Plenty of beings within the plans of Dungeons and Dragons have drawn upon myths and folktales, and plenty more from classic literature, but a few have risen as creatures unique to the game. While some might make even a mighty warrior quake in their boots, others have come to rely on strength of numbers and trickery to survive.
To describe every single creature that Dungeons and Dragons has spawned would take ages But some have reached such an iconic status as to transcend the game itself, showing up in media from videogames to anime and cementing themselves firmly in the fantasy genre’s zeitgeist to a degree that few other monsters have achieved.
10 Kobolds Have Acquired A Split Image
The modern image of a kobold can range from tiny draconic humanoids to dog-headed beastfolk, but both versions of the old Germanic goblin can trace their origins back to d&d. While 2nd Edition‘s Monster Manual would describe them as “dog-like,” they would gain reptilian, and later draconic, features as time went on.
The presence of dog-headed kobolds throughout Japanese media like the anime Record of Lodoss War is likely a result of their depiction in the early days of D&D Meanwhile, other franchises like the warcraft series, play on ideas from the myths of kobolds as deep-dwelling spirits. These creatres would take the form of a candle as often as a more humanoid one, giving rise to the classic line “You no take candle!”
9 Bugbears Were Once Much More Literal
Originally referring to a literal bogeyman of a bear said to lurk within deep dark woods, bugbear comes from the Middle English “bugge,” quite literally meaning “a frightening thing” or a general object of dread. The word bugaboo also owes its existence to such tales of bugbears.
While this explains their role as brutal monsters, their role as hulking goblinoids is a uniquely d&d twist. Bugbears and goblins are not the lone “goblinoids” in d&d though, as the game also features stranger races like the nilbogs who heal when harmed and vice versa.
8 Gnolls Have Become An Iconic Bestial Race
“Gnole” first appeared in The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany, but the creatures within were an unseen threat rather than the now-familiar hyena-humanoids. Flash forward to 1974, and “gnoll” sees print in the first edition of d&dalbeit referring to a cross between a troll and a gnome.
This strange and vague form would not last long though, as come Advanced Dungeons & Dragons they became the anthropomorphic hyenas seen today. Between their intimidating visage and often savage culture, gnolls have become a classic monster in both tabletop gaming and beyond.
7 Liches Codified Classic Undead Mages
Coming from the Old English word lych, meaning corpse, liches have grown into something more than just a generic undead threat. While undead mages did appear earlier in fantasy stories, the soul-trapping artifacts and paralyzing touch that are now staples of the concept are inventions of d&d.
A normal lich is already a terrifying foe, possessing intense magical might and the ability to regenerate even if destroyed. But some have concentrated their power even further, forsaking their last vestige of mortality to become a gem-encrusted limb or skull known as the dreaded demilich.
6 Driders Offer An Even Darker Twist On Drow
Either a blessing or a curse, depending on how the individual looks at it, a drow can only become a drider through the direct meddling of their dark goddess Lolth. With a thirst for blood and a monstrous half-spider form, driders are outcasts even amongst the drow.
While the concept of an elf crossed with a spider is simple enough, the drider has served to inspire most ideas of “spiderfolk” in media ever since their premiere in 1980’s Queen of the Demonweb Pitsan adventure which saw heroes diving deep into the Abyss and facing off against Lolth herself.
5 Displeasure Beasts Have Roots In Classic Sci-Fi
Resembling a six-legged panther during the rare moment it can be seen clearly, a displeasure beast’s other most notable features are the long, thorn-tipped tentacles that sprout from each shoulder, giving the monster a much greater reach than its feline appearance might suggest .
The titular displacement effect of the displeasure beast may be a d&d invention, but the overall form of the creature was inspired by a monster known as the “coeurl” from the 1950’s The Voyage of the Space Beagle. The heart in the book possessed a haunting intellect beyond that of a mere beast, feeding on phosphorous and able to control the powers of vibration.
4 The Bulette Is A Subterranian Terror
The bulette—properly pronounced as “boo-lay” according to its creator Tim Kask—serves as a quite literal interpretation of the phrase “land shark”, a creature that can rush through earth as easily as it runs along the ground and possessing a tremendously powerful bite.
Bulettes, and their strange taste for halflings and horses, would grow to become iconic, but their creation was due to sheer coincidence. They are one of several d&d monsters inspired by a bundle of cheap plastic toys all seemingly based on various kaiju from the classic tokusatsu series ultra man.
3 Rust Monsters Offer A Unique Threat To An Adventurer
Simultaneously a beloved and dreaded encounter, the rust monster inspires fear in a way few other creatures can equal; it targets a character’s equipment, not their life from her. A simple touch of its tail or bite of its jaws can swiftly reduce even the stoutest armor to a pile of worthless rust in moments.
Inspired by the same package of toys as the bulette, it owes its threatening ability to its unassuming appearance. Gary Gygax couldn’t think of anything overtly threatening to give the cartoonish propeller-tailed lobster-monster, so he landed on rust powers.
two Mind Flayers Are Scheming Lovecraftian Terrors
Mind flayers, or illithids, have consistently remained one of d&d‘s most memorable monsters since their creation. Between their taste for brains and an array of mind-shattering physical powers, even a lone mind flayer can shake all but the most stalwart of heroes.
While the mind flayer is copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast, this hasn’t stopped them from showing up in a host of third-party games. the final-fantasy games in particular have seen them become a reoccurring enemy throughout the series.
1 Beholders Make For Iconic Masterminds
Appearing in greyhawkthe very first supplement book, it’s little wonder that beholders are now one of the most iconic monsters in d&d. Between their massive intellects and a penchant for extreme self-absorption, they make for an intimidating boss whether it be in 1st Edition or modern d&d.
With eleven eyes each with a different ability, beholders have an unusually versatile skillset and can accomplish a lot despite their spherical forms. Using telekinesis to make up for their lack of hands for instance, or simply using mind control to make their minions do the heavy lifting.
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