By Teague Bohlen
Dungeons & Dragons is all about killing things, really. Oh, sure, you amass wealth, but ultimately that’s just to buy better stuff to kill things with. And yeah, you go up in levels, but that’s ultimately so you can just kill cooler stuff. So the beasties are key.
But sometimes the DM is just plain out to get you. Maybe he’s bored, maybe he just wants to exert some power, or maybe he’s pissed that you took that last slice of the meat-lovers pizza. So instead of going up against something heroic with your fighter, cleric, magic-user, or thief? You get something that has more to do with humiliation than adventuring. Sort of the difference between the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of the Network Stars. Ah yes…here be monsters…of the screw-you sort.
Ah, the classics never get old. That is, until your party suspects
every inanimate object that gets a little too much flavor text as being
a mimic, and proceeds to not only stay away from it, but destroy it
from distance. All this to prevent getting punched in the face by what
amounts to a D&D Shmoo.
9) Bag of Devouring
It looks like a bag of holding. Score! But alas, it’s not–it’s a bag of
devouring, which means that all your stuff you just put in there? Burp.
This was once thought to be just a simple–if destructive–magic-item,
but was revealed in Dragon Magazine to be a feeding orifice of an
extra-planar being. I guess the consolation prize is the realization
that it could have been the exit-only sort of orifice instead.
The purpose of this silly-looking thing is to eat your gold. It’s a
fire hydrant with man-arms and its head is a mouth and it eats your
treasure. There’s something poetic, I guess, about something this
direct; it doesn’t cost you money to raise your friends from the dead;
it doesn’t cost you money by wasting your healing potions or forcing
you to repair your armor or hire men-at-arms to help defend you and
your party. No, it just comes up to you and demands your precious
metals, shoves them into the gaping maw on its split-open head, and
then bids you a hearty farewell as it melds back into the stone wall.
Too much gold in your party’s coffers? Not anymore. No more coffers,
7) Rot Grubs
Does anyone not fall for this the first time they play D&D? I mean
sure, there’s a thing that looks like shiny treasure in the big pile of shit, but it’s not really you there,
right? Might as well make your character root through the feces, and find–a goddamn rot grub. This is the beauty of gaming; you don’t have to actually hike
ten miles to the ruined castle; you roll a few random encounters, and
pow, you’re there, still sitting on your couch with Doritos and
Mountain Dew no matter how much you may need the exercise. And that’s
how every adventurer has a rot grub story. Something’s glinting in that
pile of garbage and fecal matter, all right: the gleaming opportunity
to torch your arm to burn off a few heart-burrowing worms.
6) Gas Spore
Or, more specifically, “Fuck You, This Isn’t a Beholder You Morons;
Even Though Attacking a Beholder On Sight Would Be the Right Thing to
Do, Seeing as How It’s One of the Most Dangerous Monsters in the Game
What With His Death Ray Eyestalk and All, It’s the Exact Wrong Thing To
Do for This Monster That’s Not a Beholder But Basically a Macy’s-Parade
Beholder Balloon That When Punctured Releases a Deadly Toxin That Kills
You Anyway.” But that was too long a name for the Monster Manual
typesetters, so they just went with “Gas Spore” and relied on the
illustration to carry the real message.
5) Gelatinous Cube
Okay, so why is this a cube? Why wouldn’t it just be an amorphous blob
of goo? I know it’s the dungeon-hallway cleaner and all, but wouldn’t
it be just as effective not looking like a Jell-o snack? Anyway, this
is the monster of choice if you’re in a dead-end hallway with no means
of escape; and it is sort of horrifying, if you think about it, just
slumping against a wall, hopeless, watching such a ridiculous death
come squelching inexorably toward you.
3) Trapper/Lurker Above
You enter the room, and it falls on you/closes in on you. You’re dead.
This is fun! Want to roll up another character and play again? As a
side note, what’s the difference between these two creatures, aside
from one being on the floor, and the other on the ceiling? When the
only difference between two things is their location in a room, they
are the same thing. And does a Lurker Above become a Trapper once it
falls? Does an owlbear shit in the woods? If a treant falls in the
woods, and no one’s there to hear it, who gets the XP? These are the
questions the Monster Manual just doesn’t cover.
Piercers are one of those monsters that just plain make no sense: they
have no realistic life cycle, and exist only to look like stalactites
until someone walks right under them and they can fall and impale them.
And it’s got to be someone low-level, at that, because those are the
only characters they have a shot at killing outright. And originally,
they could only do this once. For no apparent reason. Sure, later on
someone would write up a bit about how they then crawl–slowly–back up
onto the cave ceiling, but initially, these were ridiculous.
1) Rust Monster
So your 4th level fighter finally scored that plate mail he’s been wanting since level one? Easy come, easy go, hero. One rust monster and you’re back to studded leather. This dungeon-dwelling standard has very little real reason to haunt the dungeon setting (unless it’s on the hunt for armored adventurers, but that’s pretty forward-thinking for what amounts to a big metal-eating armadillo with an inexplicable propeller-tail), but it’s there anyway, just waiting for you and your favorite sword, once named “Orcslicer” and soon to be called “Appetizer,” to round the corner.