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Hybrid Contestants
Design & Development
Bart Carroll

Bracket tournaments have always been a pleasure to both create and vote on. I’ve certainly participated in my share: Andy Collins ran his straight-up Monstrous Madness tournament in 2004, with the red dragon winning out over the beholder. Drizzt Do’Urden made it pretty far into Suvudu.com’s cage match of fantasy characters (losing out to Rand al’Thor, from the Wheel of Time series). And earlier this year, io9 put forth their March Movie Madness (coming down to Serenity vs. The Empire Strikes Back). Heck, even ESPN ran their superheroes vs. supervillains (and we concede they know a thing or two about bracket tournaments).

Our own creature competition began as the brainchild of website developer Mark Jindra, back in 2005 when he wanted to run a bracket tournament for the game’s creatures. Thus our 16-contestant , head-to-head bracket, with creatures nominated by WotC staffers and community members. I don’t recall who nominated the ultimate winner, Eludecia the Succubus Paladin—she was a community nomination, I believe—but I do remember that Mat Smith nominated Meepo, Julia Martin nominated the Half-Celestial Unicorn, Bruce Cordell nominated Shuluth, and Mark nominated the Belkin Soul Eater.


Fast-forward to earlier this year, and R&D is discussing the next competition. We knew we wanted to run another one, and we knew we wanted the community to nominate the participants. The question was, what would be the theme. Chris Perkins suggested hybrids, and thus out competition was set.

From there, we needed a good batch of new hybrids, which we put forward as a challenge to you—asking for your nominations. Entries had to be received by June 17th, and we took great pleasure in reading what you concocted.

Myself, Chris Perkins, Steve Winter, Greg Bilsland, Mark Jindra, and Shelly Mazzanoble served as judges. We started by whittling the entries down to a more manageable list of 32. These were (along with their briefest of encapsulations):

  1. Racer Beast: half-tortoise, half-hare

  2. Were-chimera: shapechanges into a variety of creatures

  3. Cannibal cow: bull + lion

  4. Thaxxby: honey badger + bat

  5. Enfield: head of fox, breast of eagle, body of wolf (a real-world heraldic device)

  6. Dopplebeast: shape-changing animal

  7. Platypotamus: platypus + hippopotamus

  8. Rust grub: rust monster + rot grub

  9. Shardswarm: shardmind + vermin

  10. Grivvin: hyena + vulture

  11. Escorpimmia: gorilla + spider

  12. Displacer Cube: displacer beast + gelatinous cube

  13. Kraken Spider

  14. Mantiplacer: manticore + displacer beast

  15. Abolithids: aboleth + mind flayer

  16. Dragonborn basilisk

  17. Wood dragon: dryad + orium dragon

  18. Intellect Tyrant: intellect devourer + beholder

  19. Ruxie: rust monster + pixie

  20. Hartsbear: grizzly + stag

  21. Stirgethid: stirge + mind flayer

  22. Cowl-reaver: spell weaver + cloaker

  23. Equilibrrious: half-demon, half-angel

  24. Gobold: goblin + kobold

  25. Githyazel: githyanki + mind flayer

  26. Elder brain in a jar

  27. Naztharune: rakshasa + displacer beast

  28. Luminthrope: were-will-o-wisp

  29. Faunling: Centaur + Halfling/Gnome

  30. Displacer Dragon: displacer beast + dragon

  31. Gray Matter: intellect devourer + black pudding (intelligent ooze)

  32. The Legendary Medusa Hydra

Next, the judges voted on their top selections from this list. These were:

Chris

  • Cannibal Cow
  • Enfield
  • Rust Grub
  • Grivvin
  • Gray Matter

Steve

  • Displacer Cube
  • Intellect Tyrant
  • Rust Grub
  • Gray Matter

Greg

  • Rust Grub
  • Mantiplacer
  • Abolithids
  • Elder Brain in a Jar
  • The Legendary Medusa Hydra

Mark

  • Were-chimera
  • Rust Grub
  • Intellect Tyrant
  • Displacer Dragon
  • Displacer Cube

Shelly

  • Platypotamus
  • Rust Grub
  • Ruxie
  • Stirgethid
  • Gray Matter

And there you have it! Look for the following contestants to take part in this year’s Creature Competition. (Their descriptions have been edited, for length.) Each week, you’ll vote on which creature advances from each pairing—and which are sent back to their mad wizards’ labs to be rendered back to their component parts.

  1. Were-chimera: The result of a mad artificer who studied lycanthropes, this terrible creature morphs into any form it needs to gain advantage against its prey. In combat, it’s been known to change from a dragon (controller) to a lion (skirmisher), to a goat (charging brute), to still other creatures as necessary.

  2. Cannibal cow: Carnivorous pack animals, typically found in lightly settled plains and scrublands. Some say a wizard crossed a bull and a lion in a fit of magical animal husbandry, some say a barbarian tribe held a yurt-raising that went too far. A mane of fur around their necks and a lion's tail differentiate them from lesser cattle. Their teeth have adapted to ripping and tearing flesh, using their dim intelligence to bring down smaller animals and to herd larger ones. They have been known to raid farms, rustling cattle for their own herds. The wisest and cruelest of them worship the Horned King, Baphomet.

  3. Enfield: A creature with the head of a fox, the feathered breast and foreclaws of an eagle, and the body of a wolf; the enfield possess the subtlety and cunning of the fox, the fortitude, grace and honor of the eagle, and the fierceness and loyalty of the wolf. In Celtic mythology, the enfield protected the fallen bodies of chieftains against desecration by the enemy until the tribesmen of such chiefs could give them proper funerary rites; although it appears in real-world heraldry (such as the coat of arms of the London Borough of Enfield), this hybrid has never before appeared in the game.

  4. Platypotamus: This immense semi-aquatic animal has a beak shaped like an axe-head, a huge flat tail that it uses to propel through the water (or to swamp boats that venture too close), and venomous spurs on its hind legs.

  5. Rust Grub: Also known as Anvilbane Worms, these species of grubs range in size from 1' to 1" and secrete an oxidizing enzyme that breaks down most metals into a digestible format. They travel in swarms and have been known to ruin entire mines, not to mention suits of armor.

  6. Grivvin: This foul creature is a combination of hyena and vulture. While it has the wings, tail, and hind feet of a vulture, its head and forelegs are that of a hyena. The grivvin is a carrion eater, loathsome enough that it will even eat the undead. Its wild maniacal laugh is said to be one of the few things that unnerves undead creatures!

  7. Displacer Cube: It’s rumored that a gelatinous cube once fed exclusively in displacer beasts, and absorbed something of their qualities. Already difficult to spot, the displacer cube’s actual location may be shifted somewhere else entirely. It attacks with gelatinous tentacles that reach out and inflict acidic damage. It’s noted that while displacer cubes are not necessarily interested in absorbing adventurers, they can nonetheless be very territorial.

  8. Mantiplacer: The wizard Bubanta is known by many wealthy patrons who seek his services as a breeder of rare beasts for mounts and guardians. One such beast is the mantiplacer, a creature comprised of the aspects of the sadistic manticore and the predatory displacer beast. With the head of a man (albeit with catlike features), the body of the beast retains its six legs and panther form and can reach a full fifteen feet in length at adulthood. Its claws and poisonous bite are formidable weapons, but the mantiplacer also possesses two tails endowed with long spikes that can be hurled with great accuracy; furthermore, the beast can strike with its spiked tentacles or buffet foes with its bat-like wings—pushing them away to a preferable distance.

  9. Abolithids: The foul results of a mind flayer experiment on ceremorphosis using an aboleth host. Unfortunately for the inquisitive mind flayers, the abolithids had the combined psionic power of both races as well as their pride and greed, and they quickly enslaved their creators. They largely ignore the humanoid races, as the abolithids' size and power make eating such tiny, dull brains impractical; instead, they feast on the brains of aboleths and dragons, and let the their enslaved servants do what they want with the humanoid vermin.

  10. Intellect Tyrant: Intellect devourers do not breed in the conventional sense. Rather, new larvae spawn from the brain tissue of creatures killed by other intellect devourers. Never does this occur with more terrifying results than when the host creature is a beholder. These hybrids appear as large intellect devourers, but with atrophied limbs and the beholder’s ability to hover; although they lack eye stalks, a visible aura of psionic tendrils surrounds them, used to cast the creature’s mind-controlling abilities. They are the ultimate puppet masters.

  11. Ruxie: This fey creature combines the worst traits of a pixie and a rust monster. It appears as a tiny feral humanoid with a double set of gossamer wings, a malevolent glare in its eye, and an oversized mustache ending in twirling prehensile whiskers, usually a ruddy brown color. Able to fly quickly, turn invisible, and create powerful illusions, its most feared power may be that any ferrous metal touched by the whiskers is instantly reduced to a pile of rust.

  12. Stirgethid: Seemingly a cross between a stirge and illithid, they are very similar in size and appearance to a stirge but with tentacles surrounding a lamprey-like mouth instead of a proboscis. The stirgethid attacks in a similar manner as a stirge; however its diet includes the brains of its victims—wrapping its tentacles around its victim’s head and latching on.

  13. Elder Brain in a Jar: The great necromantic generals of the drow armies are said to have captured and enslaved an elder brain, keeping it in a state of near death in a magically animated jar of viscous fluid. The fluid preserves the brain and suppresses its will, making it subject to the control of the drow. Its psionic powers, however, are unparalleled.

  14. The Displacer Dragon: A silent, vengeful specter, this dragon is known to stalk from the darkness, disappearing and reappearing from one shadow to the next. Midnight black, with glowing, golden eyes, the displacer dragon does not have scales but instead a velvet skin, with four large tentacles extending from its shoulders and ending in the spiked pads of displacer beasts.

  15. Gray Matter: This odd creature—easily one of the most intelligent oozes—resembles a throbbing mass of brain matter. Seeking out the dark corners of humanoid settlements, it waits patiently for a suitable victim to take over with its psionic powers, a portion of itself entering the victim’s body and taking control; this new puppet is sent back into its community to lure more victims. After several days in a host body, the original mind is consumed. The victim will be abandoned, expelling a fully grown gray matter. In this way, an entire community might be consumed and outgrown in a matter of weeks.

  16. The Legendary Medusa Hydra: This scaly, four-legged beast resembles a multi-headed hydra (with the hydra’s regenerative and multiplicative powers)—yet each head is that of a medusa, with a petrifying gaze.

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.
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