In our GMing strangeness, we all have a pet monster. Some monster that appeals to us — and to be perfectly honest — to us alone. You bring out this monster and the players around the table may even roll their eyes, as if to say: “That thing, again.”
It’s fair to say the flumph falls into this category. So do a lot of first edition Fiend Folio selections for the old guard players. The logic of the monster’s insertion into the story doesn’t even matter. When it’s your pet creature, the one you love to portray, good sense isn’t even a factor. You just drop that sucker in and delight in the familiar.
So, as GM, do you resist the urge for this indulgence? It’s good to be mindful of your tendencies and try something new. (How else do you discover your next pet monster?) But do you deny yourself your fun, too? It’s a game after all, and everyone around the table needs some fun, including the GM.
I can’t answer those questions. I leave it to you to decide when to put pet monsters into play. But here are some of mine.
My natural reaction to “good” goblins is to recoil. (I’m looking especially at you, Eberron, and the ever-present goblin residents of theÂ city of Sharn.) I prefer sneaky, murderous unclean little green fellas who slit throats and skulk in dark corners of dungeons. Pathfinder’s football-headed singing haters of dogs and horses is a nice touch, but really, I admire their shiftiness more than their capability for holding a tune.
But I have a soft spot for the bhuka, the desert-dwelling goblins who occupy the “noble savage” slot of fantasy gaming. They live in tight-knit communities, dress in colorful clothing, have a hierarchy that reveres the elderly and druids (so, if you’re an elderly druid, you’ve got it made). They have long lashes to protect them from the glare of the sun and the ability to find water in the most inhospitable waste. They make interesting allies, especially for adventurers who haven’t a clue about making preparations for a stay in a desert.
Â Talking, armored polar bears
If any players have an inclination to head for the arctic, then I’m going to get all Golden Compass on them. Dire polar bears, with their prehistoric tusks and incredible size are cool enough. But give them a voice (call them werebears or what have you) and the party is suddenly up against a cunning foe that can be as ferocious or helpful as the situation requires. Kodiak and Siberian brown bears are dangerous enough (incredibly stealthy and lethal for creatures of their large size), but there’s something about that added intelligence of talking, armored polar bears that makes the creature something else.
Gudanna, the Bull of Heaven
Ishtar’s chosen instrument for killing the legendary hero Gilgamesh and his beastman friend Ekindu is the great bull that is the mythological antecedent to other hoofed terrors, such as the Atik, the minotaur, and the mechanical gorgon. Its horns are capped with lethal metal points, its stampeding hooves trample anything in its path, torrents of rain and lightning accompany its furious attacks, and even its gigantic cowpats are an unbearable assault on the senses and defenders’ dignity. That’s right, it will run you over and then crap all over you (I’ll leave the metaphorical implication of that for you to ponder on your own time). Even viewing its magnificent black hide is said to intimidate battle-hardened warriors. Any adventurer who sets out thinking it can go out and engage in a little cow-tipping is in for a rude awakening.
Now, it’s time for sharing. What’s your pet monster and what makes it cool to use?