The Alphabetical Monster Thing was a popular feature on this blog if you're new here. Totally finished it, too. Here's how it started...
I was looking through the AD&D Monster Manual and was struck forcefully with the following insight: monsters that start with "A" suck.
Air elemental? Boring.
Summoned by clerics? Boring.
Here's the only good part: "If the aerial servant is frustrated from completion ["frustrated from completion"?] of its assigned mission it becomes insane, returns to the cleric which sent it forth, and attacks as a double strength invisible stalker."
Let's not mention how invisible stalkers are also boring.
This is one of those rare Gygax-invented monsters that gets absolutely no love from anyone. Nobody likes them, nobody hates them, nobody thinks they're funny, they're just one more giant bug. Being a big M John Harrison fan I have a soft spot for insects in medieval settings and still just can't bring myself to write "d4 ankhegs here" on a map. I think it's the name. Sounds like a verification word.
Within the insect-and-arthropod community, I'm pretty sure "ant" is synonymous with "square". As in, there's a bunch of wasps, spiders, flies, and cockroaches hanging out and they're like "Come onnnn, man, roooadtrip!"
"Awww, I don't know, Jimmy."
"Ok, man, look: you can crawl up into the van and come with us and have a blast seeing the world, or you can put on your tie, and go to work, and do whatever the Queen says, like some fucking ant."
Ape, Gorilla, and Carnivorous
My theory is: there are Ape People and there are Monkey People. Monkey people like monkeys because they are funny. Also, they are creepy, clever, and decadent. The perverted elf princess in the silk-swathed tower made of jasmine and murder has a pet monkey--for sure.
Ape People are different: ape people tend to be fans of what I call "hairy" entertainment: Conan movies, Jack Kirby Comics, Zardoz, Planet of the Apes (naturally), these:
For these people, King Kong actually had a shot against Godzilla, and the giant ape is the finest monster of which one could ever hope to dream.
I confess to being more of a pretentious, scheming Monkey Person than a fun-loving, good-hearted Ape Guy, so the idea of asking a wizard to take time out of his or her busy schedule just to deal with some fucking gorilla just seems basically disrespectful. Though I will say that this thing is awesome:
Does anyone care about the axe beak? Ok, didn't think so...
Ok, so, see? The A's are hopeless. If you go beyond the Monster Manual, the only other "A" monster that ever got any traction is the Aboleth.
These were supposed to be sort of creepy Lovecraftian menaces from the deep. But if you never read Lovecraft when you first got ahold of the Monster Manual 2 because you were a little kid at the time then this is just like a really fucked up whale that hates you.
If it wasn't a classic, like a dragon or a hydra, then you pretty much had only the illustration to go by to figure out what the fuck is the idea with a monster.
Strangely enough, I am right back in this position with my players now. This is how meeting an aboleth would go with my group:
Me: "...and it looks...like...this!"
KK: "What the fuck is that?"
Me: "It's an aboleth, an ancient and inscrutable race that lives deep beneath the sea, older than man, older than the tides, older than the gods, older than...."
Mandy: "So it's like a Lovecraft thing?"
Frankie: "What's a Lovecraft thing?"
Daniel: "He was like this science fiction writer who wrote about, like, big monsters that looked like that."
KK: "So it's like a space fish that's old?"
Connie: "Can I pickpocket it?"