D&D Monster Spotlight: Well They Tried
Not every monster in the manual is going to be a fearsome winner. Some will leave you asking “why?” and wondering what the game devs were thinking.
Sometimes you encounter a monster that you know will be difficult or scary. Gnashing teeth, tremendous size, or just an absurdly high armor class will make them either physically imposing or creatures that you know will be difficult to take down. Other times, you look at a picture in the Monster Manual and wonder just what the heck they were thinking. Is this one a joke? Was there a time crunch? Is this meant to be a monster at all? Let’s talk about the latter kind of monster.
Literally exactly what the name says, the Duckbunny is what happens when you slap a duck’s bill and webbed feet on an otherwise normal looking bunny. With a neutral alignment and almost no challenge rating, I’m not sure if they’re a “monster” or just a weird Avatar-like combo animal. So how did this amphibious rabbit come about? We’re not sure, but clues may be able to be found in 1998’s Issue 243 or Dragon Magazine, but my money is on somebody looking at that duck-or-bunny optical illusion and forgetting on all but a subconscious level until it was time to come up with new D&D beasts.
2E’s Invisible Stalker
Overall the Invisible Stalker isn’t a terrible monster. By nature, anything invisible is a little scarier than a foe you can actually see, and its primary attack of pummeling wind and air can be quite harmful when used correctly. But Second Edition’s Invisible Stalker… Look, I get it. I would also submit a blank page at least once if I thought I could get paid for it and I guess an air monster with invisible in the name is going to look like nothing. But… come on.
The poor Stench Kow. It’s an unaligned herbivore from the Lower Planes who shares many qualities with your average bison. Only the Stench Kow has the added benefits of being able to withstand severe cold, heat, poison, and poisonous clouds of both mundane and normal origin, but they are named after the one thing they probably can’t control; their terrible smells. Lots of animals stink, but the Stench Kow is SO stinky that being near it can cause someone to take poison damage similar to the Stinking Cloud spell. “What if cows were a little smellier?” said one game developer. “Okay, yeah,” said the second, “But hear me out. What if they were A LOT smellier?” “Perfect. Write it up.”
Slow moving, eating anything (including vegetation, rocks, and dirt), and non-aggressive, Flail Snails are members of the Monster Manual that I would feel bad fighting. The tentacles that would be eye stalks on any other snail are their primary weapon, used like flails or clubs, but once all of these tentacles are sufficiently damaged or destroyed the Flail Snail will die. Though not before wailing for several minutes. If you have the heart to kill a creature like this, its shell is worth quite a bit of gold, but you’d be the real monster in that dungeon.
Not every D&D monster can be a winner. Which sad monster is your favorite? Could you fight one of these creatures, or would you leave them be? Which entry in the Monster Manual has you asking, “why?” Let us know in the comments!