Dungeons & Dragons can be weird. The mechanics of the game can be funky and fidgety. The patrons one plays with add varying degrees of livelihood and despair to any session (Dang it, Derek, check for traps next time!). Even the denizens that populate the dungeons of the D&D multiverse are vast and varied. To an outsider, D&D certainly looks and sounds like an oddball’s paradise. Nothing celebrates the weirder side of the D&D mythos quite like the Fiend Folio.
The Fiend Folio is a legendary product produced during the first three editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Its reputation as being a weird supplement for the world’s greatest roleplaying game is justly earned. All three Fiend Folios feature creatures that are known for being frightful, strange, abhorrent, and eccentric. The Fiend Folios provide a deliciously weird and oddball look into the monstrous side of D&D.
I wrote about my love of the 1e Fiend Folio a few months ago, poking fun at some of the sillier elements in the book, but also giving due deference to the scarier monsters too. While neither the Fiend Folio Monstrous Compendium nor the Fiend Folio from 3e can live up to the absurdity of the first volume, I thought it would be fun to look at a few highlights from the latter edition.
The third Fiend Folio takes itself too seriously at times. The monsters presented in the 3.5 edition are more gruesome and/or tough than nutty and fantastically odd. Sure, the monsters still deviate from the norm of what one might expect to find in the normal Monster Manual, but it doesn’t quite present page after page of kooky monsters that will leave you wondering, “What in the world were they thinking?” However, some wonky elements still made it into the book.
As with my earlier article on the original Fiend Folio, I will also offer some life lessons to be learned when encountering (and possibly avoiding) these unusual villains.
Commonly referred to as: Homicide H2O, Those Floating Water Blob Thingies
The first creature of our dive into the third Fiend Folio is the dreaded Aoa. These fearsome creatures are actually… floating globs of water. That’s right, adventurer. Prepare to be scared for mere minutes by these slow moving blobs of quicksilver colored aquatic delights. Droplets or medium-sized spheres of these sloshy terrors can be found on the Astral or Ethereal plane. While normally docile, they’re happy to bounce from one to place to another, all the while breaking into smaller bits and reforming into larger ones. No big deal, right?
Wrong! They may seem to embody moist innocence, but this sloshy tranquility ends when someone casts magic nearby. You see, magic allows them to become “agitated and excited.” And by agitated and excited, the Fiend Folio means “your magic items and spells are about to get dispelled.”
Both the droplets (at 22 hp apiece) and spheres (at a whopping 149 hp each) will drop their lazy pool day antics and gain a perfect flying speed of 50 feet. The droplets may “only” be able to cast dispel magic as a 7th-level Wizard, the spheres can cast the 15th-level greater dispelling, which can destroy auras and magic items on a hit. Fighting these things are frustrating too. Slice (slosh?) enough off from the spheres, and droplets form, creating minor annoyances that can go about dispelling even more stuff. Who’s laughing now? Well, probably plenty of seasoned adventurers, but they probably deserve to have their precious +3 longsword destroyed before their very eyes.
Lesson Learned: Don’t trouble still waters with magic. Come to think of it, don’t trouble choppy waters with magic. Or rhythmically tidal waters. Or freshwater. You know what, it’s D&D. Don’t let your caster cast magic spells on any watery substance, visit sorcerer’s towers near bodies of water, or go out in the rain casting spells like some wizarding nitwit in the spring. Best to find mead or whiskey.
Commonly Referred to as: Frat Guys, DDD (Delta Dungeon Delvers)
BRO! Are you ready to get wasted? I might mean that literally here. Your character will die. Get ready for some Greek Living debauchery D&D-style with the Bacchae! These loveable knuckleheads are the frat guys of the D&D cosmology. Always ready to party, the Bacchae embody the essential essence of the Roman god of wine, fertility, and agriculture Bacchus, who in turn is based off the Greek god Dionysus.
Just like any truly righteous frat party, any unlucky adventurer that gets too carried away doing keg stands with these guys for too long will become one of them. While I can’t recommend joining a fraternity in real life, I similarly do not recommend hanging out with a Bacchae too long. Though their affable party antics are fun enough, they disguise their true, murderous intentions. The Bacchae lure you in with their revelries at first, seldom taking an aggressive stance or attacking outright. Once an unwitting adventurer has been accepted into their company is when the real fun begins.
Are you cool, bro? If so, the Bacchae will cast copious amounts of charm person and emotion to keep the party going. Not cool? The Bacchae promise to tear you limb from limb in order to protect the fold. No matter your approach, party too long with these bro-rrific hooligans and you will become one yourself! Every day can become Saturday night for you!
Lesson Learned: Skip pledge week and join a local gaming group. In game, skip rushing and take an adventure. Yeah, yeah, cleaning rats out of tavern cellars isn’t glorious, but do you really need the bro-hugs and rough hangovers to say that you’ve had fun playing D&D?
Commonly referred to as: Murder Cricket, Hoppity Death
I’m a big nature enthusiast. I like camping, hiking, and enjoying some sound in the great outdoors. What I don’t like is bugs. They are yucky, creepy, and have carapaces. Yeah, not for me. Even in D&D, I hate having to fight some oversized ant, or Lolth-forbid, a spider. Kill them. Kill them all with a fireball. Kill them all with a broadsword. Kill them all with Turn Ickyness. I don’t care. Kill them all. Kill. Them. All.
That’s why the Bone Spear is particularly atrocious sounding to me. It’s essentially a large-sized cricket that wishes death and destruction on all nom-noms it crosses paths within a game. They will quite literally wait motionless for days on end until some unlucky adventurer catches its hungry eyes. One look and they can’t disguise their hungry eyes. They feel the magic between you and I.
These little bastards waste no time in hunting down prey. Once an adventurer gets within 60 feet of these little death crickets, they lunge forward hoping to get a tasty snack. It launches, full send, with its homicidal, barbed antlers (oh, yeah, it has stabby antlers) to spears its victim. Not only do these antlers do 2d6+6 damage, they also get stuck in the victim on a hit causing 1d6 damage per round, but the player also takes an additional 2d8 damage removing them. Ouch!
Lesson Learned: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Kill it. I think it doesn’t have an INT score, so your alignment won’t go down. I’m not looking that up, either. I’m going with no INT score because just looking at that yucky death cricket gives me the creeps. Just kill it.
Commonly referred to as: Johnny & Edgar Winter Cosplayers
Fossergrims are fey creatures that play a fusion of blues and rock and roll. They were quite popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Fossegrims also produced some very popular records for musicians like Muddy Waters, winning a Grammy or three for their efforts. One of the Fossergrims died in 2014. That’s all you need to know about Fossergrims.
Well, maybe not. Apparently they live in or near waterfalls. If that’s not enough to strike fear into any adventuring party then…. Wait. It strikes fear in no one. Fossergrims are totally chill with anyone drinking or bathing in their waterfall, but they will get highly peeved at anyone polluting their streams. Well, as peeved as something can get that is called “Fossergrim.” Defending waterfalls is cool, I guess. I mean, it’s definitely not a traditional occupation in fantasy or science fiction. No great superhero claims to be the defender of waterfalls. Not even lame water-based heroes like Aquabro get involved in that sort of lamery.
Oh, and they can swim upstream. So, yeah, that’s all I got here, folks.
Lesson Learned: Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Or maybe do just that. I don’t know. I just needed to write lazy/lame Winters brothers jokes. Murder hobos will probably make easy work of these guys. Just look at them. Look at them. XP is XP.
Commonly referred to as: So Not Violating Lovecraftian Mythos Copyright Creature Thing
Aren’t Mind Flayers awful enough without them crossbreeding with other creatures? Fiend Folio doesn’t think so! These Lovecraftian little bundles of joy are aberrations in the extreme. Not much is known about the Illithid mating process, but what is known is unpleasant and definitely not sexy. It involves tadpoles infecting the brain of their victim and munching away on it until there’s virtually nothing left. Be still my beating heart.
The Half-Illithid Lizardfolk, or Tzakandi, are valuable members to Illithid society. Adept warriors with a simple multiattack claw and bite, the Tzakandi show their true value when tapping into their lovely psionic and mental attacks, a product of their Illithid progenitors. They also have that pesky Illithid ability to eat your brain if grappled by their tentacles. Gormonds of the gourd!
The third Fiend Folio even goes further by providing a half-Illithid template that can be added to any creature, just in case someone need to tadpole-impregnate a creature’s brainstem in their game. Creatures with this status are granted a feast of special abilities, including dark vision, psionic abilities, and spell-resistance. The creature also gains five levels. Yippee! At least it’s not without reward.
Lesson learned: Dear sweet baby Gygax, don’t ever let me read about Illithid mating habits ever again.
Commonly referred to as: Man Elephant, Brolephant
Someone working for the D&D property had been sitting on this play on words for a long time and was itching to let it go out into the wild. You see, it’s a large humanoid shaped creature that’s also an elephant.
These evil creatures are used on the extraplanar worlds to guard the treasure and bounty of fiends and other powerful baddies. Yes, that makes them extraplanar bouncers or guard dogs. No, that doesn’t change the fact that they are basically just elephant shaped dudes. These guys basically work for food. They don’t need gold to get the job done. Provide enough flesh for them to have a sustained diet and a Maelephant can be yours forever and ever.
Though kind of ridiculous, the bad boys can bring the extraplanar pain. Punching isn’t terribly effective for them, but charging and spearing adventurers with their tusks is their real bread and butter. They get a +2 bonus to attack on a charge, and their tusks do 2d6+3 damage. Maelephants can also grapple any target smaller than them as a free action. They also have a slew of at-will spells to frustrate any combatant.
Lesson learned: Ha, ha, ha. They have a funny name, but there’s nothing funny about these guys. Best to avoid robbing fiends when skipping around the planes.
Commonly referred to as: The 747 of Pain, Proto-Sharknado
Our modern day fascination with sharks operating outside their already frightening lanes of viciousness is kind of amusing. Though I have never seen one of the many Sharknado movies, I believe there’s (a) enough cultural awareness and (b) enough information in the title to not really have the need to investigate the premise further. However, the folks at Wizards apparently were cool before it was cool to have sharks leaping from the water and into the sky with their fun sharks, the Terlen.
The terlen is basically a shark with wings. These things can scoot in water and in the air, having a speed of 60 feet for both. Like most sharks, the Terlen is driven by a voracious hunger, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t smart about their eating habits. If a Terlen spots a powerful creature of group, it slows its roll on its predatory instincts and lets the big baddies pass on by.
Like seemingly every creature in the third Fiend Folio, Terlens have an improved grab ability. Seriously, there must have been an editorial mandate to add this to every creature. “Guess what? I got a fever, and the only prescription is more improved grab.” Get hit by one of these bitey fishies and there’s a chance your character will be grappled, taking bite damage every round they are ensnared. Terlens are also hard to spot, with a nifty +8 modifier to hide and swim checks.
Lesson learned: Why did you become an adventurer? Really, ask yourself that question. Nowhere is safe in D&D. Air, sea, land. There’s always something that will kill you. Role-play being a tailor instead. I never read about them getting TPK’d by a flying shark with improved grab.
Commonly referred to as: Not Swamp Thing/Man-Thing
The last beastie for this dive into the third Fiend Folio is a great one, the Vine Horror! Because if sentient murder water, flying sharks, and Johnny and Edgar Winter haven’t scared you away from adventuring at this point, let’s try a collection of sentient algae! That’s right, apparently algae wants to murder you in D&D too.
Let’s tackle this right at the start, the Vine Horror is in no way shape or form anything like Swamp Thing or Man-Thing. Obviously, it doesn’t have the word “Thing” anywhere in its name. Second, they don’t even care for nature! These bad boys use and abuse the forest and swamp as they see fit simply to catch a meal. Swamp Thing would never do that. He’s too chill. If you follow the Alan Moore run, homeboy produces psychedelic tubers for folks to eat and trip fantastic with. The Vine Horror only produces pain! The only “trip” an adventurer will get out of this is a trip to the ER.
Vine Horrors are especially great at hiding. Because of their malleable body, they can squeeze through tight spaces like an ooze or jelly. They also get a +8 to all swim checks and a +15 to hide in their swamps. Not only are they hard to spot, but they can deliver two body slams a round at 1d6+4 a pop. That might not sound like much damage, but the Vine Horror can also animate vines within 90 feet around them to act as assassin vines that can also attack, causing a major terrain obstacle as well.
Lesson learned: Large and nonflowering, algae shouldn’t be giving anyone this much grief. But it certainly is. Remember what i said about RPing a tailor? Maybe try a baker or run a nice apothecary that caters to gluten free druids? I don’t know anymore. Just try not to get killed, okay?