Monster Spotlight: Mind Your Fingers, It’s the Mimic
This week’s monster was…right here a second ago…hang on, maybe it’s hiding in that chest… Well, keep your eyes peeled for the mimic.
Each of those mimic minis is itself an actual mimic. Mimiception.
The Mimic is a quintessential part of D&D history. It has its roots in Gygaxian dungeon philosophy, where just about anything in the dungeon can and should be a dangerous threat to the party. Players should never be allowed to rest on their laurels. Mimics are one way of ensuring players never get too comfortable. Even discovering a reward can be a threat.
The lesson here is never to trust anything. Especially when you think the GM is handing out treasure. The mimic is a perfect example of how to prey on the minds of the players (not just the characters). This was something Gygax loved to do, he’d come up with traps and puzzles that were meant to mess with the people sitting across the table with him, that’s why things like the Tomb of Horrors are so legendary.
This is where the Mimic troubles all began. Back in 1977 in the 1E Edition Monster Manual, we got our first glimpse of these subterranean creatures. They were described as being unable to stand the light of the sun and capable of perfectly imitating stone or wood. These Mimics came in two varieties. The smaller 7-8 hit die Mimics, could sometimes be friendly (and were more intelligent than their larger compatriots) if they were given food. These (sometimes) friendly mimics could aid an adventurer or even offer advice about what they’d seen recently.
The larger, 9-10 hit dice Mimics attack everything indiscriminately, as you might expect.
Though the one pictured is a chest, Mimics could also pose as stonework, doors, chairs–any kind of object that is composed of the substance they can imitate. Then they lay in wait for a creature to touch them, at which point it lashes out with its pseudopods and adhesive glue, which causes creatures touching it to be stuck to the mimic. Presumably, until the glue was dissolved or the mimic destroyed.
Mimics also get an “ecology of…” treatment in Dragon Magazine #75, with a writeup by Ed Greenwood, who describes them as having eyespots (patches of sensitive, photoreceptive sensory organs) littered across their body, which is why direct sunlight blinds them.
The 2E Mimic is much more colorful in a bright, adventurer-attracting red. These Mimics have a little more detail to them. They aren’t just naturally occurring monsters, they have to be magically created with an outer carapace that protects them from whatever prey they encounter that might fight back. Same as before, they come in two varieties, common and killer. Each does what it says on the tin.
Second Edition Mimics are much bigger than their 1st edition counterparts, but otherwise are much the same as before. You can dissolve their adhesive with alcohol, though only after three rounds. After which point you can try and pull yourself free. Otherwise, adventurers are stuck to the Mimic while it pummels them.
However, despite the similarities between 1st and 2nd editions, the latter remains the most important addition to the development of the mimic for one reason:
Space Mimics. Yup. Introduced in Spelljammer, these Mimics could pose as patches of Wildspace, with their natural skin color appearing to be a shifting, twinkling cosmos. Or, failing that, they could appear as floating bits of debris or even ships that had been long abandoned. “Is that a ship, just waiting for an adventurer to claim?! What luck! …Aw, beans.” They could also cast spells, were competent illusionists, and loved to eat wizards and take their stuff. With a return of Spelljammer right around the corner, we must know if Space Mimics will be back, too.
3rd Edition Mimics have a much more natural coloration. Their pseudopods are still mentioned in their description, though this illustration clearly shows two arms ready to make the characteristic slam attack. Either that or this one has hugs to give out.
These Mimics are much less powerful, though. The mechanics of D&D had started to become a little more forgiving, and it shows here in their adhesive ability. These no longer auto-catch you with their glue, instead, there’s a DC 16 reflex save to avoid losing a weapon when you attack it. That said, the Mimic did pick up a crush attack which it could use on any creatures that it was grappling. A feat made much easier thanks to its natural adhesive. And at 1d8+4 that’s nothing to sneeze at.
4th Edition Mimics got a little off the rails. You had the same familiar mimic everyone knows and loves – called the Object Mimic in this edition. Only this mimic could adopt the form of any object OR alternatively could revert to its “native” form, that of an ooze. At which point it could do all the normal fun ooze things.
However, there was another kind of mimic – one that would impersonate the form of another sentient being. Using its stolen loot, it would kill and eat the next as it leaves a trail of bodies and different forms behind it. Which might sound an awful lot like the Doppelganger, but rest assured these are different. We promise.
The 5E Mimic is a triumphant return to form. This artwork clearly knows what a mimic is and how it works. I feel like this is the best translation of concept to picture that we’ve had since 1st edition, which is saying something. As before, the Mimic is back to taking the shape of anything wood, stone, or other basic material, and they are known for generally taking the shapes of chests. And they have perfect imitation, as long as it remains motionless. As soon as it moves, the adhesive is deployed – and mimics are capable of snaring anything huge or smaller with their glue. However it only takes a DC 13 to escape their grapple, so, apparently, that glue has been fading in strength since 1977.
Honor Among Thieves
The upcoming D&D movie Honor Among Thieves is going to feature a collection of classic D&D critters. Including, of course, the Mimic. We only get a moment’s glimpse of their Mimic in the trailer, but it looks like an angry chest full of teeth in a dungeon. Which, as far as I can tell, is perfect. I’d bet that this will be a momentary monster and a throwaway reference for fans of the game. But we’re looking forward to seeing which party member doesn’t check treasure chests for teeth before trying to open them.
Have you encountered a Mimic in your D&D adventures? What’s the most inventive thing it’s been disguised as? Are you excited to see a Mimic on the big screen next year? Let us know in the comments!