Friday, October 8, 2010

The Weird Fiend Folio

The AD&D Fiend Folio is weird. I don’t mean that in the sense of it being odd (though it’s maybe that, too) I mean in the sense that a lot of its monsters evoke a weird fiction feel, at least to me. Sure, its easy to make fun of the Folio--there are a number of misfires there. Any time you talk about it someone always goes and mentions the flumph, so its got that to live down.

But I think there are a number of creatures that would be at home in the works of Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, or any other weird writer you could think of. All they need is the proper context. Let’s take a look:

algoid: Ok, the picture doesn’t help us here, and I’m not sure what this thing's about really, but the basic concept of a sentient algae colony seems reasonably Lovecraftian.  He gave us space fungi, after all.

apparition: like the coffer corpse, the crypt thing, and the revenant, these are exactly the sort of undead that show up in weird tales. Admittedly, though, there’s nothing special about them other than the Russ Nicholson art that really gives them a lurid feel.  Still, the raw materials are there for building a weird atmosphere, absolutely.

bullywug: Things you can describe as batrachian tend to be sort of weird (this would apply to the slaad as well--which remind me a bit of Smith's Tsathaggua, anyway). I could definitely see the bullywugs in the Dreamlands, but I guess that’s about it.

crabman: Here’s a case where the picture does not help, but crustacean sentients actually appear in a Robert E. Howard tale (“People of the Black Coast”) though their whole deal is a little more aboleth-like there, appearances aside.

dark creeper: these guys have always reminded me a bit of Howard’s portrayal of the Little People.  You could always give them a little of the whispery evillness of the lil' demons in Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. This time, the illustration really helps.

Cryonax: a yeti with tentacles for arms doesn’t seem like Lovecraft, but does seem exactly the sort of thing one of Lovecraft’s lesser disciples would have created.

gibberlings: have a name like something out of a weird tale, but I suspect they’d just be a brief, colorful mention in passing in Dunsany or the like.

Githyanki and Githzerai: with their whole feud thing seem like something that could come out of a more science fantasy weird story, and again, the visuals help.

Kuo-toa: or should I say, Deep Ones?

shadow demon: are not too far removed from the menace of the CAS story “The Double Shadow.”

yellow musk creeper and yellow musk zombies: fairly weird fiction-esque at face.  It's got the "yellow" thing going on in the name, too.

And that’s just off a quick flip through. I’m sure there are plenty of others sandwiched between the needle men, and thorks--and of course, flumphs.


rainswept said...
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Scott said...

That's a fantastic idea, rainswept. Reaper even came out with some pretty good Githyanki minis ("Astral Reavers").

A lot of the fascination with the Fiend Folio probably stems from the fact that it used artists other than the usual TSR stable. It just had its own look and vibe back when there wasn't quite such a proliferation of published "official" D&D material.

Unknown said...

The Flumph isn't a bad monster... it's just misunderstood. I featured them as the signature monster in my one-page dungeon entry for 2010.

Trey said...

@rainswept - Now that's an inspired idea! They'd work create in that context. I could actually see Eric John Stark or Northwest Smith encountering them, too.

@Scott - I agree, the art plays a big part.

@Stuart - Nice. I think that's true of a lot of so-called bad monsters.

yoyorobbo said...

FF is probably my favorite supp. HB book from 1st edition AD&D.

Then again, there's MM2, which was the first 1st ed book *I* actually bought (my group back then sorta split up the buying of books, seeing how we were young punks with no cash).

Oh and yeah, I guess I spent hour upon hour pouring though my buddy's Deities & Demigods... who can pass that up with those *outlawed* Melnibonean and Cthullu sections.

Ah well... maybe I spoke too soon, but the FF *is* a GREAT tome, IMO. One of the creepy-cool-iest ones for sure.

Great post and great(er) summary of some of the sweet offerings from the book.

ze bulette said...

For the reason Scott pointed out, back in the day I didn't think it had proper creds. Now of course I love it.

Roger G-S said...

So many of the FF monsters would be better off in a sci-fi than fantasy setting. This is even not counting the astral Giths, the numerous duplication of the "egg laying and hatching" concept from Alien, the CIFAL (?!?), and the Gorbel straight up ripped off from the film "Dark Star."

Matthew Slepin said...

Most of the FF monsters just need some understanding treament. Although I still think Adherers are stupid.

I used to hate Bullywugs. Try reading Wagner's Bloodstone to see how they should be done.

Scott said...

Quite a few of the FF monsters got a name change from their original presentation in the Fiend Factory. Adherers started off as "Glueys."

Trey said...

@Roger - You're right, there is a strong science fictional--or at least science fantasy thread to many of them.

@Matthew - True enough, though the fallen race of Bloodstone were larger than humans and didn't hop around, so have a little bit more of a scare factor.

@Scott - Yeah, that ones probably for the better.

satyre said...

You know this talk of sword and planet with the usual noir styling here has me thinking Flash Gordon.

Githyanki running Mongo with githzerai as oppressed servitors, kuo-toa as gillmen, aarakocra as hawkmen with a bit of reskinning...

Trey said...

Good point. The archetypes are clearly there. I can't see Ming as a Githyanki though--but maybe as there lich lord?