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I’m loading all mechanical data for 1st Edition AD&D (“1e”) into a database. Having finished data entry for all the spells appearing in the Player’s Handbook and Unearthed Arcana, I spent this weekend creating the tables, queries, and forms for 1e monsters. I’ve entered all the data for everything up to and including the Chimera. This is going to be similarly tedious but 100% worth it when all is said and done.
I’ve gotten through the As, Bs, and Cs, and as of this writing Sunday night, I’ve entered Demogorgon as well (that was a real pain in the ass, with Juiblex — note the spelling — and other demon lords to come). Most of the monsters I’ve entered so far (29 out of 49, or 59.2%) are disappointingly ordinary, representing real world creatures or simply giant or prehistoric versions of them. Grabbing the 3.5 Monster Manual, I see there are 44 creatures (including variations) that begin with the letter A, B, or C. Of those, the closest ones to ordinary are animated objects, arrowhawks, and assassin vines (10 total, or 22.7%). Everything else is made up nonsense, which is the way it should be. Lions, tigers, and bears have their place, but we all come to D&D to fight lycanthropes, trolls, and balors. Of course, you can do that, so this isn’t a major criticism of 1e. There’s plenty of good stuff in there. I just found it surprising how boring the book started. Whether that holds up remains to be seen.
The bugbear entry mentioned kobolds, and that got me thinking about another design decision my friend and I discussed when creating our own game. I’ll spare you the details of that conversation but instead simply point out that kobolds of legend aren’t anthropomorphic reptiles. I went through YouTube and found a video explaining their true, historical origin. Game designers have plenty of kobold-like fey that fill the space of a kobold, but Lord Gygax apparently didn’t want to throw away the legendary term, so he coopted it for another creature. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but considering that the term, kobold, generally means something different now, it suggests that going back to an older definition is an occasionally useful (if not lazy) means to be original from the perspective of a modern audience.
Okay, I didn’t spare you the details of that conversation.
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