Sunday, December 27, 2020

Goin' Through the Fiend Folio Part 2 (the B team)

Well time to continue this then!! Picking up where we left off, doing all of the monsters that start with the letter B.

Now this is a good start to a monster review. Although the illustration looks more like a kind of dinosaur, the babbler is actually explicitly a kind of crazed mutant lizard man, which is just such a fantastic concept. The notes about it being able to move "surprisingly fast" when slithering on its belly but having to rear up on its hind limbs in combat is very good, and I think makes a potential encounter with these creatures very interesting in terms of how you engage with it. I do think that its language being impossible to analyze and learn is boring, but it is important to note that the description ends with a bit about how it can understand the common tongue. Perhaps the babbler's babbling should be a mixed-up mishmash of seemingly incongruous words and phrases, almost sing-songy in the mutant's reptilian voice, an alien animal intelligence to contend with in the marshes and swamps.

Giant Bat
It's just a really big bat, nothing much to it. Of course I'm going to use a really big bat in my games, love bats, I'm just really surprised it took until the publication of the Fiend Folio for there to be stats for giant bats in AD&D. They seem like a shoe-in for the game.

Only our second folkloric monster in the Folio, and one that is completely opposite the rather down-to-earth al-mir'aj covered previously. I actually think it is really cool just how many Asian folkloric creatures there are in the Folio, they're not a major focus on the book by any means but it broadens the rather narrow selection of non-European legendary beings from the Monster Manual. The FF berbalang is mostly a D&D-ified version of the actual Filipino berbalang, including even the whole "traversing the world astrally" thing, though I will note that the Folio version lacks some of that beautiful folkloric flavor that the real thing has, including a supposed weakness to "coconut pearls". I like the whole thing about potentially seeking out their physical forms. Pretty well done!

HELL YEAH!!! The blindheim is one of my favorite monsters in the Folio. Just like the algoid in the last post, I also had a few blindheims in a dungeon in a game I'm currently running. The image of this blindingly bright eyed batrachian is just so so iconic, and feels right at home in deep dark dungeons and caverns. This technically isn't how they're described but I imagine them as very pale in hue, glistening from the light of their own eyes. As a side note, real frogs use their eyes to swallow, turning them inward to their throats. Wouldn't it be a great encounter to run into these seemingly eyeless humanoid frogs, only for them to open their eyes and reveal blinding light? An encounter with some blindheim would be great, plus they'd be great pets to travel underground with!

Blood Hawk
Pretty boring not gonna lie. I'm always a fan of weird birds but this is just a normal hawk that wants you dead. Bloodthirsty birds are really fun, but I do kinda wish it was a more unusual bird... Very combat-oriented monster, doesn't really do much for me.

The blood hawk was first published in the column that preceded the Fiend Factory, so this violent avian really has some pedigree I guess. Its original art is really good! Much more evocative than the blood hawk art in the FF. Not very different from the version in the Folio though.

Giant Bloodworm
This blog is literally named after worms, I'm a huge worm fan. But not gonna lie... the giant bloodworm isn't that good. Its honestly more of a trap than a combat encounter (which I will admit is pretty cool), but not any different from a giant leech. The art doesn't do a whole lot for me either.

The giant bloodworm is our next one that originally featured in the Fiend Factory column, but there isn't any notable difference to note. It even has the exact same art as the one in the Folio.

I find the little mention of them being the last remnant of an extinct line of dinosaurs a little weird when there are plenty of dinosaurs still around in the implied D&D world, but I think in a game where dinosaurs are more sparing the bonesnapper would be incredible. They're really not that unique in comparison to other dinosaurs. But the little detail about them collecting the jaws of their prey is soooo flavorful and fun. I included the illustration mostly just to point out that the background is made of jaws. That little detail doesn't change how you engage with them, but it is really really fun. 

The bonesnapper also features in the original Fiend Factory, although with a much less interesting illustration (apologies to whoever drew it). It also isn't all that different from the one in the Folio. But I do want to point out the commentary by Fiend Factory editor Don Turnbull which mentions "The possibilities of trade between Bonesnapper and non-human player-characters are endless..." That might seem a bit strange but its important to note that the animal intelligence was only established in the Folio and it is explicit that the bonesnapper only collects human jaws! Turnbull's commentary implies an incredible scenario where a dwarf and elf trade human jawbones with this weird dinosaur. I really love that.

The booka is alright. They're a nice mischievous house spirit, a fun little faerie creature. I'm glad to have folkloric entities like this in here, I think they're a great source of inspiration. But the booka as presented isn't that interesting, mostly just a kindly house spirit that gets angry at people that are evil and can fly and turn invisible. I'm not really inclined to use it.

Here we goooooo!!! Sure they're "just" frog people, but come on!!! They're really great and iconic frog people!! The name bullywug is just incredible, its such a fun name. I will say though, the art is honestly a little underwhelming. There has been much better frog person art in subsequent renditions of the bullywug. Their longer snouts make them look more like crocodile people than frog people honestly. Good things about the Folio bullywug that I wasn't familiar with before: they have a slight camouflage ability where if they stand motionless they will go unnoticed 75% of the time, and they are slow enough that their attacks always lose initiative and go last. I've floated the idea of having creatures that play with initiative like that before, I didn't know there were antecedents in 1e AD&D! Also, the note about the possibility of bullywug-human crossbreeds is very fun and evocative, got plenty of Innsmouth vibes there. The bullywug is one of the best monsters in the entire book, one of the best humanoid races in the whole game really. Love these guys.

Another folkloric creature! I will admit, I'm not entirely clear on the acceptability of using Australian aboriginal creatures like this, at least other than the entirely off-limits beings like the Wandjina. I like that the bunyip presented here is a mostly noncombat encounter that just tries to tip over a boat and will only attack creatures of dwarf size or smaller. Being knocked into a river can be a hazard all its own, the creature doesn't have to like fight you or anything. It is lacking in comparison to the actual Australian bunyip in terms of its like, emotional and experiential impact, mostly just being a mundane aquatic animal. Bit of a missed opportunity really. The art is great though!

Okay well that is all of the B monsters done! Next up are the C creatures... see you all soon!


  1. Enjoying this series of posts.

    I always thought the Bunyip was being presented as a cryptid, rather than as the supernatural being from Australian lore.

  2. There's so much cool stuff in here! I really wish that D&D brought along more of that folkloric specificity, even if it had to alter it to be setting-associated.