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My review and discussions of 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (“1e“) has me visiting an old friend, the Fiend Folio (“FF“). My impression, which is anecdotal and thus suspect, is that the FF wasn’t very popular. Oddly enough, it was the only compendium of monsters I owned as a kid other than the small collection in the AD&D Blue Box and the monsters contained in the mods I ran. Plus, none of my friends owned it, so I had something on them. Needless to say, it holds a special place in my heart. I’m not making even more “dumbest monsters of D&D” posts. We’ve all had enough of those. These are about things I like.
I have four favorite creature types, which has remained unchanged since I initially stopped playing D&D in 1982: demons, devils, drow, and slaadi. Sure, I should have said dragons instead of slaadi just for the alliteration, but it wouldn’t be true, and I’m a horrible liar. (Never hire me to litigate. Or negotiate. Or practice law at all.)
Demons and Devils (FF p. 24-25)
As a victim of the Satanic Panic, I have plenty of reason to love demons and devils, but that love preceded all of that. They’re just a fascinating concept to me, representing two sides of the same evil coin. On the one hand, you had the ultimate lawyers, creatures that dealt in twisting words around to surprise parties to their contracts with unexpected loopholes. One the other side, you had ferocious brutes that followed no rules. There’s a place for both, but these were the extremes, and they made for great villains. The FF gave us only one of each, but the more I got, the better. Besides, Lolth scratched more than one itch, being the demon goddess of the drow, and I always loved seeing new additions to categories of monsters. Categories such as dragons and giants (foreshadowing!) can give you reasonable set of common characteristics among its members, while giving you enough of a difference to make them worthwhile. This also makes members of the group good for reskinning as other members of the group. (Side note: The 5e Monster Manual is my favorite RPG bestiary because the entire book reads that way.)
The only thing that bugged me about demons was that they had consistent forms per type. Truly chaotic creatures shouldn’t have any regularity in their design. Hordes of the Abyss addressed this fairly well. To the best of my recollection, it claimed that function influenced form, so demons with the same purposes, roles, functions, or whatever all had to be similar. That’s reasonable, but not quite good enough. There should still be lots of variation. Of course, how do you pull that off in a game played by real-world humans in need of regularity? It’s certainly forgivable.
Slaadi (FF p. 80)
Speaking of chaotic creatures, despite the concern above, I always loved the slaadi. I’m not a fan of frogs and toads, but I have an even greater, and irrational, hatred of bugs, so go Team Anura! Slaadi are the ultimate expression of chaos. (If I had ever read the Monster Manual II before the past couple of weeks, I may have had similar love of the modrons for the opposite reason.) That can be a lot of fun to run. The blindheim? Not so much. Then you’re given Ssendam and Ygorl, slaad lords of insanity and entropy. Each are level X monsters, which seems underpowered considering that the death slaad is also of the same level. Despite there being only four death slaads, I don’t think they should represent the same threat as their lords. I get that these levels aren’t hard and fast measures of powers, but they vaguely tell you what league a monster is in.
And yes, I get a smug satisfaction out of knowing the correct pluralization of “slaad.” That comes from my love of the FF.
Drow (FF p. 33)
Okay, okay, I get it; this is trite. But who doesn’t love Bill Willingham’s drawing of the drow? Certainly not 12-year-old Rob. Or 53-year-old Rob. Its anthropomorphism made it relatable, and it was accompanied by two full pages of background and culture. Great stuff. The only reason it’s fashionable to hate on Drow is because its popularity resulted in a saturation of the market. Give people too much of a good thing, and it can grow stale (c.f., tribbles), but it shouldn’t surprise you that an old man loves them. I still enjoy adventures with Drow.
Unlike my arrogance with “slaadi,” I’ve always had trouble deciding whether it was appropriate to capitalize, “Drow.” I mean, “drow.” Whatever.
Level and likelihood of encounter per FF:
Demon, Lolth, level X, resides in the Abyss.
Devil, Styx, level VII (1% chance of dungeon encounter)
Elf, Drow, level II+ (as III, 1% chance of dungeon encounter; as V, 1%)
Slaad, blue, level VII (1% chance of dungeon encounter)
Slaad, death, level X (2% chance of dungeon encounter)
Slaad, green, level VIII (1% chance of dungeon encounter)
Slaad, grey, level IX (2% chance of dungeon encounter)
Slaad, red, level VI (1% chance of dungeon encounter)
Slaad lord, level X (1% chance of dungeon encounter, randomly choosing either one)
Those are my favorites, but there are some other iconic monsters worth mentioning. I’ll do so all week.
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