What Dungeon Fantasy really needs is a good five-cent cigar

You all might have heard that there was a Dungeon Fantasy boxed set Kickstarter campaign, and it funded. One of the books in it will have about 80 monsters. Those come from Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons, Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2: Icky Goo, a few from Campaigns, and a few new ones that fill niches, like dragons, vampires, and werewolves.

There needs to be more.

Some of lure of the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game is for folks who play D&D and want a little more. And D&D has hundreds of monsters. Indeed, they’re coming out with a new book of them right about now. (Note to my brother: Christmas?) Running pre-published D&D adventures in Dungeon Fantasy, which will be a common activity of these folks, will be easier with more pre-published monsters.

From the standpoint of this old hand, there’s another motive. I want monsters who will help me make other monsters. Right now, there aren’t many examples of Plant monsters. To make an evil tree, I have to use GURPS Magic: Plant Spells to give me an idea of how what a tree’s basic stats will be, then go off that. For smaller plants, I have even less guidance. I want them to work in GURPS, and I want them to work in a way wherein I can quickly adjudicate how certain spells and advantages will work with characters my players have made. And there are many traits in GURPS. Maybe when I make a monster, I forget one that it truly should have.

As such, I have a list of monsters I’d like to see in an official Steve Jackson Games monster supplement for Dungeon Fantasy. Yes, I’m channelling my inner b-dog. These come from common sources, mostly in the public domain. Most of them were in early D&D supplements, so we know they’re common in those games.

Android (sci-fi): Construct. It shows how science-fantasy can be done, and possibility of cross-over with other GURPS genres. Selling more GURPS books is a good thing. Androids also are non-magical Constructs. As such, they could be a challenge for Dungeon Fantasy players used to anti-magic to take out Constructs.
Catoblepas (Greek): Dire Animal. This handles the gorgon in D&D, which has a different origin than its Greek namesake. The key feature is its desiccating gaze, which sounds like a fatigue affliction to me. The plural is "catoblepones”: ka-to-ble-POH-ness. I’ll add a few of the ethnic plurals just to make things interesting, mostly Latin (a tongue I know) and Ancient Greek (a tongue with which I'm at least a bit familiar).
Centaur (Greek): Mundane (maybe Faerie). Common fantasy creature. This would also be a high point (about 100 points) racial template. Its unusual anatomy is a draw for making it. Its unusual anatomy is also a challenge in a dungeon.
Chimera (Greek): Hybrid. An example of its low-use class. Hybrids, by their nature, have odd morphologies, and I’m all in favor of having more of them for examples. It could also be a monster capable of facing down many PCs and hirelings with no help.
Deep One (“The Shadow over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft): Elder Thing. Common monsters from a public domain source, deep ones also are underwater monsters, which are lacking.
Djinni (Arab): Demon. Common non-European demons with many sub-types, like Efreeti and Ghuls. The plural is “djinn.” No tonic. I've shied away from Demons and Elder Things since those classes have many exemplars already, and because those classes should be either outright scary or outright odd, and thus game-specific.
Ent (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien): Faerie. Yes, Faerie, not Plant, if you're following the Professor's works closely. You can make it a Plant (though that's the Huorns if you're following the books), and you might want to call it an Treant, though his litigous heirs haven't sued Blizzard Entertainment about the balrogs in Diablo. Regardless, an example of a plant-related creature if not actually a plant: a walking, talking tree.
Fighting Tree (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum): Plant. Another fantasy monster from a well-known public domain source and representing a little-used class. This would be a good representation of a more realistic tree foe, as in one that doesn't walk. 
Giant Beetle, Giant Centipede, Giant Fly (Worldwide): Giant Animals. Common in D&D and in fiction in general, they have a lot of variations. Almost as important is that plastic minis for these monsters are on sale by the bag-full at most dollar stores. They’re alike and akin to the Giant Ant of DFM3, but their bodies differ enough to make them three separate entities.
Giant Venus Flytrap (Little Shop of Horrors by Roger Corman, I suppose): Plant. Another common kind of fictional plant, which has few examples of its class so far. The clinging vines from Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (Baum) are akin.
Golem (Jewish/Greek/Shelley): Construct. Common and pied. The clay (or stone) golem comes from Bohemian Jewish legend, the bronze (or iron) golem from Greek, and the flesh golem from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. The flesh golem is also a crossover with the horror genre. Its plural is apparently “glamim,” with the stress on the “-mim.”
Green Martian (A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs): Mundane. Another sci-fi crossover. They could be a racial template, though their extra arms and resulting extra attacks might make them pricey.
Gryphon (Egyptian/Persian/Greek): Hybrid. This one is in the Basic Set, but the basilisk also has an official write-up for Dungeon Fantasy, so I'm being complete, and a hippogriff has to be half something.
Hellhound (Worldwide): Demon (or Faerie). Evil caniforms are long part of mythology and fantasy roleplaying games. Man's best frenemy, so to speak. There are many examples, and one could pick one (like the black dog, the crocotta, or the yeth hound) or come up with one of one's own.
Hippogriff (Greek): Hybrid. Another common fantasy beastie, this one also makes a good flying mount.
Hydra (Greek): Hybrid. The trope namer for its class. The hydra's heads, their extra attacks, and the need to sever them to beat the hydra is a tricky thing to handle. It's also a good water monster.
Jötunn (Norse): Mundane. This is the typical D&D giant, likely coming to D&D by way of L. Sprague de Camp's and Fletcher Pratt's "The Roaring Trumpet." The best other example would be the Greek Cyclops, as the genuine Greek Giant isn't all that giant. The plural is “jötnar” if we use Icelandic.
Kobold (German): Mundane (or Faerie). These little guys have a niche since goblins in Dungeon Fantasy are man-sized. Scads of little evil guys–the Diet Cokes of evil­­­–are common for low-level D&D characters to face. Kobolds' liking for traps gives an excuse to put more of them in an adventure, and using less-standard ones as well. Akin to the Morlock from H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine, when you think about it.
Kraken (Norse): Dire Animal. Yes, there's one in Allies, but it's an ally, not a bad mofo to face. The legendary kraken was surely a bad mofo of the sea.
Merman (Worldwide): Mundane. A legend wherever there is sea, it would work as a low-cost racial template for water-based games.
Nāga (Indian): Demon. A non-European demon, an example of a veriform monster. Apparently its plural is “nāgā.”
Nixie (German): Faerie. Faeries and sea monsters are under-represented, and a reason for this list.
Pegasus (Greek): Dire Animal. Again, flying mounts are popular. Pegasi are the most horse-like of the ones on this list.
Qilin (Chinese): Faerie. A non-European take on the unicorn and dragon legends. Also, as many of these guys in gaming are good guys, they'd be good foes for evil characters.
Rukh (Arab): Giant Animal. Another monster common to early D&D games. A note about riding one or using one to transport goods would harken to the tarn of John Norman's Tarnsman of Gor and many other books (the collective Gor books have more words than the Bible, which is how their fans take them). These were a staple of the Blackmoor campaign; this would harken back to it without having to mention these justifiably ridiculed examples of how not to write. It's the one Gorism that Gygax should have kept in the D&D draft, as using rukhs for long-distance transport is much more interesting than teleportation. I think the plural is "rikhākh." I'm not sure quite how that works; the Semitic triliteral root is a tricky thing.
Shoggoth (At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft): Elder Thing. Another horror crossover from a popular source, shoggoths are so alien that their write-up would teach a thing or two about unusual beasties.
Sphinx (Egyptian): Faerie. Much akin to the Sumerian Lamassu, but much more familiar to Westerners. Both would set up possible non-combat challenges. Apparently, the plural is “sphinges.” That G is hard: SPIN-guess, but with a little more air after you say that “P” (think the “P” in “pin” instead of “spin”).
Strix (Roman): Dire Animal. Another foe from the Basic Set that is common in these games. And the plural, folks, is "striges": STRIH-gayss.
Succubus (European): Demon. As Mailanka wrote in his guide, some monsters are just plain sexy. That bard who took Lecherousness needs to get his -15 points worth, if nothing else. “Foul creature from Hell, get off of Brandobar the Lusty! We shall send you b—oh! Uh … that’s not right.”
Unicorn (Greek): Faerie. Another monster that evil characters can kill, and good characters can handle as a non-combat challenge. I'd go with the more modern fantasy white mare instead of the medieval legend. Start with the mythology, and where it conflicts with modern fantasy conventions, go with modern fantasy conventions.
Werebear (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien): Mundane. Represents a non-infectous shapechanger. Like most were-beasts, this one is an apex predator. That's important when placing were-beast lairs in the wild: there has to be at least as many lairs of the straight animal as the were-beast. And we don't bother to game out every rabbit encounter, so your werebunny is just frigging obvious.
Wererat (The Swords of Lankhmar by Fritz Leiber): Mundane. Another non-infectous shapechanger, this one is one of the few whose animal shape isn't an apex predator. This sets up non-standard challenges; the Lankhmar book that gives us these spends a lot of time in the sewers.
Wight (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien): Undead. Mostly, it's here for its attack: level drain. Someone has to come up with a good GURPS level drain. Otherwise, it's just a tougher skeleton. You could give level drain to the wraith, I suppose, though I see that as a truly badass undead fighter instead.
Will-o’-the-Wisp (English): Faerie. Another faerie that sets up an encounter that isn't a straight-up fight. These are some kind of floating ball, which is, well, an unusual morphology.
Wraith (The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien): Undead. You can adapt the ones from GURPS Magic for this, but something has to be the fighter equivalent of the Lich.

Let's list these by class:

Construct: Android, Golem.
Demon: Djinni, Hellhound, Nāga, Succubus.
Dire Animal: Catoblepas, Kraken, Pegasus, Strix.
Elder Thing: Deep One, Shoggoth.
Faerie: Ent, Nixie, Qilin, Sphinx, Unicorn, Will-o’-the-Wisp.
Giant Animal: Giant Beetle, Giant Centipede, Giant Fly, Rukh.
Hybrid: Chimera, Gryphon, Hippogriff, Hydra.
Mundane: Centaur, Green Martian, Jötunn, Kobold, Merman, Werebear, Wererat.
Plant: Fighting Tree, Giant Venus Flytrap.
Undead: Wight, Wraith.

Sometimes the class is a marginal call.

As water-based creatures are a goal for this, those would be Deep Ones, Hydras, Kraken, Mermen, Nāgā. Creatures from non-Western mythology are Djinn, Nāgā, Qilin, and Rukh, which aren’t as many as I would like. 

There are a few like the Lamassu that I had on the list until I realized that the another monster (in this case, the Sphinx) filled the same niche. Others, like fantasy ghouls, didn’t truly have a niche. A niche is important for an official product, as space is limited and we’re paying money. We don’t need more stats for man-sized monstrous humanoids in GURPS. Come to think of it, we don’t need more stats for man-sized monstrous humanoids in D&D.

Creatures from modern fiction are Deep Ones (“Shadow over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft), Shoggoths (At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft), Flesh Golems (Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley), Green Martians (A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs), Fighting Trees (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum), Wererats (The Swords of Lankhmar by Frits Leiber), Werebears (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien), and Ents, Wights, and Wraiths (all The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien). Obviously, this list bears a big debt to Tolkien, whose books fueled little of the atmosphere but much of the trappings of early D&D.


  1. I like most of them, very much!
    Except the android and some chtuloids (now, as weird happenings, maybe). This is because I prefer very much the cuasi-medieval approach.

    Sean Punch found some extra space in the Monsters book (for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, http://dr-kromm.livejournal.com/198701.html); I hope for the inclusion of at least some of your suggestions.

    1. Thanks. I included the Android and the Cthulhu monsters since they're public domain, they have clear niches (Android: non-magical construct with sci-fi lead-in, Deep One: evil underwater humanoids, Shoggoths: very odd body morphology, to say the least), and they're common to early D&D games, which were a hodge-podge of many sources, not just medieval European fantasy. (The cleric comes from Arneson watching Hammer horror movies on Sunday morning television, for example.) Androids have a note on page 22 of Monsters & Treasure in the original D&D boxed set, right above the treasure type table.

      I did read about Kromm's extra monsters. I'm curious to know what they are too. We only have about six months of waiting to go. I wonder if he raided DFM3 for some of those, which would speed up the development process.

    2. About the origins of the Dungeons & Dragons' Cleric, you also can check this GURPS post: http://forums.sjgames.com/showpost.php?p=2046103&postcount=16

      Unlike some OSR people, I don't think D&D can be aptly studied by isolating it just into OD&D; and on the other hand AD&D, more coherent, contains clarifications and designer's notes to it.

      Like you, I also am curious about what monsters Kromm did include there, and also wondering what usage he'll do of the four already published DF Monsters installments. We'll see, I guess!