A few weeks ago, Earth Nerd Clave called out in desperation for D&D help from his fellow ne’er do wells around Nerds on Earth Headquarters. He was exploring the origins of slimes and oozes, as one is wont to do from time to time. Being a South Carolinian, I was sheltering down for Hurricane Florence and had nothing better to do than to follow him down the nerdiest rabbit hole imaginable, providing him some information from my 1e D&D bookshelf. You can read his awesome, if slimmy, article here.
Of course, one of my go-to books for arcane knowledge of beasts and baddies is the deliciously strange Fiend Folio from 1e. Originally published in 1981, Fiend Folio is packed with monsters that can be best described as… oddities. It is certainly not your standard Monster Manual! The strange collection of monsters owes its uniqueness almost wholly to its use of fan submissions to White Dwarf’s “Fiend Factory” column.
Some of the monsters became staples of the D&D tabletop experience, like the Githyanki, the Aarakocra, or the Death Knight. Other monsters are just plain weird. There are fey creatures, strange undead, and oozes and slimes that made Clave shiver with delight. Oh, and there are also Flumphs. Can’t forget the Flumphs.
With such a richly unique menagerie of characters, I always come away from any reading of this book with fun ideas for my games. It’s a difficult task to narrow down my favorite monsters from this book down to a list of seven, but here’s my attempt to do just that! I have chosen seven monsters from the original Fiend Folio that can teach us some very good life lessons about adventuring in D&D. I will try to steer clear of some of the more famous and infamous entries from this book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them!
Sorry, Flumphs. Maybe next time.
1 Assassin Bug
I wish that I could tell you that these bugs are secret members of an insect assassins guild. Alas, this is not the case. However, I can report that these little bugs kill you with some hot and steamy bug sex. Let me explain.
I’m no entomologist, but Assassin Bugs have an unusual mating ritual. Fiend Folio describes their mating season as happening every two months. The Assassin Bugs travel in pairs, a male and a female. The couple seeks out mainly humans for hosting their eggs, though they have been known to attack other humanoids. The male finds an unsuspecting human and bites an area of exposed skin, releasing a paralytic and creating a nice hole for, um, “deposit.” The male will then continue to attack the victim until destroyed.
Attracted to the scent of the male’s “saliva” (not sure if this was intended as a euphemism, but I’m childish enough to insist that it definitely is one), the female races to the wound and drops it eggs, dying immediately.
Though the happy couple only had a few brief moments of carnal, buggy bliss, their copulatory gift to the host is deadly. Within a day, the larvae hatch and begin to eat away at the internal organs of the host, causing 1hp of damage an hour. After two weeks, the bugs burst open from the host and go on and live their filthy lives until they get the urge to get it on in another month or so. The human hosts can avoid this awful fate through several applications of a Cure Serious Wounds spell or kill them all in one shot by using Cure Critical Wounds, Heal, or a Limited Wish spell.
Lesson learned: Avoid being around these bugs when it’s time for them to get randy. Wear protection?
2 Dark Creeper/Dark Stalker
Though they have showed up in almost every iteration of D&D, these little humanoid rascals got their start inthe Fiend Folio. I love them so much that I used both of them in the first campaign I ever ran as a DM back in 2010 (with the Dark Stalker being the big bad, no less) and I used the Dark Stalker as an ally for my PCs in my most recent campaign. Plot twist!
Though most commonly associated with the Underdark or the Shadowfell (or whatever it’s called in 5e these days), the Dark Creepers/Stalkers were originally mysterious humanoids of unknown racial origin. They typically live in underground villages of around 80 creepers and 3-4 Stalkers, with one Stalker acting as their overlord or master. They are natural thieves due to their ability to create magical darkness, their fondness for dark clothing, and their love of sticking to the shadows. Basically goths with magical knives.
Just be careful not to get too close to one in combat. Dark Creepers spontaneously combust upon death, causing blindness for 1-6 rounds to those with ten feet of their body. Dark Stalkers pack more of a wallup. When they are killed, they explode in a bright white light that deals damage as if it were a fireball!
Lesson learned: Use ranged attacks whenever possible, unless you are a tank or you like being needlessly hit with fireballs.
The next monster from the Fiend Folio isn’t here for its attacking prowess or its ability to strike fear in the heart of any adventuring party. Oh no, the Denzelian is here because it must rank as one of the most useless monsters in all of D&D.
The Denzelian is a peaceful, rock-eating ooze-like thingy. They move at a whopping one foot per week, consuming rock all day long, but eschewing heavy metals because they’re fattening or something. They smell awful and look like rock, so most people tend to avoid them or just don’t see them. Only the most murder-hobo of adventuring parties would ever do anything but nod at this in a dungeon and keep on walking. But hey, XP is XP, you know.
While that’s the extent of their usefulness, I guarantee that every time I have picked up my Fiend Folio to read for inspiration, I almost always cruise to the “Ds” and read its entry. I really can’t say that about any other monster for any other edition of D&D. I have yet to spring this on any adventuring party yet, but the temptation is always there. I just know my friends will kill the poor creature.
Lesson learned: Every creature you encounter doesn’t need to murdered, okay. Please?
Are you a DM? Do you believe in being feared rather than respected? Do you like to kind of be a d@#* to your players? If the answer to all three of those questions is “yes,” then I have just the monster for you!
Meet the Disenchanter! It probably goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: the Disenchanter can disenchant any of those pesky magical items or gear your irksome PCs have stumbled upon. It’s probably a fair reminder that you, the DM, gave them this gear in the first place, but never mind that. It’s time to right your dungeon mastering wrongs. It’s time for redemption! It’s time for the… Disenchanter!
The rules for the Disenchanter going about disenchanting your party’s precious magical gear are gloriously vague. “Referees will have to consider the ease with which the disenchanter would be able to ‘attack’ a particular item.” YES! That’s a DMing hole big enough to bring any adventuring party to their knees! I can practically hear the salty, anguished tears falling of many players of yesteryear even today reading that one line. Though more familiar with modern D&D iterations from 3e onward, my reading of older D&D materials shows that those early versions of the game were deadlier and harsher than they are today. I’m sure this monster ended many friendships, but what price would you be willing to pay for DM glory?
Lesson learned: Modern D&D players are soft and weak. They have their cushy expectations of having magic item after magic item, with their easy attunement and flashy abilities. Any DM reading this should immediately make plans to sick a Disenchanter on their PCs to give them a taste of real adventuring! Just make sure none of your players know your home address.
5 The Eye of Fear and Flame
Best heavy metal band name ever or D&D monster? If you’re going to call yourself The Eye of Flame and Fear, you best bring your A-game. And yes, this creature really does bring it! This lovely undead creature is just loads of fun for lawful or neutral gaming groups. Though no one knows for sure where these creatures come from, rumors persist about their origin. Some believe that the evil gods created it to slaughter lawful good people, while some believe the good gods created it to test those who claim to be just and righteous. Either way, this bad boy can and will put a hurting on any party so unfortunate to encounter its wrath.
Temptation is the key weapon that The Eye of Fear and Flame uses on a party. It seeks out a party member and begins to influence them by making them perform evil acts. If the act is refused or if The Eye is attacked, it will reveal itself and then most likely take down the party in a TPK.
TPK, you say? Yes, TPK. The Eye of Fear and Flame brings all the flame it can to the table. The creature can cast a twelve-die Fireball every three rounds, and is immune to Blind and Power Word. It has no melee abilities, but it can shift to the ethereal plane if things get thorny for it in combat.
Lesson learned: Live a good, honest life of clean living and get burnt to death by this hellish creature. Or… join an evil party and only have to worry about the town guards.
6 Gorilla Bear
a href=”https://nerdsonearth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/ff_gorilla_bear.jpg”>It’s half gorilla, half bear. Nuff said, really.
Well, maybe not. In the interest of reaching a certain word count, I should explain. Over it’s 40-plus years of existence, D&D has a history of mixing and matching creatures from the animal kingdom to make some laughable, yet potent, enemies for player groups to tackle. The Gorilla Bear has always given me a chuckle because I have always assumed that a pissed off gorilla would be challenging enough for a group of adventurers. But somewhere along the line, someone very clearly thought otherwise. Ergo, the Gorilla Bear.
Sporting the head and torso of a gorilla, the beast also has the fearsome teeth of a bear and his husky, dangerous paws. Roll an 18 or higher to hit, and the bear not only smacks you for 1-8 damage with each bear paw, but you also get an additional 2-12 hugging damage. That’s right. Hugging damage.
Lesson learned: They might look cute. They might look cuddly. But whatever you do, do not hug the Gorilla Bear. 2-12 hugging damage is not worth it, folks.
The last one on my list is the creepiest of the bunch. The Penanggalan comes from South East Asian folklore, but it easily fits into the cosmology of D&D. The Penanggalan is a cross between a vampire and a ghost, taking both forms to their extreme. As one of the longest single entries in the Fiend Folio, the Penanggalan gives DMs plenty of gory detail to work into their game. I will share some of that gruesomeness here. Turn away if you have a weak dispeptic disposition.
During the day, the Penanggalan will appear to be a normal human, she may even help your party out, but at night she becomes a deathly and gruesome vampire. The Penanggalan’s head and internal organs literally rip apart from its body at the neck and floats around looking for a victim. It depends on paralyzing its victims with fear to feed on their blood. Her exposed organs engorge with the blood she has drained from her victims, requiring her to soak in a pool of vinegar for one hour before she can re-enter her body. The viscera that hangs from its floating head constantly emits blood and digestive juices that cause burning damage. That’s enough detail for now. She’s gross. Moving on.
The effects of being attacked by a Penanggalan are predictably awful. Victims seldom remember what happened, the save to prevent further attacks get progressively worse each night the Penanggalan feeds on them, and all victims lose hit points AND one point in constitution and strength after each feeding. Yikes! Males suffer the most ill effects. If killed by a Penanggalan, its exceedingly tough to raise them from the dead, with the chance being half as hard and the attempt can only be made once. Females suffer much the same fate, but after three days, they rise from the grave as a Penanggalan! I guess undeath is better than true death…?
While I did bust out a Penanggalan on some players while we were playing a Fantasy Age one-shot a couple of years ago, I still haven’t managed to pull one out on any of my D&D players quite yet. I should probably rectify that soon.
Lesson learned: Steer clear of any floating chick-heads you stumble across at night. Oh, and don’t keep large standing pools of vinegar around. That could promote their healing and probably isn’t sanitary for some reason. Probably.
Fiend Folio ROCKS!
I hope you have enjoyed this small dive into the original Fiend Folio with me. If you can find a copy, do not hesitate to buy one. It is hands down one of the funnest reads from the original run of D&D. I guarantee most players will walk away with ideas for their own games. PDF copies and softcover reprints are available online from the Dungeon Masters Guild.