Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Twenty Iconic Monsters

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.


  1. Anonymous2:23 AM PST

    No undead? I would think liches would be up there -- I'd rank them above gnolls (even though I love gnolls) or black pudding, certainly.

    Can't help thinking there ought to be at least one demon or devil in there, too.

    Finally, you missed what's probably the single most common antagonist across D&D campaigns: human.

  2. If I were to label an undead it would be either Lich or Death Knight.

    As for Demons/Devils, you got to give the Pit Fiend some love.

  3. Yes, I was in the shower this morning thinking about D&D, and did a total facepalm when I realised that there were no undead... And devils/demons as well!

    Consider this list an epic fail.

  4. Anonymous6:01 PM PST

    Aww...don't be so hard on yourself, Nate. The list isn't an epic fail, it just needs to be expanded to a Top 40, instead. That way you get to throw in the Skeleton, Zombie, Mummy, Vampire, Werewolf, Lich, Medusa, Minotaur, and of course... The Flumph!

  5. Yeah, the lack of undead and lycanthropes is fail. General undead aside, Vampire and/or Lich definitely should have been on there somewhere.

  6. The Norse-inspired giant would be the Frost giant, no?

    There was a thread on Enworld where the guy picked one monster at each hit die so you could run a campaign with the bunch, but I can't find it.