When I started posting on this blog again, I began to run King of Kings again and began posting most of the regular things I posted before going on hiatus, but one thing was conspicuously absent... reviews! Specifically monster reviews! My lovely friend over at The Cosmic Orrery has already made a return to making their review-through of the Fiend Folio, and at a much quicker pace than me to boot... I gotta catch up! So here I am, picking up where we last left off back in January.
On the one hand, this isn't the most necessary creature, basically just being a weaker red dragon so you can have your players face off against a flying fire-breathing reptile that they can actually potentially beat. HOWEVER on the other hand this is such a fun take on the iconic fire-breathing reptile. Namely I'm referring to how it actually doesn't breathe fire. Instead, it spews flammable blood. Like, oh my god?? That alone brings this up from the one or two stars I would give a rather generic drake-type monster. Also I like the bit about how swords dipped in the blood become flaming swords, always a fan of parts of monsters that can become/relate to items. The art also just makes it, of course Russ Nicholson would draw a good dragon. I think I would probably use elements of this in an actual dragon, instead of justifying it by making a weaker creature for lower-level players.
|One of the best full-pagers in the Folio|
I was so torn on this... on the one hand, they're actually a pretty fun race of humanoids! Well, I hate that whoever wrote this beat me to using the name "salaman" and didn't even highlight it, instead just putting it in a completely offhanded comment, but like other than that they're pretty cool! The only problem is, they don't bring much new that "lizardmen that live in a volcano" wouldn't have just by being a) lizardmen and b) fire-themed. When I was reading the description, I found myself mostly uninterested in their breath weapon and percentages of leaders etc etc... their priests using druid spells is kinda cool, them riding giant striders is kinda cool cuz I like that it uses another Folio monster, and I really love the bit where they say that firenewts "delight in torturing and roasting victims alive before feasting on them." Mostly I'm neutral, but the bits I like I do like a good amount!
I kinda feel bad giving these guys one star, I love snakes and I love the cute art that the fire snake has, but there just isn't much going on here. They're just snakes that happen to live in fire; at that point, I would just use an enchanted snake, and connect it to some outside part of the setting! They kinda go for that with the note that fire snakes might be larval salamanders, but they don't commit to it!! Without being actually tied into the setting, they're very boring.
Not a whole lot going on here but its more interesting than the fire snake at least. It being pushed back by water is very fun, and I find it interesting that the fireball of the fire toad deals damage equal to its current HP a la dragon breath. Between the firedrake and the fire toad you already have two really fun takes on a dragon! I know I just said with the fire snake that I wasn't a fan of it basically just being "snake that lives in fire", but the fire toad just Feels better, I think I would be more inclined to use it in my game than the fire snake. Maybe that's just because I like toads, I don't know.
Hey I figured since now we have a bunch of fire-themed or otherwise fire-related monsters I might as well rank them! The Definitive A-F Fiend Folio Fire Tier List is below:
3: Fire Toad
4: Fire Snake
5: Imix (Prince of Evil Fire Creatures)
Imix is just very boring.
You KNOW how I feel about the flail snail. Or well, okay maybe you don't, I've never actually made any posts about the flail snail before. Giant snails are just great, and the flail snail is to me at least one of the most iconic D&D monsters. The manner in which you generally have to fight the flail snail is very good (having to incapacitate each tentacle, taking out its mode of attack as you kill it) and it letting out a "pitiful, wailing cry" when it dies that can attract wandering monsters is fantastic, I always love monsters that cause problems even after dying and that interact with other parts of the game. The shell being an incredibly valuable piece of treasure is fantastic; its anti-magic properties are a bit annoying but I think it is more than made up for by the difficulties that dragging that rich shell back out of the dungeon to sell brings. It is almost a whole adventure just to try and take the shell back with you! Now that is what I call a good monster.
Flinds are pretty boring, but I will admit they're kinda iconic for the Fiend Folio for some reason. I generally don't like "x monster but more powerful" type creatures, which I feel like 1e AD&D had a gradual steady increase in by the time of the MM2. The flindbar is the one redeeming quality they have, it is really cool to have a creature that highlights a disarming weapon, feels really real in a sense. I think I wouldn't have the flind as a separate species, but rather as a kind of monstrous humanoid caste, a kind of warrior class trained in exclusive weapons like the flindbar. But as it is in the Folio, I'm not inclined to use it.
|WOOHOO LETS GO|
WOOOOOOOOOO!!! I'm gonna be real, I think this is one of the best monsters in the Folio by far, and not in a "haha so bad its good" way, just in a completely played straight way. I really don't like all those people who crack jokes about the flumph being cringe or boring, those FOOLS just don't have CREATIVITY (note: I'm just being silly, I don't think any less of you for not liking the humble flumph). I just think that when you get down to it, the flumph is a very compelling and unique alien creature, and one that fits into a unique conceptual niche by being an ally of the (presumed aligned with good) characters. They are something like the nice underdark svirfneblins or whatever, a group of creatures that can be an asset to the players, and I find them much more interesting than other manifestations of that concept because the flumph is like an alien emissary of law. I think this gets a bit muddled by the time the Modrons get introduced, but here the flumph is a completely abnormal being that somehow aligns itself with the standard of morality of the characters' world, or with some eternal concept of "good", and that is just really cool and interesting? I'm much more into using flumphs as the supernatural representatives of law/good than vaguer angels. Also their powers are just fun, the repulsive liquid is very evocative and the vertical drop attack makes good use of 3D space. I've seen people crack jokes at "A flumph is helpless if turned over" but that's great!! It provides an easily understood tool to use against them if the need arises, and one that doesn't actually kill them! Interrogating an upside-down flumph just sounds like a good time.
|I think its easy to forget that there are two forlarren illustrations, so I just wanted to highlight the one on the title page.|
Very folkloric vibe on this guy, the whole "descendants of the offspring of a good nymph and the greater devil who enslaved her" thing reminds me a lot of the Children of Ana from Romani folklore, though I don't think the forlarren has a direct folkloric inspiration. Ana's children are much more interesting than the forlarren to be clear. I do like the art, Russ did a great job yet again, I like the heat metal power that it has, and I like the vibe of it flipflopping on its personality... however I don't think it should be presented as it is in the Folio. The Folio just says that it will attack the players, heat their metal, etc., and will only switch to acting in a friendly manner after that. Personally I would prefer a randomized thing, probably just tying it to the reaction roll, maybe making new reaction rolls every so often... I dunno, I just think there are some good ideas here but its not presented in the best way.
Why is this like the only monster that is presented so vaguely... I like the idea of the eye under the eyepatch that releases a cone of cold when it is lifted up, feels very folkloric, very cool vibes, but why is this a "race" of ice-themed human-adjacent types that you only ever meet one at a time and only "maybe" have a whole society?? If you're going to have an intelligent society for the players to interact with, commit to it!! If you want the monster to just be a unique human or a small group of weird humans, commit to it!!!! I think if I were to use the frostmen they would just be humans that developed the cold-eye power, a small faction or maybe even a unique NPC. There is nothing gained by making these a separate race, at least not in the way it is in the Folio.
Now as a sad note: I wanted to include the Fiend Factory versions of some of these monsters, or at least the ones that actually were presented in the Factory column. The only problem is that as of right now (June 16 2021) The Trove, where I accessed a pdf collection of all of the Fiend Factory columns, is down. I can't reference the original forms of Fiend Factory monsters without having a Fiend Factory to reference! Sorry about that! Really hoping The Trove can come back up soon.
So this edit is coming super soon after posting it, but a lovely friend of mine reached out to me saying that they have full scans of old White Dwarf issues so I can include Fiend Factory monsters in this post! There's only one monster that had a version in Fiend Factory though, so I'll just share that below!
The fiend is the original version of the forlarren! Gotta say, really prefer the Russ Nicholson rendition of the art, this drawing feels pretty generic, even if I do love its weird expressionless face and wrinkles. Powers-wise it is exactly the same, although in the text it specifies a "fallen angel" and "the evil god Pan" as its ancestors rather than the much more vague "good nymph" and "greater devil", much prefer the fallen angel x evil god Pan version. Also I just really wanted to share this for Don Turnbull's comment: "Not a bad reason for wearing chainmail (which presumably produces a waffle effect on the character when the Fiend attacks)." That is just SUCH a good aside. Extrapolated conclusions like that are some of my favorite little things about Don Turnbull's comments and other takes on roleplaying in the late 70s early 80s. Still not one of my favorite monsters though.