It’s universally agreed that the mimic, a monster that impersonates a treasure chest and eats you if to try to open it, is the sort of conceptually ridiculous threat that could only come from old-school Dungeons & Dragons, but I suspect that a lot of folks who got into the game post-2000 - or who’ve only heard about it second hand - don’t realise just how representative it really is of the kind of dungeon-dwelling bullshit we had to put up with back in the day.
I’ve got a copy of the Monstrous Manual for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition (pub. 1993) in front of me, and in this book alone you’ll find:
- A shapeshifting subterranean predator that impersonates doorways
- A monster that looks like a cloak, and when you put it on it eats you
- A giant - as in 20 feet across - flying manta ray that looks like the ceiling*
- At least three unrelated beasties that impersonate decorative statues
- A flesh-eating ooze that looks like a rock formation
- A flesh-eating ooze that looks like a pool of water
- A flesh-eating ooze that looks like a brick wall (you may have noticed that flesh-eating oozes are something of a theme)
- An undead critter that also looks like a brick wall (the explanation for how it pulls this off is like half a page long)
- A tentacled whatsit that impersonates a pile of trash
- A snail-like critter that disguises itself as a stalactite, then falls on your head when you walk underneath it
- A monster that looks like a stalagmite (can’t have one without the other, right?) that grabs you with sticky tentacles when you walk past
- A monster that looks like a tree, and when you walk beneath its branches it sneakily places a noose-like vine around your neck and hangs you
- A flying mushroom that looks like a different monster, except when you attack it, it explodes and infects you with poisonous spores
* Interestingly, there are no less than three apparently totally unrelated species of giant flying mantra rays in this book, though only one of them impersonates architecture.
And that’s just in the core rules for that particular edition. Various supplements for this and previous editions have included carnivorous floors, undead clothing, malevolent furniture, and - I swear I’m not making this up - a beastie that looks like a tree stump with a rabbit standing on it, and attacks you if you try to catch the rabbit (which is actually an anglerfish-like lure).
Basically, there are two things you should take away from this:
1. The variant mimics you see on Tumblr are no more ridiculous than what you’ll find in the actual source material; and
2. In old-school Dungeons & Dragon, literally everything is trying to kill you.
Let’s not forget the Bag of Devouring, which is a beastie pretending to be the most useful/neccasarry item in the game (bag of holding) and doesn’t even reveal itself until after it has eaten all your stuff and part of your arm
Ah, yes - the Bag of Devouring. The perfect intersection between “disguised monsters that want to kill you in ways that make no sense” and “seemingly helpful magic items that want to kill you in ways that make no sense” - that latter could be a whole post on its own!
(I’m like 99% convinced that the entire SCP Foundation universe is just somebody’s “D&D Modern” AU.)
Okay, I’ve gotten multiple requests for the “seemingly helpful magic items that want to kill you in ways that make no sense” post, so here goes. Again, I am literally just reading out of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide - this isn’t like a “best of” compilation spanning the game’s entire product line or anything, it’s all right there in the core rules.
Notable entries include:
- A magic ring that causes the wearer to become deluded that the ring has some useful magical power. (Its only real power is to delude the wearer into thinking it has powers.)
- A magic ring that legitimately has some useful magical power, but also renders the wearer psychologically incapable of agreeing with any spoken statement.
- The aforementioned bag of devouring, which impersonates a bag of holding (i.e., a bag that’s larger on the inside than the outside), but is actually a feeding orifice of some nasty extradimensional critter.
- A different screw-you variation on the bag of holding that randomly transmutes precious metals placed inside into base metals, and destroys magic items.
- An enchanted bowl that every test indicates will summon friendly water elementals with a suitable ritual. When the ritual is actually performed, however, it shrinks the user to the size of an ant and drowns her. (Also, any deaths caused by this bowl explicitly resist all normal methods of resurrection, for no obvious reason other than fuck you.)
- An enchanted bell that seems to have the power to open locked doors, and actually does so the first few times it’s used. After several uses, however, it suddenly switches to causing everyone who hears it to become ravenously hungry, to the point that they’ll try to kill and eat each other if no other obvious food sources are available.
- A cloak that kills you when you put it on. That’s it. That’s all it does.
- A pair of glasses that turn you to stone when you put them on. Again, that’s their sole function.
- A pair of boots that perfectly duplicate the functions of some other, actually useful type of magic boots; as soon as the wearer enters combat, however, their useful property vanishes and they start dancing.
- A magic drum that permanently deafens the user and anyone else within seventy feet when struck.
- A broom that is “identical to a broom of flying to all tests”, except when you actually try to use it to fly, it comes to life and starts swatting you in the face instead.
- A pair of gloves that seem to give you super-strength, but the first time you encounter a “life and death situation”, their effect switches to rendering you supernaturally clumsy instead. Once the curse activates they can’t be removed without magical aid.
- A hat that makes you stupid.
- A harp whose music is so supernaturally bad that everyone within earshot is driven to attack the player in a mindless rage.
- A carpet that rolls you up inside it and suffocates you if you sit on it.
- A spear that functions normally at first, but has a small random chance to curl around and stab you in the back each time you use it.
That’s by no means exhaustive, but I’m going to have to stop there because there are just so darned many of the things.
The list of “seemingly helpful magic items that want to kill you in ways that make no sense” looks like it came straight out of Oglaf.
Oglaf is literally just Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition as played by moderately drunk college students. I don’t mean literally-for-emphasis - I mean that’s actually, 100% what happens. It could be revealed tomorrow that the whole comic is just the author’s gaming journal and I wouldn’t bat an eye.
What I get from this is: a) The influence of Dungeons & Dragons in other fictional works is really pervasive. b) Dark Souls is nothing else but a D&D campaign with a particularly sadistic GM.
Totally. D&D is, like, weirdly influential once you start digging into it; in the grand scheme of things, it’s a game that practically nobody actually plays, yet there are entire genres of popular media directly based on it. Not just in the West, either - look into the history of JRPGs or fantasy anime some time. The 1980s Satanism freakout notwithstanding, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was an actual deal with the Devil somewhere along the lines to account for it.
i’m here for the undead brick wall idk about y’all