D&D General D&D monsters and the myths they come from...


B/X Known World
I know a little about this stuff and I'm sure there are others who know a lot more. So how about a thread where we delve into the public domain origins of the monsters that appear in D&D. No reason. Obviously not all the monsters in D&D are from public domain sources, but a surprising number have antecedents in myths and legends.

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A suffusion of yellow

to tell the truth, Ive often been disappointed in how DnD redesigned Folkloric monsters and makes them boring battlebeasts. The Tarrasque is a classic example.
Six legs, turtle back and lion headed kaiju is kinda cool
and while being impervious to damage works, actually having a way to use a prayer-spell like Consecration to tame/calm/stun it would be awesome.

maybe we could discuss ways to add folklore abilities/vunerabilities to Monsters too - the classic iirc is Hags have sensitive noses and if pepper is thrown at them they will stop and sneeze


Jäger aus Kurpfalz
I posed this on another forum last week regarding monsters Wizbro claims as IP.

“displacer beast” one of the many things that D&D has ripped off from other media, this is the “coeurl” from A. E. van Vogt’s Black Destroyer, Marvel Comics published an adaption of the story in the October 1973 release Words Unknown #5

“githyanki” Charles Stross took this from George R. R. Martin’s Dying of the Light, the relationship between the githyanki and illithids were inspired by the Thrintun/Tnuctipun relationship from Larry Niven's World of Ptavvs

“kuo-toa” this seems to be a renaming of the “deep ones” from the Cthulhu Mythos, Babylonian mythology has a race of fishmen called "kulullû"

“mind flayer” this appears to be a renamed version of the “chthonians” from Brian Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath and The Caller of the Black

“umber hulk” this creature looks like the "Antlar" a burrowing kaiju that appeared on The Blue Stone of Baraj the seventh episode of Ultraman that was originally televised on August 28, 1966 “umber” is the name of a natural brown earth pigment that is named for the Umbria region of central Italy and also may be related to the Latin word "umbra", meaning "shadow".


B/X Known World
Oh. Wow. So this is repeating work already begun.

Check these threads on another forum.



Being that I'm half Japanese, an amateur historian/folklorist, and somebody who was largely disappointed with Oriental Adventures, from back in the day - so many mistakes and/or concepts taken out of context, and the inaccuracies regarding Japanese monsters, I knew that someday I would try to fix those. I sought some measure of historical/folklorist accuracy. So from 2010 - 2017, I developed and published the Kaidan setting of Japanese Horror (PFRPG), 15 books and supplements - I started development after 3.5 ended and before 4.0 began, hence why it's for Pathfinder. But it's a setting, with only some Pathfinderisms in there, and could easily be run in 5e with some tweaking. While we never came out with a full bestiary on Japanese monsters, the adventures (3 full modules and 4 one-shots) feature many Japanese monsters which were developed closely with Japanese folklore for accuracy.

The Kappa for instance probably exists for 5e, it definitely exists for PF, but at the PF version was waaaay off. Kappa were known to be expert wrestlers and bone-breakers, and included a paragon racial class for Kappa called the bone-breaker, for example. I was also using the pencil art of Mark Hyzer for all my monsters, which has a nice quality about them.

Of course I included lots of monsters that never existed in RPGs before, like the Suragami. An aberrant being that resembles a disembodied horse's head with a tail for it's "neck". This monster kills riding horses out of human watch, eats it's head off, then inserts it's snake like body into the cavity of the neck where the head had been. It's magic then animates the dead horse, and hides the decapitation wounds, awaiting for it's rider to get on the horses back. While along the trail, whenever the rider gets out of eyesight of his allies, the Suragami attacks. It pulls itself out of the neck, which immediately causes the animated horse to loose animation and fall to the ground trapping it's rider's leg under the weight of the dead horse, then the Suragami strikes at the rider attempting to bite his head off, and consume the rider. Pretty nightmarish stuff!



Chaotic Looseleaf
“umber hulk” this creature looks like the "Antlar" a burrowing kaiju that appeared on The Blue Stone of Baraj the seventh episode of Ultraman that was originally televised on August 28, 1966 “umber” is the name of a natural brown earth pigment that is named for the Umbria region of central Italy and also may be related to the Latin word "umbra", meaning "shadow".
Thaaat one's a bit of a stretch. It basically amounts to "they're both giant stag beetles." But as a Final Fantasy fan I was particularly gobsmacked to learn that 'coeurl' predates 'displacer beast!' Thank you for that!

I enjoy the weird little discrepancies that have become their own truth. Obviously, Gygax and his fellows knew Medusa was a gorgon, and all snake-haired petrificatrices were not medusae, but they must've really liked the poisonous Libyan bovine from Topsell's 1607 The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes enough to make the allowance.

The lamia (as a species rather than an individual named Lamia) and su(-monster) are also apparently from Topsell.

(With thanks to afroakuma and dopplegreener on StackExchange for help with the details.)

One of my favorite things about D&D is that after 50 years of focused development, it is its own source. Are D&D elves true to Tolkien's elves? Should they be? Was it ever even a consideration? It doesn't matter! There's more content written about D&D elves than there is about Tolkien's elves. Tolkien's elves are the less attested interpretation!


Chaotic Looseleaf
It's all good, man, I just don't see it. They're all clearly inspired by stag beetles, but while the upper right image is clearly an update of the lower left image, by any metric, the only reason I see similarities between the two of them and the lower right image are because I've been playing D&D for 35 years.

Antlar doesn't look anything like the other three.

That one has been fairly well documented. The umber hulk is like the rust monster, Gygax documented he saw them in a toy shop bag of knock off ultraman monsters, bought them, and made game stats for them.
Ah, it was from the famous bag of plastic knockoff toys? Okay, I can see that game of whisper down the lane working out.

My apologies, Valamir.

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