Been on a D&D kick. Will ramble about them tomorrow. Sleepynow.
OK! As we've established, I've been on a bit of a D&D kick lately - partially due to Bogleech, and since Scythemantis is doing reviews for several of the classic D&D monsters, I figured I'd draw a few of my own.
D&D has a bad habit of trying to make its monsters 'hip' and edgy lately. Nine times out of ten, the results are exactly as bad as they sound. But I'm not here to rant about how they changed it now it sucks. I'm here to appreciate the monsters. And I don't think ANYTHING has ever topped D&D when it comes to diverse and interesting monsters.
I'd have really liked to color these, but there are so MANY of them.... Maybe once classes are over, I'll go back and color them, and maybe shade my dragons while I'm at it. Really, what I'd have loved to do would be to give each one a full blown portrait showing it in action like the monster manuals like to. But again, perhaps in the future.
Kobold: Prettymuch the archetypical mook monster for low level adventurers. In-universe scrappies, insidious and vicious, kobolds are basically reptilian goblins.
Unfortunately, I haven't seen a single piece of kobold art that wasn't adorable. They're actually fairly popular for the 'subversive sympathetic monster' player. The problem is, most of those 'subversive' characters look SIGNIFICANTLY more natural than the vicious, toothy little dungeon mooks.
I know I rant about being able to judge a creature's alignment by its appearance, but I dunno... Kobolds are clearly intelligent, and look like puppies. I don't like fighting them. I want to interview them all to make SURE they're evil before I unsheathe my fireball!
So I decided to take a cue from Jurassic Park's troodons and make them small, yet fleet and monstrous. Not pitiful, but compact and efficient. Kobolds are masters of traps, so I tried to emphasize this(He has a bottle of scorpions strapped to his chest, thought he image is a bit too small to notice. >>). In my ideal campaigns, kobolds are crazy awesome, industrious trap-masters who design half the dungeons you run through, and are prone to throwing themselves into danger with no regard for their own safety. Not evil, but instinctively vicious and conniving. A bit like miniature orks.
As always, the potential to be sympathetic is there, but when they are, it becomes much more shocking. But more importantly, I want them to just be so much fun, you don't look too deep into it when you have to fight them.
Gelatinous Cube: I wasn't originally going to draw this one - I tried to put myself into all of these monsters, and there really is no wrong way to draw this thing. But I decided to go ahead, as I like it too much to ignore. This is my only 'in context' illustration here, seeing as how... again, it's a cube. How am I gonna get it wrong?
It's rather nonsensical - the cube shape restricts it FAR more than other oozes for little discernible benefit. But I can't help but love it. There's something surreal about it. You're groping through a dark dungeon, when all of a sudden you bump into a giant, transparent wall of acid...
Ryla's character Roxy has one as a mount.... Or rather, she has an amulet that keeps her from being digested, and kicks it from the inside until it goes in the direction she needs.
Otyugh: The otyugh is really the reason I decided to do this. I like the otyugh. It's believable - a macro-decomposer that lives on the refuse of other monsters. Garbage, carrion, dung, plants, animals... the otyugh shovels them all into its maw and goes to town. As Scythe put it, 'it's not enough that you have to face the acid-spitting black dragon, but as soon as you take him down, you have to deal with his living toilet!'.
I tried to make my otyugh look dumpy, yet content. He's kind of goofy, but strangely believable as something that might evolve on another world.
I gave him huge, blunt teeth. The third edition+ designs tend to give it dozens of needly teeth, but that doesn't make a lot of sense. Such teeth are designed for grappling, but moreover, would get caked down in crap(metaphorically and literally) before it was even a year old. They'd be useless! My otyugh's dentation is more akin to a trash compactor.
Tarrasque: D&D's designated daikaiju. Not simply a massive beast, but a tried and true daikaiju. The tarrasque hasn't gone through a great many changes - Though from third edition on, it was given a hunched posture and overall made to look uncannially Zilla-esque. I actually like this, as it's always been fifty feet tall, but making it more horizontally built has the effect of making it bigger. Pus the tarrasque eats EVERYTHING. It needs to be designed as such!
My tarrasque is hunched, sports humanoid arms(for gathering food) and broad, short, sharp teeth for chomping through flesh and foliage alike. It leaves a barren, sterile wasteland in its wake, so like the otyguh, its dentation shouldn't be specialized for any one function.
What I like about it is how it's a kaiju, but not a complete Godzilla clone. The inspiration is there, but the tarrasque is a fantastic beast all its own.
Ogress: Most of the monsters here are of ambiguous gender, but I use male pronouns for a lot of them so I decided to make the ogre female.
That, and the first ogre I ever fought was female. We were doing a dungeon crawl and when we opened a door, we found an ogress smearing lipstick on her face, wearing a tattered gown. She did not appreciate the intrusion.
I felt bad for killing her, really, but she crushed my fighter's ribs! Still, she was so funny, I think I'll give her a new life when I get around to that miniseries centered on the Heckville cast's roleplaying ventures.
The frumpier I tried to make her, the cuter she wound up being. I eventually just decided to role with it. Ogresses can be pretty too!
Owlbear: If the red dragon is D&D's mascot and the beholder is its icon, then the owlbear is its meme. It can't fly, so why dilute the bear with a common owl?
The thing is... through some bizarre logic, it makes perfect sense. No, it can't fly, but it's not a sharktopus. It's not a weapon designed to combine the deadliest aspects of two beasts. It's a magical abomination created by a deranged wizard. It's not dangerous because it wields the power of both bears and owls - it's dangerous because it's an unnatural, psychologically unstable freak of magic!
It very much feels like a fantastic beast, sort of like a buff, flightless gryphon. More of a 'woodland frankenstein monster' than a honed, sophisticated killing machine. And frankly, I think the owl traits give it a bit more character than it would have if it were replaced with a more dangerous animal.
Behir: The behir is one of my original favorites. It's vaguely draconic, but it's not a dragon and in fact, refuses to associate with them in any way. I like to think it gets really mad when you mistake it for one.
The behir is a relatively simple design, but it works. It's big, it's predatory, it spits lightning, it swallows people whole, and apparently it talks.
The second edition never mentioned it talking. The third edition's last sentence is simply 'Behirs speak common'. That's it. Cuts straight to the combat section. No elaboration on what it's liable to say, how it might greet intruders... Presumably, like all creatures, they vary in personality, but give me a HINT! All D&D monsters are based on an archetype, but the behir is a complete blank slate. Red dragons are greedy, elves are hippies, beholders are egotistical... None of these creatures is obligated to be like this, but there's at least a stereotype to build up from.
I kind of like that. It lets my imagination run wild. What DO these creatures talk about? They're apparently about as smart as primates, but they speak our language. What goes through those minds....
Ankheg: The original chaurus. There's not a whole lot to say about the ankheg. It's a big, burrowing bug that occasionally spits acid. It's simple, it's elegant, it's deadly, and it hasn't gone through any insane revamps.
Mine, however, is still based more on the second edition design. It was originally described as a six legged worm, so I gave it a wormlike body.
Bulette: One of the beasts that Gygax based on a cheap plastic toy(That I own), the bulette is one of my favorites. It's basically a shark, a triceratops and an armadillo all at once. While not as huge as a dragon, the bulette devastates the ecosystem and is an absolute BEAST to put down, driving communities wild whenever one shows up.
It's not immediately noticeable, but between its habit of burrowing, its moderately huge size, its apex predator status and its tendency to send communities fleeing... the bulette is kind of like D&D's answer to the graboids. Not in appearance so much as spirit. I could totally see an adventure beginning with a ragtag bunch of misfits uniting in a deserted, humble town to defeat the bulette that's been rampaging across the countryside.
... In fact, I think I'm going to use that.
My bulette has a slightly more overtly sharklike face, but sticks to the third edition design for the most part. I can't say I've met a bulette design I dislike, but that one just clicks the most with me.
Banshrae: I only recently learned about the banshrae, but I fell in love with them instantly. Insect-like humanoid fey, always impish and mischievous, sometimes malevolent, sometimes merely callous. They adore wind instrumental music, but lack the ability to play it, to the point where even murderous banshrae may be pacified by the sound.
They are amazing. Classic style fairies, but not apparently modeled after any one variety. Like so many of my favorite monsters, they're an original idea based on a classic theme.
Yrthak: A third edition original, I fell in love with the yrthak as soon as I saw it. With its pterosaur wings, eyeless face, sound-blasting unicorn horn and bizarre tongue, it feels like an aerial predator from another world, through and through. Apparently it's very intelligent but doesn't speak, and really feels like D&D's version of Gyaos to me. It's as much like Gyaos as the tarrasque is like Godzilla and the bulette is a graboid.
Carrion Crawler: When I was little, I saw one in a game my dad was playing and for the longest time thought it was called 'the carrying crawler'.
This one went through a great many drafts. I love the original tentacled cutworm, but I also love the toothy, neon green slug. I wound up trying to combine the two, and the result wound up looking nothing like either. But I figured it was nice and solid, so I stuck with it. I dunno... I like them all, really.
The carrion crawler is your classic dungeon-dwelling giant invertebrate, so it should have an air of creepiness.
Purple Worm: The archetypical sandworm. The purple worm is the graboid's counterpart in a different way. Unlike the graboid, it has considerable reach and can still move on the surface, plus it's just bigger, giving it a distinct identity.
No two drawings of this thing are alike, but I based mine on the earlier designs(especially once I saw a delightfully creepy miniature). I gave it chomping jaws for tougher prey, but set them inside a round, jawless, all-devouring maw, then added some beady little eyes for creepiness.
Beholder: Beholders are probably what people remember most about D&D. They distinguish it from other generic fantasy worlds and set the path for many, MANY bizarre horrors down the road.
The beholders are a delicious irony. They take xenophobia to new extremes, murdering others who differ even slightly in appearance, all believing themselves to be the peak of beholderhood and having an indescribable aversion to change - and are one of the most mutable species in the realms.
I like to think that they plan to wipe out all life in existence, but are too distracted by their own internal feuding to get around to it.
I didn't change much. I like my beholders spherical, rather than blobular, but that's really the only criteria I went with. Of course I emphasized the eyes a lot, but there's not much else TO a beholder.
Arrowhawk: The arrowhawk is awesome. It is a bird with no bottom half - only another top half.
No matter which way you flip it, it will be correct.
It has no legs, so it doesn't land, ever. Its eggs float in the air and its babies hatch ready to fly.
Also, it shoots electricity.
It is that special kind of cool, where something isn't badass so much as absolutely freakish, but in such a clever way you can only admire it.
Froghemoth: People tend to be at a loss when it comes to frog monsters. Unlike dinosaurs and snakes and bears and great cats and wolves and birds of prey, frogs don't really set the average person's imagination aflame. But they have their schticks, their quirks and their function, and like all other creatures, they can be invoked without simply resorting to scaling it up and calling it a new monster.
The froghemoth is an ideal example of this. Goofy, but not illogical. Not the most dignified of beasts by our standards, but terrifying to behold. The froghemoth spits in the face of anthropocentrism. It has no use for our concepts of beauty or majesty. It is not a vile, evil thing designed to repulse us, but the product of nature's apathy. And I love it.
Troll: Personally, I prefer my trolls apish, but I went with D&D's base. If I do a full portrait, it'll probably wind up looking very different.
I see the troll as sort of the spectral opposite of the ogre. Ogres are monstrous humanoids, where trolls are humanoid monsters. And all in all, I consider trolls creepier for it.
Remorhaz: Fairly obscure, but one of my long time favorites. The remorhaz is the first tundra monster I met that generates intense heat, rather than being magically affiliated with the cold. It's rather brilliant, and the design is just great. I have never seen a remorhaz I didn't love. I actually had a lot of trouble with this one because I had no idea which one I wanted to base it on.