The classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons borrowed countless creatures, myths and monsters to fill its fiend folio, but not all of them. Gary Gygax and the other D&D creators added a few ideas of their own to the lexicon of monsters. Here are 10 creatures that will never be forgotten, especially by the role-players that fought them.
If beauty is in the eye of this guy, then he’s got some options. The beholder is one giant, floating eye with a fanged mouth and ten more eyes on stalks coming out of its head; each eye has a different power, including everything from anti-magic-cones to levitation rays, making them a real hassle for adventurers. Beholders are intelligent creatures, not mindless monsters, but they’re oddly racist about other types of beholders, so it’s still perfectly okay to kill them (I’m joking, it’s okay to kill anything in D&D).
2) Displacer Beast
The Displacer Beast is a puma with two tentacles coming out of its shoulders. You’d think being a large cat with tentacles glued on might be its most distinguishing feature, but it’s not — it's the fact that the Displacer Beast actually projects its own image a few feet from its actual body, so while people are trying to attack an illusion, the Displacer Beast is five feet to the right, and getting its tentacles ready to do some very unpleasant things. Displacer Beasts are very surly and will fight anything, but their eyes are sought as good luck charms by thieves, which means they kind of have a reason to be surly.
A group of adventurers battles through a monster-infested dungeon and finally comes upon a massive treasure chest. As they reach to claim their hard fought prize, the chest opens by itself… and then slams shut on the hands of those reaching inside, because it’s a Mimic, not an actual treasure chest. Mimics are amorphous creatures that can disguise themselves as wood or stone, but they really love being chests, as sort of the ultimate “fuck you” D&D monster. There are two types of Mimics: The benign kind that can talk and are actually pretty friendly even thought they’ve evolved to prey on unwary adventurers, and the “killer” kind, which don’t talk and… well, kill people. The best part about Mimics? They can alter their insides to look like gold and jewels, ensuring greedy adventurers reach inside.
4) Rust Monster
There are few creatures in D&D as fearsome as the rust monster. By itself, this large, armored, tick-like creature is actually pretty meek — it barely has a bite attack, and it doesn’t fight people unless provoked. But if it smells metal, it will come over looking for a snack, and the Rust Monster’s corrosive juju will destroy your weapons, armor, and anything else metal you happen to have around. Not only is this super-dangerous for adventurers who need those weapons and armor to face more aggressive creatures in the next dungeon room over, magic items are not immune. Powerful knights with magic swords and chainmail +2 have been known to run screaming at the mere sight of a Rust Monster. [Art via Thenightlight]
5) Gelatinous Cube
D&D is chock-full of slimes, molds, puddings, oozes, and other various semi-solid monsters. But the most memorable has the be the Gelatinous Cube, who has evolved to become a 10-foot square cube, to perfectly fit the 10-by-10 rooms and halls inside of 95% of D&D dungeons. They can move — slowly — absorbing and digesting anything that comes into contact with them; for those feistier creatures, it emits an electric shock which paralyzes people while the Cube eats them. [Art by Jean-Francois Beaulieu]
An Owlbear is a bear — and you may want to be sitting down for this — with an owl head. That’s it. It’s a bear with big eyes, a beak, and the ability to twist its neck 360 degrees. Oh, and it has a big tail, too, making it even weirder. It is completely ridiculous, and is a bit of a joke to most role-players, all of whom would immediately shit their pants if they saw a 10-foot bear with an owl head barreling down at them.
Before Dungeons & Dragons, the word “lich” was could be used to describe almost any corpse, animate or not. Then Gary Gygax and Brian Blume wrote the Eldritch Wizardy D&D supplement, and boom — a lich became the term an intelligent, undead sorcerer who have made themselves immortal without all that “eternal life” business. Liches are usually evil, not necessarily by nature, but because wizards who don’t mind turning themselves into the walking dead are generally misanthropic assholes. There are good liches — really, they stay the same alignment they had before they died. Also, liches don’t have to be human — any intelligent creature with the means can become a lich, which means there are dracoliches — undead sorcerer dragons — for DMs that really hate their players.
8) The Drow
It can be easy to forget that the Drow, also known as Dark Elves, were one of D&D earliest bad guys. These obsidian elves live underground in caves, have white hair, worship a spider goddess, and hate everybody, including themselves. Then came Drizzt Do’Urden, the good-hearted Drow who abandoned his evil people to become the Forgotten Realms emo version of Wolverine — an intense, brooding loner who still managed to team up with everybody all the time. Soon, everybody wanted to a Drow, and TSR made a jillion different classes and variants of this supposedly super-rare race, including a Werebat Drow. Now you can’t swing a dead Displacer Beast without hitting some goodhearted Drow who has abandoned his evil society to wander the surface as a mopey outcast. [Art by HELMUTT]
9) Mind Flayer
Do you remember the squid-headed dude from Return of the Jedi? Imagine that guy with a penchant for eating your brain, and you have a Mind Flayer, a.k.a. an Illithid. These mini-Cthulus are powerful psychics, who can paralyze men or drive them insane with their psionic blasts; their four face tentacles are used to reach into people’s heads to access the brains and eat them. Mind Flayers are prevalent throughout the galaxy and most planes of reality, and consider themselves the supreme race in the universe, although they hate the undead, mostly because they have no brains to control (or eat).
The biggest, most dangerous and the most ludicrous of D&D creatures, the Tarraque is basically a cross between Godzilla and Galactus — its giant, tyrannosaurus-esque creature that does nothing but eat and kill. It’s impervious to most things, and it regenerates super-quick. The only way to kill a Tarrasque is to remove all its Hit Points and then use a Wish spell — just doing one or the other doesn’t work. The Tarrasque is basically what adventurers fight when the Dungeon Master has given them way too much XP and treasure and magical gear and they’ve gotten too powerful for everything else. If you have ever killed a Tarrasque in any of your D&D campaigns, you probably had a shitty DM.