If you’re looking for a monster that’s stupid, challenging to fight, ridiculously violent, but also enjoys keeping or being a pet, gray renders are for you.
Gray renders are a little different than most of the other monsters I’ve taken a look at; they don’t appear in D&D until 3rd edition. While many of the most classic residents of the Monster Manual have some inspiration in mythology or folk tale, gray renders are seemingly just big scary monsters, a little generic to look at but horrific nonetheless. They’re the sort of thing I’d expect to see in a just slightly unimaginative horror movie. But they’re also pretty weird and decidedly underappreciated offerings from the monster manual.
Nine feet of muscle and teeth, gray renders are six eyed monsters that will have little more trouble tearing a tree apart than you average adventurer. In fact, true to their name, their go-to attack is the grab and rend… Which is exactly what it sounds like. But then they start to get interesting. Gray renders reproduce asexually and carry their young around in a pouch for a long time, which makes them marsupials and good parents, and have been known to grow attached to smaller wild creatures such as wolves, lions, displacer beasts, unicorns, or owlbears. The Monster Manual describes this attachment as a sort of “adoption” where the gray render will begin protecting and providing food for the smaller creature, but it sounds to me like ray renders find smaller animals cute and like to keep pets.
I am immediately disappointed to find that the 4E gray render doesn’t keep smaller animal companions. Smaller creatures do following in their wake and take advantage of the destruction, but it’s just not the same. Gray render in 4th are honestly a little dull lore-wise. They’re big dumb creatures who attack anything in their path without thought or strategy. But, they’re strong and good for a bunch of XP, so if you enjoy encounters more than lore, you’ll probably really enjoy a gray render.
In 5E gray renders once again take another complete departure from previous editions. Now instead of being solitary creatures or enjoying the company of smaller animals they can care for, gray renders seek out a bond with a more intelligent creature that they can be subservient to. This can be a boon to their new master, or destructive as the “gray render quirks” chart could equally likely leave you with a monster who likes to snuggle, or hates and attacks horses. Don’t worry though, they are still the same fearsome rend happy monsters they were in previous editions. Just now they’re horrible monsters who may respond to the name “Mr. Sparkle Face.”
Which version of the gray renders are your favorite? Have you encountered one in a campaign? If one tried to bond with you, what would you name it? Let us know in the comments.