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D&D Monster Origins

Monsters (L–M)

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


Also the Leocrocuta, a most swift beast, as big almost as an hee-asse, legged like an Hart, with a neck, taile, and breast of a Lion, headed like these grayes or badgers, with a cloven foot in twaine: the slit of his mouth reacheth to his eares: instead of teeth, an entire whol bone. They report, that this beast counterfeiteth a mans voice.

Pliny the Elder (23–79), Natural History, tr. Philemon Holland (1601). Book 8, chapter 21.

The Lionesses of Æthyopia, if they bee covered with any of this kind [Hyænes], bring forth another beast called Leocrocuta, which likewise knoweth how to counterfet the voice both of man, and of other beasts. He seeth continually with both eies: hee hath one entire bone in steed of teeth in either jaw (and no gombs at all) wherewith he cutteth, as with a knife. Now these bones, becuase they should not waxe dull and blunt with continuall grating one against the other, they are enclosed each of them within a case or sheath.

Pliny the Elder (23–79), Natural History, tr. Philemon Holland (1601). Book 8, chapter 30.


The lich just seemed a natural for the upper ranks of the undead in the game, so I created the various features of that monster for the system, and used only broad general knowledge to do so.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), September 29, 2002, EN World Q&A I

The AD&D lich was inspired by the stories of Robert E. Howard. There was no model for the monster to be found in the works of JRRT. I can't say what other sources I drew from when imagining and creating the lich, for I have read so much recalling odd bits that went into the creation is nigh unto impossible without spending a lot of time going back and checking on authored fiction and folklore sources I have—my collection of books in paperback and hardbound editions numbers many thousands and they are spread from basement to attic nowadays.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), September 19, 2004, EN World Q&A VII

lic n. body, B,Cr : corpse, AO,B; Æ, CP. ['lich'; Ger. leiche]

Dr. John R. Clark Hall, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary (2nd edition, 1916), p. 187

Lich, Demilich

item: the skull Ohmphal, of the Master Thief Ohmmphal, with great ruby eyes, and one pair of jeweled hands.


Then a thief cried, Master, Master, the skull, the skull! It moves! It clamps its teeth!


He saw Slevyas look over his shoulder, and he saw a fear like death in Slevyas' face. Then came a sudden intense darkness, like a puff of inky smoke. But before it came he saw bony arms clasp Slevyas' throat, and, as the Mouser dragged him back, he saw the doorway crowded with black skeletal forms whose eyes glittered green and red and sapphire.

Fritz Leiber (1910–1992), Swords Against Death (1970), chapter 3: Theives' House.


There are many literary and fokeloric sources for various lycanthropes, especially the werewolf.

Lycanthrope, Werebear

He is a skin-changer. He changes his skin; sometimes he is a huge black bear, sometimes he is a great strong black-haired man with huge arms and a great beard. I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892–1973), The Hobbit (1937). Chapter 7.

Lycanthrope, Werewolf

The concept of a creature that could change from wolf to man can be traced at least to Pliny, who uses the term versipellis, and to Herodotus who speaks of the Neuri.

It seems that these people are conjurers: for both the Scythians and the Greeks who dwell in Scythia say that every Neurian once a year becomes a wolf for a few days, at the end of which time he is restored to his proper shape. Not that I believe this, but they constantly affirm it to be true, and are even ready to back their assertion with an oath.

Herodotus (484 BC – 425 BC), The Persian Wars, tr. George Rawlinson. Book IV: Melpomene.


The martikhora is an animal found in this country. It has a face like a man's, a skin red as cinnabar, and is as large as a lion. It has three rows of teeth, ears and light-blue eyes like those of a man; its tail is like that of a land scorpion, containing a sting more than a cubit long at the end. It has other stings on each side of its tail and one on the top of its head, like the scorpion, with which it inflicts a wound that is always fatal. If it is attacked from a distance, it sets up its tail in front and discharges its stings as if from a bow; if attacked from behind, it straightens it out and launches its stings in a direct line to the distance of a thirty meter. The wound inflicted is fatal to all animals except the elephant. The stings are about a foot long and about as thick as a small rush. The martikhora is called man-eater, because, although it preys upon other animals, it kills and devours a greater number of human beings. It fights with both its claws and stings, which, according to Ctesias, grow again after they have been discharged. There is a great number of these animals in India, which are hunted and killed with spears or arrows by natives mounted on elephants.

Photius (c. 815–897), summarizing Ctesias of Cnidus (4th cent. BC), Indica, §15, tr. J. H. Freese.


Mermen and mermaids come from the same Greek roots as tritons: fierce sea-people that were part human and part fish.

Mind Flayer (Illithid)

The Illithids were not meant to be extra-terrestrial in origination, rather marine and subterranean.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), March 19, 2005, EN World Q&A VIII

The Illithid/Githyanki relationship probably slid into my mind as a result of reading Larry Niven's The World of Ptavvs, which features a psionic master/slave race relationship far in the past that nearly killed all the sapients in the galaxy when it turned hot. (And, oddly, I suspect whoever came up with the Illithids had been reading Larry Niven, too ...)

Charles Stross, mid-late 2000, Legacy of Zerthimon interview

Larry Niven's Known Space series of novels probably shaped some of the illithid-gith stuff (both indirectly, and directly with the Alderson Disc of Penumbra).

Bruce Cordell, mid-late 2000, Legacy of Zerthimon interview

Larry Niven's writing had nothing to do with the creation of the Illithid race for the AD&D game.

I happened to be thinking of devising a new terrible race if creatures inimical to humans, and my eye fell upon a paperback book authored by Brian Lumley, The Burrowers Beneath. The cover illustration was of a bipedal monster with a head resembling a squid or an octopus. Voila!

That was a perfect model for an underground-dwelling race of fiendish predators on humankins, and thus the mind flayer was born.

I made up all the details of the race, of course, they being a form of AD&D monster.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), September 22, 2005, EN World Q&A IX


Asterius dying childless, Minos wished to reign over Crete, but his claim was opposed. So he alleged that he had received the kingdom from the gods, and in proof of it he said that whatever he prayed for would be done. And in sacrificing to Poseidon he prayed that a bull might appear from the depths, promising to sacrifice it when it appeared. Poseidon did send him up a fine bull, and Minos obtained the kingdom, but he sent the bull to the herds and sacrificed another.

But angry at him for not sacrificing the bull, Poseidon made the animal savage, and contrived that Pasiphae should conceive a passion for it. In her love for the bull she found an accomplice in Daedalus, an architect, who had been banished from Athens for murder. He constructed a wooden cow on wheels, took it, hollowed it out in the inside, sewed it up in the hide of a cow which he had skinned, and set it in the meadow in which the bull used to graze. Then he introduced Pasiphae into it; and the bull came and coupled with it, as if it were a real cow. And she gave birth to Asterius, who was called the Minotaur. He had the face of a bull, but the rest of him was human; and Minos, in compliance with certain oracles, shut him up and guarded him in the Labyrinth. Now the Labyrinth which Daedalus constructed was a chamber that with its tangled windings perplexed the outward way.

Apollodorus, Library and Epitome (1st cent.?), tr./ed. James George Frazer. Book 3.


[Question: Do you know who created the Moondog?]

That would be me, as is true with the majority of the entries in the work It is a play on the term sun dog, not a creature at all, of course.

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), May 27, 2005, EN World Q&A IX


Why some folks want scientific accuracy in a FRPG is qite beyond me. After all, There are some things that mankind is not meant to know, seems a logical statement when applied to a game dealing with the supernatural.

All that aside, the Positive [Energy Plane association with mummies] was just a mistake

Gary Gygax (1938–2008), May 8, 2005, EN World Q&A IX