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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Coolest Tony Diterlizzi Monsters from the Planescape Monstrous Compendium

I think a lot of us have a favorite RPG artist or piece of art. Some love the iconic cover of the 1st edition player's handbook with the demon idol, others (like me) love the orange border DMG cover with the robed guy opening the doors. Some swear by the Dragonlance paintings of Larry Elmore, others prefer "boobs and gems" art from Clyde Caldwell (also me). Newer fans might be truly inspired by the art of Wayne Reynolds and his many, many great pieces.

I picked up the Planescape Monstrous Compendium yesterday. As you may or may not be aware, Planescape was a planar campaign setting that was quirky, punky, and definitely had a very strong following when it was released in the early 90's. Lots of people still to this day play and enjoy the computer rpg Planescape: Torment. Planescape's city of Sigil was included in 4th edition, and hopefully will remain a fixture in D&D canon for good.

Tony DiTerlizzi did the bulk of the art for the early Planescape products. He did every single piece of art for this book! His work is a little different, more Barry Windsor-Smith than Alex Ross. Let's take a look at what I consider some of his best, most inspired work from this book and see what these monsters were like in 2e.

I'm going to be using some photos from my actual book in addition to google images. I think it'll give you a nice look at how cool it is the way they wrapped the text around his work, rather than confining it to little boxes like in the other compendiums of the time.

The cover was by Jeff Easley and uhh.. well... the brain goggle monster is kind of cool. The one-eyed scorpion-spider I could do without, and that's a blue lady with triangle hair in her underwear, there. Well.. ok then...

This one is one of my favorites - The Pit Fiend. I always get this mixed up, but I believe the 2nd edition devil/demon renaming goes like this:

Baatezu = Devils (Lawful Evil, live in hell)
Tanarri = Demons (Chaotic Evil, live in the Abyss)

These guys are "born" when, as a gelugon, they are thrown into the Pit of Flame for 1,001 days. They are 12 feet tall, have 6 attacks per round, can cast fireball and improved invisibility every round, and can cast WISH once per year. "They lead legions of dozens of complete armies into battle against the tanarri". Very cool monster!

Then there's the Nightmare.
Nightmares are "the evil steeds of the lower planes". The thing I like most about this art is the thing riding the nightmare. What is that guy's deal? Is he undead? Is his mouth sewn shut? He is an NPC waiting to be created.

The nightmare has glowing red eyes, orange nostrils, and "hooves that burn like embers".  They can fly, and "they hate all life". They also "willingly serve as a mount for any mission involving evil". Sheesh! So negative!

It just gets more awesome. Any wizard of level 5 can summon a nightmare by casting mount, monster summoning III, and then wall of fog. When this is done: "The nightmare comes galloping through the fog, nostrils flaring and eyes gleaming." (!!) (!!!!) Then you have to feed it "oat-like flakes made from platinum (200 gp value)". Then you are its' master for 72 hours. SO AWESOME.

I don't know if this Fire Imp can possibly match the nightmare in sheer greatness, but he sure looks cool. He's 2 feet tall, and is a familiar for evil wizards and priests. He can turn into 2 different animal forms, usually a raven and "a goat". I guess he can butt you something fierce.

He's got himself a tail stinger. What happens when it hits you? You save or die! If he is slain on the mortal plane, his "corrupt spirit" reforms on his home plane and after a year and a day he returns. 

He has a telepathic link with his master and gives his master 25% magic resistance.

The Erinyes is a monster that gets changed around quite a bit in each edition. I know in 4e they are more muscular and soldier-y, maybe to help differentiate them from the succubus.

But here in Planescape, they are tempters of mortals. Only 500 of them exist at one time, and they report directly to the Dark Eight (the 8 pit fiends on the first level of Hell that are the generals of the blood war, if  remember correctly).

They can do something no other baatezu can do: Enter the mortal realm unsummoned. They can cause fear or charm person on anyone they look at within 60 feet. They also have a rope of entanglement for.. uh.. woah... getting kind of sweaty here...

They are able to bring one person back to hell with them, but no inorganic matter. So.. the victim shows up naked. Once the poor sap is in hell, should they die, they become a lowly lemure and are added to the legions of devils.

Let's check out the demons' answer to the mighty pit fiend - The Balor! His image is pretty cool. He's kind of like a bouncer. Looks like he'd be right at home leaning against a camaro waiting for his girlfriend to get out of school for the day.

His body is shrouded in flames. At least 24 of them exist. They wander The Abyss, forming armies and commanding them into battle against the devils.  They're obsessed with The Blood War.

He's got a vorpal sword that looks like a bolt of lightning. It's got a Thor's hammer kind of deal - "Any creature picking up a balor's sword suffers 10d6 damage and must save vs. spell or die." Yikes!

When he punches you, I kid you not, you must save vs. spell with a -6 penalty or run away for 10 minutes to 1 hour! The Mighty Fear Punch... I'll have to use that somehow in a game.

And should you kill this dude, he "explodes in a blinding flash of light, inflicting 50 HP of damage to everything in a 100 foot radius (save vs spell for half damage)". Good luck with that one!

And then there's a rare miss by Tony DiTerlizzi with his depiction of the Glabrezu. I took the liberty of depicting a, in my opinion, more definitive version of the same monster from the Shackled City adventure path. I can't tell if this is a joke from a fried artist on a tight deadline, or maybe just a rare mis-step.

They're the covert agents of the underworld. They possess "rich treasure that they hoard in vast subterranean lairs in the Abyss". They don't get along with mariliths.

They can also cast power word stun... 7 times a day!  You're going to need a +2 weapon just to hit him, and he can plane shift at will. Not surprised that this is what became of Paris Hilton's dog.

I think we learned a lot today! Thanks for sitting with me for a spell, chum. Join me again tomorrow, won't you? I may be running my "main" campaign tomorrow, where George and Jessie will be going through more of the Dungeon of the Bear, this time without Robert Downey jr. and.. uh... Squirting Vajlick. If we do, you will hear about it. Every scandalous detail!

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