Well here I go, lets see how much fortitude I have, there being over 100 monsters in this book. I get a kick reading others tales of their great games and characters of times past, and writing about it too, apparently.
One thing I have been reading on the webz lately is a kind of consensus that the Fiend Folio is somehow lesser quality than many of the core ADnD products. I was frankly shocked to realize this, since I recollected using it often in the early 80s. Leafing through the book, I was re-inforced in my own personal opinion of its high quality, as I could recall encounters using most of the creatures were involved.
To add some objectivity to the experiment, I leafed through the MM2 next, and I had a sense of de-ja-vue 25 yrs, as I sat pondering those freakish monsters in my youth trying and failing to feature many encounters with them, in comparison. The modrons especially. Not all of them, I definitely had at least one cat in my games. But the Fiend Folio was second, after the Monster Manual in usefulness to me. I also happen to love the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh series of modules, so perhaps I am anglo-philific or something.
Another idea that struck me is that I simply had the Fiend folio before the Monster Manual . I know I had the core 3 first, and that the FF I had was used, but the MM2 was store-bought. I started playing in 1982, during recess at 10 yrs of age, and the first adventure I dm’ed, using the Expert box set was Queen of the Demonweb Pits. Thus began a dming career that lasted until our group broke up in 1989. 2nd edition was just coming out when we split, and our campaign was not diluted by it, but we embraced the Unearthed Arcana era (except for comeliness) and I used basic dnd game elements with impunity. It all went downhill from there…
For the 7 years I dmed 1st edition adnd, we played through one main campaign, a couple secondary campaigns, and literally hundreds of campaigns that would last from less than a session in length to the span of a few months. For each of the campaigns I would compile tables of random encounters which I would keep in a notebook. These were of all types and varieties and helped with my somewhat improvisational nature as a dm – required for a group of PCs who would constantly stray from the path, usually on purpose. Many of these encounter tables featured monsters from the Fiend Folio, such as:
Has there ever been a better avian race? I think every mountain pass and rocky tor the PCs ever passed were inhabited by some nest/tribe/civilization of aarakocra. Often times the savage battle that broke out when the aarakocra dive bombed the party from surprise would end in dialogue if the party were able to get them to listen to reason. After the party convinced the avians of their good intentions, they would get embroiled with the aarakocra against some evil avian race, which he aarakocra warred against for aerial territory in the mountain passes.
Their connection to eagles was another favorite element to use, including rocs. I always used them as a highly noble race, but also savagely predatory and territorial. They were animal-like in those areas, but had a strict code of honor. Once in a campaign they were used as enslaved warriors and the characters were forced to fight and kill them until they were finally able to save the few who were left, lol. Big favorite and definitely not very rare in my campaigns.
IO have always wanted to update the Aarakocra to 4e, and even at one point sent in an article idea to WotC describing a delve that involved a war between barbaric tribes of Aarakocra and Kenku over the rights to a certain ravine. The Aarakocra were above, and the kenku tribe lived on the ground, forever at war. Needless to say, no response, but I still think that it would be awesome, maybe I will give it a full write-up some time. I just love the aarakocra (and the kenku!)
Updated to add: The aarakocra made an appearance in the Dark Sun Creature Catalog, where they were turned into vulture-men,and lost a little bit of their noble luster along the way, but became pretty cool ferocious dive bombing raptors from the sky.
Ok, i Have to admit this is a pretty hokey looking monster. A bi four legged ostrich type thing or something. They were definitely very rare in my campaigns and I can only remember one time using these monsters. Mechanically they are unique, as their central body and legs have separate hps and acs. The PCs are given the option of attacking either, and if they lose a leg they will attempt to limp away on three.
This set up is really perfect for a comedic encounter. Imagine for a moment getting attacked by a flock of four legged fifteen foot tall flightless flamingos. When they flee they release a toxin that causes insanity for 2 hours for the PCs who fail their save vs poison. As the first one crawls away at 2″mv with only 1 leg left, the other 2-8 continue to attack and some of the party descend into insanity. I seem to remember not using the feeblemind rules but rolling a 1d6 to determine effect, at least one of which was attack allies. Usually my game had too much comedy already, so I didnt go for this approach very often, but at just the right time, this encounter can make a pretty big splash. Especially if you have some appropriate miniatures (blob of pink play-doh on top of 4 toothpicks should do it.) so the players get the idea of attacking the legs. This encounter works perfectly on the edge of a lake, or in a grotto, water should be near, and maybe some wooden bridges or a monastery. Think humungous ornamental guard-birds, that are evil, very evil.
This is one of those wandering monster in the underdark type of thing. I cant think of may times I used these, but I think they were usually as a trained pet or slave, and they would be sent in to “collect the weapons”of the party before the main threat, drow mostly, charged into the now weaponless front lines. the cheese factor of these is pretty high, and there are better monsters able to denude the party of their arms. Their similarities to mummies can often surprise the party, but their similar vulnerability to flame and magic missiles offer hope to the party, and a chance for the wizard in the party to help out the warriors. However the boiling water bit, as far as I know, never was played up. Maybe if I had glue expert amongst my party of players, we might have had some fun with boiling water, but alas.
OK these bad boys are simple and sweet. In a half page, Fiend Folio, tells a dm all he needs to know about how to put an overly self-righteous PC in his place. It is not to be used lightly, or often (unless you want to!) but he Aleax is the perfect one on one duelist for any PC. It cannot be perceived or damaged by any but the intended foe, and it is an exact duplicate of the character you plan on unleashing him against. Even though it says religion, I used him as a manifestation of alignment, and would send him in when some one breached their alignment code under certain conditions. This is slightly different than their description which casts them as aspects of specific deities, but that image of the shining alignment color (er colour…) from which they emerge is just too cool a concept.
The only time I can remember using an aleax was against a low level character, 2nd or 3rd, and it was in an arena environment, so it lost some of its “divine retribution” element, but was still cool. I wonder how many other “mirror-image” type of monsters there are in ADnD?
The two unique features of the aleax which make it an in-exact copy of the PC are its regen and its vulnerability to criticals. The regen especially meant that it was almost always a losing battle for the PC, but at low level a win is possible with some lucky rolling, and the loss is not so terrible with regards to PC wealth. I was never evil enough to unleash one of these on a high level pc, which would be a battle of epic, tragic proportions should it ever occur. I would love to see a head-to head battle between an aleax and an 18th level core ADnD PC.
Hmm. Well, yah, Im drawing a blank here. I can’t say that Ive ever used these, or even really contemplated their use. I went through a phase during our summer-long “underdark campaign” the year Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide came out, 1986. In that campaign I had all sorts of fungal, and especially mushroom underground gardens and forests, but never saw fit to use Mr Algoid here, nor in all the swamps the PCs constantly found themselves in. They fought shambling mounds, myconids, and all sorts of plant people, even a few I made up, but never this guy. I guess his mix of defenses and resistances and vulnerabilities always seemed a little too slap-dash to me. Movin on…
Very rare my left foot! These basically replaced the common rabbit of my game world, and any time a PC would mention hunting for rabbit or what-not while out in the wilds, there was a good chance the party would stumble upon a warren of 2-20 of these who would “attack for no good reason” and much slaughter would occur which would end with uniocorn-rabbit stew. Unfortunately, no PC every took one to become its boon companion, which is too bad, and might have been part of the reason they kept encountering them.
The Al mi raj is just a darn fun little monster, and having each pc attacked by 1d6 of the things is great fun. And I haven’t even begun to make the Monty Python references…
These undead are hard core. They are insubstantial (meaning they cannot harm or be harmed on the prime material) except for the 1 surprise round in which they attack (1-6 on a d6). They attack the character ability scores, and can cause a character to have a heart attack and die on the spot. And they don’t even need to roll to hit. Hard core. They even have 8 hd and an AC of 0 in case a PC manages to get an attack.
It was only as I got older that I discovered a life-long love of the undead. In my youth, I used plenty of undead when I dmed, bu I never experimented with different types than the standard. I can think of all sorts of great ways to use the Apparition now, but for whatever reason, I do not believe I’ve ever used him in the old days. This monster would make a perfect big bad in an adventure through a haunted mansion or something. Part of the quest could be a method to damage him in the ethereal plane. Or even a haunted place festering with apparitions! Shoot, I wonder if these have been updated.
Funnily enough, this creature spawned two new creatures in my games back in the 80s, neither of which are as written. The first time the party encountered them, they were much as written, they cam upon a bunch of them in a clearing at mating time or something. i completely changed the egg-laying bit, and just had the females swoop in to deliver a rot grub after a successful attack by the males. The rules for egg-laying are pretty nifty, and span weeks ending with alien-like assassin flies chewing there way out, that was not the type of game we were playing at the time. However, dive-bombing females ready to disgorge a rot-grub into paralyzed flesh was in like flynn!
The idea of assassin bugs was too cool to leave it at that. The picture alone inspired a second type of assassin bug, this one miniaturized and not much larger than a regular fly. It carried a more potent poison (sometimes a needle was tied with magical thread to the bug) that would paralyze the lungs and heart of whoever it attacked. The true 007 style assassin bug.
No I didnt use this one, in fact I dont think I noticed him at all until now, maybe because there was no picture, but the more I think about it, the more I think hat full page spread two pages back is actually an Astral Searcher. Until now, I thought it was an aleax, but im still not 100 percent sure.
I could see a case made for these lost souls, perhaps while traveling in an extra-planar adventure. Being beset upon by a horde of these fairly weak, yet dangerous monsters would seem apt. I normally shied away from anything psionic after some disastrous attempts to incorporate the 1e psionic rules early on. While these guys are not technically psionic, they have that mentat feel about them. That said, again given the proper circumstances, say while crossing the river styx, or finding a strange island in the astral sea, these monsters would fit. The body-stealing and personality-destroying just creeps me ou a bit. For me, there were always better “astral” creatures than these kill-joys. And the random personality upon taking over a PCs body is just a little too much.
We have broken through the letter A and are now blazing along. Next up is
This simple monster is actually kinda confusing. First of all the name of this beast does it no favors. It is named for its rudimentary language, which sounds like babbling, no special attack or game-able reason for it. next, the picture looks well, uh pretty much like a t-rex. its large like a dinosaur, but only 8 feet tall, so maybe it is more like a velociraptor or what’s this, it spells it out, its like a gorgosaurus which a Google image search confirms. The third confusing thing about the babbler is its description. It sounds like a basic killing machine but the description leads one to believe that babblers lead lizard-man raid. Strange. However, when one considers that lizard men are typically low intelligence, and babblers are average (with high cunning) it begins to make more sense. The confusing nature of the Babbler keeps it from being used to its fullest extent. If you are flipping through the pages for a good monster to use, the babbler will always be overshadowed by the bonesnapper a few pages further in, but its a shame, because the babbler is a pretty spiffy monster.
The babblers were introduced to me in the wandering monster table of U3 The Final Enemy. This “Saltmarsh” series of modules was one of my all-time favorites and I ran U1, U2, and U3 on multiple occasions. The babblers in this module are enemies of the lizard men, who fear them, perhaps because it reminds them of their not so distant past of loving man flesh? Well thought out, but since no party I ever played with had lizard me in the party to detect the babbler, I was able to use their quite excellent surprise sneak attack ability. They are able to quickly and stealthily slither on their bellies up behind their prey and attack “as a 4th level thief” doing double damage AND gaining + to hit. Not too shabby.
I cant remember using them for their intended purpose – leading manflesh-hunting parties of lizard men, which would have been a pretty awesome encounter, I can see it now. A marsh in foggy low visibility weather. The lizard-men brandishing spears and clubs form a loud line, while a pair of babbler slithers to the flanks of the party. The wizard would be toast. Good solid monster. Even its name is not so bad after all, since it gives it some mystery instead of calling it a Slithering back-biter or something equally mundane.
Incidentally the gorgosaurus is a generically average dinosaur in the MM1, though it has a cool picture and includes the chance to roll 7d4.
Wow, this is where the giant bat is tucked away? It seems like MM2 has giant bats, ah yes, the true giant bat the Mobat. The bat presented here is actually little more than a bat of unusually large size. I think giant might be a little bit inflated for a bat with up to 4 hp and a wingspan no greater than 5 feet. Personally I wish these almost useless bats would switch names and be called the mobats, and give the true goblin ride-able giant bats of the MM2 their proper due.
This dwarf giant bat has a couple redeeming factors. For one, it has a 10% chance to give rabies, and also that one in ten are of the slightly tougher 1 hd variety. Pretty blah, but if you ever need to have a bunch of big bats mucking up the place, these are the ones to use. Small giant bats.
These monsters, these legends of print, date back even before the Fiend Folio, appearing in he british RPG mag White Dwarf, first, and have appeared in every version of the game up to 4E’s MM1. With a huge entry, the berbalangs life cycle is described, including its hidden trance states and its astral projection. This is a weird monster that would be great appearing in one of the planar traveling campaigns. Now that I have the web, I have learned that they are a creature of Filipino myth, and are actually pretty cool.
The Berbalang also benefits from having some of the coolest artwork in the book, both he hovering berbalang in a trance, and the incredibly gory picture of a berbalang devouring the entrails of what appears to be a fallen adventurer, while in silhouette, another berbalang flies off with a captive in its claws. In short these monsters are some bad mo-fos, and the fact that they can be this bad-a$$ and still only 1+1 hit dice means that ay group is fair game.
Be afraid, PCs, be very afraid of the berbalang, he will kill you in his dreams while he devours you in yours…
That’s it for today folks, but I will be back soon with another installment.