5 Stunning Mythological Origins Of Dungeons And Dragons Monsters

Gremlins weren’t invented until the 1920s

It’s crazy to think that one of the most ubiquitous mythological creatures didn’t exist around 100 years ago, but the word gremlin didn’t really exist until the mid-1920s. The term was popularized by the Royal British Air Force as a cheeky way of explaining equipment malfunctions. Cut wires, faulty sensors and all sorts of mechanical problems have been blamed on mischievous little creatures. Most scholars believe the term shares roots or is derived from “goblin”, another J&D favorite. While many players have come up against a pack of cunning gremlins, the mind-blowing gremlins aren’t even an official Dungeons & Dragons characters. Although the dozens and dozens of homebrew character sheets mean they might as well be. It’s nice to know that modern mythology can be just as inspiring as ancient tales.

The Tarrascans are actually good Christians

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She’s like “the dog ate my homework slash teacher.”

“The Legendary Tarascan is perhaps the most feared monster on the Material Plane.” So reads Proverbs 31:6. Just kidding, it’s from Monster Manual. But this creature has surprisingly biblical origins. This monster is inspired by a French medieval mythical beast of the same name. Parts of southern France were apparently plagued by creatures the size of a large hippopotamus that had six legs, the shell of a massive turtle, and the head of a strange lion/human hybrid. (Why did they draw such messed up faces back then?) It would have been fine, I mean, whatever your head looks like, but it had an unfortunate habit of eating people. Saint Martha (the sister of Lazarus, you know him, he was dead but then Jesus brought him back to life) came out to deal with the monster and instead of killing him, converted him to Christianity. The tarrasque of J&D is much larger than its medieval inspiration. It can level entire cities and is about the same height as the White House…which can also level entire cities now that I think about it.

Lamia was Zeus’ less fortunate girlfriend

Wizards of the Coast

Honestly, a better name for this monster would be the Sphinxtaur.

We heard about datable monsters but that’s the next level. Lamia is actually not the half-human, half-lion creature you might be used to. J&D. The lamia are based on a Greek myth and probably the most grotesque fallout from Zeus and Hera’s marital troubles. Lamia was the queen of Libya and Zeus, being the Olympian horn dog that he was, impregnated her several times. But Hera could not bear this and killed their many descendants almost as soon as they were born. So what’s a queen to do? Well Lamia lost it and started stealing other people’s babies. And it must have been hard work back then, because she had a real appetite…and ate the babies. In J&D lamia are decadent creatures who still eat people, but are more concerned with amassing wealth and spending their time in the cruel and lavish seduction of pure-hearted adventurers.

Golems were originally heroes

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I would watch a whole show featuring this folk art statue from Prague, where golems were said to have originated.

Golems are a classic Dungeons and Dragons monster ripped straight from Jewish mythology. According to their original tradition, they were humanoid figures made of dust or stone and animated by incantations and written spells. They were created to protect, heal, or save their communities, but sometimes went off the rails and backfired on their creators. Just like in J&D! Golems are one of the mobs that most closely resemble their real-world inspiration in the game. However, J&D golems are usually bad guys when around, being in the thrall of an evil wizard or other creepy boss. In the Monster Manual they are canonically neutral, but controlled by the will of others. According to their mythological canon however, they are always made of lifeless substance, unlike Dungeons & Dragons where you can find disgusting monsters made of skin, bone and even blood.

Owls are based on a shitty toy

Wizards of the Coast

Seriously Gary, uh… owlbear was the most creative name you could think of?

Owlbears, while having one of the least inventive names of all J&D monster, are certainly one of the most recognizable. They are literally just the body of a bear with an owl’s head on it. While not the height of the imagination, they’re so popular that tons of other fantasy franchises have incorporated them into their canon lore. But the inspiration for them is one you’d never guess: the kaiju. Kaiju are giant Japanese monsters, think Godzilla etc. Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons & Dragons found a bag of messed up looking plastic toys being sold as dinosaur toys for some reason. The monsters were impersonations of various popular kaiju from TV shows and movies at the time. But Gygax loved their look so much that he declared them and gave us one of his most iconic designs.

If these facts gave you a +1 to the constitution, check out 5 of the best J&D online shows and 7 DMs that make role-playing an art.

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