Friday, December 27, 2013

The Gygaxian Dollar Store Menagerie

Even though I'm currently in the midst of one of my periodic episodes of Dungeons & Dragons fantasy burnout, I found this recent blog post by Tony DiTerlizzi (one of the best artists of the latter TSR era of the game) very interesting.

It's fairly common knowledge at this point that several of the iconic D&D monsters were inspired by cheap Chinese "prehistoric animal" toys. (I have clear memories of having a plastic rust monster when I was a kid, for example.) But I was completely unaware that the owlbear, a creature that is near and dear to my heart, also had its origin in these dollar-store specials. The figurine that inspired the owlbear looks identical to its depiction in the original Monster Manual, which goes a long way towards explaining why it looks very little like either an owl or a bear. (Still doesn't explain why it was given that name by Gary Gygax, though.)

DiTerlizzi's post includes some high-quality images of the toys that became the owlbear, bulette, and rust monster, along with some that don't appear to have ended up in the Monster Manual. The time has come to correct that, I think. Get to work!


  1. I distinctly remember the bulette, rust monster, and the little kangaroo looking thing with spines on its back. At the time I got them, I was super into dinosaurs and was disappointed that the toys didn't have much to do with actual dinosaurs. Then I got D&D and couldn't figure out if there was a connection.

    Also, DiTerlizzi was super cool about signing and returning a playset of his Goblin Matrons for MtG when I sent them by mail.

    1. I still want to write up some of these leftover toy monsters, but I'm not really in a D&D mode right now. Plus most of the ones Gygax didn't use look especially goofy.

      DiTerlizzi seems like a good guy.