I feel I'm doing a disservice to my readers, working on monsters as I have done the last couple of weeks ~ and not new monsters, but very old monsters. I don't suppose there's much interesting that is left in these old beasts.
Was passed a monster chart the other day that had a lot of monsters that, I will admit, were utterly unfamiliar to me: drakainias, vemeraks, thulgants, bzastras and so on ... no doubt these are all terribly familiar to the reader. Yes, well. I never investigated the Monster Manual II, or the Monster Compendiums 1, 2 and 3, nor any of those monster books that were associated with realms or splatbooks, nor anything published having to do with monsters dating from the rise of 3e. I just didn't care. I remember flipping through such books a the game store with a vague interest, seeing quickly that these new monsters didn't seem to have much "new" about them. Just a shifting around and reconfiguring of the same old abilities, with new pictures and new unfamiliar names. I might have looked at a myconid or a decapus at some point, but I wouldn't remember now.
I'm an old man, I guess. When I went through the monster manual back in '79, I had at least heard of a chimera or a hydra. I knew imps and minotaurs from stories. Yes, there were some odd names, but they grew familiar over a lot of time. Some I just never used. I have never thrown a morkoth at a party or a thought eater (and I don't use psionics, at any rate). I can count the number of times I've used a remorhaz, a groaning spirit or a mind flayer on one finger. Most monsters, I have always thought, were a bit of a waste.
I went through the Fiend Folio when it came out, still a young feller, but I ditched more than half the monsters almost at once. We played with flail snails but what a joke, along with flumphs, cifals and tweens. Revenants were clearly set up to fuck with parties and I did not include them in my campaign. The few monsters in the Deities & Demigods were better, particularly those from Melnibone and Cthulhu, the two parts of the book that were ripped out after the initial release (of which my original copy was stolen, so that I lost those pages until the internet happened).
But more monsters? I had enough by then. I was constantly having to adjust them, too, to make them more tougher or less silly or whatever ~ and that got to be a job that was too big to manage, as it still is. Back in the mid-80s, I plowed through a description of every monster I used on my Commodore 64, 650 printed pages ... and kept the binder full of those pages on hand until about '91. By then I was thinking that I should put it into Mac Word. I would start, but it bored me. I lost the binder in '97 to a nutjob roommate who destroyed a bunch of my things while I was out of town, so I had to start again from scratch in 98 when I got my Pentium. Again, did not get far.
The wiki is just the end of a lot of tries to sort out the exact details of the monsters, to explain how the Beholder's eyes actually work or build proper rules for dozens of little details. How does trample actually work? When are people actually trampled? The book makes it sound like characters thoughtfully lay down in front of cattle whenever. I've always tried to clear that sort of thing up.
More monsters just means more misunderstandings, more work. For what? A different monster that also drains blood? Yet another dragon or demon? Yet another small creature that exists as a annoyance to play tricks and steal the parties things? How is the game made better than there are fourteen different creatures that all serve the same purpose?
Humanoid races have always been useful. We need lots of enemies to fight one another. But if it is another humanoid race, what is the good of it being just another elf or another dwarf? How many different kinds of goblin do we need? Can't we just use goblins?
BUT . . . I know. The tide is here and I'm underwater. I'm carping about a world that is never going to change. And I'm working on a monster list that can barely get a 'meh' out of the reader. I apologize for that.
Still, the list I'm creating is very good for my game and my world. These insights into old monsters, how they should have worked and how they can work, are worth a thousand ill-considered add-ons that seem to have been created more to give bored game designers something to do. When drawing lines to make megadungeons go sour, let's throw five old ideas together into a blender and make a monster.
My daughter feels that I should write a book called the "Blender Monster Handbook," featuring monsters made by random dice and other poor decision-making processes. She says it will sell. I think it would be boring as hell to write.
I am sorry. I am. None of you readers have asked for this very boring rant. You don't deserve it. This is just an excuse for me not to start working on making the centaur monster relevant.