Author Topic: A Monster Review  (Read 236 times)

Jubal

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A Monster Review
« on: December 04, 2017, 11:55:31 PM »
In which I give my own thoughts on the monsters from James Holloway's Monster Man competition...

Aetherwurm by Jonathan Linneman
The Aetherwurm is one of the few explicitly sci-fi monsters in the contest. It's basically a big space worm that wibbles around with thirty feet of body and a wish to eat stuff. It's a reasonable random encounter type monster - not necessarily something to write home about, but its power drain ability could be a real pain in the bum if it attaches itself to, say, your ship's power supply. It's not hugely malevolent or characterful, but you actually need some monsters that aren't those things, and there are a LOT of good mid-grade narrative uses for Aetherwurms that I can think of - draining ship power, disabling MacGuffin artefacts, actually providing problem solutions (major solar flare storm? get a herd of these things to eat their way through it!), and so on. Really solid all-round monster that from a game mastering perspective I could see myself using in a campaign.

Afelyn by James Baillie
I'm not doing a write-up on this one, as I made it!

Bear-Owl by Richard Scott
The Bear-Owl is, as the name implies, a reversal of the Owlbear, with a bear head and an owl body. The resulting creature - unlike the owlbear, which can actually be quite easily portrayed as a realistically proportioned beast, the bear-owl is by its very look more clearly frankensteinian in origin. The huge bear head and flapping owl body put this more into the magic-horror genre, and there's something between the macabre and ridiculous about the great bear head and slashing talons being attached to a body that probably barely has the wing strength to lift its own maladjusted head. I can see that you might play it as a joke in the Wizard's laboratory, or as a single colony of them in a cave to signal "mad wizards have been here", though I think there are a bunch of other monsters that can do that and unless I was also playing off an owlbear thing elsewhere in a campaign, I feel like it might be an in-joke too far. There are definitely uses for this one, but probably in quite specific setups where you want to make that in-joke and it fits the rest of your plot.

Bone-Butcher by Goblin's Henchman
This is definitely one of those "how can we drop this dratted thing into lava" horror-type monsters that's just super difficult to defeat without really just destroying it. The imagery and ideas of it are genuinely pretty horrific, which certainly is a sales point for it for some setting types. I can think of some ways you could use them in a plot, but they don't do much as random encounter ideas, I think. With the whole setup of disease-created monstrosity, especially one that can shed and dissolve into grubs (which aren't easy to protect against) as you try and kill it, it'd be easy for this sort of monster to devolve into a "well this sucks, how many saving throws/cure disease rolls can I pass" setup, which generally sucks for players. I can see ways that you could use one as part of a horror plot, though, especially if you were able to drop hints to the players that an NPC was infected, resulting in them either finding a cure in time or working out how to defeat the monstrosity form. Personally, I probably wouldn't run a game with that sort of body-gore-horror prominent enough to find the bone-butcher super useful, but it's definitely got its place in the general realms of infection-monsters.

Brass Lion by Stan Rydzewski
I really like the Brass Lion, and think it's probably one of the most useful monsters created for the contest. Being sentient, they're flexible between being henchmen for a high-level boss, or perhaps b-level villains or support characters in their own right. They're suitably scary, too - they're fire driven metal golem things, they're intelligent, and they're lions. My least favourite aspect of them is the explicitly planar background, because I've never been a great fan of D&D's heavy thing of having the elemental planes of fire/water/ice/ranch dressing/etc. That said, if I was GMing I'd probably just ditch that bit and I don't think the monster would suffer much for it. The Brass Lion I guess most of all works for me aesthetically - it's got a very clear theming to it and one that adds together to a monster that I think could genuinely come across as flexible and imposing. One of my favourites!

Cockatrick by Asslessman
The Cockatrick is a giant (possibly/probably flightless) cockerel with two big ol' tentacles and an ability to turn intangible whilst crowing as a defence mechanism. I actually quite like this one, it's a different variant on "guard dog for mad wizard" creature, and if you've ever seen an angry chicken then you really know how unpleasant a five foot tall one could be. It's bizarre, and I think it needs to be a wizard-beast (or equivalent - one could have a strange symbiosis with some goblins that feed it maybe). I don't think they'd be so much fun to just encounter in the woods - part of the fun of using it would be its massive ability to let literally everything in a several mile radius know what's wrong. It's quite a gaming focussed monster, I've still no idea what the tentacles are for, but yeah, I can see why this one might have some amusing wizard's-pet style uses.

Crypt Guardian by Curtis Fell
It's a bone giant. I'm not sure there's much more to say about this: bone giants are in my mind pretty standard fare, appearing as they do in Warhammer Fantasy (as a Tomb King unit, so with much the same function and indeed pretty much the same backstory as here). They're perfectly reasonable big gribblies to face if you're doing an Egypt-themed tomb raiding scenario; it's what they do, and they do it well.

Dinos-orc by James Macleod
I'm not sure exactly what makes a dinosorc different from any other humanoid dinosaur type being, though I guess they have perhaps an orc-y, savage feeling that, say, WHFB Saurus or most lizardfolk would be lacking in. I'd have liked to see a backstory to these - I can see them as guards or henchmen in an "a wizard did it" scenario, or having an orc chief who lost (or perhaps won) a bet with a shaman over a slightly strange magical item that cursed/blessed him with dinosaur power. In practice I'm not sure how many settings have both orcs and dinosaurs, which is perhaps the biggest limiting factor here - as a chimera of two creatures, both of which are not in a standard human-world setting, you almost need to be devising a specialised setting to have the monster in. The rules seem fine as far as I can tell, though I'm not sure about the tail attack - it seems to be going for the theropod aesthetic so I feel the focus should really be on the "massive array of teeth" front.

Fuggag by Aaron
There's definitely something effectively creepy about the bizarre, gaping-jawed gormlessness of the look of these things, and I can see mechanically how they might work as a bunch of chaotic magical bizarre creatures. I don't think I much like them, but I think that mostly says something about the aesthetics I like: I don't want to send my adventuring parties to fight a bunch of giant rubber heads, even if they're technically scary. I guess given the lack of feet they just don't look powerful enough to be cool - I might have liked them better if they'd been flying creatures, in which case we get a bit closer to Beholder territory. I do approve of the well done backstory though and the idea of something that can specifically cannibalise golem bodies is kind of fun - there are decent ideas here, I think this might just not be my kinda monstrosity.

Furry Occulord by Chris Cale
So, it's a funny use of a common toy item, and a reasonable riff on the "fluffy cute item turned sinister" setup. I think it's better for the joke than for the gameplay - I can't envision circumstances in which I'd want my adventuring party to end up fighting something like this. I think that's partly because I'd want the players to have to work out (the hard way, ideally) that it wasn't cute, rather than putting them under mental compulsion which I feel kind of mechanically forces the issue on what could be quite a fun trap for the players to walk into. I think that tweak would make it a more interesting monster, though of course it's a trap you can only pull once at most if you do it my way.

Glowber-tuttle by Kit Chapman
So, the Glowber-tuttle. I think it's one of the most fun ideas in the contest, and it's certainly got a sort of tragic cuteness to it which I'm very much in favour of. I don't think I'd ever take a party into a group of them - firstly because I don't want to be responsible for exploding turtles (or for a party utilising blowing up a turtle colony), and also because it'd be an ignominious death for anyone caught in the blast. I think they're ecologically a nice idea, though. I guess if I played them I might make the explosion rules less extreme, such that the players simply being around them isn't impossible (and in which context their light sources would be really useful) but the spontaneous explosions happened if there was a battle or the tuttles were instead placed under extreme stress. I feel like that might give a bit more variation to them than "don't go near them, they'll just explode in your face", though I do appreciate that some adventuring parties might just want exploding turtles in their lives, faces, or both. A good idea all round, anyway!

Great Wight Shark by Chris Webb
The Great Wight Shark is such a fantastic pun that it deserves to be highly ranked just for that. It's got workable rules (especially the waterway limits, which provide a good limiting factor on the monster that can help players), and good potential atmosphere as to its uses - it's basically in the "let's mash two super coll things together" category, and "huge undead shark" is a pretty good mash-up, allowing for some excellent "hunt the terrifying monster" scenarios.

Hex Beetle by Zhu Baije
I quite like the hex beetle. I'm not super a fan of things leaning heavily on the planar side, and it's very much a D&D-centric creature in that it requires magic items to be part of a literal ecosystem, but there's something slightly endearing about it as a rather dim beast that will jump in and much on magic items. I'd have liked more expansions of the rules on keeping one - I can't see many adventuring parties wanting to kill them (except of course as a sort of natural treasure resource), but the idea of keeping a pet one is quite appealing somehow.

Jellybender by Logan Howard
The basic idea here is certainly cool - it's a big gelatinous-type cave monster that will eat you and burn you with acid at the same time, and it can reproduce by binary fission. I'm pretty OK with that as an idea. I'm not sure that its immunity to mundane weapons is helpful - it may risk being rather a "do you have the right trick to beat this thing" monster, which is often non-ideal for party combat as usually a maximum of one member of the party will have (in this case) freezing damage. It's good fun and a good alternative gribbly for a wet cave system though, so solid all-round idea here even if I have a couple of implementation qualms.

Kafka by Kevin Chenevert
Giant intelligent roaches that hunt with a wolf-pack/hivemind setup in subterranean environments - it's a pretty decent setup, and might be a good alternative to I feel like the monster might have been better and more scary if shorn of the Metamorphosis reference, given that the character in the actual book mostly sits around feeling sorry for himself and then dies. The Kafkas of this monster entry, though, are very much scarier: smart enough to provide a really complex challenge for the players. I guess in some ways they form a variant on the "Ant Comma Giant", as a smarter/beefier variant with slightly more abilities. Decent monster, pretty good challenge for the players if you want a regular and rather alien enemy to fight. The alien-ness of insectoid enemies like Kafkas and Giant Ants may restrict their use, as we can't relate to them in the way we can to equivalent massed-attack enemies like goblins or kobolds or whatever, but they definitely can have a useful role for DMs.

Koosh Lion by Ted Prodromou
The Koosh Lion is quite a nice idea - it's definitely in the "a mad wizard did it" category, and it's nice to see something that's both in that genre and firmly good aligned. I'm not sure how many adventuring parties would stop to discover what it was before fighting it if it pounced on them, that said. All in all, there's not a lot to say - it's got quite a specific role, as laid out in what it is, and you couldn't really use one more than once tops, but it might well be a nice surprise to spring upon an adventuring party in a mad wizard heavy campaign.

LEGOM by Bob Faulkner
I feel like the actually interesting idea from a gaming perspective is a bit obscured by, rather than helped by, the "look, lego golem" thing which is the key thrust of this monster. I'm sure there are some DMs who can pull off "you discovered fantasy legoland and now have to fight a lego monster" and make it zany and fun rather than simply bizarre, but I suspect they're few and far between. Actually, though, if you're making golem armies it might make sense to have flat-pack golems with reassembling parts. Especially if we're taking golems that have Words in the sense that the original golems (or Pratchettian ones) do, being able to grab the bit that has the word on, clip it to a few more pieces, and have a new golem would be a pretty tempting idea for wizards needing to rapidly assemble and reassemble an army. There's definitely something of interest there that's worth thinking about.

Man-Tain (and Banino) by Kris
So, first off, this really confused me until I just did some googling, because the plants I know of as plantains are those of the genus Plantago, also known as Fleaworts, and not actually the cooking banana plantains on which Man-tain is clearly named. Anyway, Man-Tain! It's a big killer walking banana with little progeny that walk around with it. I'm not really sure what else I can say about this one; it's one of the ones I'm least sure how I'd use across the whole contest. Maybe crazed science or very strange frugivorous religious cult activity? It's a fun enough idea, but it does I think require a DM with more zany-fu than I'm personally able to muster.

Oruka by Mark Chance
This is a pretty reasonable idea - flocks of plane-shifting predators that slice you up and stuff. I'm not sure where I'd really expect to encounter them on the prime material plane (an issue I have with a lot of pure extraplanar creatures - they don't quite aesthetically fit anywhere that I might want my party to go). I guess maybe having flocks of them around an abandoned mountain shring with weak interplanar boundaries or something could be quite fun, and they certainly represent a fairly unique opponent to fight.

Plague Leech by Nick Beebe
Puschel Wuschel by Herr Zinnling and Lina (aged 9)
Shell Witch by Jaye Foster
Skulltaker by Katie Rydzewski
Slathax by Brian Roe
Spellagron by Dominique Crouzet
Sphere of Draining by Allan Hughes
Thurible Cat by Eric Nieudans
Weretiger-shark by Harry Scott (aged 10)
« Last Edit: December 10, 2017, 11:52:34 PM by Jubal »
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