Saturday, December 26, 2020

Goin' Through the Fiend Folio Part 1

The lovely Tristan over at the Bogeyman's Cave has started reviewing all of the creatures from the AD&D Monster Manual, and after some discussion with him I decided to do the same for my personal favorite of the early D&D bestiaries, the Fiend Folio! I was a bit wary at first but he said that I wouldn't be stepping on his toes at all by doing this, so I guess it's alright... 

Gonna be using his same 5 star rating system for these critters mostly just for convenience and consistency. I considered doing a thing around d12s but cuz I like d12s but I couldn't figure out how best to do that so instead just doin stars.

Oh also! Whenever possible I'm going to include a bit about the creature's original form in the Fiend Factory column in White Dwarf that originated the Fiend Folio project! A lot of the time I actually prefer the original version, but we'll just have to see as I begin with... the letter A!

Honestly kinda off to a mediocre start. I like bird-people I really do... but the aarakocra just doesn't really do it for me. They're a very generic bird-person. The illustration doesn't even follow the little detail in description of their wings being like pterodactyl wings where one of the fingers extends really far to complete the wing, though in Jeff Dee's defense it is a pretty good bird person drawing. Did the aarakocra need to be a full page? Also, the description mentions that men only hunt and do nothing else while women do all the actual work but only when they're incubating an egg? A little weird. The name is hard to say too.

Hell yes much better. This one has such a good description... its starting line of "Though the foul motives which caused these loathsome birds to be first summoned from the infernal regions are now lost to memory" is just so so delightful. These horrid bird heads on legs feel like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, they really feel hellish. I like the legs having unique hit point counters and a separate AC from the body, makes it feel like a video game boss fight... oh and they release a cloud of black toxic smoke if too hurt. These are much better infernal creatures than some of the demons and devils in the Monster Manual in my humble opinion.

Okay hear me out. Yes, the adherer has an underwhelming illustration. But come on!! It is such an evocative and fascinating idea... a creature that only looks like a mummy, but its wrappings are sticky tendrils of flesh it uses to defend itself. They aren't even on human levels of sapience, these are humanoid animals who have taken on the appearance of our hallowed dead by complete accident. I'm also a fan of certain "gotcha" monsters when that gotcha is handled well and I think it is here, since there are plenty of ways to extricate your weapons from the adherer. The note about it being amicable to spiders is a lovely touch as well.

And this is the first one I get to reference an older Fiend Factory creature for!
GLUEY!!!! I think the shift to calling it an adherer may have been a decision made by Gygax when he went over the creatures sent to TSR, a move to try and make the creature a bit more serious. But this is the adherer through and through! Though the gluey has a weird resistance that doesn't feature on the adherer: the gluey is completely immune to all first level spells except magic missile which always deals 3d6 damage to it. Kinda glad that got dropped, but I think it could be really interesting, perhaps if done in a more precise way for a higher level creature... what if there was something immune to spells of levels higher than 1? Also, I think this illustration is way better, it is so beautifully goth and spooky but in a cute way, full of character.

One of the most forgetful and least useful monsters in the Folio, but they could be interesting if done right. They're like, emissaries of a given god's vengeance against someone, and appear as an exact replica of their intended target, and all they want to do is kill that person. Once killed, their target loses all treasure and half of their experience points and is immediately raised from the dead at the level they would be at with their half XP and have another chance at life. That could be really cool! Buuuut the way I read it just kinda makes it feel like an antagonistic DM thing, and only really suited for high level play where losing half of your XP means losing a huge amount of levels and where your character has actually pissed off a god. Not a creature I would ever use.

I actually have some algoids in a dungeon I made for a game I'm running right now! The concept of mostly mindless humanoids made completely out of algae is incredibly evocative. Its resistances and weaknesses provide great opportunities for unique problem solving, since they are immune to edged weapons (their algae parts around the attack, making it deal no damage! that's such a cool image!) and immune to a lot of damaging spells, but they are majorly hurt by the simple spells part water and lower water. On top of that they can control trees (very cool) and use the psionic power mind blast (uh not so cool since AD&D psionics sucks and I really don't get why they have that power). Fun green guys :3

As a nerd for Islamic history and Middle Eastern folklore, you know I'm pretty partial to al-mir'aj. As presented in the Fiend Folio it is just a normal rabbit with a unique attack, which is fine by me. Personally I wouldn't have al-mir'aj as a combat opponent at all, and more like a piece of treasure! I might make a post about al-mir'aj in King of Kings sometime soon, this reminded me of them.

I don't really like how much D&D taxonomizes creatures using every little variation on a word. Do we really need ghosts, spectres, wraiths, and apparitions? They're all the same thing! I guess the apparition is a bit interesting in that it cannot actually physically attack, and instead grasp the throat of a target with their ghostly fingers and force them to make subsequent INT and CON checks to see if they flee in horror. That's nice. What's not nice is them using AD&D psionics rules. They would probably have like 1.5 stars if not for the fantastic illustration by my man Russ Nicholson.

Assassin Bug
I love love love bugs in games (and in real life too to be honest). Especially flies and parasitoid insects, and the assassin bug is both of those things! The name is a tad bit confusing, since assassin bugs are real animals and are nothing like this critter, being hemipterans, and this creature (despite being described as resembling bluebottle flies) has two pairs of wings unlike real world flies (they're called dipterans for a reason, they lost their second pair of wings!). Sorry for going on a bit of a ramble about bugs there for a bit. The assassin bug is great not only because they look like cool bugs but also because they are parasitoids, meaning that they lay their eggs in a living creature so that their offspring can feed on the host when they hatch! As mentioned in the description their natural hosts are humans, which might be why they only have four limbs? They're also only ever encountered as a mated male/female pair which is pretty interesting, especially since they tie that into the actual mechanics of the encounter. Also there is a note about how their eggs are delicacies for trolls, troglodytes, and bugbears, which is great fodder for putting them in as a factor in a dungeon!

The assassin bug also featured in Fiend Factory but there is honestly very little different from its presentation in the Fiend Folio. The illustration and even the little note about their eggs being monster delicacies are the same!

I will say, I think there is one missed opportunity with these creatures, which is something that was mentioned by another reviewer of monsters that I've been a fan of for quite some time: their intelligence is listed as animal level, and I think that these creatures would be a much more interesting aspect of the world if they were just as intelligent as a human. They could even be rather apologetic about having to lay their eggs in humans, but being forced to because it is the only place their young can flourish. Now that would be a beautiful encounter, faction, NPC, or even player character.

Astral Searcher
Okay okay, the astral searcher is definitely a disappointing note to end on after my passionate rambling about flies and parasitoids when I was talking about the assassin bug, but the astral searcher is at least a little bit interesting. They're repetitive when you compare this to the Monster Manual, which features creatures like the aerial servant and invisible stalker, but here the astral searcher is an accidental product of traumatic experiences the seeks out the real physical world, attacking living creatures to possess their bodies and experience physical sensation, permanently destroying the host body's mind and personality in the process (there is a note that it cannot be reversed by a spell like raise dead). If the astral searcher was the only completely invisible monster in the game, it would be incredible... sadly, it isn't the only one.

Hope I haven't been too rambly with this! Looking forward to getting deeper into the Folio with you all... some of my favorite creatures are in the next section :3


  1. Achaierai are honestly on my "pull list" of monsters that feel like such a core part of D&D's planar ecology that they should feature sooner rather than later in any new edition of the game, but both 4e and (so far) 5e snubbed it. The latter did recently come out with the first official assassin bug since 2e (and the first illustrated one since the original Fiend Folio), though.

    1. Wait really? I didn't know that 5e came out with a new assassin bug! What book was it in? Also yes I totally agree with regards to the achaierai!

    2. It's in Mordenkainen's Fiendish Folio, Vol. 1.

  2. The achaierai are also delightful in that a google search for "birds with many legs" will turn up suitable photos.

    Yes, photos.

  3. I love the Gluey!! So cute <3 And Bosch demons are always the coolest. Surreal imagery and obtuse symbolism is more interesting than the present physical danger a lot of other demeon illustrations go with. Also OMG another Bogleech fan! 0_0

    1. oh wow really surprised to find more bogleech fans through writing about the fiend folio!! lovely to have you here!