I’m like any other player when a fight starts. I wait to hear what the DM describes, hinging on the moment when the encounter’s foe is fully revealed. Sometimes, my group goes into battle forewarned. We know who or what we’ll be facing. Sometimes it’s a surprise. And for the most part, I’m not looking forward to facing a particular enemy. I mean, they’re monsters. They’re trying to kill your character. They’re all to be dreaded and despised rather than anticipated.
But there are exceptions. Some enemies bring a certain something to the table. These are the baddies we love to face, the ones that send a little chill down our backs when the mini hits the mat. And not necessarily a chill of fear (although that could certainly be part of it), but of anticipation.
What follows is my list of the top monsters I love to fight. These are the ones that get me to sit forward a little when I see them hit the table. They’re presented in no particular order. Also, since I actually thought of several more that I love to fight, I expanded the list in the version of the editorial we’re posting on the D&D Insider community page.
Owlbears: Let’s get this one out of the way right now. I hate owlbears. I think they’re dumb, and I’ve gone on record with that opinion before. So why do I like to fight ‘em? Because each time an owlbear dies, I like to think I’ve somehow eliminated one from the world, leaving one less owlbear someone else will have to deal with. I know it’s stupid, but I can’t help myself.
Purple Worms: Really, this could be any monster that burrows around and erupts from the earth to try and swallow you whole. Granted, many monsters are trying to eat your character. But there’s a certain fear factor in the idea that this monster actually has mechanics that enable it to do so. Plus, purple worms have the distinction of being one of the few monsters in the game that are almost exclusively reserved for surprise encounters. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never played in a game or campaign where we knew we’d be facing a purple worm. Any time one showed, it was a shock. That sucks a whole new kind of awesome.
Emperor Palpatine: What’s that? A Star Wars villain in D&D? No, not really. It’s the kind of villain Emperor Palpatine represents that I love to fight. This is the villain who, when you first meet him (or her), you get the feeling he’s probably a bad guy. He’s not super evil. He doesn’t seem to be up to no good. He just rubs you the wrong way. He’s probably in a position of power. He might seem to be allied with the forces of good. But through one misguided or duplicitous effort after another, it becomes more and more clear that he’s a villain who is thwarting you at every turn. The worst part is that, for some reason, he’s untouchable. Then it comes, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The smokescreen clears, and you finally get to fight this villain mano y mano. Few fights are more satisfying than this one.
Beholders: One of the deadliest foes in the game, the beholder embodies, to me, the unpredictable villain. The thing about the beholder is that it encourages a sort of masochistic approach in the players at the table. You find yourself hoping—hoping!—that the beholder is “only” going to hit you with the searing ray or the telekinesis ray rather than the dreaded death or disintegrate rays. That’s right, when you fight a beholder, you hope that all it does is deal a massive amount of damage or drop you off a cliff. What a world! But that same unpredictability means that every round is different. To me, no monster brings so much tension to the table, and that makes it a favorite.
Mobs of Minions: This is another category, rather than a specific monster. It includes any large group of popcorn-like monsters. You can’t just stop with one, and why should you? Is there anything more viscerally satisfying than dropping a burst 2 area attack on a cluster of minions? I say no.
There’s my list. Honorable mention goes to the pit fiend, any dragon, the succubus, and the marilith. I know you’ve all got your own lists. What are they? What monsters do you just love to fight, and why? Post your lists to the D&D Insider community page or email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!