Surprise!

Surprise, as it is explained in Dungeons & Dragons throughout almost all editions is a bit weird. In the TSR editions, it is usually explained that in the case of an encounter, both the players and the (potential) enemies roll a d6. On a roll of 1 or 2 they are not surprised, on a roll of 3-6 they are. If both sides or neither side is suprised, initiative is rolled to see which side goes first. If one side is surprised but the other is not, then the side that is not surprised gets to act in the first round and the other is not. After that round initiative is rolled as usual.

3rd edition ditched the d6 roll and only mentions in passing that a Spot or Listen skill check might be used to determine awareness, but it also explicitly calls the begining of the encounter a Surprise Round.

But when you think about how awareness and surprise would work outside of game mechanics, it doesn’t really make much sense. The flaw here is that the rules make it sound as if you have two groups running straight into each other and one realizes a bit faster what is going on than the other group.

Surprise Motherfucker
Surprise, Motherfucker!

But why does the group that has surprise only get one round during which the other side is still inactive? If you become aware of the other group before they do, you usually still have the option to not make your presence known to them immediately. If you are opening a door in a dungeon and there is an enemy on the other side, then yes. They may be surprised, but after the initial shock they would immediatly jump up and go for their weapons.

But unless you play a simple Hack & Slash game, that’s not what you’d usually be doing. You can become aware of another group before you are standing face to face. You silently creep through the dark corridor and reach a cave where an ogre is chewing on human meat with his back turned towards you. You hear voices talking around the corner or you might see the light of a lamp approaching from behind a bend in the corridor. In these situations you still have some time to extinguish all lights, find hiding spots, or run away before you are noticed at all. Depending on the distance you might still have a lot of time to prepare for battle. Once you jump out of your hiding places, then you are getting your surprise round during which the other group can not take any action.

Supplies
Supplies!

Of all the editions of D&D I have here, only the Rules Cyclopedia even mentions this at all.

When one party is surprised, the unsurprised party notices the surprised party at the 1d4x10 (feet indoors, yards outdoors) distance rolled; the surprised party won’t notice the unsurprised party until they reach half that distance.

Thanks, Aaron Allston. If this was your own houserule, it’s a really good one. Maybe it had always been asumed, but to my knowledge it has never been explained like this anywhere else. Using this rule also makes a huge difference for thieves at low levels. Sneaking up on a guard to backstab it with 20% to Move Silently at 1st level is just suicidial. Nobody would ever do that, especially when you only have 1d4 hit points yourself. In combination with a surprise system that lets you turn around and back off to a distance outside the encounter distance, 20% is something to actually consider.

Imagine a the maximum encounter distance of 40 feet inside a dungeon. Both the thief and the monster make their surprise roll at 40 and if they are both surprised, they will notice each other at 20 feet. If the thief is succesfully Moving Silently, he will automatically detect the monster at 20 feet, but the monster will not notice him at either 40 or 20 feet. If the rest of the PCs stay 25 feet behind the thief, the thief will reach auto detect distance to the monster before the main party reaches possible detection range. The thief then can give a hand signal to the other or return back to them and tell them what he saw. Then the entire party knows the monster is there, make a descision whether to approach or not, and if they do they will have surprise on their side. The monster still has to roll surprise again to see if it will notice the party at full encounter distance or half encounter distance (which might be as close as 5 feet on the roll of a 1 on the d4). Even if the Move Silently roll fails, there is still chance to get regular surprise on the monster and the thieves friends are right behind him. It’s a lot less stupid than trying to walk up to a monster that might know you’re walking straight into the reach of its attack.
This is another one of these cases where an odd old rule mostely went ignored for being irrelevant though it does serve an important function: Encounter Distances. You don’t have to roll it and you could always decide on an appropriate value yourself, but any surprise system worth using should have the option to retreat undetected or prepare an ambush. Just a single free round of action before combat automatically starts isn’t cutting it.

Signs and Portents

In a discussion about WotCs release schedule for the new Dungeons & Dragons game, I rediscovered an old forum post I made back in July 2011, just three years after the 4th edition had been released:

Since this topic has come up quite a bit in several threads in recent weeks, I think having a dedicated thread for it might be a good idea, so it doesn’t swamp other threads about completely different issues.

I didn’t believe any rumors about 4th Edition until the official announcement, but right now I expect “something” to be announced within this year. It’s not that I think something is wrong with the 4th Edition (though I don’t play it) or have any wishes how any upcomming publications should be. I just think that the current business situation indicates that 4th Edition will not continue as it is to see a full 10 year run up until 2018 (roughly the time AD&D 1st Ed., AD&D 2nd Ed, and D&D 3rd Ed lasted).

  • A revision in the form of Essentials has been nothing unusual for D&D editions, though it has been by far the fastes one.
  • Shortly after Essentials was launched, many upcomming releases had been canceled.
  • Reportedly WotC has been laying off staff over the last months and what books are released are written by freelancers.
  • Some store owners claim that the direct competitor Pathfinder is outselling D&D. Also, recent releases like the Dark Sun books seem to no longer be able to be restocked if sold out.
  • Finally, the head of the 4th Edition development team has released some blog entries in his column on the offixial website, in which he is analyzing what D&D is really about, and what are the bare bones on which every D&D edition has to be build on to really be D&D. I think such thoughts are the first step to develop a new edition, or to look back on your work and consider what was done right and what done wrong.

As it is right now, it does not look as if there will be any more major releases for the 4th Edition. But since D&D is a hugely popular brand and brand recognition is one of the most valuable things a company can have, I really can’t imagine WotC continuing D&D with only four minor releases per year or just discontinuing it and leave the brand dormant.

Something has to happen, and a second reboot of 4th Edition after just one year is something nobody would really dare to risk.

If it will be called Dungeon & Dragons 5th Edition, I don’t know. It’s merely the most simple way to again make some good money with the brand. An alternative could be to pull out of the RPG market as it seems to be widely considered that the real profits of WotC are made in trading card games and other products. And who would have thought that TSR, Sega, or Atari would one day not be the big names of the RPG and video game business? Though as of now, I see nothing indicating a sell of the brand in any way.

With GenCon and PAX the next months, I expect an announcement of any kind to be made rather soon.

15.07.2011 http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?207470

Turned out the announcement came the next january. Looking back, it turned out to be pretty spot on. And it wasn’t a lucky guess, people had been seeing the signs on the horizon for some time by that point. The one point on which I ended up being completely wrong was “I really can’t imagine WotC continuing D&D with only four minor releases per year”. Apparently, yes. This seems to be exactly what they are doing now with 5th edition.

Roll 3d6, in order

One of the things I noticed about the Dungeons & Dragons Basic rules is that the game uses the same modifiers to rolls for all six abilities just like 3rd edition does and which is quite different from the chaos that is ability modifiers in AD&D. However, the modifiers are smaller and more spread out than in 3rd edition, giving only a +3 for a score of 18 instead of a +4.

The actual ability scores in Basic are almost meaningless. As far as I am able to tell, everything really comes down to the modifiers. The reason that you have ability scores at all is that you can easily generate them with 3d6, but they are really just the first of two steps to get your ability modifiers. In theory, once you have the modifiers written down, you could erase the ability scores from the character sheet. They are no longer being needed for anything.

The super oldschool way to generate ability scores is rolling 3d6 six times and applying them to the six abilities in the order you roll, with no moving around to suit your taste. In 3rd edition, but also AD&D, that was pretty brutal and you could very easily end up with crap. When I generated 16 sets of ability scores, all but the first one looked pretty bad. (It was 13, 16, 10, 14, 16, 16! I wish that one was for an actual game.) But when I wrote down the actual modifiers you get from these scores and added them up, it almost always came down to a total between +1 and -1, which really is very average.

So I went ahead and made this graph to show the chances not to get the ability scores but only the ability modifiers:

snapshot107(It’s not entirely accurate because I took a shortcut and did not convert the 17 data points into 16 ranges, but it should be pretty close, with only the blue area being a slightly bit wider in reality.)

As you can see, the chance to get a modifier of +/-2 or 3 are actually pretty small. The chance to get a modifier of 0 or +/-1 is 86%. The chance to roll a 3 or 18 is under 0,5% each. That is not too bad and even if you do end up with a -2 or -3 in a stat, it often doesn’t hurt a lot. Only the Wisdom modifier is added tone one of the five saving throw types and there are no skills to which modifiers would be added. Even thieves don’t get any bonuses or penalties to their thieving skills. Also no skill points, so low Intelligence doesn’t hurt much. Strength is only added to the chance to hit but not the damage you do (and no +50% bonus when using both hands and any Power Attack shenanigans). Minimum ability scores to play a class exist, but only to play a dwarf, elf, or halfling, and then that minimum score is just 9 (everything starting from the line at “8” on the graph). Even a low Intelligence wizard or low Dexterity thief still works just fine, they just would level up somewhat slower than usual.

So I think in Basic, 3d6 in order really isn’t any bad. The odds to get truly terribly stats that make your character really suck or make you unable to play your prefered class are pretty low and when it really doesn’t work I probably would let a player roll again. (Better then to wait until the character charges heroically to his suicidal death in the very first encounter.) But a character with lots of 9s and 10s and another 6 really are no reason to complain in this game. May not be great, but still would be perfectly playable.

Now AD&D on the other hand is completely different story. Even the Player’s Handbook says that it is essential that any character has at least two 15s. Except for the one set I generated with the three 16s, I don’t think I had any 15s in the other fifteen.

A total noob explores BECMI: Part 1 – Abilities and classes

About a week ago I stumbled on a forum thread in which some veteran fans went through all the setting material of the Known World/Mystara setting, which had been the default setting for the B/X and BECMI editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Knowing nothing about that world I took a peek out of curiosity and quickly got very much interested. I had some vague familiarity with some retroclones based on it, mostly Adventurer Conqueror King and Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and even though they looked very well made, they just seemed very weird. Very much unlike D&D as I had known it for the 10 or so years before I left it behind me.

But now I got myself really interested in that old game, mostly because it seemed pretty rules light, and the amount of complicated rules had always annoyed me the most about AD&D and made me leave behind 3rd Edition/Pathfinder and look for greener pastures. And I really hate the magic system so much that I never want to run any edition of D&D again and only play it if someone else is GM and wants to run it. But I am still very much interested in how that game really worked and what I can learn from it about running rules light games and how to make dungeon exploration as exciting as the tales I often read. So I got myself the original Basic and Expert rules as pdf and went ahead to really learn how that game actually works and was supposed to be played.

116578The first impression where so interesting that I thought about making this a series of post for other people like me, who really don’t know anything before 3rd Edition and perhaps a bit about AD&D.

Continue reading “A total noob explores BECMI: Part 1 – Abilities and classes”

Why clerics in D&D can use heavy armor

This is something that I always thought to be somewhat odd, and I think many of the people I played with did too. Why are clerics in D&D the third best frontline fighters? (Excluding self-buffing shananigans from 3rd edition which simply make them the very best.) Heavy armor is not something one would usually expect from a priest. Shouldn’t he be dressed in robes like a wizard? In 3rd edition, only three of the standard classes get proficiency with heavy armor, the other two being fighters and paldins. Why do clerics get it?

clericarmorI’ve been reading and dabbling in the old Basic Rules these past days, and considering the whole design paradigm of the game, I think it makes perfect sense. Clerics can fight in heavy armor not because it’s their speciality, but because there is no reason for them not to wear it. The way armor proficiency works in 3rd edition is the opposite of how it originally was. The older editions worked by a logic that all characters can do everything unless there is a reason why they could not. Wizards don’t wear any armor because it interferes with their spells, and thieves don’t wear heavy armor because it limits the mobility they need for sneaking and climbing. Cleric spells are not restriced by armor and they usually don’t try to be extra stealthy or do any fancy acrobatics. So why shouldn’t they be wearing the best protection they can get?

When later wearing armor became something that needs a speical ability to use, clerics got that ability simply because they always had been wearing heavy armor. Even though under the new logic of the game it didn’t really make any sense anymore.

Why I love published adventures. And why I don’t use them.

I’ve recently found an old piece on Hill Cantons about an exchange with Rob Kuntz, who was among the people who working on Dungeons & Dragons in the early years. In it, Kuntz is quite outspoken against published modules, which he regards as clearly a step into the completely wrong direction which turned the game into something very different from what they had thought to be the spirit of D&D.

I have always thought that the DM’s route to any fantastic achievement in such literature was through a very personal course, most certainly inspired by reading and study or other such related matter, but not actually “implanted” or done for them.

I first thought of this as a highly negative and overly criticizing view bordering on being elitist and snobbery, even though I am not really a fan of published adventures myself. But that had me wondering how I actually have been using modules over the 15 years that I’ve been running games. I am one of those rare and elusive people who actually got into RPGs without anyone to introduce me to it and teach me how it works, and worked myself through the rules the hard way. There was an introductory scenario which I used for the first shaky steps and then tried to start a real campaign with The Sword of the Dales using the 3rd edition rules which had just been released a few weeks before. Some years later I did run City of the Spider Queen, which we thought was very cool (because we were young and stupid), and was the only time I’ve ever seen characters of 11th level or higher. But as far as I can remember, that really was it as far as running published adventures went.

However, I did use a lot of other adventures. The last game that I ran was based on Flight of the Red Raven by Paizo, using a different rulesset, being set in a homebrew setting, there was no winter and ice, I made my own dungeon, created my own encounters, the jinn was an oni, and the Red Raven was a completely different guy. But the idea why the party went to that dungeon and what situation they were encountering there, that was pretty straight up taken from Flight of the Red Raven. I started that campaign with an adaptation of The Automatic Hound and Depths of Rage from Dungeon magazine. A blend of The Disappearance of Harold the Hedge Mage and Raiders of the Black Ice was plannes for later. I also did Escape from Meenlock Prison with an earlier group, which I think that was the best game I’ve ever ran. So yeah, I do love them and get a lot of use from them.

But I think this approach actually matches very well with what Kuntz said. “Inspired by reading and study or other such related matter, but not actually “implanted” or done for them.” That the related matter was a published RPG adventure and not a novel or book doesn’t really change anything in my view. There are plenty of other published adventures I very much love. Master of the Desert Nomads, Rahasia, Night’s Dark Terror, and Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and The Styes, to name a few. And Savage Tide has just full awesome all over it. But I never use the floorplans. I don’t use the NPC stats and I rebuild all the encounters from scratch using creatures that fit my setting and are of a difficulty that works well for the particular group of PCs I am currently playing with. Most of the time I actually use a different game edition or even an entirely different game.

So yeah, I think I am kind of in agreement with Kuntz here. Published adventures, as they are, are pretty much unusable for the kind of games that I run and I wouldn’t advice any new GM to run them out of the book. What I am getting out of them is really the description of adventuring sites, the motivation and goal of the antagonists, and the outline of their plans to achieve their goal. Everything else I can do myself, and even though I don’t consider myself a great GM, I can do it better myself. Not because the writers of published adventures are all total hacks who don’t know anything, but because only I know the level and composition of the party and the setting in which the campaign takes place. Publish adventures cannot account for this. And what I really would love to see is adventures that don’t even try. Just give me the setup, the location, and the antagonists plan. That is really the most difficult part of creating a good adventure for a group. Leave all that number stuff to me, that part is easy once you know what you’re trying to do.

It’s D&D, Jim, but not as we know it.

So these past days I’ve been looking at the old Basic and Expert rules for Dungeons & Dragons to get some clues how I can incorporate dungeon exploration and wilderness travel in a Barbarians of Lemuria game. There are rules for that in D&D 3rd edition and Pathfinder, but they seem incredibly fiddly, tedious, and just plain unfun. So I started to look further out and oldschool D&D really seems to have had a quite strong emphasis on it.

It might simply be because of the kind of stuff that personally interests me, but it always seems to me that most people who write about RPGs on their websites are people in their mid-40s to mid 50s who started with really ancient versions of D&D when they were 10 and stuck with it, while I am one generation later and only got into RPGs when I was 16 and D&D 3rd editon was released. What I have seen of dungeon crawling always seemed pretty dull and pointless, because I always demand for strong stories and roleplaying. But reading other people talking about their really oldschool adventures of dungeon crawlings, it all sounds much more exciting and fascinating. It made me want to learn more.

I had been looking at Advanced Dungeons & Dragons before, but never really got much useful out of it. I am very familiar with the AD&D 2nd edition and the D&D 3rd edition and also reasonably familiar with AD&D 1st ed. and D&D 4th ed. Now I started actually taking a lok at the Basic and Expert sets, and it all just feels very different. Familiar, but definitly different. So I went ahead to learn more about this other version of D&D, and there seems to be quite a lot more about it than I ever expected. Now obviously I don’t know even a bit about the larger history, how it was perceived at the time, who played it and how, or even how the game really feels when you actually play it. A lot of what I am going to write here will be inaccurate, misunderstood, and perhaps even flat out wrong. But I think there are probably quite a lot of people out there who don’t know anything more about Basic D&D than I did and I just feel like sharing some of those interesting things I discovered and learned over the past days. From one noob to other noobs.

Continue reading “It’s D&D, Jim, but not as we know it.”

B/XoL: Converting D&D creatures to Barbarians of Lemuria

The Legendary edition of Barbarians of Lemuria doesn’t come with a lot of creatures and most of them are pretty unique and unusual. Though my own goal with B/XoL is not to recreate Basic D&D but to take inspirations from it, Dungeons & Dragons is a great source when it comes to monsters. I think between BECMI and AD&D, there are way over a thousand of them.

Having looked at the creatures from the BoL Legendary Edition and the D&D Basic Set, I’ve come up with a couple of guidelines how to convert creatures from one game to the other:

Attributes: In the older editions of D&D, monsters don’t have any specified ability scores. However, starting with 3rd ed. they do, and the SRD is a good reference for them. Since the Lifeblood of monsters is not affected by their Strength score, we can simply ignore Constitution, and Wisdom always had almost no relevance to anyone but cleric, so we just need the Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma scores and convert them to Strength, Agility, Mind, and Appeal.

BoL says that an attribute score of 0 is human average, 3 is the maximum for new characters, and 4 or higher would be truly legendary. This is very convenient for us, as in D&D 10 is the average for humans and 18 the absolute maximum that only very few characters have. So we can simply make the conversion of 8=-1, 10=0, 12=1, 14=2, 16=3, 18=4, and so on. (Most animals would have a Mind attribute of -4, insects of -5. A Mind score of -3 is the minimum to understand languages and talk, if the creature is able to.)

Lifeblood: Having used some reference creatures that are pretty similar in D&D and BoL, I think the most practical formula to calculate the Lifeblood of a creature is simply 1 HD=5 LB. This is not modified by the creatures Strength score, as it would be for NPCs.

Protection: For protection, the different classes of armor can be used as reference. No meaningful protection = 0; fur or light hide = 1 (d3-1), thick hide = 2 (d6-2), scales = 3 (d6-1), thick scales = 4 (d6), extraordinary armor = 5 (d6+5).

Defense: Here it’s starting to get a bit fuzzy. Based on the creatures in the Legendary Edition, there are two hrd rules that are always obeyed: Defense is never lower than Agility, and never lower than 0. Other than that, there seems no consistent rules. Some creatures have an additional increase of Defense of +1 or +2, but that increase seems mostly arbitrary, though I think it’s somewhat more common with very powerful creatures than with weaker ones.

Initiative: The new Mythic Editon of BoL removes the Brawl combat ability and replaces it with Initiative. As I don’t have this edition I am not certain how it affects creature stats, but I would assume that in most cases Initative is simply identical to Agility.

Attacks: Here I have not been able to find any kind of consistent rules. The bonuses to attack and the amount to damage really seems to be entirely at the discretion of the gamemaster. There is only a single creature in the Legendary Edition that has a bonus of +5, and most are between +1 and +3. However, powerful characters can easily reach a Defense score of 7 (3 agility, 3 Defense, 1 shield), which means any attack needs a +4 bonus to have any chance to hit them at all. (And even then the chance is just 3%). So if you’re playing a campaign where characters reach that high Defense scores, feel free to give the bigger monsters attack bonuses of +6 and higher.

Damage: Damage appears to be more closely tied to the overall size and strength of the creature. 2d6 is already pretty high and only a few giant sea monsters get more than that. Since the Lifeblood of characters doesn’t really increase in BoL, I think it’s generally best not to go beyond this. If you want to make the monster nastier, make it hit more often instead.

A final thought that is currently bouncing around in my head is that one could potentially increase the average amount of treasure a creature has based on it’s Lifeblood (which with these conversions would be based on Hit Dice), but I think that may start to get too much into developing a full XP system, which I don’t really want to. My main motivation to add treasure to the game is to encourage the players to face monsters and dangers without a lethal fight during adventures. The search for treasure should not be the main reason to go on the adventure in the first place. I think that should still be motivated by some kind of basic background story. When Conan goes thieving, it’s usually not to get some bags of coins, but because he is looking for item specifically. But when you’re already in the place, why not make a few little detours to grab some bags with gold too?

Some of the worst design choices in RPG history

I’ve been talking with some people on the Giant in the Playground Forum for the last week about design choices in RPGs that ended up causing a lot of trouble in the long run. Simply making and adding a bad rule to a game is one thing, that happens all the time, even to the best game designers that are out there. But sometimes there are ideas that turn out to be not simply bad or not working, but have actually been sources of lots of problems for years to come.

Obviously, a lot of it is personal oppinion, especially when it comes to ranking them in order. But I think with these examples here, few people would dispute that they did end up causing a lot of trouble, regardless of whether the original idea was actually terrible or not:

11: Magic solves everything (Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder): Ranked very low because it only affects one game and it’s spin-offs, but it’s a pretty big problem in those. the magic system of the 3rd edition of D&D is quite similar to the one in earlier editions, but with several important differences. The time it takes to cast a spell is generally lower, spellcasters have a very easy time in getting out of reach of any enemies (see grid combat), and even when they get hit, they have a good chance to successfully cast their spell anyway. Then you got spells that can instantly kill if the target fails a single saving throw, but in 3rd edition the chance to fail a saving throw is much higher than it was in earlier editions. Oh yes, and generally, spellcasters get a lot more spells they can cast every day. That already makes magic extremely powerful, but perhaps even worse is that there are really no limitations for what a magic spell can do. Given that the game has over 700 prestige classes and 1000 feats (and that’s just the official ones published by WotC), there are most likely thousands of spells out there, and they can do absolutely everything. And sometimes, some genius thinks it would be a great idea to make a spell that does something that normally requires a special ability from another class. Like opening a lock, detecting a trap, and so on. In the older editions of D&D that was less of a problem because spellcasters had really few spells and were expected to go a long time without recharging them. But 3rd edition not only has more spells per day, it also has the option to buy or make scrolls and wands for a pretty cheap price. Do you really want to have “knock” (opens locks) prepared two times each day even though you have so few slots to prepare spells and you might not even get to use them? Probably not, so why not buy a magic wand that allows you to cast knock 50 times, any time you need it. All this combined just completely broke the whole game. Continue reading “Some of the worst design choices in RPG history”

On the origin of D&D species

It is no secret that the classic character races in Dungeons & Dragons, consisting of human, elf, dwarf, and halfling, are taken from The Lord of the Rings, as well as the standard enemies of orcs and goblins. However, a huge number of other creatures from the many Monster Manuals are neither original creations, nor taken from various mythologies as well. A great number of monsters and critters has been lifted directly from literature, a method that was at least continued until 2000 with the first Monster Manual for the 3rd Edition. Which is a completely legitimate thing to do, and there are countless of appearances in videogames of creatures that are very clearly beholders, which are one of the most famous original creations of D&D.

However, as I’ve been reading some older fantasy stories this year, I had a number of “Hey, I know that thing!” moments, and I think it would be interesting to share those.

  • The “Prehistoric Animals” Toys: These are probably the best known group by now. I don’t know who exactly is responsible for their creation, but the rust monster, bullete, and owlbear are all based on cheap plastic toy monsters from Hong Kong. Toni DiTerlizzi wrote a very good article about them last year. The carrion crawler is also based on a similar plastic monster from a different source.
  • Grimlocks: I was actually quite surprised to learn that apparently grimlocks appear only in very few cases outside of D&D. I had been kind of asuming that they were based on some local legend somewhere in Europe, but apparently they are simply a slightly altered version of the morlocks from the 1895 novel “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells.
  • Thri-kreen: These are one of the iconic creatures of the Dark Sun setting, but actually they are based very closely on the tharks from the novel “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Burroughs, which was released in 1917. They are tall, green, have two legs and four arms, a pair of big tusks, big eyes, can jump very high and far, and are a nomadic people of the desert. The only major change in Dark Sun was to make them insectoid, while the tharks of Mars seem to be more reptilian, if anything.
  • Girallon: These monsters first appeared in the Monster Manual for the 3rd Edition and are both relative newcomers and not particularly popular in D&D. However, they are also taken stright from “A Princess of Mars” as well, where they are simply called White Apes. Giant gorillas with white fur and four arms. There is really no room for ambiguity there.
  • Purple Worm: Giant subterranean worms like these appear in H.P. Lovecrafts story “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” from 1929, where they are called dholes. A similar concept appears in the sand worms of Frank Herberts 1965 novel “Dune”.
  • Yuan-ti: The resamblance of Yuan-ti to the naga of Southeast-Asia is easy to see, but the specific details of these creatures are very close matches to the Serpent Men, who appear in several stories by Robert Howard. They first seem to have appeared in the 1929 story “The Shadow Kingdom”, where they are a race of humanoids with snake heads, who have the ability to disguise themselves as humans and many magical powers, and worship the gods Set and the Great Serpent. The 1932 story “Worms of the Earth” also has what would be a yuan-ti pureblood.
  • Elder Brain: The Elder Brains of the ilithids, though not the ilithids themselves, appear first in the 1930 novel “Last and First Men” by Olaf Stapledon. In the book, they are the Fourth Men and control the Fifth Men, which are very much unlike mind flayers.
  • Kuo-toa: While many of the specific abilites of the kuo-toa are unique to the creature from D&D, these creatures are very closely based on the Deep Ones, that first appeared in the story “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, which was written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1931.
  • Gibbering Mouther: The creature that appears in D&D as the gibbering mouther is a severely downgraded version of the Shoggoth, another famous monster from Lovecrafts stories, which had its first appearance in “At the Mountains of Madness” from 1931.
  • Grell: A creature looking pretty much identical to a grell except for the color appears on one edition of the “Legion of Space” by Jack Williamson, which was written in 1934. In the story, the creatures are called medusae.
  • Worg: The creature, as it appears in D&D, is basically identical to the wargs from Tolkiens “The Hobbit”, which was published in 1937.
  • Displacer Beast: These creatures are based on the ceurl from the 1950 sci-fi novel “The Voyage of the Space Beagle”. They also appear in many Final Fantasy games under their original name.
  • Xill: The xill is a rather obscure monster in D&D, even though they have been around since the original Fiend Folio and reappeared both in Planescape and the 3rd edition Monster Manual. Like the displacer beast, they are taken from “The Voyage of the Space Beagle”, where their name is ixtl.
  • Frost Worm: The frost worm first appeared under the name remora in the 1969 story “The Lair of the Ice Worm” by L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. It’s practically identical in every aspect.
  • Spider Eater: This monster is strongly based on the sith from the Barsoom novel “The Warlord of Mars”.
  • Lich: The classic undead wizard is not an original creation by any specific author, but is indeed a figure from slavic legend. Koshei the Deathless is a powerful sorcerer so ancient that his body has decayed to almost nothing but a starved skeleton, and who has gained immortality by hiding away his soul in a magical box which is safely secured in a secret place.