14
Mar
10

looking for death in all the wrong places

Confession: I’ve spent a decent amount of time playing Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve never fought a dragon.  Or a beholder.  Or  mind flayer.  Basically, if you look at a list of the fall-down-awesome D&D monsters, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered them.

if only that could be ME getting my brains devoured

Quiz time!  How many of these things have you encountered?  And, if you did, what happened?

  • Aboleth
  • Beholder
  • Berbalang
  • Black Pudding
  • Bulette
  • Demons (any – though my party met a Type V one time when I missed a session)
  • Devils (any)
  • Dragons
  • Drow
  • Githyanki
  • Kuo-Toa
  • Lich (though my party met one when I wasn’t around)
  • Mimic
  • Mind Flayer
  • Owlbear
  • Purple Worm
  • Rakshasa
  • Roper
  • Rust Monster
  • Salamander
  • Slaad
  • Umber Hulk
  • Xorn
  • Yellow Musk Creeper
  • Yuan-Ti

It’s a shameful, disgraceful list!  I’ve fought like a zillion freakin’ goblins, gnolls, stirges, and a gelatinous cube once or twice.   But I’ve never fought any of those.   Where the hell are the Mind Flayers?!

Part of the problem is that all these really great monsters are hiding out toward the end-game as juicy rewards to people who have put in the time, and I’ve never gotten past Level 7.  But dang it, Beholders are totally fucking beast!   Just throw one at us!  Make us run away!  Even if I get killed, I can die happy knowing that it was one of the greatest monsters in the history of RPG’s that killed me!  (Notice that a huge percentage of these things have crazy-ass ways to kill you, just like a James Bond villain is defined by his goofy weapon.)

I’m really hoping that, as Tavis’s campaign heads off into the Outer Planes and into the Underdark beneath Thracia, that we start encountering some of these guys.

Tavis, Eric –  hook a brother up with a grisly, trademark-related death!

And the rest of you – are these critters awesome to play against, or am I building them up too much by ogling the Monster Manual?  What were they like in play?


10 Responses to “looking for death in all the wrong places”


  1. March 14, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    I have fought against most of those on your list.
    –I stopped counting after 13 or so.

    They were, in general, vicious, and in many cases, nearly cost us the entire party.

    I played a 1st – 10th-level Fighter in the (Giants -> Slavers -> Depths -> Demonweb) campaign, and it was only the fact that my fellow players really knew their MU and Clerical spells, and that we kept every magic item we found, that we were able to narrowly survive.
    –A4 was perhaps the most difficult of them.

  2. March 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Classic sandbox play includes the opportunity to encounter monsters well above one’s own weight class. The party followed up on a report of an owlbearhawkbear and killed the thing—a pretty straightforward fight, as it unfortunately never got a chance to hug anyone to death—while carefully not following up on a report of a not-overlarge dragon.

    The megadungeon the party is now reconnoitering is rumored to contain demons (or maybe devils) and possibly-undead dragons. These rumors have yet to stop the party’s investigations! I’m sure that if you desire a grisly, trademark-related death, these beasties will be glad to oblige you.

  3. March 14, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    And the rest of you – are these critters awesome to play against, or am I building them up too much by ogling the Monster Manual? What were they like in play?

    In 3e, I’ve fought a bulette, a devil and several half-devils, a dragon and an umber hulk. All of the fights were pretty interesting due to their special abilities. The bulette’s underground movement made for a dynamic fight, the umber hulk’s confusion ability threw off our tactics completely, and the devil, her offspring and the dragon each had a whole panoply of powers with dramatic effects on play. It’s worth tracking these critters down, especially if your party is strong enough to stand a fighting chance!

  4. 4 alvordian
    March 14, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    I was just thinking the other day that I have never faced a dragon in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. I have faced plenty of orcs, goblins, kobolds, bandits, and almost every variety of common wild animal. But no cool fantasy beasts. Which is sad. I can take solace in your post however. I don’t feel so alone.

  5. March 15, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Dragon – a great old white lady. We bluffed/bargained/roleplayed it as we were 1-3rd level at the time.

    Umber Hulk – got spanked, couple deaths.

  6. March 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    A dragon killed a bunch of PCs in the first ever White Sandbox game at Recess, and then in the second the party managed to kill a different dragon.

    I think it’s interesting that we also have a What WAS that thing? thread devoted to trying to identify some of the stranger non-gnoll creatures encountered in the White Sandbox of late. How much of the pleasure of encountering a beholder comes from the trademark recognition?

    Last session the PCs encountered something that looked like a wall until it flowed out and attacked them, mimic-style; it also had some unusual ways to kill them (charm, level drain, freezing anti-infravision mist), and the way I described it underlined its strangeness (whereas sometimes when I want to emphasize something’s familiarity I’ll show everyone its picture in the Monster Manual). Is this better than a garden-variety mimic because it’s got more interesting death-ray gizmos, or worse because it leaves you uncertain of whether you met the goal of saying “yep, I met one of those”?

  7. 7 maldoor
    March 15, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Here is one vote for leaving things uncertain – at least until the critter has been safely disposed of. Things are more interesting, challenging, and scary when the creature is described, not statted. As players it carries us closer to the state of mind of the characters – “wtf? Should we try arrows? Magic? Should we run away?”

    Afterwards, it is nice to know what happened, if only so the DM can revel along with the rest of the crowd, and everyone gets bragging rights. Some examples:

    In the Nameless City, we saw a figure climbing over the city wall. We pressed on, and after we had gotten home, Tavis revealed that thanks to the Midkemia City Book we witnessed a god. Swweeeet – but terrifying. Imagine if we had tried to interfere or engage it…

    The crazy brain-and-lighting monster and mummified lizard god described in last session. Much more exciting than if Tavis was to say, “you see a mummy and a grell” or whatever. Look at the amount of speculation it has prompted on the Red Box forum already…

    The dog-men spell-casters of the lost caverns. We have “internalized” them in the context of our on-going game, but we have not ever been able to classify/confirm them as jackalwere’s or werewolves, or whatever. The element of mystery helps to keep us on our toes (hopefully).

  8. 8 Chawunky
    April 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

    The very first time I played D&D we faced the Caves of Chaos’ resident owlbear. A cleric who hadn’t even been named yet was dispatched; we hung him in a tree to keep the goblins off him while we investigated elsewhere.

  9. May 13, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Our D&D sandbox has so far had: A huge ancient green dragon; a huge ancient red dragon; a family of blue dragons; a mind flayer with blackmoor-style alien technology; a purple worm; a giant roc; an owlbear; and a rust monster.

    So far, the deadliest encounter for the party has been against the mind flayer, which took out every character save one.


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