Until now the weekly previews have focused on commons and uncommons. Yes, Mat has shown off some of the high-grade stuff in his In the Works columns, but I wanted to start these previews with the minis you'd be getting the most of.
Today, it's time to take a step up. We're going to check out some Aberrations rares: the Chuul, the Hook Horror, and the Mind Flayer Telepath.
Thor takes a day off from thundering, sets aside his hammer, and climbs into his goat-powered chariot. He peels out of Asgard and swings by Kord's place. Kord eventually stumbles out with his fishing gear over his shoulder and they head over to their favorite Ysgard fishing hole. For the first few hours, Thor won't do anything but cast interplanar flies -- he's stuck on practicing for that big, final cast for the Midgard Serpent. Kord may be a god of Chaos, but he's a touch more practical. He focuses on lunch. Kord jury-rigs a new crawdad gig and it works pretty well, so well that Thor gives the thunder-fly fishing a rest and joins in on the hunt. Before noon the two good old gods of chaos have themselves a bucket-full of squirming chuuls. Crack 'em out of the shell, singe 'em a bit with lightning, and slurp 'em down. If you're a god of strength, the chuul's paralytic tentacles just add a bit of a buzz on the way down.
If you're not a god of strength but are instead a more or less standard-issue player character, the chuul's paralytic tentacles can be a real buzzkill. There's nothing like fighting an intelligent monster that's smart enough to surge out of the water, grab the low Fort save wizard, and slip back beneath the waves with the spellcaster for lunch.
In skirmish play, the Chuul isn't going to have to listen to any crawdad jokes. It has high AC for a CE critter, good hit points, and attacks that won't make it feel embarrassed playing with the tough kids. To tell the truth, it looks a bit better than I remembered. I'm curious to see how this figure plays out, particularly since this is one big, nasty monster that doesn't mind fighting smart. No Difficult ability, no problem.
The Hook Horror has never functioned as a tasty treat for Thor or Kord, but it did get to hang with the Hollywood set back in the days when the D&D cartoon was on the air. If you go hunting, you can probably find an old Hook Horror action figure on an on-line auction site.
Then again, why bother when you can wait six weeks and get hold of this beautiful new mini? I loved the original sculpt for this creature and was overjoyed at how well the paints turned out, particularly the carapace/shell (which you can't see in this photo). Sigh.
DMs in search of a sly, Underdark dweller with omnivorous tastes need look no further. For its stats and full write-up, see page 126 of the Fiend Folio.
Playing off the idea that Hook Horrors are chiefly motivated by the desire to get their hooks into something good to eat, we've given these creatures an ability named Feast that makes them less dependable than troops that fight for something other than their bellies. Deploy the Horrors against nonliving enemies and you'll have no Feast problems with them. Against living enemies, you'll have some interesting choices to make. At least the Hook Horror isn't Difficult, so you'll have some control over which enemies it engages. It's not stupid; it's just smart enough not to keep fighting once it has its dinner.
Mind Flayer Telepath
I wasn't completely satisfied with the sculpt of the Mind Flayer in Harbinger. The pose was good but the tentacles weren't as prominent as I'd hoped. The Harbinger Mind Flayer made me look forward to the day when we could do another, with tentacles flailing every which way. That day has arrived.
I have no reservations about this illithid. You could play it straight from the Monster Manual or use the stats from the Expanded Psionics Handbook that are presented in shorthand, playable version on the back of its stat card.
There will come a day when a new mind flayer mini will make the great dragons and the divine aspects fear for the safety of their gray matter. This is not yet that day. I am capable of restraint.
However, my moderation is unlikely to comfort you when the Mind Flayer Telepath's Psychic Scream puts all your noncommander creatures out of command until the end of the round. If you play Lawful Evil often, you're aware that some creatures are available to you that can do nasty things to out-of-command enemies. That doesn't even count the satisfaction of watching routing enemies continue routing despite having an adjacent commander.
We're done with the tentacly bits for now. Next week we'll show off three more bad guys -- with scales this time.
About the Author
Rob Heinsoo started playing D&D with the original brown box in 1975. He's now the lead designer of D&D Miniatures.