Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons, "My Favorite Aberrations"

Standard Introduction
            I have been writing about Dungeons and Dragons semi-regularly this year and in the course of writing those I found a 30-day blog challenge.  As I have done those a couple times before it seemed remiss not to jump on this one.
            If you want here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Disney Movies, here is a link to my 30-day challenge on Video Games, and here is a comically out of date 30-day challenge on Movies (it is old and the writing is rubbish).

Day 12- My Favorite Aberration
            There are 10,000 monsters in this gods damned game.  Expect several top 5 lists this week as there are not too many specific “favorites” more like “preferred”.  Today is Aberrations, because they wanted a word that meant “alien” but didn’t want to invoke science fiction tropes… till Spelljammer showed up and they decided to still not use the word “alien”.  That’s fine, baby steps.
            Let’s go.
This is a Neogi.
There is literally not one physical feature on this thing that elicits sympathy.
You may not know the first thing about it, but you want it dead.  And you are right.
#5: Neogi
            These things are a mix of snakes, and spiders, travel the stars in spider shaped spaceships, and have an entire culture base around slavery and being assholes.  This pick has more to do with my love of Spelljammer than anything else, the Neogi are in there and serve as the, “You don’t have to worry about the morality of killing these guys, they are jerks on a demonstrable level, they enslave people as a special ability.”
            I have a bad habit of making my bad guys a little too sympathetic and when I am provided an entire society that can’t be made sympathetic I almost feel grateful.  I can run some adventures without the risk of making the players feel conflicted.  Just be happy killing the creepy spider-snakes.

This is an Umberhulk.
There is often nothing providing scale.
This thing is about 9+ ft tall.

#4: Umberhulk
            They are beetle-gorillas with hypno-eyes.  Hulking bruisers that serve as the muscle minions of the guys who do the actual thinking.  I had one really good encounter which featured one of these at the center, along with an Honorable Mention aberration, a Choker (which has stretchy tentacle arms).  The encounter consisted of an Umberhulk tearing up the core of the field while the little stretchy guy chased one of the less muscular characters around the massive melee that filled in the rest.
            I think the hypno-eyes add a much-needed curveball to what would otherwise be a middling fight.  There are lots of monsters in the range of CR4-CR10 that are just big balls of hit points with very little in the way of clever or cute abilities.  The Umberhulk is a fun exception to that.
This is a Choker.
They are creepy.
But only creepy enough for an honorable mention.
This is a Grell.
Shown in profile, doing absolutely nothing.
Mouth agape as if to say, "Me!?"

#3: Grell
            This one is more about looks.  It is a massive brain with tentacles and a beak.  It is so delightfully fucked up looking.  Beyond that they had one of the more interesting chapters of “Lords of Madness” the aberrations supplement for 3rd edition that I found to be so engaging that I read all the story text.  The art for these guys was Lovecraftian even by the standards of a book about Lovecraftian monsters.

            This is another one that had a super memorable encounter in a game, as it was revealed that the Emperor of an island based seafaring despot nation had been replaced with a holographic projection and a Grell was responsible.
            What is more, that Grell had escaped from an eons old prison of monsters hidden in the volcanic mountainside of the despot nation's capital.  The Grell was using the mage-tech that had imprisoned it to create an army of minions from the surrounding servitor nations so that when it let the other prisoners out it would still have enough clout to run things, and then… TAKE OVER THE WORLD!  The players hacked it up, and then blew up the facility, one of the characters sacrificing their life to do so.  Kind of an epic end to it all.
These are Mindflayers.
"Quick!  Everyone!  Strike a Pose!"

#2: Mindflayer
            In my mind, there are really only two Aberrations that anyone would claim as their favorite.  Of those two I rank the Mindflayer second place.  They are purple skinned squid headed mages that eat brains.  They are ruled by giant godlike alien brains, use giant tadpoles stuck into the brains of living humans that transforms as a means of reproducing, and have “look into ways of destroying the sun” as one of their long-term goals.  The Mindflayers are awesome… But shockingly inefficient.
            They are unable to eat the brains of non-sentient races.  So, in order to have enough of a food supply to keep even a handful of them going they require a comical number of victims.  This is all the issues of being a vampire amplified.  Kind of comical.
            That being said the Mindflayers are smart, mysterious, have goals on both an individual level and as a society, and are one of the better spellcaster-type monsters using mental blasts and some actual magic to tie down the good guys so that they can eat their brains.  I have used one as a recurring antagonist before and will again.  The joke being that his name is inaudible, instead he uses a blast of several telepathic concepts, like banjo music, the color green, and the smell of tacos.  The spoken name he allows himself to be called is Darq.
This is a Beholder.
This is also the cover of the 5th edition Monster Manual.
You know, one of the core 3 books of the whole game.
#1: Beholder
            The Beholder is a giant floating head covered in eyestalks and teeth.  Each of its 11eyes has a different effect and as such they are able to create all kinds of havoc in a given game.  They even have the added benefit of using facing for their rules.  Typical monsters in Dungeons and Dragons are treated as being able to act in all directions equally, but the main eye of a beholder cancels magic where it looks creating a massive change in tactics for the party.  It is interesting even by the standards of the rules.
            I have used a beholder before, but it was underwhelming.  I didn’t do enough to make the encounter unique and he was fighting a party that was so well prepped for the encounter he was almost turned to stone by his own refracted eye laser.
            Generally speaking, after DRAGONS the Beholder is the most iconic monster in Dungeons and Dragons.  It is immediately awesome looking and terrifying.  The more you learn about their bizarre alien genesis, birthed from an entire plane of the Abyss by some massive creature that is the plane, and filled with screaming hatred for all things that are not them, even seeing other beholders as twisted heretics/monsters.  It is so weird.  And so cool.

Obvious Omission: Abeloths
            These guys got a bum rap.  The first time I saw one it was in the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition monster manual and the art was underwhelming.  It was a green fish looking thing.  I was not impressed. 
This is a lame fish thing.
            I have talked briefly about this before, that the art in 5th edition does a lot to make them look monstrous and interesting, but I have not used them in a game and even now feel obligated to rectify that, but not eager to.  And whenever you feel like you are doing something because, “I guess I should give it a try” it saps some of the fun out.

At the very least, this thing has intimidating teeth.

Coming Tomorrow
            Tomorrow I am going to talk about animals and vermin.  Basically, tomorrow is covering the boring type of monsters.


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