The Creature Collector
I was introduced to D&D by a new friend (who became a good friend) back in 1991, and soon after that introduction, I began running my own games.
We were playing Advanced 2nd Edition, and the first boxed set I purchased wasn't a traditional campaign set, but the Spelljammer boxed set. I was drawn in by the strangeness of it; not traditional D&D, but D&D in space! A space populated by planets, moons, asteroids, ships and ship-faring races of all types, and, as I came to value most of all, strange and incredible creatures.
In my mind, I can still see the first creature I laid eyes on in that old orange book. Not particularly scary or dangerous (when young, at least), it appeared to be not much more than a land-bound squid. It drew me in all the same, however, and with each flip of the page, a new and interesting creature to behold. Some familiar, but all ultimately alien species, with their own mannerisms, societies, and ecosystems in which they thrive.
Eventually, I came to understand the importance of the stat block, but what drew me in most were the descriptions. Descriptions not only of the creatures' appearance, but where they live, and how they live. Are they mostly solo creatures, only coming together to mate and then separate? Are they intelligent, with their own simple or complex civilizations, living side by side with more common races, carved out on remote planets, or painstakingly established in harsh conditions on the side of a wayward asteroid? How do they behave with others of their race, and with outsiders? How do they contribute to their local ecosystem, if at all?
A lot to consider, then, as I began crafting my adventures to feature these wondrous creatures, often making one or more of them an integral part of the experience. As my worlds grew, so did my desire for more variety, and soon the number of monstrous compendiums and folios I owned far outnumbered my other reference books.
In my next entry, I'll talk about some of the creatures that captured my imagination most in those early years. Some have followed me throughout, coming back across multiple editions, whether I was using their “official” stat block, or something I'd created myself. However they are introduced, it has always been an interesting and entertaining experience.
All text and images in the pictures are Copyright 1989 TSR (now owned by Wizards of the Coast).