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DUNGEONS & DRAGONS:
CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF VERY STUPID MONSTERS.
Warning: This article is very geeky. If you aren't familiar with D&D, I suggest skipping all the text until you see a picture of a sea lion. You'll know it when you see it, trust me.
Over a couple of years, I've reviewed a lot of things. From terrible comic books to horrible movies, these usually have one thing in common that says a little bit about me. Yes, I like monsters. When I was little, I was one of the horror movie addicts and my cartoons were required to have all sorts of monsters in them. As I've grown older, I've done my best not to grow up and, as such, my love for bizarre and deadly animals of fiction hasn't dwindled. But like any work of fiction, when hasn't there been a time where you leaned back and declared to the world that ANYONE could have come up with something better? Whether you were watching a movie featuring a giant breast monster (Faust: Love of the Damned) or reading a book about a super-criminal whose greatest weakness was a mole on his chest (Brimstone by the authors of Relic), or whatever, chances are this has happened to you. And thus we are brought to the purpose of this article. I mean, I doodle stupid monsters all the time. But I would never put them in a book and expect other human beings to have to experience them. That's why we're going to go through the D&D Gallery of Shame.
I'll admit that, for someone who's into gaming and role-playing, it's pretty weird that I never got into playing Dungeons & Dragons. I think it might be the fact that I never got into Elves or just that the whole Fantasy genre just seemed like one long Conan the Barbarian-based cliché. Whatever the case, that didn't stop me from getting one of the books years and years ago. Instead of the core book, which would have allowed me and my friends to actually PLAY the game, I was the proud owner of one of the Monster Manuals. You know, because I've always loved monsters. At the age of twelve I'd realized that it looked like someone seven years old had designed some of the monsters, and my opinion hasn't changed to this day. That's not to say that all these monsters are retarded and lame. Oh no. Only some of them are stupid beyond words...and that's what this article is all about. After doing a lot of research which entailed getting my hands on a copy of almost every Monster Manual that's been printed over the past 30 years, I've put together a list of the most mind-numbing creations that a lot of you will be surprised someone didn't get their ass handed to them for even suggesting. Let's lay some ground rules and prepare ourselves for some monstrous creations devoid of creativity. I'm going to be jumping around all over the place, so expect some very bad art from the 1980's to be next to some very good renditions of something that will make your brain implode. Also know that I pulled stuff from all versions of Dungeons and Dragons, including that really unpopular one they made in the 1980's which was pretty much Elves in Space. Fighting Pirates. And Space Dragons. Not a joke. Really.
Now, if you know Dungeons and Dragons, you know what a Beholder is. I particularly like these guys, if only because I like drawing eyes and teeth...of which Beholders have plenty. So, Beholders aren't necessarily retarded, I'll admit. The retardation kicks in when we see another monster a few pages further in the manual.
The "Gas Spore" is a monster that looks like a Beholder...only when you attack it, it explodes and infects you with deadly spores that will kill you. So, we've got a monster that is a monster you have to fight as well as a monster that exists only to look like a monster you have to fight. This brings up the first issue I have with D&D: There is no hope for you if you exist in this world. Nothing can be trusted. If the game master wants to kill you, you're dead. Think I'm exaggerating? Wait until I show you the monster that kills you by becoming your pants and tricking you into putting them on.
One final note before we just start listing monsters of shame. This article wouldn't have been possible without the help of a lot of die-hard D&D fans who were able to scan their books and send images my way. I asked these folks what they thought was the dumbest monster in all of Dungeons and Dragons history and all but one of them suggested the same thing. While I completely disagree, let me introduce you to the infamous Flumph...which was so disliked by gamers of the early 1980's that the game's designer actually published a rebuttal defending his creation:
See, I don't think this is as retarded as it's going to get. Sure, it's goofy as hell and is (to quote) "helpless if you flip it over", but it still can fly and inject your face with acid if you piss it off. Man, I now have an article that starts off with me defending the coolness of a flying dinner plate with tentacles glued to it. That's never a good sign. What is a good sign is that every one of the hardcore D&D fans was introduced to a stupid monster they didn't know about when they proof-read this article for me. That said, it's time to begin.
Stupid Monster Category #1: Fun with Animals.
A bear is a scary animal, I suppose. How ever could you make it scarier...oh, I know! I'll give it the head of an owl. It'll be a horrid amalgam of bear and owl and everyone will fear it! :blink blink: Ummm. Yeah. This is a REALLY common trend in Dungeons and Dragons, apparently. Take one animal that's sort of dangerous and combine it with any other animal you can think of. There was no shortage of goofy mixed-up animals to share. Such as:
If you guessed that you were looking at a "Sea Lion", then you indeed possess the cleverness of a seven-year-old. When I see things like this, I seriously think that it had to have been included on a dare. Either that or some random kindergarten class got to visit the office when it came time to create new monsters. Even worse, the Dungeons and Dragons people refused to give up on a bad idea...but at least they admit that "Sea Lion" is just one of the most retarded names out there. How can they admit this?
By re-introducing the same thing twice and trying to make it cool (I'll let you judge if they succeed):
Oh my, as sea cat and a sea tiger...these are most definitely not related to the incredibly lame sea lion. Nope. These are totally different and definitely not revamped versions of something Timmy drew after recess one day. I wonder if little Timmy got to design any other monsters?
Wow. That just hurts. What's worse is the small essay accompanying this picture, explaining every little detail about something obviously created by someone who has to wear a helmet in class.
:sound of brain imploding:
Let's play a game. You're looking at the unholy union of a shark and a squid. Can you guess what they called it?
If you said "Squark" you are correct. :sigh:
MONKEY BEES MONKEY BEES MONKEY BEE MONKEY BEES!!!
I guess when it came to cross-breeding animals, you have to name it something so as not to confuse the locals. Otherwise:
They might not realize that you're riding around on the back of an OWLEPHANT. I really don't want to know what the mother was. Either way that's just wrong.
Speaking of things that just shouldn't be, Dungeons and Dragons is also filled with creatures that are monstrous versions of normal animals. From fiendish weasels to dire sloths, most of the animal kingdom is covered.
So what could be more frightening than a giant hamster?
...a giant space hamster, of course. I almost want to explain this, but the less said about Spelljammer (that's Elves in Spaaaaaaace) the better. Still, some giant animals are better than others....
You're looking at all the text D&D has to offer about Giant Beavers...mostly so that I can prove I didn't make it up. What's also interesting is that it explains how giant beavers can talk and you can do business with them. It also tells you how much you can sell their skin on the open market. "I'm sorry Mr. Beaver, but I think we'd rather just skin you, eat your carcass, and sell what's left in town. By the way, where are your kids, Mr. Beaver?"
Despite the clever misspelling, you're looking at an evil cow that stinks. Even better, read the first sentence there. "Cattle of the Nine Hells." Smelly cows from hell. Awesome.
Animal-men have always been a staple of any extended work of fantasy. From Werewolves to Fishmen to Dracula (vampires are, after all, vampire bat people), they're very, very common. Which is why it amuses me when writers choose phenomenally retarded animals to make into men.
"The Giff are a race of powerfully muscled, hippopotami mercenaries."
What might also be important to know is that the Hippomen are also IN SPACE. :sigh:
Sometimes, when it's your job to be creative, you really don't want to be. Take Werewolves for instance. Every fantasy game seems to have them. But after a while, an author wants to leave his mark. He wants to add a twist that no one's thought of. In Dungeons and Dragons, this is often seen by simply reversing the word "Werewolf" so that it cleverly appears as "Wolfwere". Since this was done a long time ago, later writers would have to add their own novelty to the were-act. So in come were-foxes, were-sloths (no kidding), were-bears, and other fun little crossbreeds. And then people thought they'd be original and call a wolf that turns into a man a "Wolfwere". That only started someone onto the path of doomed...well...check this out:
Why someone wanted to have their name attached to an "Asswere" (and not even call it a "Were-Donkey") is beyond me.
In fact, I don't want to look at anything even remotely resembling an animal for a while.
Stupid Monster Category #2: Things that look like other things.
Another reason I'd never want to really play Dungeons & Dragons is that in the game, there are monsters that are designed not to be fought but to simply kill you when you're not expecting it. While this includes teleporting spiders and invisible demons, the best/worst of these are invariably the animals that are meant to be viewed as something else.
The Mimic and its Spelljammer cousin, the Space Mimic, are evil creatures that disguise themselves as valuable luggage so that they can eat people that get too close. This isn't fundamentally retarded unto itself, but it does need to be pointed out. Killer suitcases set the foundation for what will be known as the "Room of Death." Feel free, if you play D&D, to incorporate the "Room of Death" into your next gaming session. It helps illustrate the fact that sometimes there's no way to avoid death by stupid monster.
"Hello adventurer. You walk into the room. That's when the floor starts to fight with the ceiling about who gets to eat you. While they fight you sneak along the wall, hoping to escape...only to find out the wall's already starting to digest you the moment you touch it. Adventurer, I hope you've enjoyed your stay in the Room of Death. Remember to fill out your comment card."
So what am I ranting about? There are three monsters in Dungeons and Dragons that exist ONLY to kill characters in positively silly and retarded ways. Meet the Trinity of Dungeon Terror:
Great. There's a monster that pretends to be the ceiling. When you're least expecting it (and who IS expecting to be eaten by the ceiling), it descends upon you. So what do we have here? A killer ceiling. Next?
Yes, it's a killer floor. I wonder if there's anyplace safe in this room?
Wow. Invisible ooze that pretends to
be a wall.
See, it's called a Bowler. It's a boulder that's alive and rolls on it's own and BOWLS you down like you were a BOWLING pin! Aren't I clever?
The sheet phantom is a ghost....that materializes as a sheet. I think it's based off the old "hey, it's just a guy with a sheet over him pretending to be a ghost" joke. But the idea of a haunted bed sheet just isn't cool at any speed. Of course there are other "cloth-themed" monsters out there. Cloakers are (oddly enough) monsters that look like cloaks that eat you when you put them on and Mawlers are monsters that pretend to be your underwear (or any piece of clothing, but underwear is more humorous example) and then...they eat you when you put them on. Can you imagine if these things were around in reality? We'd be attacking our laundry on a regular basis. Of course the sword you use to attack your laundry would turn out to be a Xaver, which is a monster that pretends to be a sword. Damn it, D&D, what the hell!?! I'd pick up the phone to complain, but I'm sure that'd eat me too.
Stupid Monster Category #3: The inexplicable.
It would be criminal of me to have an article about embarrassing D&D monsters and NOT mention the dreaded Gelatinous Cube. I mean, how many monsters out there are designed after a cube of lime Jello?
I get that it's a Cyclops with two heads. What I don't get is why you had to call it a Biclops. I mean, if you're going to define something by its number of eyes, aren't most people in the world Biclops as well?
The worst part about these is that they're not original at all. If you've ever read Stephen King's The Shining, you know the idea of man-eating topiary bushes has been around for more than 30 years. That doesn't make them any less hilarious, though.
I don't care how well Evil Dead did it. The idea of crawling hands has been a joke monster since the 1950's. On a related note, if you look at the above picture, I'm slightly troubled at how much detail the artist spent "ahem" detailing the poor guy's crotch. Maybe I'm looking at it wrong, but he seems to be enjoying this? Ick.
If the furry community ever chose a Gay Pride mascot, I swear, this would have to be it.
Damn, Lolth's got some major booty.
(Don't hate me. My original thought was to type: "I'd Hit it." but I don't think we need to go there.)
The "robot gnome" part I get. The weird V is for Vendetta fetish mask is what makes me cry at night.
I really only need to say this creature's name for you to understand why it's an abomination to all things good and pure in the world of monsters:
The Flail Snail.
And thus, ladies and gentlemen, we are down to my top Five stupid monsters. These monsters are all particularly amazing....in that someone not only went to the trouble of thinking them up, but also went to the trouble of paying an artist to bring them into the light. Let's see what waits at the bottom of the barrel:
#5: Evil Squirrels.
While there's not much to be said, I still find it shocking that there's not one but two different types of evil squirrels out in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. The one on the left is the Carnivorous Flying Squirrel and the mob on the right are the dreaded "Skiurids"...they steal parts of your soul in the form of nuts that they save for winter. I'm not joking. They harvest soul acorns from people who travel into their territory. What the hell?
#4: The Giant Vampire Frog
If the other monsters weren't so overtly ridiculous, this would be my #1 choice. There's something hilarious about the oversized teeth and the fact that for a "giant" animal it's still pretty much pet-sized. Beyond that if you read the text related to this critter, it only gets better. Apparently once it bites you it latches onto your head and starts writhing around...so that when people try to attack it they stab you in the head instead. So you end up slowly being bled to death by a vampire frog while your friends try to help you by punching you in the back of your head. That's comedic gold right there.
#3: The Wolf-in-Sheep's-Clothing
The rabbit is not just sitting there. The rabbit is part of the monster. So you're looking at an evil tree stump that has a cute bunny on the end of its tentacles so that it can lure people or other animals near it. While I understand the parallel to animals in the real world, I'm still stuck here looking at a googly-eyed tree stump with a rabbit glued to its head. Wow.
#2: The Vargouille
At first glance this monster looks pretty cool. It's a severed head that flies around, eating people. The problem is that it becomes incredibly ridiculous when you find out about how it breeds. When it attacks, it will often "kiss" it's victims. Later that night the victim's hair falls out and THEIR EARS TURN INTO BATWINGS AND THEIR HEAD FLIES AWAY. Recent editions of Dungeons and Dragons explicitly state that the wings appear behind the ears, but for the first couple of decades of D&D, adventurers were doomed to have their ears carry them away. And it really doesn't get any more retarded than a monster that kisses you so that your head can fly away and wreak havoc with it.
Or does it?
#1: The Raggamoffyn
Oh man. You are NOT ready for this. Even worse, I think this monster is one of the more recent additions to the Dungeons & Dragons universe. I hope that's not true, but if it is, I hope someone got fired or at least has had sex withheld from them. Below are the various "breeds" of Raggamoffyns:
They don't look like much, do they? What you're looking at is a magical creature that's body is completely made up of random articles of clothing and sometimes junk. Be it your dirty laundry or your fine washables, Raggamoffyns exist to take control of anyone they can get their "hands" on. This means that a pile of clothing flies at random people... and the pile of clothing tries to get them to wear it. As funny as that image is, let's see what happens when the Raggamoffyn succeeds.
Yes, it's an Ork wearing panties on his face...because that's how the Raggamoffyn wants him. His body now does the bidding of someone's dirty laundry...his will is not his own. And since we're talking about a dirty laundry monster, that's the dumbest thing I've read all night. If I ever played D&D, I'd have the players attacked by a crazy ork with panties on his face. He'd kill them all, and all the players would have an irrational fear of monsters that wear their panties on their face. God. Words fail me. It's just too stupid.
Well, before you think that I'm not a kind and just person, I will say that I found a couple of very cool and very original monsters while leafing through three decades of Dungeons and Dragons. I'll plug them on the blog because right now it's time for me point out that people have been creating stupid monsters for a LOT longer than 30 years now. In fact, 1,930 years ago (77 AD), some famous Roman by the name of Pliny the Elder included something known as the Bonnacon in his list of animals found in Ancient (but at the time Modern) Greece. What was the Bonnacon, you ask? Here's an illustration from the 15th century (taken from the Bestiarius-Bestiary of Anne Wahl):
The Bonnacon is a bull that fires explosive, burning poop from its rear end. According to Pliny, it could "release a trail of dung 3 furlongs in length". And while I hate to admit it, that's even more retarded than anything the Dungeons and Dragons folks have come up with in the past three decades.
Ancient Rome: You should be ashamed of yourself.
Dungeons & Dragons: Thank God it took me looking through dozens of books to find this many stupid monsters. Most of them may be irredeemably stupid, but at least you hid them between beasts that don't fire their poop at their enemies. It's little things like that that keep the D&D legacy alive, I'm sure.
Want More Stupid Monsters?
Check out Part 2:
(Special thanks goes to Jason "Die Giant Monster Die" Sullivan, for scanning in those hard-to-find images from Dragon magazine. Otherwise I wouldn't have proof that "DuckBunnies" were actual D&D monsters and that would be criminal.)
Update: Because so many people have written in about it, I need to make one thing clear: As far as I know, none of the monsters mentioned here were part of the April Fool's Bestiary that Dragon Magazine publishes once a year. The Duckbunny, which everyone seems to think is a total lie, was, if you don't mind me putting it into context, apparently the first animal any evil sorcerer learns to make. You know, because a duck and a rabbit won't eat you if you get the magic spell wrong. The only monster I'm not 100% sure of as being "legit" is the Giant Flying Vampire Frog. I'm almost certain that is is, because if you read the text describing it, someone put a LOT of effort into trying to make it sound cool and deadly. Which is very, very sad.
Update, about a year later: After speaking to Casey Christofferson, the creator of the Wolfspider and the Asswere (which is an interesting thing unto itself), I must say that Tome of Horror is not "official" D&D. It IS D&D, but it isn't official. Well, it is and it isn't. It's complicated, but what's important is that you know that both of those monsters are the property of Necromancer Games.
Copyright 2006 Jared von Hindman or maybe just Jared Hindman. It depends. Any images used that are not Jared's are used via Fair Use review purposes and belong to their respective owners....who are nice people that don't want to sue me. All images are obviously from D&D Monster Manuals, including First, Second, Third, Third and a half editions, not to mention Fiend Folio, Monsters of Darksun, The Spelljammer Monster Manual, and a couple of others that I've probably forgotten to mention. And again: Hasbro who owns Wizards of the Coast who owns TSR who owns Dungeons and Dragons: Please don't hate me. And by Hate, I mean sue.
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