I actually had come up with this post BEFORE everyone else on the RPG Bloggers Network started doing their own lists… honest! So here’s my list not necessarily of my favorite monsters in D&D, but of those that I always try to work into every campaign I run. Then, a list of 5 monsters we joke about including, but it never seems to happen except under rare circumstances.
10 MONSTERS I USE IN EVERY D&D CAMPAIGN…
1. Umber Hulk
Giant bugs with some ill-defined confusion attack. Do they have those swirly hypnotist eyes? Do they just rhythmically chant “Ummmmbbbbbeeerrr Huuullllkkkk” until you go crazy? Who knows… I just know these giant burrowing critters are an expected part of every one of my D&D games.
Obviously we have to pair these with Umber Hulks. The Bullette, or “Land Shark”, does its burrowing to tunnel through the ground and snap up unsuspecting adventurers. In 4e, they even come in two sizes (Deadly and Extra Deadly).
Is there a better pair of words in the English language than “Eye Ray”?
There’s a fierce debate that rages every time: what do these creatures sound like? In 4e they have a screech attack, which suggests some kind of loud honking noise, but I always pictured them as making a noise that was a cross between an owl’s hoot and a bear’s growl. Maybe someday, this question will be settled by genetic splicing.
“I search the treasure chest for traps.” “Roll initative.”
There may not be a monster that epitomizes “retro stupid” more to me than the mimic, a treasure chest that grows a mouth and arms to attack.
6. Gelatinous Cube
Besides being the best miniature of all time, you can place these near-invisible blobs in the path of any unsuspecting adventuring party, and they’ll go out of their way to go “SPLAT” into it.
To me, the canonical undead creature. While skeletons and zombies may pop up more, they’re just difficult to injure (but easy to turn) nusicances. Wraiths, on the other hand, are scary, life-draining spirits that can lurk in any dark corner.
This is the classic “trick” monster- you must know its weaknesses to beat it. (Of course, the legend of “Abe’s Trolls” has made declaring this weakness to be dangerous). The troll is the main monster where you have to be specically equipped to deal with it, and many an adventuring party has been forced to improvise weapons from their torches to put the thing down once and for all.
9. Mind Flayer
All they want to do is eat your brains. There’s few monsters I would consider more classic and essential to D&D than the Mind Flayer. They know psionics, magic, and have tentacle attacks. In 3e, four of those, and CRUNCH… you were food.
Of course, their name is right in the title, and there’s no monster that says D&D to me more. D&D’s way of characterizing dragons by family and color may not jibe with mythology, but it does give them a very unique flavor.
…AND 5 I DON’T
It’s a turtle with an island on its back. Great setting, but often harder to work in than a monster that the PCs would actually, you know, fight.
It has many legs and eats gold. We generally remember the first part, and not the second. Maybe I just need to make an encounter consisting of an Aurumvorax, Rust Monster, Dire Beaver, and Moth Swarm. I call it: “Your stuff is lunch.”
It’s an evil manta ray or something, but we just like it because of the name. Fun fact: I once owned an iguana that I named Ixitxachitl, and despite having to write the name down at the vet’s office many times, I still cannot spell it from memory.
First coming to our attention with the 3e Epic Level Handbook, the Atropal is a stillborn god-fetus that rises as undead. Eww. Plus, it uses the two greatest words in the english language… remember them? That’s right, it has eye rays!
The Tarrasque (sometimes pronounced “Tarsk” and sometimes pronounced “Terr-ask”) always sits at the top of the monster food chain to us. Sure, there are monsters of higher hit dice, challenge rating, level, etc., but nothing seems to come close to being the ultimate “oh crap” encounter as the big regenerating beastie. Why do I never use it? Campaigns rarely get to high enough levels to even think about challenging it, except when I run a game that starts in epic levels, in which case it’s the first thing they fight.
The legend had a bite taken out of it (literally) when we heard the story of a player using the Wish spell to turn it into a regenerating candy bar.
OK, that’s my list! Has anyone started assembling these into a mini-carnival yet?