When the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fiend Folio (1st Edition) came out in 1981, I was captivated. The art was interesting, the creatures – some I loved, and some which left me cold – were unknowns. I was ready to throw some of these at my players, working them into wilderness, dungeon, and even towns. I might not yet have realized that the osquip was a reworked Barsoomian rat ala Edgar Rice Burroughs, but at least I recognized that the Horta from Janus IV had found its counterpart in the Denzelian.
Among those creatures was the hook horror, a low-intelligence monster which roamed the depths in groups of 2 to 12. The 1e Fiend Folio described the creature as communicating with others of its kind by “making clacking noises with the exoskeleton – an eerie sound which can alarm the unwary as it echoes around dungeon corridors.” That was an image that stayed with me through years of gaming. Many a cave system and dungeon complex was haunted by that eerie clacking, even when no hook horrors were actually encountered by the party.
Like many, I migrated to the 2nd Edition of AD&D when it came out, but my hook horrors were largely their 1st Edition version. I liked the art better, and I disliked making those noises come from the horrors’ throats. I liked that the hooks could help them climb, and the idea that hook horrors used their bony claws to scrape fungus from cave walls. Well, they didn’t say that last part explicitly, but…
The original hook horror is credited to Ian Livingstone in the Fiend Folio. Mr. Livingstone is also credited with (take a deep breath) the assassin bug, blood hawk, giant bloodworm, bonesnapper, crabman, Styx devil, dune stalker, eye killer, forlarren, grell, mite, phantom stalker, throat leech, and giant troll. In my book, this makes him one of the unsung heroes of early gaming, for I certainly got good value out of at least half his creations.
Many of the Fiend Folio’s creatures were translated to 3rd Edition extremely well in Necromancer Games’ Tome of Horrors. Sadly, though, the hook horror was not among them. As far as I am aware, there is no Open Gaming Content version of this iconic monster. And that is a very sad thing. I would be very happy to learn that I am wrong. As I am working on my own “fantasy heartbreaker”, I would dearly love to include statistics for the hook horror.
But, even if I cannot, I am finding conversion – even on-the-fly conversion – to be a relatively simple matter. You may rest assured that eerie, far-off clacking noises will echo around my dungeons for a long, long time to come.