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Monster ENCyclopedia: Tomb of Annihilation

This is a special instalment in the Monster ENCyclopedia series, which has been taking a slow and steady (very steady!) alphabetical tour through various D&D monsters. Each previous entry in the series focussed on the history of just one monster. This entry is a little different. Tomb of Annihilation is set in the jungles of Chult, and is triggered when resurrection stops working across the world. This hook doesn’t stop the adventure from delightfully resurrecting a number of lesser known D&D creatures to flesh out the jungles. These aren’t creatures likely to get Monster ENCyclopedia entries by themselves (well, maybe the froghemoth), so this is a combined entry looking at the history of several of these monsters.

[SIZE=+1]Almiraj (or Al-mi’raj)[/SIZE]
The al-mi’raj first appeared in the AD&D Fiend Folio, and is credited to Roger Musson. In this incarnation it is a yellow hare with a unicorn horn, found roaming pastures, woodlands and occasionally in dungeons. When discovered in the wild, an al-mi’raj is unpredictable and fearless, sometimes attacking for no apparent reason. If captured while young, an al-mi’raj can be trained and makes a useful companion.

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Fiend Folio (1981)

Mechanically, the al-mi’raj has one hit die, and it can do 1-4 point of damage with its horn. It has acute vision and sense of smell and although small (3’ tall), moves quickly enough (MV 18”) to avoid most foes.

Al-mi’raj don’t appear much in 1st Edition, except in UK5: Eye of the Serpent which has a whole meadow full of them. There we learn that the plural of al-mi’raj is al-mi’raj, and that males of the species are inclined to hurl themselves into battle just to impress females. Dragon #93 provides a pronunciation of “əl-mi-RAJ”.

The picture in MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix gives the al-mi’raj a slightly more ominous appearance, and the need to fill a whole page means that it gains a more detailed description, a back story and some (optional) psionic powers.

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MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix (1992)

Yellow remains the most common fur colour, but white, pink and even light green al-mi’raj are noted. An al-mi’raj horn is jet black, and one to two feet long. In spring, males joust with their horns to win the attention of females, leading to litters of 2-12 babies which mature to adults over the course of the next year.

Al-mi’raj are given a possible origin story as a failed science experiment of Krynnish gnomes, with “al-mi’raj” apparently being “experiment seventy-two” in an ancient gnomish dialect. If true, it seems strange that the creatures aren’t more common in the Dragonlance setting, beyond a solitary specimen in a cage in Sanction in DL15: Mists of Krynn.

Quite how this lone Krynnish al-mi’raj remains caged is also a mystery, since the Monstrous Compendium entry reveals that the creatures can teleport short distances, giving them the nickname “blink bunnies”. If they are one of the 10% of al-mi’raj born with psionic abilities, then their nickname is instead “bunnies of the Abyss”. Psionic al-mi’raj have the following abilities: control light, control wind, levitation, molecular agitation, telekinesis, control flames and detonate. They use these abilities to darken the sky, whip up winds and ignite and burn equipment, while floating around with glowing red eyes. Abyss bunnies indeed!

Although ordinary al-mi’raj retain their aptitude for training, this isn’t recommended for the psionic variety, unless the trainer has detonation-proof possessions.

The al-mi’raj was absent from official 3rd Edition D&D products, but there is a faithful adaption of the 2nd Edition version in Necromancer’s The Tome of Horrors, if needed. The unicorn bunny almost skipped 4th Edition too, but sneaks in with a mention in the adventure “Fool’s Grove”, released on April Fool’s day 2009 as a fake article for Dungeon #165. The plural of al-mi’raj is now apparently al-mi’rajes, as these are “Garden-Variety Al-mi’rajes”.

This 4th Edition al-mi’raj is similar to the 1st Edition version. It has a single unicorn horn attack (with an upgrade to 2d6 damage). If it misses with this attack, it can burrow away to safety. Al-mi’rajes are loyal to each other, getting a bonus charge when an ally falls.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

Tomb of Annihilation updates the almiraj to 5th Edition as well as simplifying the spelling and providing a new authoritative pronunciation (AWL-meer-ahj). The plural is also back to almiraj, in case you were wondering. This is clearly an update of the simple 1st Edition creature. It doesn’t blink or use psionics; it just has a horn, keen senses and moves quickly. The theme of almiraj being easy to train carries through, and with the DM’s permission one can be summoned using find familiar. The people of Chult blame the Zakharan merchants of long ago for introducing almiraj to the peninsula.

As well as the Forgotten Realms and Krynn, al-mi’raj have made it at least as far as Ravenloft, specifically the domain of Falkovnia. Dungeon #38 has an adventure where one of the characters keeps a caged pair. Unlike their Krynnish cousin who only gained a blinking ability retroactively, these al-mi’raj have teleportation baked right into their stat block, so they have no excuse for not escaping.

Fiend Folio, p11, 120 (July 1981)
UK5: Eye of the Serpent, p19 (August 1984)
Dragon #93, p25, "Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd" (January 1985)
DL15: Mists of Krynn, p95 (June 1988)
MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix (April 1992)
Dungeon #38, “Horror’s Harvest”, p60 (November 1992)
The Tome of Horrors, p6-7 (November 2002)
Fool’s Grove Delve, p6 (April 2009)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

Eblis are tall, evil-natured bird-men seldom seen by humans. They resemble giant storks with gray-brown feathers and black legs. Males have red heads and black necks. They dwell in tropical and subtropical swamps, and construct well-hidden huts of reeds and grasses. Each hut typically houses a mated pair and possibly young or an egg. A community consists of 2-8 huts and up to 16 individuals. Eblis love shiny objects, and may have accumulated jewelry or magic items in their nests.

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EX2: The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (1983)

In combat, eblis are fast, both to dodge and to strike. They have a low armor class (AC 3), and can make four stabbing attacks with their powerful beaks (each doing 1-4 damage). They have reasonable hit points (4+4 HD) and their dampness gives them a small bonus to saves against fire. Each community also has one member able to cast a small number of illusionist spells by means of dancing and vocalization.

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EX2: The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (1983)

In the Alice in Wonderland-themed adventure in which they first appear (EX2: The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror) the eblis are servants who say silly things at the Queens’ Mad Feast. Fortunately, this daftness doesn’t carry over into their “New Monsters” appendix description, or into the Monster Manual II, where they appeared again later the same year. As the author of EX2, the credit for the creation of the eblis belongs to E. Gary Gygax.

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Monster Manual II (1983)

The storkmen were not popular creatures, with further 1st Edition appearances limited to Dungeon adventures and a note in Dragon #137 that an eblis egg is worth 250 gp, and a young eblis 300-500 gp. The eblis update to 2nd Edition is also low-key, as it gets no new art, and shares an “Avian” sheet in MC11: Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix with the boobrie and the flightless bird. The description here stresses the cruel nature of the eblis and the delight they take in hunting and killing. This is blamed on their spellcasting leaders, whom some scholars believe gain their power as a result of some malefic deed, and who then encourage cruelty in common eblis.

The eblis language is described as a spoken language of chirps, whistles, and deep-throated hoots. It can be understood but not spoken by a trained listener. The explanation for the eblis resistance to fire is revealed to be a result of a protective oils, secreted to coat their feathers.

When it reappeared in the Monstrous Manual, the eblis was relegated to an even smaller entry on the “Bird” sheet, along with a couple of dozen other avians. There were no official 3rd or 4th Edition eblis, but the Tome of Horrors again comes to the rescue with a d20 conversion.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

For 5th Edition, the Tomb of Annihilation does away with illusionist leaders, and gives all eblis some minor innate spellcasting (blur, hypnotic pattern, and minor illusion). Eblis are said to be the reincarnations of evil humans, punished for acts of larceny and kidnapping. They are self-serving creatures who use their abilities to make other creatures do their bidding, and delight in luring humanoids to unexpected deaths.

Some of the characteristics from earlier eblis echo through here. They still collect shiny treasures which they hide in their grass and reed huts. They also remain 4 HD creatures, but now make only two beak attacks (each for 1d4+3 damage), instead of four. These eblis are more linguistically capable than their ancestors, and can communicate in both Auran and Common. Perhaps the most surprising development in 5th Edition is that the letter “s” in eblis is suddenly silent. Tomb of Annihilation gives a pronunciation of EH-blee, which contradicts Dragon #93’s earlier suggestion of EB-lis.

Eblis are not new to the Forgotten Realms in 5th Edition, having featured in MC11: Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix, and popping up not far from Waterdeep in an adventure in Dungeon #72. Eblis aren’t even new to Chult, as FRM1: The Jungle of Chult dedicates a few pages to an eblis settlement. The economy appears to have slumped a little since 1st Edition though, as 2nd Edition eblis eggs are worth only 50 gp, and their young 250 gp.

Other settings known to be home to eblis include Kara-Tur (based on the encounter tables in the AD&D Oriental Adventures) and Greyhawk (based on the eblis eggs in “By the Wayside” in Dungeon #19).

EX2: The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror, p23, 28 (April 1983)
Monster Manual II, p62 (August 1983)
Dragon #93, p26, "Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd" (January 1985)
Oriental Adventures, p114 (October 1985)
Dungeon #8, “The Wounded Worm”, p39 (November 1987)
Dragon #137, “Treasures of the Wilds”, p16 (September 1988)
Dungeon #19, “By the Wayside”, p12 (September 1989)
MC11: Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix (December 1991)
FRM1: The Jungles of Chult, p47-49 (May 1993)
Monstrous Manual, p27 (June 1993)
Dungeon #72, “Mistress on the Mere”, p74 (January 1999)
The Tome of Horrors, p122 (November 2002)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

[SIZE=+1]Flail Snail[/SIZE]
When it comes to unusual creatures, the Fiend Folio is the gift that keeps on giving, this time with a monster credited to Simon Tilbrook. The flail snail is a large (8’ high) mollusc with 4-6 club-like tentacles it flails wildly at everything in its path. Each tentacle is treated as a 1 HD creature (potentially doing 1-8 damage) and they must all be destroyed to kill the beast. The armored body of the snail is nearly impossible to hit (AC-8). Once defeated, a flail snail withdraws into its shell and wails loudly as it dies.

A flail snail is immune to fire and poison, but hypersensitive to light. Although classified as a mollusc, a flail snail is apparently a silicon-based life-form.

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Fiend Folio (1981)

The most interesting part of a flail snail is its coloured shell, which protects against magic much like a robe of scintillating colours. Spells directed against the snail might be deflected (back at the caster, or towards a bystander), malfunction, or simply fail. A shell retains these properties for up to six months after the death of the resident snail, so it makes an unwieldy and heavy (250 pound) yet valuable (5,000 gp) treasure. According to Dragon #147, a mere 300 gp of powdered shell will grant a +3 saving throw bonus against the Volley spell. This dweomer (from the AD&D Unearthed Arcana) causes a spell to be bounced back against its caster.

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MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (1990)

For its 2nd Edition update, the flail snail shares a page with the sea snail in in the MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix. Flail snails are still silicon-based here, and yet also distantly related to ordinary garden snails. Clearly, in D&D, being a life-form made from a completely different base element is no barrier to being taxonomically related.

There is more colour in the description, with the shells “masses of neon blues, reds, greens, and yellows” and the rubbery flesh “gray-blue”. Flail snails eat lichen and algae and secrete a substance from their mouths to loosen these plants. Females give birth to 1d3 live young, which doesn’t make any sense for a genderless snail. But maybe silicon snails are an exception and do have genders. Probably best not to dwell too much on this. Snails become adults after four years and live up to twenty years.

Flail snails are able to detect motion up to 20 feet away using their short sensor tentacles. They will aggressively defend themselves if attacked, until their opponent withdraws from sensor range. If left alone, flail snails are peaceful, herbivorous dungeon dwellers. The leading cause of death for flail snails appears to be “hunted by adventurers for their shells” which is rather sad.

Once past any guilt adventurers might feel after removing the resident, a flail snail shell can be turned into one or two +2 shields, which reflect magic for 1d6 months. Alternatively, ground shell is a required component for the creation of a robe of scintillating colors.

Despite appearing in the Greyhawk Appendix, flail snails seem rare in the setting. There is one in the ruins of Castle Greyhawk, according to WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins.

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Dragon #258 (1999)

The Ecology of the Flail Snail in Dragon #258 adds a lot of additional flavour to the beast, but more importantly (thanks @Richards) it declares the previous lore of flail snails being silicon life-forms with multiple genders to be erroneous, and confirms that they are, in fact, hermaphroditic gastropods that lay eggs and not live young. The article goes on to describe in considerable detail the love darting ritual flail snails engage in when mating.

A newly hatched flail snail grows from ten inches to adult sized within four years. Snails estivate (the equivalent of hibernation for slimy and scaly creatures) during winter months. A flail snail’s shell expands constantly as it grows, with new material added around the head.

Fire damage is negated both by the shell and protective mucus layer. This is secreted from the snail’s foot, and also aids in locomotion, making a snail easy to track. Flail snails shun bright light because it dries out this mucus. Salt can be used as a weapon and enough of it does 2d4 damage when thrown and a further 1d4 damage the next round. Poisons are negated by natural antitoxins in the snail’s blood.

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Dragon #258 (1999)

As if there were not already enough reasons for heartless mercenaries to hunt down flail snails, the Ecology provides two more. When ground up and mixed with blood, the stomach and liver of a flail snail are ingredients for an elixir of health, and flail snail skin (with the mucus coating) can be ground finely to use for potions of fire resistance.

Adventurers who see only gold coins where the snail slides should remember that the mournful wail a flail snail makes as it curls up in its shell to die is the only time it ever makes a sound…

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Dragon #258 (1999)

For 3rd Edition, snail fans needed to turn to Necromancer’s Tome of Horrors which had a d20 flail snail update and a fairly goofy illustration. For 4th Edition, the flail snail was relegated to the same April Fool’s adventure containing the updated al-mi’raj.

The “Stale Trail Flail Snail” packs quite a punch, with a slowness aura, two flail tentacle attacks and a Flail Snail Wail ability that it can only use once its shell shatters, which happens when it becomes bloodied. Despite being entirely crunch, this version of the snail is quite faithful to the earlier versions, albeit in a very 4th Edition style.

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Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016)

Although it did not seemingly have a presence in the Forgotten Realms prior to 5th Edition, the flail snail was updated in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and received an entire page all to itself for the first time.

The creature’s mechanics are a little different, but all of the flail snail’s abilities are still present: a shell which can reflect magic, multiple flailing tentacles that have their own hit points, a terrible wail when the snail dies, and immunity to fire and poison. The snail gains one new ability, and that is an offensive burst of scintillating light from the shell, which stuns those who see it. The flail snail’s senses have improved; it gains darkvision and tremorsense out to 60 feet.

Once again, the poor snail gets a insert covering uses for its shell, consistent with earlier editions. However, there is now also a good commercial reason to keep flail snails alive, as the mineral deposits they leave in their trail can be carefully harvested, heated and spun into glass. This sometimes results in humanoids trailing the snails for a living.

Fiend Folio, p38, 121 (July 1981)
Dragon #137, “Treasures of the Wilds”, p21 (September 1988)
Dragon #147, “Variety, the Spice of Magic”, p24-25 (July 1989)
MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (April 1990)
WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins, p23 (July 1990)
Dragon #258, “The Ecology of the Flail Snail: The Price of Flailure”, p58-63 (April 1999)
The Tome of Horrors, p138 (November 2002)
Fool’s Grove Delve, p6 (April 2009)
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p144 (November 2016)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

The froghemoth made its debut in S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, where it is described as having a 18’ long, 10’ wide body with a yellow-orange belly and a green back. It stands on two thick rear legs and four yellow-green tentacles sprout from its shoulders. It has two olfactory stalks and a retractable optic appendage (all yellow-green) with three eyeballs. The eyeballs are greenish amber with a green pupil with an orange edge. From its large maw, the froghemoth can flick out a barbed tongue to a distance of 10’. From there, the target is drawn into its mouth, shredded and swallowed. A swamp-dweller, the froghemoth likes to lurk in pools of water, where it is sometimes mistaken for a plant.

Mechanically, the froghemoth has a different AC depending on whether its body, tentacles or tongue is being attacked. It has a whopping 16 HD and can either attack with its mouth (5-50 damage) or four tentacles (5-8 damage each). It is immune to fire (but still dislikes it), unharmed by gasses, and resistant to lightning. Cold slows it to half speed and limits its number of tentacle attacks.

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S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1980)

The froghemoth is described entirely within one of the adventure’s encounters and doesn’t get a separate monster entry. It does, however, get a full-page colour picture in the accompanying illustration booklet, showing it blocking the way over a bridge. As the author of both S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and the Monster Manual II where it was subsequently reprinted, the credit for the creation of the froghemoth belongs to E. Gary Gygax.

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Monster Manual II (1980)

Most of the creatures reprinted in the Monster Manual II were copied directly from their earlier adventure appearances with little change. Not so for the froghemoth, which gets a whole page to itself. Most likely Gygax had written more about the froghemoth than there was space for in Expedition, and the Monster Manual II -- published later the same year -- was a good place to put it. The description starts with “huge and weird” which is essence of the froghemoth in three words, but it goes on to provide plenty of additional detail.

The froghemoth’s leathery tentacles are very strong, and can reach more than 15 feet. It is a strong swimmer, using both legs and tentacles to propel itself. The body of a froghemoth is resilient and can withstand the beast’s full HD in damage before it dies. The most vulnerable part of the froghemoth is its long tongue, which has a relatively low armor class and can be easily severed. The froghemoth gets its own hit location table in Dragon #114 which gives a 60% chance of striking the tentacles, a 30% chance of hitting the body, and only a 10% change to strike the tongue.

The only treasures found near a froghemoth are items dropped by its victims, as it has only animal intelligence and does not use tools. Despite this, the creature is a master of ambush tactics. Swamp travellers may not realise they have disturbed a froghemoth until one of their companions has already been snatched by its tongue and is starting to digest. The unusually strong digestive juices make short work of most creatures (4-16 damage per round), and a completely dissolved victim cannot be resurrected. The froghemoth can heal or regenerate a missing tentacle or tongue in a few weeks.

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Monster Manual II (1980)

Froghemoths are solitary, except in spring, when they mate. Females lay up to 100 eggs, each a foot in diameter. Some 10% of these eggs hatch into the immature stage known as a tadhemoth, while the rest are eaten by hatching tadhemoths or other predators. Dragon #137 pegs the price of a froghemoth egg at a respectable 8,000 gp, and a tadhemoth or young froghemoth at 16,000 gp. A tadhemoth grows to 6-7 feet in six months. At this point it resembles a fish with 6 fins and has a vicious bite. From six months onwards the fins begin to grow into tentacles and legs. During its tadhemoth stage, the creature is entirely aquatic. By the time it reaches three years old, the tadhemoth has become an adult froghemoth, and can leave the water.

The froghemoth made its way into 2nd Edition via the adventure The Land of Men with Tails in Dungeon #56. It gets its own Monstrous Compendium page, but most of the text is recycled from the Monster Manual II, as is the artwork. There is some added detail about the froghemoth’s place in the food chain. Froghemoths claim large tracts of swampland as their hunting territory, and choose only areas with large prey animals. They are primal carnivores eating whatever they can catch, and they are able to survive off a single large meal for weeks. Froghemoths are hard to kill and potential predators such as dragons or large carnivorous dinosaurs tend to leave them alone. Hatchlings are more vulnerable and eaten by crocodiles and other aquatic predators.

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Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two (1995)

The Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two was released within a month of Dungeon #56, and also contains a 2nd Edition froghemoth. This version was clearly adapted from the 1st Edition froghemoth separately to the one in Dungeon, but the statistics are quite similar. The Annual notes that froghemoth live up to 100 years, and that they only mate once every nine years, returning to their spawning ground to do so. There is a fresh colour picture of the froghemoth included.

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Dungeon #128 (2005)

In the editorial for the last print issue of Dungeon, James Jacobs mentions that one of his goals for his time at the helm of the magazine was to make sure 3rd Edition stats were published for the froghemoth. This was achieved in Dungeon #128, where a froghemoth named Madtooth the Hungry features in The Champion’s Belt adventure.

The 3rd Edition version is beefed up a little from previous incarnations. It now has 20 HD, an AC of 21, and its four tentacle attacks are each +25 melee attacks which do 2d6+12 damage. Other mechanics are vastly simplified, and different body parts no longer have different AC or hit points. The froghemoth uses a combination of Improved Grab, Powerful Bite and Swallow Whole to model its tentacle and tongue attacks. Its resistances are simplified to fire resistance of 30 and a special Partial Electrical Immunity ability.

This version of the froghemoth has a croaking roar which can be heard for miles across swamplands. It is listed as having darkvision out to 60 feet, and weighs 5 tons. Although this update dispenses with details of the froghemoth life-cycle, there is a nod to their Barrier Peaks origins. News of the discovery of the first specimen attracted the attention of monster hunters from around the world, some of whom grew rich by tapping into a supply of froghemoth eggs. Then they were all slain by a group of obscure cultists who made it their mission to distribute the eggs to swamps throughout the world where the froghemoths have subsequently thrived.

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Famine in Far-go (2010)

You could be forgiven if you missed the 4th Edition froghemoth, as it managed to leapfrog into an entirely different genre. In 2010, WotC relaunched Gamma World as a “D&D” setting using an adapted version of the 4th Edition rules. The froghemoth appears in the Famine in Far-go expansion. Given that the creature’s origins were in an adventure with a heavy science fiction theme, this is actually quite a good fit.

Mechanically, this froghemoth doesn’t seem to be quite as powerful as its 3rd Edition cousin, being only a level 8 creature. It gets a range of combat abilities that model its traditional attacks and abilities: Tentacle Flurry, Grasping Tongue, Swallow and Electrical Torpor. It doesn’t get much backstory, with the text suggesting that either contaminants caused smaller frogs to bloat and mutate, or alternatively, that a mad bioengineer named Bob was responsible for their creation (really!).

Famine in Far-go includes stats for a younger version of the froghemoth, but this is now called a “pollwoghemoth” instead of a tadhemoth. The adult frogemoth is illustrated in a group picture, along with the Gamma World incarnations of the cifal and garbug, and there is even a helpful size comparison chart provided.

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Famine in Far-go (2010)

In the lead up to 5th Edition, WotC published a number of D&D Next playtest packets. The April 2013 packet included monster updates for all four of the S-series of adventures, and the froghemoth appears in the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Bestiary. This is an unfortunately bland version, with little flavour and relatively straightforward bite, tentacle and tongue melee attacks. It is back to a 16 HD monster here, but seems to have misplaced its traditional resistances.

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Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016)

For its official reappearance in Volo’s Guide to Monster, the froghemoth sticks quite closely to the mechanics of the playtest version. Its tongue can now reach out to 20 feet, but doesn’t instantly result in a swallowed opponent, it just brings him or her close enough for a bonus bite attack. The tentacles use the grappling rules, and do a lot of damage (3d8+6), but the 5th Edition froghemoth has weaker stomach acids, digesting only 3d6 points of swallowed adventurer per round. Some of its earlier resistances -- fire and lightning -- are restored, although the effects of electricity are now to slow the froghemoth and reduce its attacks, something which happened only for cold attacks in 1st Edition.

Volo’s dispenses with previous lore on the froghemoth’s lifecycle, but includes a tip-of-the-hat to their origins, noting that Lum the Mad described froghemoths emerging from metal chambers buried in the ground in his journal. Froghemoths no longer mate, instead each one lays an individual egg every few years. A young froghemoth is more likely to survive if its parent abandons the egg, as hatchlings make a tasty snack. In 5th Edition, froghemoths are worshipped as gods by bullywugs. Bullywugs will provide the creatures with food, and a comfortable lair, as well as care for any young.

From its appearances in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and more recently in Tomb of Annihilation, the froghemoth is now clearly a resident of the Forgotten Realms. Historically it has featured more prominently in Greyhawk with appearances in WG10: Child’s Play, Dungeon #73 and Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. From these sources we know there are froghemoths located in Newtemple on the Wild Coast and in the Rushmoors on the northern border of Keoland.

At least one froghemoth has made it to Krynn (see DL14: Dragons of Triumph) and in I12: Egg of the Phoenix there is mention of a froghemoth known as Skridlombir the Swamp Lurker. It is usually hungry enough to eat at least three people. Since this module takes place in Frank Mentzer’s Empyrea setting, it will be interesting to see if there is any mention of froghemoths in future Empyrea products.

S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, p15 (February 1980)
Monster Manual II, p67 (August 1980)
DL14: Dragons of Triumph, p25 (October 1986)
Dragon #114, p51, “It’s a hit — but where?” (October 1986)
I12: Egg of the Phoenix, p31 (March 1987)
Dragon #137, “Treasures of the Wilds”, p21 (September 1988)
WG10: Child’s Play, p20 (August 1989)
Dungeon #56, “The Land of Men with Tails”, p66 (November 1995)
Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two, p59 (December 1995)
Dungeon #73, “The Setting Sun”, p63-64 (March 1999)
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, p153 (November 2000)
Dungeon #128, “The Champion’s Belt”, p47, 61-62 (November 2005)
Dungeon #150, “Signing Off” p8 (August 2007)
Famine in Far-go, p58, 60-61 (December 2010)
D&D Next Playtest Packet, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks Bestiary, p9 (April 2013)
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p145 (November 2016)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

For almost all of their (limited) history, the toad-like, swamp-dwelling humanoids known as the grung were exclusively associated with the Greyhawk setting. They are first described in Greyhawk Adventures, the last of the orange spine AD&D hardcovers, published on the cusp of 2nd Edition. As the author of Greyhawk Adventures, James M. Ward gets the credit for the grung, possibly shared with one of the seven other credited designers. Sadly, the grung don’t get an illustration until their 2nd Edition appearance.

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MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (1990)

Three-foot tall amphibians, grung resemble giant frogs. Their strong lower legs are webbed, while their arms and heads are slightly more humanoid. They hop rather than walk. Grung breathe through their skin, which must remain moist (requiring submersion in water every three hours). In colour, they vary from green to brown to yellow and white. They have red eyes and black pupils.

Grung lack the extendable tongues found in many frogs, and instead have a mouth full of sharp teeth. They prefer ambush tactics and use short bows and spears, always poisoned. This poison is the grung’s toxic skin secretions, so it simply wipes weapons on itself before battle. This is a deadly poison (usually causing death in 1-4 minutes), but breaks down rapidly in air. A grung’s saliva also contains low concentrations of toxins, so it can have a fatal bite. The water around grung settlements is also polluted by poisons.

Grung are intelligent, lawful evil, and carnivorous, a dangerous combination. They are also highly territorial and warlike, and most often encountered in wandering war bands. Grung have their own language, and can communicate with other amphibians to a degree. Typical communities number up to a hundred, sometimes concealed inside large dead trees. Grung are egg-laying, and have a three month tadpole stage before leaving the water. They are considered adults nine months after hatching.

Female grung are larger than males, and they are a matriarchal people. War chiefs and shamans are exclusively female, and challenges to the incumbent chieftan are through duels to the death. Grung do sometimes take prisoners alive, but more often tribal leaders decorate themselves with ornaments made from the bones of enemies they have slain and eaten at feasts. When no other food is available, grung hunt rats. Grung themselves are too unpalatable to have many predators, but giant snakes have been known to eat them, as have other grung tribes.

Mechanically, grung have low hit points (1+2 HD), feeble attacks (THAC0 18) and okay defenses (AC 7). Their bite does 1-3 damage. Probably best that they take some class levels if they are going adventuring.

The 2nd Edition version of the grung appeared in MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix, but the description is a lightly edited version of the text from Greyhawk Adventures, and doesn’t add anything new. At least this time there is an illustration. The Atlas of Flanaess in the From the Ashes boxed set gives the grung a home on Oerth. They can be found in the Vast Swamp and the Sunndi swamplands. We get a colour picture of a grung on card #375 of the 1992 Trading Cards.

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1992 Trading Card #375 (1992)

Prior to 5th Edition, grung weren’t specifically tree-dwelling, other than the fact that they sometimes used large dead trees for shelter. The grung in Volo’s Guide to Monsters are residents of rain forests and tropical jungles more than swamps and marshes, and it seems to be assumed that they now spend much of their time climbing through trees. Their previous swim speed has been replaced with a decent climb speed.

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Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016)

Although they are still low-level monsters, there are three different types of grung presented: a vanilla grung with 11 Hit Points, and a lowly dagger attack; a grung wildling, who has 27 Hit Points, carries a short bow as well as a dagger, and has access to a small number of ranger spells; and a grung elite warrior. The elite warrior clocks in at 49 Hit Points, and although it still has fairly weak dagger and shortbow attacks, it also has a Mesmerising Chirr ability which can stun opponents into submission.

All grung are amphibious, have poisonous skin and immunity to poison in general. All grung have a leaping ability, which can be used for long or high jumps. This represents a change from earlier Editions where they could only manage short hops. Grung are still dependent on water to keep their skin wet, but only require an hour in water once per day.

Grung society is revealed to have caste system based on colour. Each colour of grung lays eggs in a separate hatching pool. Hatchlings all begin greenish gray and grow into their caste colour as they age. The different colours/castes are:
  • Green: warriors, hunters, labourers
  • Blue: artisans
  • Purple: administrators and commanders
  • Red: scholars and magic users
  • Orange: elite warriors
  • Gold: the tribe sovereign
It is possible for an individual to be invited to join a higher caste, with a corresponding colour change achieved through herbal tonics and ritual magic. Once changed, an elevated grung will produce offspring of the new colour. A sidebar is included giving optional rules for variant poisons based on a grung’s colour.

Although it was implied that grung previously kept some opponents alive and captive, the 5th Edition description places more emphasis on grung as slavers. Slaves are fed mildly poisoned food to keep them compliant.

The 5th Edition take on the grung is the most interesting of all editions, and a good example of updating a lesser known creature just enough to give it a solid place in the world. One minor irritation is that in 5th Edition, the plural of grung has suddenly changed from “grung” to “grungs” for no apparent reason.

Greyhawk Adventures, p27-28 (August 1988)
MC5: Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Appendix (April 1990)
1992 Trading Cards, #375/750 (September 1992)
From the Ashes, Atlas of Flanaess, p60 (October 1992)
Volo’s Guide to Monsters, p156-157 (November 2016)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

Another Fiend Folio critter, the jaculi was contributed by Philip Masters. They are large (8’ to 12’) but fairly feeble (1 HD) serpents, most commonly found in woods or trees. They feed on tree mosses and insects. Usually encountered in swarms of 11-20, jaculi (singular and plural, according to the Fiend Folio) are territorial and do not take kindly to intruders. They are able to change colour, like chameleons, so they are not often detected before they launch an attack.

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Fiend Folio (1981)

The jaculi has sharp ridges on either side of its head. This apparently causes it to have one of the most cumbersome attacks in D&D history. The snake climbs up a tree and then hurls itself at an opponent like a spear. If it hits, it does a mere 1-6 damage, and then has to crawl away to climb another tree before it can attack again.

The Fiend Folio does mention that some jaculi swarms have adapted to live in pillared halls, but that seems to be the only time they are encountered in early adventures: Monsterquest in Dungeon #10, eight jaculi hiding themselves around columns in a temple; Asflag’s Unintentional Emporium in Dungeon #36, a dozen jaculi hiding on top of pillars.

In 2nd Edition, the jaculi is listed in the Monstrous Manual as a general category of tree snakes. They still have a surprising flying attack, but this is in addition to the snake’s other attacks, such as a bite or constriction. Their diet has been upgraded to include other snakes. Examples are given as the poisonous boomslang and the emerald tree boa. PHBR11: The Complete Ranger’s Handbook suggests the jaculi as an unusual animal follower for a jungle ranger.

The first mention of jaculi in the Forgotten Realms seems to be in the 2nd Edition Elminster’s Ecologies Appendix II, which notes that a tree python variation of the jaculi lives in the Serpent Hills.

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Serpent Kingdoms (2004)

The jaculi gets a substantial upgrade for its 3rd Edition appearance in Serpent Kingdoms. It is clarified that while “jaculi” is sometimes used to refer to tree-dwelling snakes in general, the Faerûnian jaculi is a specific serpent, purple in colour with an arrow-shaped head. The plural of the Faerûnian sort is apparently jaculis. They are 6HD creatures with respectable land, climbing and swimming speeds, and a special spring jump. Jaculis have bite attacks, constriction attacks, improved grab, and a more effective launch-from-a-tree attack (a +10 melee attack doing 1d8+6 damage).

Much more intelligent that their 1st Edition ancestors, these jaculis are savvy hunters, targeting isolated creatures or sleeping prey. The jaculi’s chameleon power is now a psionic ability to recolour its body, and it gains another psionic ability which allows it, once per day, to entrance animals by swaying in place and blinking. Jaculis have excellent vision (darkvision 60’ and low-light vision), alertness and the scent ability. They are encountered alone, or in groups of up to 40. Their alignment is always chaotic evil.

Jaculis occur anywhere in Faerûn except arctic climes. Each one tends to roam a favourite area, and they ignore other jaculis, except to mate. They are long-lived creatures and sometimes make alliances with creatures more powerful than themselves. Occasionally, jaculis are trained using magic to serve as guardians.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

The 5th Edition jaculi is somewhere between the 1st and 3rd Edition versions. It is still large and fond of launching itself from trees like a javelin, but it has animal intelligence and only 3 HD. Jaculis still have keen senses (blindsight and keen smell), but they have only two attacks to choose from: a decent bite attack (2d6+2 damage) or, under the right circumstance, a special spring attack, which is a bite attack with extra damage (2d6).

Jaculis like rainforests and cool, damp dungeons. The discarded skin of a jaculi can be used to craft boots of striding and springing and cloaks of invisibility.

Fiend Folio, p53, 122 (July 1981)
Dungeon #10, “Monsterquest”, p29 (March 1988)
Dungeon #36, “Asflag’s Unintentional Emporium”, p21 (July 1992)
Monstrous Manual, p321 (June 1993)
PHBR11: The Complete Ranger’s Handbook, p32 (December 1993)
Elminster’s Ecologies Appendix II, The Serpent Hills, p7 (September 1995)
Serpent Kingdoms, p67-68 (July 2004)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

The kamadan is the fourth and final Fiend Folio creature appearing in this Monster ENCyclopedia instalment, and was created by Nick Louth. A relative of the displacer beast, the kamadan is a large leopard with 4-7 snakes sprouting from its shoulders. It is of neutral alignment, but with chaotic evil tendencies.

The Fiend Folio provides no backstory for the creature, and focusses on the kamadan’s attacks, which are a claw attack (1-3 damage), a bite attack (1-6 damage) and one bite per snake head (each for 1-4 damage). The snakes’ bites are not venomous, but the leopard head’s breath is dangerous. It can create a cone of sleep 30’ long. The kamadan has 4+2 HD, and its breath can automatically put creatures with 4 HD or fewer to sleep.

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Fiend Folio (1981)

Dragon #98 mentions that glands from the leopard head of a kamadan are used to enchant the teeth of brass dragons. The pelt of a kamadan is worth 6 gp, and a live young 4,200 gp, according to Dragon #137.

Confirming the close relationship between the two species, Dungeon #22 features a kamadan and a displacer beast which have mated and produced seven hybrid cubs. The cubs have the snake heads of their father, and the displacement ability of their mother. The suggested setting for this adventure is the Amendio Jungle or Hepmonaland in Greyhawk, or Chult in the Forgotten Realms, so these hybrids might be found in either setting.

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Kamatlan, Maztica Campaign Set (1991)

The kamadan next appears in the 2nd Edition Maztica Campaign Set, where it has a fixed number of snake heads (six), but is otherwise the same as its 1st Edition predecessor. The sleep breath is now a 20’ x 10’ cloud instead of a cone, and -- using the sleep spell mechanics -- fells creatures with a total of up to 2d4 Hit Dice. We learn here that kamadan tongues can be used to make sleep potions.

Kamadans are found in parts of the Forgotten Realms other than those described in the Maztica boxed set, so there are also stats for the kamatlan, a native of Maztica, which is a larger but less intelligent relative of the kamadan. It has the body of a jaguar, and two snakes sprouting from each shoulder. The kamatlan was likely spawned by Zaltec, the Maztican god of war. Unlike the kamadan, the kamatlan’s snakes are poisonous and bitten victims risk contracting an incapacitating illness.

Both the kamadan and kamatlan are skilled at stalking prey before they pounce. They are solitary beasts, meeting irregularly to mate. Despite their predominantly mammalian forms, they are egg-laying creatures. Kamatlan dig shallow holes to bury their leathery eggs, while kamadans hide them under foliage. Eggs takes two months to hatch, and young about six months to mature.

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MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix (1992)

The kamadan graces the cover (back and front!) of MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix, but doesn’t actually appear as part of that collection. This artwork was recycled for card #445 of the 1993 Trading Card series.

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Dungeon #136 (2006)

There is a 3rd Edition kamadan in Dungeon #136. This is printed as a 7HD creature, but the letters page in the next issue corrects this to 8HD, double that of 1st and 2nd Edition. This kamadan has similar abilities, but with a few tweaks. The snake heads act as free actions because each has an independent brain, so the kamadan gets six snake bit attacks in addition to using its claws and bite. The snakes now have a strength-sapping poison, and their many sets of eyes grant the kamadan all-around vision and alertness. This adventure is set in a remote part of Oerth, and kamadans are noted as dwelling in the mountainous jungles of Mur, far to the west of the Flanaess.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

The Tomb of Annihilation updates the kamadan to 5th Edition, as well as dismissing any relationship between kamadans and displacer beasts. (So how exactly did those hybrids back in Dungeon #22 happen…?) The kamadan is now a 9 HD creature. As before, it can attack with either a bite, claw or snakes. The collection of six snakes is treated as a single attack, so this kamadan does not have as many attacks as previously. The kamadan can pounce to try to knock a creature prone.

Kamadans have a keen sense of smell, and either hunt alone or in mated pairs. They begin combat by releasing their cone of sleep breath. Although they have only animal intelligence, they are clever enough to focus on opponents who are still conscious before dealing with sleeping enemies.

Fiend Folio p55, 122 (July 1981)
Dragon #98, “The Magic of Dragon Teeth”, p13 (June 1985)
Dragon #137, “Treasures of the Wilds”, p17, 21 (September 1988)
Dungeon #22, “The Leopard Men”, p17 (March 1990)
Maztica Campaign Set, Maztica Alive!, p61 (June 1991)
MC14: Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix (April 1992)
1993 Trading Cards, #445/495 (September 1993)
Dungeon #136, “The Coming Storm”, p60 (July 2006)
Dungeon #137, “Prison Mail”, p12 (August 2006)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

Of all the monsters covered in this article, the su-monster is the oldest. It first appears as a D&D creature in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, which is credited to Gary Gygax and Brian Blume. Most likely though, the su-monster is a Gygaxian creation, inspired by A Fantastic Bestiary, published in 1969. In his Playing at the World blog, Jon Peterson points out that the ki-rin, shedu, couatl and su-monster descriptions in Eldritch Wizardry match their pictures in A Fantastic Bestiary too closely to be coincidence.

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A Fantastic Bestiary (1969)

Eldritch Wizardry describes su-monsters as having the chest of a great hound and the waist of a wasp. They have gorilla heads, and four prehensile feet with long, sharp nails. Su-monster occur in groups of up to a dozen, more than four usually meaning a male, female and young. The adults will protect their family, and they may be encountered outdoors or underground.

Chaotic evil creatures, su-monsters frequently hang upside down lurking for prey. They have a latent psionic ability -- either psychic crush, psionic blast, or mind thrust -- which is triggered by other nearby psionic activity. In combat, they more commonly use their 4 claws (each doing 1-3 damage) and bite (1-8 damage). Su-monsters have 4+2 Hit Dice, a movement of 9 and an Armor Class of 6.

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Monster Manual (1977)

The su-monster gets its first D&D illustration in the Monster Manual, which resembles the Bestiary picture, except for the tail. In Eldritch Wizardry, there is no mention of a tail, but in the Monster Manual it is noted as prehensile, and is used to move through trees and hang upside down from branches.

There is a slight increase in the su-monster’s hit points (it now has 5+5 HD), but the statistics are otherwise unchanged. The Monster Manual erroneously lists the su-monster’s alignment as just chaotic, but Dragon #43 later corrects this to chaotic neutral.

The su-monster is described in the Monster Manual as having dirty gray fur, a black tail and face, and crimson paws. The picture in the Monster Cards a few years later sticks to these colours.

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Monster Cards, Set 4 (1982)

The su-monster makes brief appearances in C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness, T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil and GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders, although in the last case, only the hide of a su-monster features. Dragon #91 details a number of psionic-boosting potions, and notes that the brain of a su-monster is needed to make the red variety.

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PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991)

The 2nd Edition su-monster appears in PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook, which updates a number of earlier psionic creatures. The su-monster is now described as an emaciated ape, with ribs and vertebrae showing prominently in its slim midriff. It has a strong prehensile tail and each of its four feet has three long, thick fingers and an opposable thumb. The rich red colouration of the feet in contrast to the su-monster’s gray body makes it look as if the su-monster has just killed something. This is often true, as its preferred attack method is to drop down from an over-hanging position and rake a surprised target with all four clawed feet. The toothed grin of a su-monster should not be taken as a sign of friendship, but rather as the threat it is intended.

Su-monsters are generally active at dawn and sunset. Family units are most often two parents and two young, and multiple families form territorial clans. They hunt in small packs with the whole family frequently participating. The su-monster’s familial protectiveness is given expanded mechanics here, with females gaining haste if their young are attacked, and the males gaining haste if the females are threatened. They can maintain this pace for up to 40-60 minutes, which makes an encounter with a hostile su-monster family a terrifying experience.

The su-monster’s psionic powers are updated to match the heavily amended 2nd Edition psionics system. Typically, su-monsters have the enhancement, psionic sense, psychic crush, mind thrust and psionic blast powers. They are now specifically impervious to psionic attacks, and have a deep seated hatred for other users of psionics. The reason for this, so legend has it, is that the first su-monsters were magical hybrids of humanoids and apes, created by a powerful wizard or priest to guard against psionic intruders. Some su-monsters are still employed as forest guardians today.

Su-monsters do not have any natural predators as their meat is mildly poisonous, causing illness and suppressing natural healing for a week.

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Dragon #167 (1991)

The Ecology of the Su-Monster in Dragon #167 provides some additional insight into the physiology and society of these creatures. Their societal structure is quite complex, with a family of of su-monsters being the base unit, but large groupings called cadres or enclaves occurring from time to time. There is considerable conflict between families in a larger group and frequent leadership struggles.

We learn that adult males average 5’ in length, plus a further 5’ tail; females are slightly smaller. Female su-monsters weigh roughly 105 lbs, males 120 lbs. They breed at any time during the year, and have a gestation period of 6-7 months. Young are completely dependent on adults, who are devoted to their care, males and females equally so. Females lactate to feed their infants. Su-monsters can live as long as 30 years, but only rarely.

Su-monsters are active sporadically, sleeping for 3-4 hours in between periods of activity. Their night vision allows them to function equally well during the day or at night. The importance of the creature’s tail is highlighted. As well as being strong enough to support the su-monster carrying a large prey, the tail is vital for balance, posture and communications. Families of su-monsters communicate emotional states to each other using their tails.

Su-monsters can smell prey over a mile distant, and coordinate complicated ambushes using calls and howls. They are opportunistic omnivores and will eat anything from lichens to humans. However, they will not eat carrion, or sick or aged prey. Sleeping travellers are fair game. After eating their fill of any prey, su-monsters bury the rest of the body.

The creatures are described as having the intelligence of primates, the cunning of canines and the physical power of bears -- the perfect carnivore. They are said to be equally fast in trees, on the ground, or in water. Although they are not usually tool users, the Ecology article suggests that generations of su-monsters living close to civilisation may learn to use weapons.

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Monstrous Manual (1993)

The Monstrous Manual reprints the su-monster page from The Complete Psionics Handbook verbatim, but there is a new colour picture. This su-monster looks more ape-like, and the emaciated appearance is less obvious.

During the 2nd Edition era, the su-monster made appearances in the Al-Qadim setting (in ALQ1: Golden Voyages), Planescape (Something Wild), and Greyhawk (Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff), although in that last case, it is once again just the hide of a su-monster which features.

The late 2nd Edition Greyhawk accessory The Scarlet Brotherhood details the su-monkey, a smaller version of the su-monster bred by the Scarlet Brotherhood. These are essentially monkeys with a psychic crush ability.

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Su-monkey The Scarlet Brotherhood (1999)

Dragon #265 details the su-monsters (or su-folk as they apparently call themselves) as a playable race, but they are presented here as a more cultured and industrious people than the bloodthirsty hunters they were previously. These su-folk have a lifespan of 90 years contradicting the earlier Ecology article.

Su-monsters did not make the cut for the 3rd Edition Psionic Handbook and were relegated to a web enhancement. They are mechanically faithful to early versions as 5 HD monsters with claw attacks (1d6+5), and a bite (1d8+2). Although they only get two claw attacks now, they do have a rend ability causing additional damage (2d6+10) if both claws hit.

The range of psionic abilities available to the su-monster is a little wider, consisting of sense psionics, schism, lesser body adjustment, mind thrust, ego whip, psychic crush/thought shield, and mental barrier.

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Monstrous Manual 3 (2010)

The su-monster is the only creature in this Monster ENCyclopedia entry to appear in print for 4th Edition. It gets two pages in the Monster Manual 3, covering three different su monsters. The su sentinel, the most common sort, is a level 10 skirmisher with talons, a mind-rending bite and a psionic boost ability. The su ambusher (a level 11 minion soldier) has a lone claw attack and a special seize prey ability.

The most powerful of the su-monsters, and a much contested position, is the su alpha, a level 12 brute with a variety of physical attacks, and a special psychic su howl. All su-monsters have a tribal fury ability giving them additional attacks if any of their allies are felled. As in previous editions, su-monsters bury their left-over meals, but they now mark these stashes with the possessions of their victims.

The Monster Manual 3 stay true to earlier su-monster lore, but provides a more specific origin story. It was the wizard Halkith, resident of the Isle of Dread in the Feywild, who created the first su-monsters to guard his tower from the island’s other residents. Halkith originally had a psychic link to his creations, but a major worldly psionic event overwhelmed this link, causing the su-monsters to go mad. Having broken the bond with their creator, the su monsters now roam the planes for prey and sources of psionic power.

Dungeon #215 includes an adventure (The Last Slave Lord) with a su-monster in it, but despite being published in 2013, the adventure was designed for 1st Edition, rather than 4th Edition. This was a tie-in to Against the Giants, published the same month, which collected the original AD&D Slavers series of adventures into a single hardcover.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

The Tomb of Annihilation gives su-monsters a 5th Edition home in the Chultan jungles of Faerûn. The creature gets a fairly short description here, consistent with earlier editions, but without any detail of su-monster society. Mechanically, the su-monster is simpler. It still has both a bite and claws, but all four claws are treated as a single attack. The su-monster does get a bonus to the damage inflicted when dropping down to surprise a target beneath it. The creature’s psionic ability is now a straightforward psychic crush, which stuns and injures its target.

Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry, p2, 12, 27, 39 (April 1976)
Monster Manual, p93 (December 1977)
C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness, p12 (December 1979)
Dragon #43, “Sage Advice”, p17 (November 1980)
Monster Cards, Set 4 (May 1982)
Dragon #91, “Treasure Trove”, p55 (November 1984)
T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil, p71 (August 1985)
GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders, p33 (September 1986)
PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook, p121 (January 1991)
Dragon #167, “The Ecology of the Su-Monster”, p20 (March 1991)
ALQ1: Golden Voyages, p9 (October 1992)
Monstrous Manual, p333 (June 1993)
Something Wild, p33 (February 1996)
The Scarlet Brotherhood, p92 (March 1999)
Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff, p24 (August 1999)
Dragon #265, “Primitive PCs”, p48 (November 1999)
More Psionic Monsters (Psionics Handbook Web Enhancement), p8 (March 2001)
Monster Manual 3, p 188 (June 2010)
Dungeon #215, “The Last Slave Lord”, p36 (June 2013)
Playing at the World blog (February 2014)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

The zorbo comes to us courtesy of the 1982 “New AD&D Aid” Monster Cards. Each pack contained a set of twenty monster cards, with stats and a description on the back, and a full-colour illustration on the front. Most of the creatures were from the Monster Manual, but each set also had some new monsters, including the zorbo in set 1. According to Dragon #61, credit for the zorbo goes to Allen Hammack.

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Monster Cards, Set 1 (1982)

The zorbo enjoys eating humans and demihumans. It is a small, semi-intelligent beast with 4+2 HD and two initially feeble (1-2 damage) claw attacks. The zorbo’s special trick is that it can absorb the armor class of its natural surroundings (e.g. stone = AC 0), or from opponents’ magic item, destroying such items in the process. This new armor class lasts 10 rounds, and also gives the zorbo a corresponding damage boost.

Although it isn’t actually described as a koala with large teeth and claws, the zorbo sure looks like a koala with large teeth and claws. Up to four zorbos can be encountered together, and they may have coins (likely silver), gems, potions and perhaps a miscellaneous magic item. The zorbo was reprinted in the Monster Manual II with new artwork, still resembling a koala bear.

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Monster Manual II (1983)

The zorbo resurfaced quite late in the run of 2nd Edition monster supplements, appearing in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two, looking more like a koala than ever. As with many of the Monstrous Compendium entries, the expansion of the description to a whole page is a mixed blessing. A full half of the text is spent on an overly complicated explanation of the Armor Class absorption process (which no longer gives the zorbo a boost to damage). One cute addition here is that the process of absorption takes one round and is visually similar to a bear scratching its back on a tree.

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Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two (1995)

We learn that although they prefer human and demihuman flesh, zorbos will eat other meat, fish and even berries. They lair in small caves, hollowed out trees or dug-out holes. Zorbos form small family units with life-long mates and one or two young from previous years. Occasionally, large communities of up to 60 zorbos form. Such settlements are guarded by sentries.

For some reason, bears are a natural enemy of the zorbo, and will attack on sight. Magic items made using zorbo hide are particularly receptive to enchantments, granting an additional +1 bonus to related saving throws. Dragon #137 pegs the value of a young zorbo at 4,250 gp. Polyhedron #65 details a Potion of Zorbo Fingers which gives the imbiber the ability to gain the Armor Class of things he or she touches.

The zorbo skipped two Editions of D&D entirely, with not even the trusty Tome of Horrors providing a d20 version. In 5th Edition, Tomb of Annihilation makes the zorbo an inhabitant of Chult. As it happens, the zorbo does have a prior connection to the Forgotten Realms, even if it is quite minor. In the adventure FRA2: Black Courser for the Horde subsetting, a lone zorbo (in this case described as resembling a panda bear) is having a rock fight with ten bakenmonos.

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Tomb of Annihilation (2017)

Tomb of Annihilation drops all pretence and just describes the zorbo (ZOR-boh) as similar in size and appearance to a koala. Amusingly, the accompanying artwork is the least koala-like to date, giving the zorbo an understated menacing air.

This version of the zorbo is loyal to the previous incarnations, but the signature armor stealing ability has been streamlined into a simple natural armor absorption ability, and a destructive claw attack which gives the zorbo a temporary AC boost. The claw attack can still destroy some magic items, and the zorbo remains as fond as ever of human flesh.

Monster Cards, Set 1 (May 1982)
Dragon #61, “New AD&D Aid: Monster Cards”, p51 (May 1982)
Monster Manual II, p131 (August 1983)
Dragon #137, “Treasures of the Wilds”, p21 (September 1988)
FRA2: Black Courser, p48 (July 1990)
Polyhedron #65, “Oceans of Potions”, p20 (November 1991)
Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two, p117 (December 1995)
Tomb of Annihilation (September 2017)

[SIZE=+1]More monsters[/SIZE]
The nine monsters covered in this Monster ENCyclopedia were chosen because of the special role they play in Tomb of Annihilation, but the adventure is still a trove of unusual creatures rescued from D&D history, from the lowly giant strider through to the legendary atropal. Anyone with a love for D&D’s rich history will likely find something to enjoy.

For previous entries in this series, visit the Monster ENCyclopedia index.

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Thank you for these posts.

One piece of feedback though: would you consider breaking up your posts in multiple shorter posts?

This post nearly breaks the EN World mobile app, at least on my phone. Halfway through, scrolling becomes sluggish and erratic, probably a combination of a long post and many pictures.

Again, thank you.

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app


Shirokinukatsukami fan
Needs tighter editing, but good work, (the al-miraj entry cites a 'Tome of Annihilation' which should be Tomb of Annihilation).
Fixed, thanks. If this series ever gets as far as a collection in print form, I very much agree that a good editor will be needed. I'm good at editing other people's text (part of my day job), but my own writing, not so much :(.


Shirokinukatsukami fan
This post nearly breaks the EN World mobile app, at least on my phone. Halfway through, scrolling becomes sluggish and erratic, probably a combination of a long post and many pictures
Oh goodness, I hadn't give any thought at all to how well this post would work on mobile, mostly because I don't ever visit ENWorld on my phone.

When I start them, I never expect these articles to be quite as long as they end up, but I will keep the size in mind in future. Sorry about the viewing issues!


First Post
That's a rather weird collection of monsters, alright! I don't think I've ever used any of these in one of my games - mostly due to a quite noticeable degree of silliness.

And who needs Grung when there's Bullywug and Grippli?

Still, it's interesting to read something about their history.


Oh goodness, I hadn't give any thought at all to how well this post would work on mobile, mostly because I don't ever visit ENWorld on my phone.

When I start them, I never expect these articles to be quite as long as they end up, but I will keep the size in mind in future. Sorry about the viewing issues!
No worries.

I just have to read it on the computer then.

Sent from my C6603 using EN World mobile app


Extradimensional Explorer
The zorbo might not have appeared in 3e (even the Tome of Horrors), but there's a 3e conversion from 2003 in the Creature Catalog. Based on the conversion date, I'd guess it's by the original CC crew --- whose earlier conversions became a good chunk of the ToH, I believe.


Shirokinukatsukami fan
The zorbo might not have appeared in 3e (even the Tome of Horrors), but there's a 3e conversion from 2003 in the Creature Catalog. Based on the conversion date, I'd guess it's by the original CC crew --- whose earlier conversions became a good chunk of the ToH, I believe.
Yes, that conversion was published March 2003 according to my notes. However, I've struggled to find working links to Creature Catalog version of critters since a few ENWorld upgrades ago, so I didn't include a link in the article.


Extradimensional Explorer


Once again thank you for your meticulous work and the excellent references. I want to use many of these creatures in 3.5 form, so the references really help. Should I end up converting 3.5 stats for those who do not really have them (mostly just adding Grapple stats to their 3.0 versions and correcting any changes to abilities for the small edition revision), I'll post the material here as a reply.

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