I’m liking the Top Ten Monsters thing so much, I decided to do another one. Only there’s five, and they’re not from D&D. Here’s a grab-bag of monters from sources other than Dungeons & Dragons, just because.
Skaven are disease-riddled filthy ratmen from the Warhammer universe. It’s a crying shame that some kind of ratfolk don’t make an appearance in the official D&D Monster Manuals, and I suspect the reason is that Games Workshop Have Lawyers Too.
It’s not difficult to find fan-made conversions of the Skaven for the various editions of D&D, though many of them miss the mark and just re-tool a Goblin statblock and add Filth Fever to the mix. That’s good enough for a one-shot, but doesn’t really do these critters justice. They’re evil sadistic little buggers with delusions of grandeur and do much to add to Warhammer’s Filthy-Noir feel. If it’s Skaven-in-D&D you want, then S&S’s Vigil Watch: Warrens of the Ratmen is far and away the best resource. I’ve used that to run through Dungeon Crawl Classics Idylls of the Rat King, using actual Ratmen instead of Goblins, and it rocked.
I’ve already professed my love for Ruequest’s beast-headed savages over in my list of Top Ten Monsters, and I ain’t repeating myself again :D
Named after the fabled Island of Dr Moreau, these gene-spliced human hybrids make an appearance in d20 Modern, Wizard of the Coast’s unloved stepchild rpg. Much like 4e D&D, d20 Modern is a system you either grokked or didn’t, and I grokked, bigtime. More on that another time though.
What Moreaus offer is the opportunity to bring a little Anthromanga to your game. Perhaps humanoid-animals are the norm. After all, who doesn’t want to play a Bear Swordmage, Dog Ranger or Rat Spellthief. C’mon! Have you no soul?
As d20 Modern is kissing cousin to the d20 SRD, dropping Moreaus into D&D is as simple as…. well, dropping Moreaus into D&D. Job done.
Dude! Flying Monkeys! They’re like….. monkeys….. but they fly! From the world of Oz and the pen of Frank L Baum comes the cutest little chattering critters around. Let’s face it – grafting wings onto anything makes it cooler. Just take flying fish as an example. Without wings they’d just be…. well, fish. Add the ability to glide huge distances, and their immediately photoshootable. Wings maketh cool.
If I was King of the Universe, I’d make it law that every first Monster Manual had to have Flying Monkeys in, because their mere presence will nullify the effects of any duds the book might also contain (*cough* Ethereal Filcher *cough*).
If you’re playing 4e D&D, use the stats for the Spiretop Drake as a starting point and add salt to taste (flying monkey brains…. mmmm….). For 3e D&D, use the actual Monkey stats from the actual Monster Manual and add a Flight Speed. I’m pretty sure flying monkeys have made an appearance in 3e D&D someplace somewhere, but the lack of them in a core Monster Manual is a cryin’ shame.
Far worse though is the total lack of animals in the 4e Monster Manual. Fail, guys! Animal stats are infinitely templatable meaning they are prime Dungeon Master fodder. Give me official baseline animal stats from the start and you open up an whole vista of monstery goodness. My favourite so far has been a Rhino Zombie. Don’t ask.
From the world of Rolemaster comes the scariest monster I’ve ever thrown at my players in all my history of gaming: Shards. These are humanoid construct-like beings that are coated in a greenish leather hide that entirely covers their body, including their featureless faces. They are supernaturally fast, and attack by momentarily stopping, using their momentum to flick their arms arching backward over their head to launch disks of bone covered in their own poisonuous blood. They’re unremitting, damned-near unstoppable and completely single-minded in their objectives. Back when we played Rolemaster (ah, happy times) the players only had to heard the “thum thum thum” of a single Shard’s footsteps and know it was time to leave town. They only tried to fight back once, and the Shard despatched all but one of the party (the Rogue ran and lived to tell the tale) with precious little effort. Like I said, happy times.
Sometimes it’s fun to throw a monster at the party that they just can’t take down, and Shards exist for just that purpose. While there’s certainly more powerful monsters to be found in Rolemaster, the Shard is right up there for sheer fear factor alone. Just one of these days, I’m going to introduce them to our D&D game. “Thum thum thum”, indeed.