With each installment of Something Awful’s "WTF, D&D!?", Zack Parsons and Steve "Malak" Sumner crack open a book from our collective memories and cast their appraising eyes over its contents. Not all of the material turns out to be as technically accomplished as we may remember (flumph, we’re looking at you, buddy). Zack and Steve are there to remind us of this fact.
Warning: Please be aware that SomethingAwful.com contains strong language.
Wizards of the Coast: So, how did WTF, D&D!? come about in the first place—one of you started flipping through an old Monster Manual and started noticing some of the monsters (gas spore, lurker above) may not have made the most sense, evolutionarily speaking?
Zack: Steve has always been an unguarded enthusiast. I'm a little more skeptical. The articles grew out of that natural conflict we have with each other. He wants to tell me how great something is and I want to tear it down.
Steve: He's calling me stupid, but I'm not. I was very critical of the lack of barbarians in Basic Dungeons & Dragons.
Zack: The Monster Manuals are favorite sources for our material. There are so many of them in every edition of D&D, which means there are bound to be quite a few monster misfires.
Steve: This is probably a sweet place for you to put a picture of those Leprechauns from the original Monster Manual spelling out LEUCROTTA with their magic.
Wizards of the Coast: Starting with the 1st Edition Monster Manual, you’ve worked your way up to the 2nd Edition Al-Qadim Monstrous Compendium. What’s next on the docket? Will you ever work your way up to the current game?
Zack: We do receive a lot of requests for newer stuff, but the context is so much better with those older ones. We're dealing with nostalgia and more of a homemade quality.
Steve: I played retro-2E with Keith and Jamie not six months ago. That is not nostalgia. That is living history. That's like when you go to those pilgrim villages and there are people dressed up talking to you about how they had eleven stillborn babies all named Jon and made all their clothes out of corn husks or whatever.
Zack: You're describing a dream you had again.
Steve: Nope, actually happened. And there was a guy named Breax or something but it was pronounced "Bro" and he yelled at me for picking up some weird metal tool I think they use to put fades on goats. Did they have goats? It might have been hair pigs. Like with the tusks.
Zack: Uh, so in answer to your question, we prefer old school, but we'll probably make our way to 3E and 4E eventually.
Wizards of the Coast: Once you decide on a book to critique, who gets to pick the monsters from it? Have any managed to avoid being ridiculed by proving their usefulness or by being defended by one of you? Have any of these debates ever come to physical blows?
Steve: He's in charge of all that stuff. Sometimes he gives me input picking out the monsters, but then he edits the articles together too so he always cuts out my best jokes and puts in something he came up with after the fact.
Zack: We do argue about it sometimes. He convinced me to leave the firenewt alone in the Fiend Folio. Even though they have a full-page picture of one riding Yoshi.
Steve: Desert lizardmen make sense though dude. He gets caught up on the picture sometimes and I have to remind him that these are valuable DM assets we're dealing with.
Zack: I managed to win a similar argument about the Fiend Folio's kuo-toa. I just can't pass up a depressing fish man in a diaper.
Wizards of the Coast: I’d say that, not despite, but because of your critiques there’s clearly a deep knowledge of the game. What did you remember about those old sessions (aside from playing with your friends Kevin and Donnie… and Donnie’s sister)?
Steve: Oh, you know about Donnie's sister? Yeah, the ultimate way to get into D&D is have some beautiful goddess DM for you and introduce you to the wonders of the imagination.
Zack: I was a little older than Steve. Spent a lot of time in prison so I played D&D to get by. Kept attacking guards with my bodily fluids and the sentence kept getting longer so I had reason to expand a couple one-offs in Waterdeep into a full campaign.
Wizards of the Coast: Beyond D&D monsters and adventures you cover other game systems: Rifts, Marvel Super Heroes, Warhammer 40k. What else were you playing back in the day? Anything you’re still playing now?
Steve: I played everything. I played weird stuff like Underground and Kult. I don't play as much as I used to because of my job and responsibility and stuff. I still find time to game like once a month at least. It's usually 3.5E D&D or Dark Heresy, that Warhammer RPG. I like 4E and Jamie is way into Pathfinder, but really we'll play whatever.
Zack: I hate to admit it but I grew up playing mostly D&D and moved into Vampire. Some tabletop wargaming stuff like Battletech and Warhammer. I don't play anymore. My group is scattered across the country and we fight real monsters now like crushing tedium and children and Warios. I haven't played in several years, but I have been picking up more and more books just to try to keep up with Steve.
Wizards of the Coast: There seems to be a pattern in critiquing the unusual. In My Tank is Fight!, you tackle unreleased concept weapons of WWII. Could any of those weapons match the power of a Battletech Mech? How about the Christie "Flying Tank" vs. a red dragon (if the dragon is wearing protective goggles)?
Zack: If I recall my old Battletech correctly, tanks were the secret weapon of the smart player. Not as tough as a mech, maybe, but in the really old rules you could design tanks and the tables allowed you to construct some super-fast and super-deadly ramming tanks.
Steve: I don't know what a Christie tank is but no tank could beat a dragon. See Reign of Fire. All of man's achievements like so much dust in the wind compared to the might of dragons. We should not have dug too deep like Icarus and disturbed their nests with our greed.
Zack: I'll go with Steve's answer.
Wizards of the Coast: For what it’s worth, we also recognize the, um, impracticalities of some monsters to this day. The flumph even made it into an April Fool’s Day adventure, and strongly divided camps remain firmly entrenched here about the owlbear. To settle things once and for all, who wins in a fight: an owlbear or Uwe Boll?
Zack: Was the owlbear told it was a fake fight?
Steve: No contest, an owlbear would chow down on Uwe Boll's ropey innards.
Wizards of the Coast: Forget the owlbear, if you were to combine any two animals together—or any two monsters, for that matter—to create your own hybrid, what would be the result?
Avatar proved there is no monster more terrible than man. So I'm going with a double man. The bottom half is a man, but the top half is a man also.
Wizards of the Coast: Hands-down, single worst monster ever (and by that, we mean the best of the worst)?
Zack: Going to have to go with old school Deities & Demigods, which includes the hit points and attacks of the Hindu god Vishnu. He fights as a 17th level paladin!
Steve: I love almost every monster in D&D, but no monster makes me angrier when it shows up in an adventure than the original rot grub from the Monster Manual. That was back when the monsters weren't challenges for your players to overcome, they were just ways to kill off your party.