Monday, March 5, 2012

Gamer ADD: Fiend Folio Part 6


When I was a kid and just learning to read what my children now call “chapter books,” I spent a lot of time in my local library perusing books in the mythology section. Of particular interest to me were stories from various Native American tribes. This was something I had yet to encounter and I found them both fascinating and horrifying.

The one thing I vividly remember about these books was an illustration of the Spider Woman. Though not necessarily understood to be a monster, this illustration certainly made me think of her as one. Ironically, despite my fascination with this depiction of the Spider Woman, I have never been a big fan of D&D’s Spider Woman — Loth. This is, in part, because of her association with the drow, which I have always found . . . boring.

This is, in part, because my childhood imagination was better than a bunch of dark skinned elves. The Spider Woman (and by extension Loth) imply the horrifying notion that creatures of the insect and arachnid worlds not only look completely alien, they are alien. They are manifestations of forces in the universe intent on destroying humanity — Cthulhu in an exoskeleton, in other words.

I mention this because though there is a (short) list of creatures in the FF that hail from the lower planes, none of them invoke the hostile alien intelligence that my young mind saw in that illustration of the Spider Woman (and later in the writings of HPL). There is, however, one group that can — the grossly underutilized Slaad.

Though their alignment is technically Chaotic Neutral, not only have I argued in the past that there is so little difference between Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil that they might as well be the same, who could argue that the Lord of Entropy and the Lord of the Insane (the Slaadi Lords Ssendam and Ygorl) could easily be seen as despots of the lower planes?

What sets the Slaad apart, however, is that they are basically all frogs. Slaadi do for amphibians what the Spider Woman does (and Loth ought to do) for insects and arachnids. They transform an entire classification of animals into an ancient alien menace determined to wipe out humanity.

This is reinforced by the fact that there are several monsters within the pages of the FF that could easily be qualified as amphibian (and therefore Slaadi minions):

  • Babbler
  • Blindheim
  • Bullywug
  • Firenewt
  • Firetoad
  • Vodyanoi

One of the things I really like about this understanding of amphibians is the way it plays with classic tales like the Princess and the Frog. In fact, I do believe there is an adventure in there somewhere . . .


Anthony said...

"There is, however, one group that can — the grossly underutilized Slaad."

Yes! I thought the Slaad were great, but never used to their potential. If D&D has science-fantasy origins, surely they plus the interdimensional Githyanki and Githzerai spring from them.

Though, I have to admit, I always wanted to name the chief Slaad "Caesar."

David Griffey said...

Interesting. I stumbled across this blog some time ago (looking for information on saints). I enjoy it very much.

As for CN vs. CE. I explain to my boys, as best as I can figure, CN is Jack Sparrow, while CE is Heath Ledger's Joker. One would do anything to save his skin, even setting up innocent people to die. But he wouldn't cause them to die, or kill them in cold blood. He just looks out for himself. The other would kill gladly, kill instantly, and kill boatloads of innocents. He doesn't care at all. He looks out for whatever he looks out for at a given moment, and is willing to pull the trigger for any number of reasons, if for no other reason than to pull the trigger. So I see a definite distinction between the two.

Though I agree with the take on the Slaad. I picked up the FF some time back, and have wondered why the Slaad aren't given more press time.

FrDave said...

Thanks for dropping by, I am glad you enjoy my little corner of the blogosphere.

My opinion on CN is based on the explanatory entry of CN in the 1e DMG: itself is law and order, so death is a desirable end.

Take this to its logical conclusion and one arrives at the mad scientist trying to destroy the world — evil. This is especially true from the Christian POV where God is the source of life.

While I do find your explanation to your boys somewhat useful, it doesn't change the fact that behaving in evil ways when it suits you as opposed to gonzo evil all the the time doesn't change the fact that it is still evil.

BTW I suspect that the Slaad get the short shrift precisely because they are CN and not CE. Note that Githyanki are far more popular than Githzerai despite the fact that they are, in essence, the same monster.

richard said...

I think Githyanki are more popular because that colour cover illo.
1. Have you seen what Scrap Princess and Matt Kish have been doing with Slaadi?
2. did you know that frogs have astonishing biodiversity, including a bunch of seriously weird not-found-elsewhere-in-nature variations like gastric-breeding frogs? I kinda love 'em, and am disturbed that they seem to be dying off en masse.