Wednesday, April 12, 2023


Hey so remember in the product identity monsters post from like, way back in December I mentioned that I was gonna make a part 2 riffing on an alternate name for the Beholder that Warren of Prismatic Wasteland came up with? Yeah I never posted that huh. Well anywho, here it is!

Fear the dread PANOPTIKHAN, the Scourge of Gods Underneath, the All-Seeing Eye, the War-Bek of Cave-Mules! Tremble before his twelve fingered majesty, great and terrible Lord of the Conjunction!

Number Encountered: 1
Hit Dice: 9
Attacks: 6 tentacles (1d6) + 1 eye beam (see below) OR 1 feeding (see below)
Armor: as leather and shield (as chain and shield on horseback)
Morale: 10
Horde Lord: The panoptikhan [or panoptikhans, if one wishes this to be a whole race of creatures] rules over a subterranean horde, made up primarily of whatever poor underground dwellers the scourge impressed into service. There will be at least two deputy beks which command sections of the panoptikhan's horde and delegate authority from him.
Mounted: Frequently found riding horses or cave-mules, especially when leading a section of its horde. 
Paranoiavore: The panoptikhan feeds on feelings on paranoia and anxiety through the many eyes on its towering stalk. In combat, if the panoptikhan chooses not to use its eye beam, it can instead choose to feed on any fear or anxiety in any target within view; if it feeds on the worry of a combatant, they must make a Save vs. Overconfidence [I'd probably make that a Save vs. Wands for the five saving throw categories, I just like having kind of silly overly specific saving throws] or begin acting brashly and without thinking, possibly putting themself or others in danger.
All-Seeing Eye Beam: In combat, if the panoptikhan choose not to feed on the worry of a being within view, it can instead choose to release excess waste emotion in the form of an eye beam fired from the singular eye on the top of its stalk. The target of the eye beam must make a Save vs. Anxiety or begin breaking down, laying down their weapons and attempting to flee.
Weaponry: The panoptikhan typically fights with his bare tentacles, but can wield melee weapons, most commonly sabres and pikes.

The panoptikhan is a malformed and monstrous thing which feeds on feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and worry and, in service of providing itself with a neverending supply of paranoid, anxious, and worrisome underlings to feed on, it establishes a warrior host which roves the tunnels and caverns underground, capturing more half-men and underground dwellers along the way. While perhaps a more straightforward prison scenario would instill a constant feeling of paranoia in its prisoners, the panoptikhan's horde provides enough contrasting feeling to allow the scourge to not be glutted with fear and worry, and to give the warlord something which even towers of unblinking eyes need: a feeling of accomplishment.

It is an eight foot tall spindly tower of wide staring eyes atop a cone-shaped base ringed by six tentacles tipped with two-fingered "hands." It also is fond of horseback riding.

Think a Tomyris, Attila, Chinggis Khan, or Timur if they were also a tentacle monster.

I originally came up with this design back when Warren was workshopping alternate, product-identity free names for the copyrighted D&D monsters like the beholder. I said, if I remember correctly at least, that I really liked the name panoptikhan, but that it evoked some kind of monster which took on the role of a steppe warlord in a dungeon environment moreso than the floating sphere of baleful eyes that is the beholder. When I got back to the concept, I just incorporated the "feeding on anxiety" thing as another element on there, taking cues from Jeremy Bentham's original Panopticon (which is also in the design pretty obviously); felt like it needed some extra power/ability, and I think that adds a fun extra dimension to the concept.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

A Forgotten Monster: The Cruel Jackdog

I've shared some of my love and appreciation for the monstrous creations of the early D&D hobby before; the original creatures of referees from the late seventies have been a regular appearance in my Fiend Folio review series (which, as an aside, will return shortly; apologies for the lull in posting). But what I have not been able to share with you all, until now, has been anything truly new, truly undiscovered, truly forgotten to the annals of history... but I (or, rather, my girlfriend) made a discovery! You see, her dad was one of the founders of the fanzine Factsheet Five, one of the early SciFi/Fantasy fanzines, and in that capacity he acquired or was sent an extensive amount of material related to SFF fandom, including Dungeons and Dragons material. Most of the actual zine material is now in an archive in New York, but a lot of the D&D stuff has been handed off to my girlfriend in big cardboard boxes, things that he used in his games or that didn't make it into the zine itself. In going through this collection of material on the early days of the RPG hobby, she found the following creature, sent to Mike Gunderloy by a certain David "Dinkie" Rizzle, an obscure early hobby personality.

Below is the text reproduced in full.

The Cruel Jackdog
Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 5
Move: 9"
IQ: 1d6+2
Dext.: 2d6+4
% Lair: 45%
No. Enctd.: 2-24
Alignment: Animal (Chaos)
Attacks: 3 (claw/tail/bite)
Description: Waiste [sic] high reptilian doggies with sharp hooked beaks and featherless wings like a chicken wing, a knifelike spike on the tip. Orignally [sic] dwelling in fetid swamps and sweaty jungles, cruel jackdogs became favorite pets of evil figures like evil MUs and warlords. They are sadistic little shits with a penchant for toying with prey before eating it, and tend to hoard shiny objects. Evil owners of cruel jackdogs often use them as scouts to go out and snatch stuff up to bring back to them. Cruel jackdogs can climb on walls and ceilings with their hooked feet, and will use that to sneak up on interlopers. Their bite is rife with bacteria that will cause any successful hit with the bite to fester, the limb liable to rot off. Their tail spikes can hit multiple targets at once with a swipe, spreading damage rolled between them. Anyone who casts speak with animal [sic] to talk with a cruel jackdog must save vs. wands or be overwhelmed by the freakishly fast thoughts of the jackdog and succumb for 1d6 rounds. They can flare their ears and scream for a fear effect, test hireling morale; if they scream, they lose their bite and claw attack that round.

Note for Mike: Hey man, heard you were wondering about the monsters from my campaign back in Milwaukee. Figured I could at least send a couple your way. Here's one of the oldest, from around when I left Gary's game to start my own. He gave me the mini for this guy at least, I guess that was nice of him. Hope you get some use out of it!



Unfortunately it seems we don't have the other monsters that Mr. Rizzle sent to Mr. Gunderloy, or at least can't find them as of right now. What we do know, at least, from both this document and other available sources on the mysterious Dinkie Rizzle is that he was a player in Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign, albeit likely not one of the earliest batch of players. From the "note for Mike" at the bottom of the document, we can tell that he left Gary's game to start his own campaign; not uncommon for the Twin Cities scene at the time, where obviously Arneson had a preexisting game before Gygax, and a number of Gygax's other players also refereed. But it seems that the parting between Gygax and Rizzle was not on the best of terms; there is no mention here of Rizzle returning to play in Gygax's Greyhawk game, and, while maybe this is me reading into it a bit, the aside "I guess that was nice of him" implies to me that he felt Gygax was hostile to him, the only good thing he gave Rizzle being the miniature for the cruel jackdog.

I think it may be possible that Rizzle and Gygax split over personal conflict that manifested itself in fundamental rules disagreements. Notice how idiosyncratic the cruel jackdog stat block is; it incorporates verbiage from OD&D Monsters and Treasure, of course, but lacks a treasure type listing and, most importantly, features IQ and Dexterity. And, unlike in the AD&D Monster Manual, Intelligence here is not listed using an adjective, but with a dice expression! I think that these elements of the stat block show influence from the Perrin Conventions, the rules overhaul for D&D written by Steve Perrin of RuneQuest fame. The Perrin Conventions were before RuneQuest's time, however, and were first widely published in Chaosium's All the World's Monsters in 1977, shortly before the publication of the AD&D Monster Manual. There, every monster has an Intelligence and Dexterity score, sometimes expressed as a static number, sometimes a dice range. Perhaps Dinkie Rizzle had taken an interest in Perrin's attempt at a more "realistic" D&D combat, to the chagrin of Gygax, and started his own campaign to allow him to use elements of the Perrin Conventions, divorced of their original California context, in the heart of the hobby: the Twin Cities.

And what about that miniature Rizzle mentioned? He says that Gary gave it to him, so the ultimate source for the creature must be Gygax, by way of whatever he was using as miniatures. Here's my theory: I think Dinkie Rizzle's cruel jackdog is inspired by one of the "chinasaurs", a set of plastic figurines from Hong Kong that were likely inspired by kaiju from Ultraman (which, as an aside, is one of my favorite shows ever, watched it a lot as a kid). These little plastic figures have a bit of fame in the old school D&D community, since they are the seeming origin of a number of original D&D monsters, such as the bulette and rust monster. However, the chinasaur derived creatures in the AD&D Monster Manual are only a selection of the complete set of figurines; what happened to the other chinasaurs? Did they ever play a part in inspiring a monster in the early days of the hobby?

To be specific, there is one chinasaur in particular that I believe is the origin of Rizzle's cruel jackdog. This guy:

Unfortunately, there's no illustration to go along with the document so I can't confirm for certain that this specific chinasaur is the inspiration, but based on the line about it being a mini from Gygax and elements of the description ("reptilian doggies with sharp hooked beaks and featherless wings like a chicken wing", "Cruel jackdogs can climb on walls and ceilings with their hooked feet", "they can flare their ears", also the mention of a tail attack), I'm pretty confident that it has to be this one. No other figure from the chinasaur set has all of these discrete elements. It's gotta be this guy.

So, to bring it all together:
The cruel jackdog was an original monster made by David "Dinkie" Rizzle for his campaign in Milwaukee, most likely in 1977 or 1978, given 1977 was the year All the World's Monsters came out and made the Perrin Conventions widely available. They were only even created in 1976, and at that time they were only used at DRAGONCON 1 in San Francisco, so no dice on them getting to Rizzle all the way in Milwaukee. Rizzle was a player in Gygax's Greyhawk game (who seems to have traveled from Milwaukee to Lake Geneva just to play in Gygax's game?), who left that campaign and started his own when he and Gygax butted heads, presumably beginning with some personal slight that then expressed itself in game mechanics disagreements. Despite the breakup, Gygax had given Rizzle one of his chinasaurs as a mini, presumably one that Gygax didn't intend on using, which explains why this toy never made it into the Monster Manual or Fiend Folio. And then, some time well after all of this happened, Mike Gunderloy asked Rizzle for some of the monsters from his campaign, and that document ended up in a box collecting all of his TTRPG material from the early hobby, and ended up in the hands of my girlfriend and then on my blog!
Wanted to try my hand at drawing one of these guys!

While this curiosity isn't the most representative item from the Gunderloy collection that is currently in my girlfriend's possession, I figured it'd be something of interest to you all, especially those among you who are dedicated Rizzle sleuths, trying to put together the life story of quite possibly the most obscure figure in the early D&D scene. Hope this small contribution helps!