Reading Monster Manuals and supplemental materials has always been a favorite extension of this hobby for me, as it helps flesh out my campaign setting, and give me a greater sense of things outside of the party and their internal affairs. While meandering through the manuals, I always end up stumbling upon a creature or two that become a favorite, such as the Pseudodragon. I also find others which pique my curiosity, and urge me to read more about them and their world. Here’s a collection of some of my favorite ‘cute’ monsters. Our opinions may differ, and I hope my explanations bring levity and illumination beyond the stat block.
1. Kobolds: Noble In Their Own Minds -
I’ve always had a hard time imagining Kobolds as anything more than low-level player fodder, until I finally took the time to read their myriad of Monster Manual entries throughout 3.5 and 5e. The iconic imagery of a Kobold, sniveling, cowering before a party of players and begging for its life is the standard tactic of a DM, and while tropes exist and persist, I wanted to read more on them, for my own curiosity. Religious, clever, and organized into formal societies, their physical weakness is usually the first trait most adventurers notice; I encourage DMs to look at their fondness for traps, their allies with their ‘ancestors’, dragons, and help flesh out their ‘small but mighty’ mental image each Kobold clings to, before encountering a group of armored pulverizing machines (your PCs). While not physically cute (unless the artist has a soft spot for them), I find their ideals endearing, and their traits charming.
2. Firenewts: Religious Militants With Slappy Feet -
Imagine for a moment, the adorable type of newt or salamander you might find hiding under a rock in the forest. Make him 4 feet tall, bright orange, and religious. Now, keep in mind, those floppy hands and feet are proportionate to its now bipedal form, and try to envision those wibbly hands grasping a sword, defending their honor, or those floppy feet slapping down stone hallways, marching towards freedom. Are you giggling yet? Can you hear the “fwap fwap fwap” their little footsies make in a dungeon? Can you understand how much I giggle every time I hear them mentioned? Not yet? I’ll keep trying. They ride Giant Striders, which are basically chickens with no wings, or domesticated velociraptors. Now imagine our newt friend riding one in glorious battle, holding a banner for the Elemental Prince, Imix, in his webbed hands.
3. Grungs: Poison Dart Frog Warriors -
Yet another incongruous mental image of a little tree frog, brightly colored, and poised to kill your party. Volo’s Entry on this particular creature: “Sentient, poisonous frogs that live in trees. Truly, the gods hate us.” Also, they’re slavers. Can you imagine a little three-foot-nothing bright green frog, cracking a whip and carrying you off in chains? Once again, the writers went above and beyond to try and divert away from that fact that these little ribbit rabble rousers with beefy forearms are hard to take seriously.
4. Korred: Magic Hair Fey -
Stone shaping, cloven hoofed, gem sniffing, magical hair-possessing fey. A re-hash of the 2nd Edition creature, Volo’s strikes again by satisfying two distinct desires: more fey-based creatures, and magic hair. Okay, maybe not everyone wants to ally themselves with a creature that possesses magic hair, but I’m sure someone has an idea for a Samson-esque quest, and boy do I have the monster for you! Or, if you’d prefer, you could find a female Korred with snazzy glasses whose hair can whip you in combat. Korred’s hair can take on the physical properties of whatever kind of material was used to cut it. So, if you use steel (or gold) scissors to cut their hair, then the now dislodged strands become steel (or GOLD). They can also conjure elementals, and don’t really fancy people mining away at their homes, but if you can make a friend with a Korred, you can find new tunnels for adventure.
5. Vegepygmies: Fun Guy Fungi -
I don’t know if it’s the woobly arms, the tribal nature, the lush jungle backdrop, or the nickname “Moldie”, but something tickles me about Vegepygmies. They’re plant people, with a basic intelligence, a Chieftain, and weird puppies called Thornies. I wholeheartedly recognize I might be alone in finding them cute, let alone endearing (especially if the Russet Mold tactic gives you flashbacks of Mia and a particular family of mold-infested Hillbillies), but I’d love to see a party encounter some Moldies and befriend them. Though, knowing the standard rule of “Kill first, ask questions later” that can surpass any curiosity players may hold towards these Fun Guys. ...I’m sorry, I used that joke twice. I’ll see myself out now.
6. Xvarts: Tiny Blue Thugs -
Xvarts are the degenerate offspring of the demigod Raxivort, who was betrayed by Graz’zt the Dark Prince. ...What? Let me start again. Xvarts are tiny blue thugs that steal crops, domesticate bats and rats, and generally live in hills and caves, fearful of Humans, Elves, and Dwarves. The Xvart leader, known as a Speaker, can be found wearing stilts and long robes (to hide said stilts), in an effort to ‘elevate’ themselves within their society. Cowardly thugs, begotten by a cowardly demigod, all Xvarts look like their creator, replete with receding hairline, and orange eyes. I feel bad for Xvarts more than I find them cute, as their Volo’s entry goes out of it’s way to mention they cannot reproduce (I assume all Xvarts are male, as Raxivort was), and their demigod patron is known to appear before them and take all of their gold and treasure, and leaving nothing for the tribe. They definitely got the short end of the cosmic stick.
No matter, the size, shape, floppy quality of their hands, or alignment, I hope the selection of creatures before you have piqued your own curiosity to read further into the fluff, and form the vast landscape that is your own campaign setting.
Angela Daurio is now engaged to her favorite monster hunter, and has recently returned to the other side of the table as a player. She lives in New Jersey with her two cats, parental units, and four fish.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.