D&D 2E Looking back at the Monstrous Compendia: the MC appendices, Monstrous Manual, and more!

Voadam

Legend
Like Alzrius, I was unaware of 2e's fiend purge until later, so the name changes didn't bother me too much. Even now, I'm not bothered much by it because I do have the 2e stats for them. I just don't bother much with using the terms baatezu and tanar'ri in my game, they're devils and demons.

Some background information on the development of MC8 here:

Great interview find!

I just wish he had not gone with those apostrophes. Also it was a bit unfortunate that Aasimar can look like he was hiding a juvenile Assimar reference.

I was annoyed by the reasons for the scrubbing of demons and devils, and I loved things like Mayfair Games AD&D Demons sourcebooks, but like I said, B/X with no fiends is still quintessential D&D to me. That said the non-inclusion of planar stuff at all and then the removal of all lords references was quite noticeable at the time to those of us transferring over from 1e to 2e.

I always liked the later explanation that Tanari are a specific group/type of demons that share certain traits and became dominant in the abyss.

3e developed this with things like bebiliths being demons but not Tanari.

Mongoose developed this further in their 3.0 Slayer's Guide to Demons which had multiple themed families of demons (shadow demons, incorporeal possession madness demons, etc.) with different specific traits than Tanari.
 

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Orius

Legend
The guardinals, eladrin, and rilmani were created for the Blood Wars card game to the best of my knowledge. I never played it, have no idea how it worked, but I suppose there were 9 different sides, each based on alignment. NG, CG, and N really didn't have any sort of exemplars though, so likely they were created to fill a niche in the card game. Then they got ported to the second Planescape MC, and they're much better known for their use in D&D.
 

The guardinals, eladrin, and rilmani were created for the Blood Wars card game to the best of my knowledge. I never played it, have no idea how it worked, but I suppose there were 9 different sides, each based on alignment. NG, CG, and N really didn't have any sort of exemplars though, so likely they were created to fill a niche in the card game. Then they got ported to the second Planescape MC, and they're much better known for their use in D&D.
Yep, Eladrin and Guardinals came from the Blood Wars CCG. You can see the first depictions of people such as Talisid and Morwel on them.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
So far on our monstrous tour of AD&D worlds, we've been to classic settings such as Krynn, Oerth, and Toril. We've been to the depths of space. We've even been to the distant reaches of the Outer Planes. But now, with MC9 Monstrous Compendium Spelljammer Appendix II, we come at last to...the depths of space. Again.

Huh.

In hindsight, it strikes me as odd that TSR felt the need to release a second Spelljammer MC less than a year after the first one. Was the campaign setting that much of a hot property back in 1991, especially where its monsters were concerned, that someone at TSR was scrambling to put out a second monster book so soon after the first? Or did they just have a surplus of stellar monsters lying around and decided to throw them in a binder? As crazy as it seems, I suspect the answer is closer to the first idea than the second, if only because several of the creatures here have tie-ins to some adventures that were coming out at the time.

As it was, I mostly just remember pining for this back when I'd gotten into AD&D, because I had just enough Spelljammer products that it was clear to me that this was "the cool one" of the two SJ MCs. And you know what? I was absolutely right!

Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of monsters here that were rightfully consigned to the dustbin of history; I can't imagine that anyone got excited to run into a monitor, which is basically a discount angel aasimon, patrolling space to hunt evildoers. Likewise, the mercurial slime is every other ooze that you've ever run into, except slightly larger and in groups. And the allura...didn't we already have a conversation about the igundi? Because this is basically them all over again. Except, you know, in space.

Oh, and lest I forget, we have space animals too. I can only assume that the giant space hamsters in MC7 were just that popular that we ended up with greatswan, who aren't nearly as much fun. Ditto for the gullion, which as their name suggests, are space seagulls. But at least they got a proper name, unlike the space owls, which are just called "space owls." Of the three birds mentioned in this paragraph, you think the space owls would have their own name, since they have 18 Intelligence and the ability to speak. Maybe they just have a super low Charisma?

But in all honesty, this book's failures are overshadowed by its successes; there are simply too many monsters here that are inspirational for me to dislike it. It pays homage to the Japanese influence of the first MC in the form of the bionoid (that's a Guyver, y'all!), the spirit warriors (which can combine to form the Megazord Zwarth), and the gammaroid (I trust I don't need to explain that one).

And that's just the beginning. MC9 also introduces three dragons – moon, sun, and stellar – that I found to be seriously imaginative. I love, for instance, that the moon dragon not only changes color from white to black as per lunar phases, but not only changes its (evil) alignment as it does so (mirroring that old idea that lunar activity drives people nuts), but also affecting lycanthropes that see it! It's intuitive and it's fun, though I wish we'd seen one of those guys in SJA4 Under the Dark Fist, what with the Vodoni Empire's army of space-werewolves (and I love that adventure just because it has a space-werewolf invasion from an evil galactic empire; it doesn't get more metal than that!).

This is also where we see a bunch of humanoid-type creatures that would come to be Spelljammer's version of Romulans, Klingons, Ferengi, etc. Which isn't to say that the dohwar, scro, xixchil, aperusa, insectare, etc. are meant to be Star Trek rip-offs, but rather these are the races that make up the background of (somewhat) relatable humanoids that populate the more civilized parts of the setting. It's not all weird monsters with giant teeth and eyeballs; these are the guys who're also piloting ships across the space-lanes, sitting across the tavern, and arriving for expository scenes with important NPCs. Heck, a bunch of them even get PC write-ups in CGR1 The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook, making it clear that in wildspace, they were up there with elves, dwarves, etc.

I have to throw out a special mention to the witchlight marauders, here. I picked up copies of SJS1 Goblins' Return and SJQ1 Heart of the Enemy fairly early on, and my mouth was absolutely watering at reading more about these world-ending bio-weapons. These are the sort of monsters to make an Umbrella Corporation executive salivate, being designed to wipe out all life on an entire world. Looking them over now, I'm not sure how much they hold up in the face of the dedicated power-gamer who has magic items all over the place (though the space marauder will probably mess anyone up in short order), but if you follow the "No. Appearing" listings, then yeah, you're probably going to get killed quite readily unless you're super high level.

Of course, the strongest creature here is probably the constellate, which is the imaginative name for living constellations. When the text itself notes that they can casually shatter planets, and their Hit Dice is "N/A," these are a plot device more than a monster.

Also, on a completely random note, does anyone besides me remember the Sky Commanders? Because for some reason, the gadabout really reminds me of them, being a plant that's essentially a living space-suit, having its own air supply and butterfly-style wings. Not quite the same as the mountain-rappelling action figures, but it makes me think of them anyway.

There's a lot more here I could go on about, such as the firelich (which isn't really a lich, but is most definitely on fire), the fal (which I mostly remember as being a plot point in one of the Cloakmaster Cycle books), and the astrosphinx (their insane rhymes just seems like so much more fun than a regular sphinx), but really, I think that pretty well sums it up. There was a lot of chaff here, but a lot of wheat as well, and it was notably sweet wheat to beat-, er, to boot.

Still, it's probably for the best we didn't get a third MC for Spelljammer the way some other campaigns did. We got a lot of awesome monsters out of this one, but I question if lightning would have struck a third time. Fortunately, TSR didn't feel like rolling the dice again, and instead moved out of space and into the misty tendrils of a certain demiplane...

Please note my use of affiliate links in this post.
 

And the allura...didn't we already have a conversation about the igundi? Because this is basically them all over again. Except, you know, in space.
I blame Jane Badler.
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Faolyn

(she/her)
Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of monsters here that were rightfully consigned to the dustbin of history; I can't imagine that anyone got excited to run into a monitor, which is basically a discount angel aasimon, patrolling space to hunt evildoers.
They're totally space cops. Note that one of their forms has fiery red hair, and the other, icy blue hair.

Likewise, the mercurial slime is every other ooze that you've ever run into, except slightly larger and in groups. And the allura...didn't we already have a conversation about the igundi? Because this is basically them all over again. Except, you know, in space.
V connotations aside, I think it's an homage to all those sexy space babes who turned out to be monsters in disguise.
 

Orius

Legend
I'll be honest, I think this one is utterly forgettable. It's telling that almost nothing from this MC made it to the MM later. Maybe it's because some of this stuff is pop culture elements that I'm not closely familiar with, maybe it's because I don't know Spelljammer that well or something else, but I don't find this volume to be compelling at all. I think Spelljammer could have been well served by a single 96-page MC that dropped some of the chaff from MCs 7 and 9.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I'll be honest, I think this one is utterly forgettable. It's telling that almost nothing from this MC made it to the MM later. Maybe it's because some of this stuff is pop culture elements that I'm not closely familiar with, maybe it's because I don't know Spelljammer that well or something else, but I don't find this volume to be compelling at all. I think Spelljammer could have been well served by a single 96-page MC that dropped some of the chaff from MCs 7 and 9.
Some people are always looking for a reason to have less content.
 



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