I got to thinking the other day about what I would do if I was ever asked to pare D&D's monster list down to twenty. No particular reason, I just thought it would be an interesting experiment. I didn't give it much thought, just banged out the first ones that came to mind. Here's the list.
ORC: Because D&D needs a 1 hit dice evil humanoid, and Orcs have more ties to fantasy literature than hobgoblins.
KOBOLD: They've become a D&D icon by now, and I do think that really weak monsters are useful.
GNOLL: Because I love them, and they're a D&D staple. And I just wanted a good range of humanoids in there.
OGRE: We need a big bruiser. It was a toss-up between this guy and the Hill Giant, but I went with the Ogre because I like the name better.
FIRE GIANT: I needed at least one type of giant on here, and I chose Fire Giants for coolness. I almost went with Cloud Giants for the Jack-and-the-Beanstalk factor, but in the end the Norse-inspired Fire Giants won out.
TROLL: How could D&D's rubbery, regenerating trolls not make the list? One of the first survival tips anyone will learn in D&D is this - use fire on Trolls.
DARK ELVES: Again, they're so intrinsically linked to D&D - they even have an entire series of classic modules centred around them! And probably D&D's most famous novel character is Drow as well.
MIND FLAYERS: Squid-headed brain-eaters? Check. One of Gary's finest creations, it's a shame he didn't do a great deal with them.
KUO-TOA: Because we need some amphibious/underwater foes. And which better than the Lovecraftian Kuo-Toa?
BEHOLDER: Is there a more iconic D&D monster? Any list that doesn't include these is wrong. Objectively.
PURPLE WORM: A gigantic worm that can swallow PCs whole, and an all-round fearsome monster.
DISPLACER BEAST: D&D classic "I'm hard to hit" monster.
RUST MONSTER: One of Gary's monsters specifically designed to screw with players, and the most recognisable - hey, it's been in Futurama!
CARRION CRAWLER: A great monster to use for a hard encounter for low-level PCs.
MANTICORE: I just think it looks cool, but it's a monster probably more famous through D&D than myth.
CHIMERA: Again, the same applies.
WYVERN: Dragons with scorpion tails are cool.
GELATINOUS CUBE: D&D's most iconic ooze - a square blob of jelly that is perfectly evolved to fit into dungeon corridors.
BLACK PUDDING: The other great ooze.
RED DRAGON: And last of all, but definitely not least, the most iconic of dragons. It was this guy or the green, but went with the fire breath.
So, did I miss anything? Let me know.