Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Forbidden Dozen

One of the things that's always puzzled me is why, when WotC was putting together the System Reference Document (SRD) for Dungeons and Dragons 3.X, they took several creatures out of public circulation by name, by declaring them as part of their Product Identity. For those who might not remember the whole list, here it is:
  • beholder
  • gauth
  • carrion crawler
  • tanar’ri
  • baatezu
  • displacer beast
  • githyanki
  • githzerai
  • mind flayer
  • illithid
  • umber hulk
  • yuan-ti

I've got to admit, I had to turn to Google to find out what a gauth was. But the other choices are no more clear to me now than when they first came on the scene. What is so special about these twelve (11, really; mind flayer and illithid being different names for the same creature) that makes them part of the Product Identity of D&D?

This certainly can't be an attempt to cripple other companies from making a D&D emulator; both S&W and LL proved that with their only-slightly-different names for the carrion crawler. Tanar'ri and baatezu were always demons and devils anyway, so that's a no-brainer. And if they thought enough of the mind flayers to declare their other name, illithid, as product identity, why didn't they also include the other name of the beholder? Why is eye tyrant missing from the list?

Beholders and mind flayers I can almost understand. They're certainly an original creation for the game, and an iconic image to be sure. But umber hulks? Yuan-ti? Displacer beasts? These are hardly definitive creatures as far as I can tell. Certainly they don't seem to be a part of what I might call the "product identity" of the game. And yet here they are. I confess to a certain level of bafflement.

Anyone have any insights into why these 12 were chosen as the Forbidden Dozen?