Thursday, December 29, 2022

Product Identity Schmoduct Schmidentity

 My friend and colleague over at Prismatic Wasteland made a post recently all about coming up with non OGL names for those monsters considered Product Identity by Wizards of the Coast and the Open Gaming License. Check out that post over here! But I noticed some... discrepancies, which left me an opportunity for a post in response.

So the whole premise of Mr. Wasteland's post over there is going through the whole list of Product Identity monsters, cataloguing which legally acceptable names have been used by other games over the years, and coming up with the best new name to use. But I noticed two monsters that I thought were listed as Product Identity which weren't included: the Kuo Toa and the Slaad. Now, this is where the discrepancy comes in. Turns out there's some inconsistency in the listings of Product Identity on different versions of the OGL/websites that refer to the OGL. Namely, the OGL document that he referred to did not include the Kuo toa nor the slaad, but I found them on the d20 SRD, and on multiple online references to the OGL... so what is the truth? It would seem that the law says you can use Kuo Toa and Slaad just fine, but the SRD and just about all online mentions of it include those two. What a conundrum!

But really, who cares? I sure don't! What's more interesting than the question of whether WotC considers these two monsters to be Product Identity is just talking about the monsters themselves and coming up with names for them!

Kuo Toa
I already wrote out my thoughts about the Kuo Toa here in an earlier entry in the Goin' Through the Fiend Folio series [which, as an aside, will make a return soon!]. Suffice to say, I think they're my favorite of the many piscine humanoids in AD&D, perhaps tied only with the morkoth.

Dwiz over at A Knight at the Opera has already begun a list of names for Kuo Toa over here in his response to Warren, including the classic Deep Ones from Lovecraft and Darkest Dungeon's Pelagics. Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy also uses the term Deep Ones, although they drop some of the more interesting elements of the Kuo Toa lore from the Fiend Folio, basically just making them underground dwelling fishmen led by cultic clerics. A great archetype nonetheless of course! OSRIC, meanwhile, appears to have made an attempt at dodging the Kuo Toa problem; I can't find them or anything like them in the OSRIC monster listing, despite including both of AD&D's other main fishmen types [Locathah and Sahuagin] as well as a number of other monsters from the Fiend Folio. Same for Labyrinth Lord. What gives?!? The Kuo Toa are much much more interesting fishmen than the alternatives, why are they just avoiding them. Outside the realm of retroclones, Pathfinder has the Skum as their replacement for the underground dwelling fishmen niche that the Kuo Toa hold in D&D.

(As an aside, as I was scrolling through a PDF of Advanced Labyrinth Lord, I noticed that while they avoided including the Kuo Toa at all, they renamed the thoul of all things, instead calling it a "throghrin". That is SUCH a terrible name, literally why would you use that fantasy gibberish vaguely orcish sorta name instead of the weird Thoul... I just really like thouls, so I figured I'd comment on it.)

If I'm being completely honest, while I really like iconic well established names like Deep Ones for the Kuo Toa, I am not inclined to use them personally. I'm honestly just more likely to call them fishmen, or even more likely gillmen. I am a Universal monster movie kid after all! Perhaps another option for the Kuo Toa could be something evoking their dark, cultic, superstitious nature... maybe paranoiacs? Yeah, I think I like that. It makes them feel less like dark masters a la Lovecraft's Deep Ones and more like paranoid cultists. The Kuo Toa aren't really their own masters in the Drow series adventures anyway! Perhaps they could be godmakers (of no relation to the Frank Herbert novel of the same name) due to their psychic ability to create their own gods in physical form.

A green Slaad, despite appearances

Oooooohh the slaad. I will save sharing my more detailed thoughts on these nefarious toadies for the future Fiend Folio review post that will feature them, but suffice to say I quite like them. My first introduction to them was actually in the very first D&D book I ever personally owned, the D&D 4e Monster Manual 2, which uh... was not necessarily the best introduction to the game. Nor was it the best form of the Slaad, but I think the basic idea was impressed on me. They ultimately fit into the honestly unnecessary taxonomic impulse in AD&D, as the chaotic neutral inhabitants of the plane of Limbo, but other than that they are honestly more interesting paranormal inhabitants of the outer realms than most demons and devils! Weird sadistic chaotic frogs, coming in a variety of types, led by [in the Fiend Folio version] a strange skeletal warlord riding on a dragon? Vastly prefer these guys to Asmodeus. 

A red Slaad

Now, the Slaad seem to not be featured in the bestiaries of Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy. They also aren't featured in OSRIC, but strangely enough there is a type of devil called "Scaly Devil" that has almost the same colored subtypes as the Slaad; otherwise they don't have anything in common with the Slaad so I'm honestly just confused. They also don't appear in Pathfinder, where instead the inhabitants of Limbo are the serpentine Proteans. A crying shame that it seems most games aren't interested in including these kooky guys!

On to the new names: maybe something emphasizing their amphibian nature... battletoads, perhaps?

Or well, maybe chaos frogs is more honest than a reference to the classic 1991 beat 'em up. To me that evokes the chaos dwarfs from Warhammer Fantasy, a personal favorite of their lesser appreciated armies. If one wants a name in keeping with the sinister otherworldly vibes of the name Slaad, maybe one part or the other of the line from Aristophanes' The Frogs: Brekekekex koax koax. More than a bit unwieldy, but maybe that's the point. I could see Brekekekex koax koax as the proper name for these off brand Slaad, while mortals, fearful of their sadistic mischief, call them some more mundane like chaos toads or something more direct like The Terrors. Otherworldly entities like these are a fantastic opportunity for having a more esoteric name only used by wizards and other spirits and a name used in more normal conversation.

As an aside, isn't it interesting how overrepresented the Fiend Folio is among the product identity monsters? Four on the list are FF originals: Kuo Toa, Slaad, Githyanki, and Githzerai. And only one of those was created by Gary! I find it kinda interesting how, in the case of the slaad and gith, the creations of British fans ended up treated as important copyright by a company that at the time didn't even exist.

Coming Up Next
I'm not quite done with Mr. Warren Wasteland's Product Identity post just yet. Coming up next is going to be a new original monster, an alternate take on his alternate name for a beholder, panoptikhan. Along with that, on an unrelated note, will be the return of the Goin' Through the Fiend Folio series, picking back up with the Penanggalan!

1 comment:

  1. I unironically like battletoads for slaadi and will be using that if I have a use for them in the future.