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Monsters!: Lirpa Loof!

July 17th, 2007

After a while, experienced D & D players began to take a “been there, killed that” approach to the lost tombs and unholy cemeteries awaiting exploration. It didn’t help that we had ample opportunity to study the Monster Manual and memorize the invulnerabilities of traditional underworld oozes. That’s when clever dungeon masters looking for new ways to bedevil adventurers had cause to employ Monsters That Look Like Other Monsters.

Creatures in this category were similar to the piercer, trapper and wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing in that they depended upon resembling something else to gain a measure of surprise. And, like the gelatinous cube, they could be attributed to the twisted form of natural selection in a world laced with underground, monster-filled mazes.

Yet, all of the above rationalization didn’t make the Adherer any less ridiculous. Its “loose folds of dirty, white skin” resembled a mummy’s bandages, but exuded a powerful adhesive that caused weapons (and characters) to stick to it. (Conveniently, stone was immune to this effect. Otherwise, players would’ve been treated to the amusing sight of a “mummy” desperately trying to unstick its own feet from the crypt floor.)

According to the Fiend Folio–a British follow-up to the Monster Manual that was the source of many of the goofiest old-school D & D critters–“the adherer will catch its prey by waiting in ambush, camouflaging itself by rolling in dirt, sticks, and leaves and then artfully arranging larger pieces of debris to conceal its form.” So, if you saw what appeared to be a mummy covered in twigs, it was best not to shake its hand.

It’s fun to imagine the adherer as the dungeon-crawl equivalent of Katamari Damacy, rolling up an ever-increasing ball of loose debris, electrum coins, kobolds and pissed-off player characters.

 
I never understood the theory behind the Gas Spore. A floating fungus that outwardly resembled the dread beholder, it violently exploded after receiving a single point of damage. Those within the blast radius were doused with infectious cells that proved lethal within 24 hours, with new gas spores sprouting from their bloated corpses.

A fungus which reproduced in its moment of death seemed biologically reasonable, except when it was pretending to be one of the underworld’s most fearsome monsters. In nature, weak animals sometimes protect themselves by resembling something more ferocious, but the gas spore wanted to be attacked. Looking like something that’s likely to send low-level dungeoneers fleeing in terror down the nearest ten-foot-by-ten-foot corridor wasn’t the best way to accomplish that. Furthermore, a party of adventurers capable of taking on a beholder almost certainly had access to a Cure Disease spell or three.

If I was an exploding, fungal gas ball, I’d want to appear as something less threatening, more likely to be attacked without careful consideration. Like, for instance, a goblin…

 
Which brings us to the Nilbog. When I was assembling the images for this series, I found that there was no drawing of the nilbog. No matter, because it looked exactly like the bog-standard goblin to which aspiring paladins graduated once they tired of hacking mere kobolds. Therefore, I took a bit of license for the picture to the right, including reversing the image for reasons that should be apparent.

The Fiend Folio says that the nilbog suffered from a “curious spatio-temporal reversal.” Nilbogs gained hit points when struck, and took damage by being forcibly fed healing potions. Those encountering nilbogs would feel compelled to give them their own treasure and leave the lair empty-handed. The book adds that it was a mystery why only goblins had been found susceptible to this malady. (Actual reason: because the “redloheb” would’ve been a real bitch.)

 

The Shrieker had its own method of screwing with player characters. Resembling an ordinary (er…) giant mushroom, its only means of defense was to–you guessed it–let out a piercing shriek. Shouting fungi were no threat themselves, but were an excuse for the dungeon master to roll the dice and consult the “wandering monster” chart.
 
Once the area had been cleared of reversible goblins, sticky mummies and ululating yeasts, it was safe to clean out the treasure, right? Wrong! That’s when the Mimic was likely to make an appearance.

Another creature whose existence was solely predicated upon the popularity of the dungeon delving hobby, the mimic could imitate stone or wood and would patiently lurk in the form of a door, a piece of stonework, or (inevitably) an inviting treasure chest. As a further “gotcha,” it shared the adherer’s ability to…adhere.

Amusingly, D & D creator Gary Gygax is quoted in Monster Ecologies as believing that the mimic was one of the monsters worth further exploration. Courtney Solomon, director of the aforementioned Dungeons and Dragons theatrical film, also expressed a fondness for the mimic. But as he believed that beholders could be lured away by flung pebbles, I tend to discount his views.

Next (and last): The Odd And The End

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