Posted Wed, Mar 06, 2013 by gunky
The Monster Manuals have always been filled with a huge range of creatures, many of them drawn from myths and legends and others created to fill ecological niches. But there are also a huge number of weird monsters that all sort of fit into one generic category: "An X with the Y of a Z and the A of a B." Like the Jackalope of North America or the Wolpertinger of Bavaria, these bizarre cryptids are Frankensteined assemblages of various creature parts kit-bashed into one body.
Some of these are ripped directly from
ancient myths. The Griffon, for example, has the body of
a lion and the head, wings and talons of an eagle, and has been used as a
heraldic emblem for hundreds of years. Some of these monsters are
interpretations of old myths - the Catoblepas, for
example, is an exaggeration of a creature described by Roman naturalist
Pliny the Elder, who may have been attempting to describe the gnu or some
other kind of unfamiliar wildebeest. Others are entirely new creations,
like the Grell (a giant floating brain with the beak of
a parrot and the tentacles of an octopus) or the
Owlbear (a monster created by Gygax for the 1st Edition,
which was inspired by a Chinese toy).
Many of these mashups are likely to make an appearance in Neverwinter. Griffons are industry-standard aerial mounts, the Grell is featured rather prominently in the 4th Edition Monster Manual and is a strong contender for late-game underground encounters, and the Owlbear is one of those wilderness encounters that makes D&D the game it is.