that fact by friends) and that has a huge effect on my writing.