Saturday 25 June 2011

L is for Lava Children

I have to admit, this is a monster that I have never used.

There aren’t many monsters from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition game that I haven’t ever made use of, in any form.  In the Monster Manual, there is only the Floating Eye, the Masher, and the Morkoth that I can say I never used with any certainty.  They are simply monsters that I was unsure what to do with.

When the Fiend Folio came out in 1981, it quickly became as important to me as the Monster Manual.  I loved the illustrations, and I loved many of the creatures therein.  I still do.  But, when I got to page 61, and saw Alfred E. Neuman staring at me from the monster illustration….well, I just never found a use for the creature.  I could never imagine the mascot of MAD Magazine rampaging through dungeon halls and being effective at….well, at anything.

Now, none of this is the fault of the monster’s creator, listed in the appendix as Jim Donohoe.  Actually, the idea of the lava child is fairly clever.  These guys are the result of an unnatural “union between spirits of earth and fire”.  They live deep beneath the earth, and have the ability to pass through metal (and, apparently, stone, if the illustration is taken as a guide!) as though they were not there.  If you imagine them as having a child-like mindset, you can picture them giggling in dark corridors, where they mean no harm, really, as they rip your arms off.  They’re just curious about you.  They are neutral, after all.

Looking back through the 1e monster books, I actually think that the monsters I failed to use were lost opportunities.  They were things I didn’t see the potential in, either because of youth, or lack of creativity, or some other factor that I still don’t see.  They didn’t fit the images in my mind’s eye then.  They are creatures that I think I will make a conscious effort to use in the future.

In many ways, lava children have taught me humility.  Admittedly, it is a lesson I’m not really equipped to learn, and it hasn't taken hold all that well.  But, when I look through later editions of Dungeons & Dragons, or other game systems, I try to remember how I felt about the lava children then, and how my views have changed.  Can the 3e digester really be as lame as I think it is?  Is it even possible for the dragonborn to really be as blech! as my current view would have them be?


In other news, the "C is For" series of articles have been somewhat expanded and republished (by permission) in Hungarian, thanks to Melan (late of EN World, and now mostly of elsewhere).  You can join in this lively discussion here: or here:

1 comment:

  1. Not exactly lava children, but the S&W megadungeon campaign I am currently playing in (and documenting at has had several confrontations with cave children, pretty much the same thing except without the "lava" bit.

    WRT the dregs of the 3.0 Monster Manual, yrthaks make for a great post-apocalyptic opponent (in my world, it it "the" Yrthak, a unique, ancient superweapon let loose and still drifting above trackless wastelands, hunting). I used arrowhawks once. Tojanida (tojanidae? ;)) seem utterly useless, though. The digester, in comparison, is more of a traditional, functional weird creature, not that different from a gelatinous cube or a rust monster.


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