Thanks for dropping by my weekly feature, Irreverent Reading! It’s where my son and I read every word of the Monster Manual, dreaming and opining about what we find.
Week three, or is it four(?), of homeschooling. Now that it’s clear that we’re not going back until the Fall, we’ve got more distance learning to do than ever. Still, Xander and I will chip, chip, chip away at the MM until we are done.
And so, Dear Reader, come along and frolic in the fields of the funky with us!
Faerie Dragon. Xander just loved this little fellow, every little part of him down to his tricksy nature. And, honestly, this is a great creature to throw into your “young kids” campaign: a puckish little beastie to show them that not everything they encounter is for killing. It reminds me of the kind of thing you might encounter in the excellent RPG for kids, Little Wizards.
If you want to do something with the Faerie Dragon for the more mature folks in your life, look no further than the creature’s Euphoria Breath. Imagine a group of skeezy gnomes that have captured a bunch of Faerie Dragons in order to harvest their breath for a new drug. It’s another adventure that writes itself. You can work in clues that lead back to the gnome lab, have a big fight in and around the Rube Goldberg breath collection device, and free a bunch of a tiny dragons at the end. (And, damn, what a great ally they would make!)
Flameskull. Based on running The Lost Mines of Phandelver, I can tell you what a great tool this is for player torment. When I ran Lost Mines, the PCs ended up just running through the room with the Flameskull, taking their lumps, and just moving on. (If memory serves, the Lost Mines version may be even tougher than the one in the MM.) To me old Flamey here just screams old school D&D.
My favorite part of the design is its rejuvenation power:
Rejuvenation. If the flameskull is destroyed, it regains all its hit points in 1 hour unless holy water is sprinkled on its remains or a dispel magic or remove curse spell is cast on them.
Imagine being a relatively low level party that manages to take out one of these, only to find it barring the way OUT of the dungeon on the way back. Good times.
Flumph. And in our very next listing, something that couldn’t be less old school D&D! Be ready to see a few of these offed along the way due to player paranoia. “Wait, these weird little jellyfish guys are helpful?” Be generous and offer some sort of roll (maybe Nature or Insight) to reveal their essence.
Sure, these aren’t hardcore badasses, but D&D is a big tent now; I like seeing a friendly parasite that’s quite happy to encourage the destruction of its food source if it means doing good in the world. If only humans were this altruistic!
Fomorian. If you’re looking for a candidate for a quest to scour a creature from the earth, then I nominate these guys. Fomorians have no redeeming features. Even before their fall, they sound like the dickish aliens from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus… perfectly formed, but arbitrarily cruel.
Also, this is another creature to take care with if you’re doing your own read aloud. There’s stuff in their write-up that’s downright gnarly:
Fomorians mark their territory with the corpses of their enemies, painting their cavern walls with blood…
There’s more, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Fungi. It’s smart to group these together in one listing. Your one stop shop for Underdark flora. Xander cherishes the Gas Spore so much that he needed to immortalize it in a drawing…
I kind of love the idea that Beholders, and the adventurers who slay them, are so common that a fungus would evolve to take advantage of that dynamic as part of its life cycle. Also the Beholder’s Memories bit of the Gas Spore narrative is inspired fantasy game weirdness: “A gas spore that sprouts from a beholder’s corpse sometimes carries with it memories of a deceased parent.” Anyone exposed to such a spore might pick up a memory.
Imagine an adventure where you track down individuals exposed to such spores to piece together clues to a mystery… OR how about a party cultivating a gas spore on the corpse of a beholder just to obtain its secrets.
The Shrieker is as old as D&D itself, and I remember my Dad buying a set of Grenadier minis with a nice sculpt of a Shrieker in it. I also like the idea of Underdark denizens cultivating the Shrieker as an alarm system. It rhymes with the idea of indigenous peoples using everything in their environment to survive.
Apparently the Violet Fungus exists to give PCs a more active fungal foe to fight. It doesn’t do much damage, but it’s a worthy threat for adventurers that are just starting out. But still, it occurs to me that it would make an excellent addition to your garden variety pit trap. Perhaps the fungus started growing from a body that fell in years ago, and it’s just been waiting dormant for the opportunity to propagate itself…
I’ll be honest, this was tough to put together this week. We are at last heading into the dark forest of the current situation, and we’re all going to see it unfold together.
We’re in for a tough couple of weeks.
Still, it’s important that we keep our lives and minds going through all this. You only get one life, and only so many moments to exist.
So work, play, and do your best. That’s all we’ve got for now.