This month’s editorial is brought to you by the month of April. That is, I was in the process of writing it for April, when Steve said that I should pair it with a Dragon editorial, for ultimate top 10 listy goodness. Because, you see, this editorial was … is going to feature the top monsters I love to run as a DM. Steve’s idea was to also write the list of monsters I love to fight for Dragon and pair the two editorials. Stupid good ideas… So anyway, here it is. This might get you thinking about your own list, and maybe you can think about how to drop one or more of those monsters into your next game.
We’ve all seen lists of favorite monsters. Every player has them, whether you’re a DM or not. Our favorites are not necessarily the monsters we DMs have the most fun actually running. My list has changed from my 3E days. Back then, any monster over, say, CR 8 was unlikely to make my list. They were so complex that analysis paralysis too often sucked the fun out of the experience.
These days, my list is long, and covers a wide range of levels. For that reason, as with the Dragon editorial, I’ll put five of my selections here and the full list up on the D&D Community group. Without further delay:
The Dominator:This is a class of monster best exemplified by the vampire. They’re fantastic. Don’t let any Twilighter tell you otherwise: It’s not because vampires sparkle. Because they don’t. Ever. It’s because they can make a character a thrall. Any monster that can take a character’s actions away is great. A monster that not only takes your action but then turns it back around to hurt the rest of the party? Priceless entertainment. Even if you know the fight is not going the monster's way, making a character look foolish is often worth the dominating gaze action. Two words: No pants.
Ettins:OK, this is really a shout out to any multi-headed monster that can talk. You can milk an encounter for endless entertainment by creating two different personalities for your ettin heads, then have them bicker. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it still works. You’ll enjoy it, your players will enjoy it, everyone wins.
The Engulfer:The top-notch monster here is clearly (ba-dum-dum) the gelatinous cube. I ran my first 4th Edition cube at D&D Game Day two years ago. I managed to absorb four out of five characters in one encounter. Two died. It was brilliant. And the players? They loved it. I asked them to roleplay what their characters were doing in the giant Jell-O mold of a monster, and the results had us in stitches, even as the characters expired. Really, can you complain about any monster that eats people whole? A purple worm or remorhaz make for great fun too, but I still have a soft spot (these are getting bad now) for the gelatinous cube.
Beholders:They’re classic, they’re iconic, and they’re scary as hell. No player likes to see one of these guys, from gauth to hive mother, appear on the table. They’re just plain terrifying. I’d venture to say they might be the scariest monster in D&D. So they make the list, easily.
The Regenerator:My number one favorite monster is the troll. I don’t know why, really. But I can tell you why they make this list: They regenerate. They’re the Jason Vorhees of monsters. Knock a troll (or other regenerating monster) down and you'd better put another one in the head, or it’s going to get back up and eat your spleen. The groans inspired by monsters that the players think are down and out, but aren’t, make these guys pretty much unmatched in my book.
So there’s my list. What’s yours look like? What monsters are you always thrilled to run? Or thrilled to see in an adventure? Post your lists on the D&D Community page or send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!