1985 Was a Bad Year For Monsters

I found the recent 15 Retarded Dungeons & Dragons Monsters article from Cracked very entertaining even though it was woefully short on Flail Snails (unlike this awesome page of D&D monster mockery). However, it got me thinking about another fantastic source for really stupid monsters: Monsters & Animals by Kevin Siembieda, dated 1985.

I purchased this book  when I was in junior high.  Now, I do appreciate the fact that they actually show what territorial and geographical range each of the critters in the book fits in, and they try to fit many (hardly all) of these critters into an ecology somewhere. However, this book also has a considerable number of beasts that are every bit as cringeworthy as much of what you’ll find in D&D, and doesn’t tell you much about them beyond their game stats. I’m not necessarily talking about the profusion of anthropomorphic animals that infest the book either (Two varieties of anthro bears, wolves, coyotes, foxes, gorillas-with-horns, dragons, lemurs, several catman varieties, crabs, horses, fish,  five lizardman varieties, vultures, bulls, rats…).

Notably, unlike the two articles linked above which draw from 30 years of D&D’s most pitiful creations, I draw every one of the gems I’m sharing from one book, and from within the 103 pages of the book that don’t cover regular animals. Out of the 89 creatures in the book, I found more than 15 that deserved mention here, but I had to restrain myself. Now, the book has a number of cool things in it too (I rather like the Rahu-Men, the Syvan and how Palladium handles Scarecrows, for example), but that’s not the purview of this article.

so, without further ado, I bring you…

15 Retarded Palladium Monsters

(In alphabetical order)

1. The Adram

adram

“The exact nature and origin of this weird creature is a complete mystery. Probably it is the result of some ancient, misbegotten enchantment.” It’s a thing with the head of a horse, claws and a peacock tail. Yeah. Oh, and it has a habit of “adopting” random groups of travelers and following them around, demanding their attention and mooching their food and booze until they kill it for the crime of existing or until it goes berserk and they are forced to put it down.

This monster literally exists just to draw player ridicule, and that’s more or less what even the text itself says. The book also gives no indication as to why player characters (who are typically of a rather psychopathic and homicidal nature) wouldn’t just kill this thing on sight rather than letting it tag along with them.

2. Eye Killer

eye killer

It’s an owl/snake/dog critter about the size of a beagle and equipped with a lethal gaze attack and a few psionic abilities. “Although more intelligent than an animal, eye killers have no goal other than to deal death to humanoids.” There is no attempt to explain the reason for this critter’s utter focus on homicide. A wizard probably did it.

I ought to give Kevin Siembieda some slack here, I guess. Unexplained hostility to all sentient life was fairly standard for any ugly monster in fantasy gaming at one point, and is often still the default assumption in many sectors of the industry.  A slight correction to the earlier bit about their gaze attack: the text says that “it is from the eyes that these terrible creatures kill,” yet there’s no gaze attack listed in its stats anywhere. The rules do state that they have access to several levels worth of psionic abilities (and one of those levels does happen to include an “evil eye”-style attack, though that power is never mentioned explicitly in anything about the critter’s tactics). Still, it’s not with their eyes that they kill, it’s with psionics. What happened to truth in advertising?

3. Feathered Death
feathered death

It’s an evil falcon with a human face and hands and a few thief skills as well as an unexplained super-strength that puts them on a par with the 7-9 foot tall wolf-men that are one of this game’s signature PC races. Oh, and they’re sadistic torturers that like to lure people into traps. Yeah they’ve got an attitude, but there are a number of other feathered critters in this game that seem more worthy of the title “feathered death.” Name or not, they just ain’t scary.

4. Floater
floater

This book seems to have a “thing” for marginally dangerous (at best) rodents of doom, as this and the next entry will show. I do like that he includes a critter here that’s more of a farm pest than a combat opponent though. Floaters do exactly what the name says they do: they ravage your crops and then they use digestive gases to inflate gas sacs in their bellies and float away like balloons to find someplace else to sweep clean of crops. Oh, and it has a long tail with giant mildly poisonous spikes that it uses to defend itself if it’s attacked in the air. Wouldn’t the denser part of their bodies be on the bottom rather than top while they’re floating? Also, mightn’t there be some risk of self-puncture leading to a long fall if their tails have those giant spikes on them? Inquiring minds want to know.

5. Hopper
hoppers

They’re vorpal bunnies. No, really. Actually, they’re a bit closer to being vorpal gerbils but the concept remains. Oh, and the text describes them as “sinister harbingers of death.” One side thing about these little guys is that Kevin Siembieda took a similar route to making rodent incisors look fang-like to what Jes Goodwin did a year later with the Skaven. Yes, Monty Python is funny. No, we don’t need to fight a pack of Dread Killer Rabbits of Caerbannog and endure the hours of movie quotes that will result from these coming into the game.

6. Melech
melech
The Melech is one of the most pathetically hideous non-cthulhoid creatures I’ve seen in a fantasy roleplaying game. Emphasis on the pathetic. I know they’re supposed to be creepy and menacing, but they come off more like this creature. And, like so many other fantasy (especially palladium and D&D monsters), their exact origin is unclear. So they’re centauroid thingies 8′ high at the shoulder with nearly useless little t-rex arms.  With physical strength equivalent to a human despite an official weight between 1200-2000 lbs. I know the text states that ogres sometimes use them as intelligent mounts… but how?

7. Owl-Thing
owl-thing

This is one of my favorites from the book, because it’s exactly what the name says: it’s an owl… thing. Now, my first question looking at that drawing was, “hey, what are the tentacles coming from its beak and butt for?” This question goes entirely unanswered – the text does not mention the tentacles in any way, whatsoever.  The entire physical description of the creature is “Owl-things are strange little creatures that resemble long-legged owls with large, rolling yellow-green eyes.” That’s it. I can only assume that the tentacles have something to do with the fact that this is the second owl-themed psionic monster in one supplemental book and they didn’t want it to look too much like the Eye Killer. Oh, and what role is an Owl-thing going to take in your game? It might steal some glittery trinket and take off with it. If you pursue, you might run afoul of some large animal that it psionically charmed into protecting it. That’s pretty much it.

8. Scorpion Devil
scorpion devil

This thing made it into my article mostly because it looks utterly silly.  It’s a two foot tall mammal with a bat-nose,  insect-like armor plating and a stinging tail. Oh, and a head that makes up about 25% of its body mass. The text is a littel confusing. Check out why: “Fortunately, they usually attack only when hungry or when they feel threatened. However, Scorpion Devils are very nervous and hostile so that even an innocent, accidental encounter is likely to launch into one attacking.” Let’s get this straight – they only attack when they’re in the mood to. So far so good. The bad news? They’re always in the mood to attack. Reading that and explaining it took way too long. At least the Eye Killer covered its congenital hostility in one sentence.

9. Sea Serpent: the Viper serpent
viper serpent

The above is a sea serpent. With a viperfish head and big arms that have a thumb on the wrong side of the hand. Oh, and it breathes fire too. Do I need to even try to explain what’s wrong with this creature?

10. Sucker
sucker

It’s a vampiric mynock. Also, the rules say it’ll attach itself to literally anything that moves in an attempt to drink blood, regardless of whether the surface it lands on is suited to the purpose. Its main purpose is to entangle characters’ limbs and inconvenience them. Oh, and once it’s latched on it’s specifically described as being too stupid to let go until slain. They’re common in several parts of the palladium world, but their breeding process is described as being slow. How do creatures barely bright enough to remember the procedure for breathing not only survive, but thrive?

11. Tree Eel
tree eels
Okay, so it’s not really an eel; this 3-foot climbing amphibian just looks like one. It’s got sticky hands for limbs (minus the sticky, though that would have been kinda fun) and likes to fling itself out of trees onto your head. O-kay…

12. Waterbat
waterbat

There’s not really a lot to say about the waterbat. It’s a flying electrified manta ray with psychic powers and a desire to discuss philosophy. Actually fairly powerul and smart, they kinda exist to get players scratching their heads by talking to them. Given how few critters in this book are capable of anything but mindless violence and the fact that this is a big manta that wants to discuss the setting’s equivalent of Heidegger and Kant, I can see how the waterbat would confuse players. My favorite part is the note at the end of the description: “note: the name waterbat is what humans call them,” which is hardly shocking given that the name waterbat is provided for the things in large bold font a mere paragraph earlier in the text and the text doesn’t give a different name that they use for themselves.

13. Wing Tip
wing tips

Even Kevin Siembieda doesn’t seem quite sure what these things are. They’re a pair of wings attached to an eyeless, mouthless ball of brightly colored fluff. The text gives no reason for their existence, no hints as to what if anything they eat, or any thing other than that they hate sadness and pain and do what they can to dispel it, and they’ll only fight in self defense or to protect other good-aligned creatures. Hence, while they’re cute little huggable winged puffballs that spread peace and love, they’ll only help you out if you’re worthy of their compassion. Oh, and though they have precisely one magical ability – to give everything else in their presence a bonus to magical saves – they share a common trait with many of the other silly critters on this list – their primary powers are psionics. Why is it that the goofier a critter in the Palladium universe is, the greater the odds are of it being psychic? The mind boggles.

14. Worms of Taut
wormsoftaut

The Worms of Taut are a collection of snake-themed creatures that have deminic origins yet are not actually demons themselves, whatever precisely that means. Well, apparently what it means is that they’re unpleasant and you can summon them like demons but they’re not actually magical so you can’t banish them back where they came from after you summon them. But you can summon them as if they were magical, even though the text says explicitly that they’re not. Wha?

Anyhow, there are a bunch of varieties of Worms of Taut, and most are actually not especially lame. I’m writing about two varieties, however, that are pretty darn messed up. The Serpent Beast’s main problem is just that it’s really, really ugly and reminds me of the bad guy from Dreamscape. In itself, it wouldn’t have made its way to this article, since it’s just a snake/human looking thing that lives only to kill for its own perverse pleasure.

It’s the big thing behind the Serpent Beast that convinced me to list the Worms of Taut. This is a Blow Worm. You heard me right, a Blow Worm. This creature is between 120-200 feet long, but despite its bulk is not considered a desirable agent of destruction because it’s basically a big mellow and nonaggressive worm that would rather take a nap than kill your adventurers, thank you very much. If it’s hungry or riled up enough to go after you, you’re in for a special treat:  its primary form of attack is to spit out an 18-foot diameter glob of mucus-like slime that will engulf and smother you. Once you’ve been immobilized, the worm will swallow you whole. Fantastic, and an indignity no player will ever forget: being smothered in a ginormous loogie before being eaten by an oversized earthworm. Thank you, Kevin. I think you can see why this is probably my favorite of the creatures listed in this article.

15. Zavor
zavor

The Zavor is a creature that as near as I can tell was designed to capitalize on the assumption that player characters are homicidal psychopaths so the GM can teach them a lesson. Maybe I’m giving Kevin too much credit for actually attributing didactic intentions to him, but anyhow I’m going to stick with it. The Zavor is a weird humanoid that is immune to all forms of magic. Three guesses where they came from: “The origins of the Zavor are unknown; their purpose equally vague.” They have no function, craft, society, no need to eat or even a personal goal, basically just minding their own business and hoping to be left alone, refusing even to defend themselves… until somebody attacks them with magic. Any directly damaging magical effect from an enchanted sword to a fireball will fail to damage the Zavor, and will instead cause the creature to split into two identical duplicates that want to kill every living thing. The game explicitly gives no incentive to actually hurt one of these until after you’ve already done so.

Gee, that’s subtle.

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9 Responses to “1985 Was a Bad Year For Monsters”

  1. Runeslinger Says:

    Thanks for this~
    While I love Palladium dearly, there was no doubt that most of the encounters in the wilderness were with natural animals, and most other antagonists and the like were drawn from PC races.

    • casewerk Says:

      Yeah, that was just about the only way to do it without baffled expressions and snickering from the players.

  2. Sean Phillips Says:

    I’ve been looking for something about the adram. Yes, I agree it’s a dumb monster. It was the second monster lsited in the book, and I remember thinking something like, gee…can’t they do better than this thing? And yet I wanted to see if anyone ever had the adram as a player character. Or even a non-player character. The alignment was “selfish or evil.” But that would have to include aberrant evil, and it’s hard to imagine an adram being aberrant, seeing how that laingment includes a rigid code of honor. And if it WERE a player character (I think the book said that it was “not recomended” as such), could it be unprincipled, that is, still irritating and obnoxious, but basically good? The description wasn’t that detailed as to what alignment it could be. If anyone ever had an adram character in their game, player or non-player, I am curious was to what it was like.

    • casewerk Says:

      I know I’ve never heard of anybody making one of them for a PC. I think one certainly could be Unprincipled, but I suspect that (if any ever did happen to be made into PCs) then they ended up either Anarchist or Miscreant. Diabolic seems too much effort into being evil than the lazy Adrams would be into, while Miscreant’s basically just the next step in douchebaggery past Anarchist.

  3. Sean Phillips Says:

    sounds reasonable. On my way back here, purely by accident, I discovered that the adram is NOT (as I had suspected all this time) a Kevin Siembeda invention, but is actually based on real mythology. Take a look:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adramelech

  4. Sean Phillips Says:

    Come to think of it, the last part of that name “melech” sounds famialiar also.

  5. Djake Says:

    As a fun addendum to the Wing Tip entry: their alignment is listed as “Any, but almost always good or selfish.” Consequently, in one of my old high school campaigns, our GM decided to include a keep that was being menaced by a horde of evil wingtips. Our group had gained some levels by that point, and were wiping the walls with goblins, orcs and even a few ogres and a fire giant. We all had a good, swaggering chuckle at the notion of “diabolical cotton balls” – until we faced them.
    Wing tips have the powers of a sixth level mind mage, with over 100-125 ISP and powers like Mind Bolt, Bio-Manipulation (paralysis, blindness and so on) and Hypnotic Suggestion. They’re also +4 to dodge, in addition to probable bonuses from their agility (PP 5D6) – and dodging doesn’t take up one of their actions as it does for most Palladium characters. Oh, and they travel in packs of up to a dozen.
    To make a long story short, our characters were shot down, blinded, dominated and otherwise trounced; stripped of our belongings, and forced to watch as the wing-tips made off with our gear and horses.
    Beware the evil wing-tips, man! XD

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