Your old-school DM suddenly announces “We’re starting a new campaign, in which everything from the classic monster books is allowable as a playable race. As for maximum height and width, we’ll draw the line at umber hulk, but otherwise anything goes.”
You might spend hours leafing through the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual, Monster Manual 2, Fiend Folio, Creature Catalogue, and more!
In an effort to save you precious time, dear Multiverse reader, here follows a list of ten favorite monsters, each of which is worthy of serious consideration for your classic monsters-as-playable-race campaign, in alphabetical order (if not order of importance).
Banderlog (Monster Manual 2)
A simian creature with green skin and brown fur, whose missile weapon of choice is a coconut? If that doesn’t pave the way for wild role-play, nothing will. An armor class of 6 (and a hit dice of 4) might not sound like much, but these creatures sport a halfway-decent intelligence, and it’s great fun to consider what else they might use for missile weapons, once they’ve run out of coconuts to throw around.
Doppelganger (Monster Manual)
As if it weren’t already enough fun to go around transforming into other living beings, up to as tall as 8 feet in height, the 4 HD doppelganger makes its saving throws as if it were a 10th level fighter. Go ahead and “become” the mayor of that town over there. Then “become” the innkeeper in that same town for a while. Then later on, go ahead and “become” the captain of the guard in that other town up the road. While you’re at it, go ahead and “become” one of your party members. Never a dull moment.
Grey Slaad (Fiend Folio)
Planar travel at will is what makes this such an intriguing monster for a playable race. 10+6 HD (and 18/00 STR) is also nothing to sneeze at. Among slaadi, the grey slaadi are known as the executioners, and with good reason. When appearing on the prime material plane in human form, wearing no armor, they are at AC 1. They also wield swords which are +2 or better (and sometimes it’s even a sword of sharpness). Other powers of theirs include cause fear, flame strike, invisibility, and power word: blind.
Lizard King (Fiend Folio)
Not to be confused with the frontman of The Doors who could “do anything”, this creature holds sway over 10 to 100 loyal lizardman followers, all trying their able best to keep their leader satiated with a minimum of two human sacrifices per week. Of course there’s also that (magical?) trident of the Lizard King which skewers opponents, and deals double damage on strikes which are five numbers above the required AC to hit, making it quite the formidable weapon.
Lupin (Creature Catalogue)
At a glance, this monster appears to be little more than a gnoll with a wolf’s head instead of a hyena’s head. Now, before you go thinking of the fate which befell Robb Stark, King of the North, consider this instead … Lupins are of lawful alignment, and a vast majority of their time is spent above ground (as opposed to chaotic evil gnolls, who remain in their subterranean lairs 85% of the time). Werewolves are mortal enemies of the lupins, and lupins often wield silver weaponry. Lupins are also known to ride upon dire wolves. They charge into combat, astride their mounts, with silver-tipped lances. That’s quite a visual. Let it sink in.
Pegataur (Creature Catalogue)
One part pegasus to one part centaur, as the name would suggest? Not exactly. One part pegasus and one part elf is a far more accurate assessment of the situation. If the source material is to be observed and upheld to the letter, pegataurs do not go gallivanting around with adventuring parties. That doesn’t mean lenient DMs won’t find their way around this obstacle, in the name of a good time had by all. Pegataurs are friendly with pegasi, paving the way (and greasing the wheels) for pegasi in your adventures (always great fun). As for the weapon mastery which pegataurs have though, DMs may want to hand wave it (or limit it somehow), since it could potentially unbalance the game. Or just let your freak flag fly, baby! Pegataurs are still great fun either way. That’s a promise.
Quickling (Monster Manual 2)
Just how quick is a quickling anyway? At a glance, three attacks per round isn’t much to write home about. But, upon closer inspection of the stat block, a movement rate of 96″ is the real indicator here. Their height of 2′ is an ideal height for mischief. Their high-pitched speech at high speed is spectacular for role-play excitement.
Rakshasa (Monster Manual)
Keith Baker, of Eberron fame, certainly took rakshasa to the next level with his Lords of Dust, but it was EGG who first presented us with a rudimentary version of this lawful evil creature in 1977. What leaps at us first is their bipedal appearance, with the heads and the (upside-down) paws of the great cats. Their eating habits are disturbing, to say the least. And, their magic resistance is impressive (especially when spells under 8th level are involved). But, woe be unto the unsuspecting rakshasa who is struck by any crossbow bolts which have been blessed by a cleric. What ultimately makes this race so much fun to play though is their mastery of illusion, and their fondness for subterfuge.
Umpleby (Fiend Folio)
Eight feet in height + shaggy brown hair (a la Bigfoot) + electric shock powers + concealed netting projectile weapon + low intelligence + a penchant for being sneaky = a recipe for awesome. The umpleby also has the ability to detect precious metals and gems, up to a hundred feet away, even through solid rock. It also has an immunity to all forms of electric attack. Not too shabby, that.
Vampire (Monster Manual)
Also known as “fun with energy drain”. And, as if their ability to turn into gaseous form (at will) wasn’t impressive enough, their ability to regenerate 3 HP per round is a potential game-changer. We all know the downside to being a vampire (must avoid contact with sunlight, holy water, stakes through the heart, running water, strong garlic, crosses, beheading, et cetera). But think of the upside. There’s plenty of it. And, if choosing to play “a vampire from the eastern world”, you’ll have the added bonus of invisibility (at the cost of charm and gaseous form,) if your DM allows it.