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D&D Monster Origins

Monsters (D–F)

This is a part of a collection of monster origins. See the main monster origins page for more.

Darkmantle

The darkmantle was created for the third edition of D&D. Todd Lockwood has two pieces of concept art from its original design.

As for piercers, as hinted by R&D's Jesse Decker, their evolutionary line melded with lurkers above to become darkmantles -- holding onto dungeon ceilings in the guise of stalactites with camouflaging powers to match the surrounding stone. Now able to fly, a fallen darkmantle is far from helpless, as opposed to their piercer ancestors. A subtle mention of this appears in the description: "Scholars believe the darkmantle has recently evolved from a similar but far less capable subterranean predator."

Uncredited, September 27, 2006, D&D Alumni: A Look Back at Mimics

Destrachan

Called the Brawny (claw) Monster in the Monster Manual Concept Art by Todd Lockwood.

Demons

Demons are also unpredictable, not prone to follow instructions save through fear and force. A major one might well not cause death and desituction, but rather do something wealsome on a whim...or be exceptionally cruel.

Devils are far more predictable and orderly in their evil activities. Of course they too are subject to force and fear, but they need not be supervised continually to be assured of their acting as instructed, because their own nature is regimentation and obedience to those more powerful and malicious.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), December 23, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

The devils were a mix of imagination and Dante's writing. The demon types I, II, III, etc. were similarly devised using mainly my imagination.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 29, 2004, EN World Q&A VI

The separation of demons and devils followed rather naturally from the use of the alignments. Demons in mythology are typically depicted as being brutish and chaotic, while devils are more orderly and cunning, so there you have the distinction.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), October 13, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Derro

Long ago it happened that certain (underground) cities were abandoned and into those cities stole many mild mortals to live. At first they were normal people, though on a lower intelligence plane; and ignorant due to lack of proper education. It was inevitable that certain inhabitants of the culture forests lose themselves and escape proper development; and some of them are of faulty development. But due to their improper handling of the life-force and ray apparatus in the abandoned cities, these apparatii became harmful in effect. They simply did not realize that the ray filters of the ray mechanisms must be changed and much of the conductive metal renewed regularly. If such renewals are not made, the apparatus collects in itself—in its metal—a disintegrant particle which gradually turns its beneficial qualities into strangely harmful ones.

These ignorant people learned to play with these things, but not to renew them; so gradually they were mentally impregnated with the persistently disintegrative particles. This habituates the creature's mind, its mental movements, to being overwhelmed by detrimental, evil force flows which in time produce a creature whose every reaction in thought is dominated by a detrimental will. So it is that these wild people, living in the same rooms with degenerating force generators, in time become dero, which is short for detrimental energy robot.

When this process has gone on long enough, a race of dero is produced whose every thought movement is concluded with the decision to kill. They will instantly kill or torture anyone whom they contact unless they are extremely familiar with them and fear them. That is why they do not instantly kill each other—because, being raised together, the part of their brain that functions has learned very early to recognize as friend or heartily to fear the members of their own group. They recognize no other living thing as friend; to a dero all new things are enemy.

Richard Sharpe Shaver (1907–1975), I Remember Lemuria (1948), p. 31–32.

Devils

Inferno, illus Gustave Doré. Public domain; thanks to Art Passions for the image.

Demons are also unpredictable, not prone to follow instructions save through fear and force. A major one might well not cause death and desituction, but rather do something wealsome on a whim...or be exceptionally cruel.

Devils are far more predictable and orderly in their evil activities. Of course they too are subject to force and fear, but they need not be supervised continually to be assured of their acting as instructed, because their own nature is regimentation and obedience to those more powerful and malicious.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), December 23, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

The devils were a mix of imagination and Dante's writing.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 29, 2004, EN World Q&A VI

The separation of demons and devils followed rather naturally from the use of the alignments. Demons in mythology are typically depicted as being brutish and chaotic, while devils are more orderly and cunning, so there you have the distinction.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), October 13, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Displacer Beast

Vaguely inspired by a PJ Farmer critter in his "Created Universes" series, but not drawn from any specific thing therein.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), March 10, 2003, EN World Q&A II

Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle [inspired the displacer beast.]

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 12, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

It looks nothing else than a big cat, if you forget those tentacles sticking out from its shoulders, and make allowances for those monster forelegs.

A. E. Van Vogt (1912–2000), The Black Destroyer (1939; part I of the Voyage of the Space Beagle)

Dragons, Chromatic and Metallic

Originally there were the five chromatic and evil dragons, each with a color that suited their breath weapon, and a sixth good dragon patterned on the Oriental model of that imaginary creature. As it was both or different origination and alignment I decided to empower the gold dragon so as to more closely resemble the potent Oriental sort. So it got more of everything, including two breath weapons.

There came a time thereafter when more metallic dragons were desirable so as to expand the roster of good, Oriental-type ones. Thus all of them were modeled on the gold dragon template, had two breath weapons.

Logically, with metal value being used as the basis for potency, platunum (Bahamut) being the highest, then gold and silver, the sequence should have been platinum-gold-electrum-silver-copper-bronze. However, I thought bronze looked more potent than copper, and skipped then to brass—that metal conveying some not-so-benign connotations.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), January 31, 2004, EN World Q&A VI

I had read about many dragons, and seen many depictions of them. The European illustrations of dragons usually showed a quadruped reptile with wings and a long tail and neck. As a matter of fact, what was probably the first dragon used on the table top was a converted dinosaur model. Taking a plastic model of a stegosaurus in a scale of around 25 mm to the foot, I made it into a fabulous monster. I cut the tail spikes off, and two became horns for the dragon's head while the tail proper was extended by wire and auto-body putty, and barbed too. The back plates of the dinosaur were left in place and, with the addition of cardboard wings, the general form of the fearsome red dragon was visible! With yellow, orange, red and indigo paint applied, a reasonable facsimile of the medieval illustrations of the dragon was ready for play for the next tabletop Chainmail fantasy miniatures game fought out in the name of the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Rules Association on the 6' x 12' sand table in my basement. All well and good, but the thrill was waning.

Some 'historical' references spoke of dragons as 'serpents' with poisonous breath. There were mentions of dragons of green colour. Thus, it was a simple matter to add the green dragon that exhaled a cloud of poisonous gas, chlorine gas having a green colour. Oriental mythology included many colours of their particular form of dragons, and the mahjongg game has three sets of different tiles named dragons—green, red and white. Having played that game since I was a boy, how could I ignore the white dragon? So what form of breath weapon went with that colour? Snow and cold, of course. So another breed of dragonkind was created. After some contemplation, I added the blue colour, as that could well represent lightning, and there was a spell in the rules covering just such an electrical bolt. Acid breath seemed another reasonable form of attack, black represented that well, and thus the fifth kind of malign race of dragons was born. All five were based on the most common European depiction of the 'fire drake', of course. This was because the base game they were devised for assumed a quasi-medieval environment, similar to that of the European fairy-tale paradigm. That ended the near-complacency of would-be dragon slayers. No longer could a single set of defences and attacks apply when a dragon was known to be on the loose. Better still, one only glimpsed was still likely an enigma, for its colour, weapon and vulnerabilities could be anyone of five different sorts.

To balance these evil drakes there soon came the noble gold dragon, based on the Oriental form of dragon. To bolster the benign ranks of dragons led by that creature, there followed the other 'Metallic' dragons—silver, bronze, copper and brass. Next came Tiamat the evil Chromatic queen, and Bahamut the good platinum king to command these two families of mighty creatures. Even all that was just the beginning…

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), Slayer's Guide to Dragons (2002)

Dreggal

In developing some nasty inhabitants for Gehenna, I figured that the dreggals would be the most populous, not the most powerful. Thus you see lots of them in action—the proverbial cannon fodder for the greater creatures behind them. They carry out the tasks assigned, are expendable.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), October 3, 2002, EN World Q&A I

Drow

This race is a Gygax invention. He says that the name is Anglo-Saxon, but the several dictionaries I have used have not substantiated this claim. The OED has the word meaning only 'rain/mist' and 'illness' in noun form. Anglo-Saxon dictionaries lacking an entry for 'drow' include Hall's and Bosworth & Toller's.

Nothing like [the Drow race] is found in any Norse mythology at all. Dockalfar had crow's feet and were ugly. The Scots "drow" were simply "dark elves." Thus TSR, now WotC/Hasbro can claim rights to the Drow as depicted in the D&D game system because of the unique nature of their description and attributes.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 5, 2004, EN World Q&A VI

"Drow" in an Anglo-Saxon word. I found it in an old unexpurgated dictionary way back when. It means "dark elf." From that entry I created the drow race for AD&D, of course. There is no other background for them in myth or fable. Their characteristics were designed as they were to make them a suitable set of inhabitants of the subterranean world.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), October 23, 2002, EN World Q&A I

I wanted to have a new, unique, and interesting race of demi-humans that dwelled in and command much of the vast underworld of Oerth. They were, as stated, of Evil bent as a race, so the clear intent was to have fell opponents for non-Evil PC. That all drow were not of Evil I also noted in the "Gord the Rogue" tales, for Leda, a drow, was certainly not of malign sort.

The drow abilities were given to them to highlight their unique nature and potency.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), October 14, 2002, EN World Q&A I

While abberant individuals can be other than steeped in wickedness, the Drow race is EVIL, more so than the Melnibonean one of Michael Moorcock's creation

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), February 17, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Dwarf

Dwarves are miners, forgers, and somewhat mechanical.

Gnomes are miners, botanists, and highly mechanical.

Dwarves love gold and gems.

Gnomes appreciate objects d'art more than gold, although those of Zurich love to keep the wealth of dwarves and others secure.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), May 6, 2005, EN World Q&A IX

Since they were to come in the days of the power of Melkor, Aulë made the Dwarves strong to endure. Therefore they are stone-hard, stubborn, fast in friendship and in enmity, and they suffer toil and hanger and hurt of body more hardily than all other speaking peoples; and they live long, far beyond the span of Men, yet not for ever. Aforetime it was held among the Elves in Middle-earth that dying the Dwarves returned to the earth and the stone of which they were made; yet that is not their own belief.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Silmarillion (1977). Quenta Silmarillion, chapter 2.

Elf

From where did I get my take on elves? Mainly from fairy tales such as the one in which the 12 princesses went through a secret door into Elfland every night, dancd with elven princes so as to have holes in their slippers. Also, the folklore about etering the world of elves through a secret way under a stone that depicts elves as human-like in many respects. Much authored fantasy also treats elves in like manner, including their being soul-les.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), July 19, 2006, EN World Q&A XI

I determined to have elvish PCs play a regular role in the D&D game because of JRRT's writing, that's a fact. As to the inspiration for D&D elves, no, it didn't really come from his version of elves. although I did make them foes of orcs, and shoot bows well so as to not disapoint the fans of the rings Trilogy too much. After all, in D&D elves are inferior to humans in all respects save longevity.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), July 21, 2006, EN World Q&A XI

Ethereal Maurauder

Designed for the third edition of D&D. Called the Dropper in the Monster Manual Concept Art (Todd Lockwood?).

Frost Worm

The frost worm first appeared in the third edition.