A few months back, Wizards of the Coast teamed up with Adobe Photoshop to offer designers, concept artists or anybody even remotely familiar with Photoshop the opportunity to create a new, official monster for the D&D world which was to be included as a featured beastie in “Terror of the Undermountain”. Despite having no talent for art be it on or off the computer, I was a little bummed that I couldn’t participate in one of WotC’s rare contests. I strolled down that particular fork of Memory Lane a while back when I talked about the “Create A Campaign Setting Contest”. No big deal, I figured, it was time to give the D&D fans whose talent and creativity in art and design their moment to give the game the best they had to offer. Needless to say, the masses did not disappoint. I was quite pleased to see that this time around, Wizard’s decided to show off the submissions of the runners up (they didn’t do that for the campaign setting contest). With the winner and runners up now available for the world to see, I thought I would take you through a few of my favorite submissions and give you my thoughts.
Let’s start with the winner by Will Kalkanis.
This… thing truly lives up to the name the Terror of Undermountain. It’s not just the obvious size that makes it look imposing. You can see the raw strength this creature possesses. Even if it had no other abilities aside from a smashing, grappling or slashing – this thing isn’t going down easy. What I find those most eerie about it, is that it retains a nightmarish quality to it while keeping itself firmly in the arena of a monster a group of adventurers would encounter in the depths of the Undermountain. It’s not a beast that relies too heavily on abstract notions of terror. From its claws to its hulking mass to the seemingly sightless eyes, this is a depiction of a D&D monster that inspires as much psychological fear as it does physical menace. This creature feels the most like something that has quite literally walked out of a nightmare and perhaps, most troubling is that it may just be the herald of something far worse.
Next up, the entry from Christina Qi.
Speaking of nightmares, in case you were wondering what the definition if nightmare fuel is, look no further. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear this tortured abomination skulking about, just out of sight. It looks as though it wants to move like a dragon but finds itself bound to something unwillingly trapped in an awkward serpentine gate. It’s form conveys as much fear as it does mind bending insanity. While it appears built to eviscerate it’s prey, the almost humanoid visage hints at the sinister glee it must revel in as lesser beings are made to behold its alien form. This horrific being could be a gigantic boss at the culmination of a campaign or perhaps worse, the villainous horror to which a warlock would promise his soul or the minion of some far more malevolent entity. Perhaps that’s why I like this entry. In terms of story usage, it is by far the most versatile
This piece comes from John Tedrick.
Personally, I found this entry the most appealing because it seems to depict something that I’m a bit surprised hasn’t been done already – a beholder and a dragon. Of course, now that I’ve said this some beholder somewhere in the multiverse has just created one. Great. Anyone who has played D&D knows the power of these creatures and how formidable they are by themselves. Combining them, implies a bizarre new level of arcane power and raises the question of who or what in the vastness of the multiverse spawned such a creature? It’s stature and cruelty pop off the page, commanding respect and awe. This creature too is one that demands the focus as the center of a long and complex campaign where the heroes are constantly thwarted by the minions of this draconic aberration before being permitted to scratch and claw their way to this being’s feet. While it may not be the Terror of the Undermountain, I doubt this is the last we will see of this incredible creation.
Keisuke Shibata presents this eyeful.
This is perhaps the most dynamic of the creatures. What drew me to this was the overwhelming sense of brutality and bloodlust in its eyes. One might think that this monstrosity is little more than a dumb animal from a realm of ferocity and malice. No. No what makes this creature terrifying is that there is a spark of cunning and intelligence in this beast. Much like a cat would toy with a mouse before going in for the kill, this vision of primal rage appears as though it’s the impending torment that delights it the most. A quick kill and an easy meal are of no interest to icon of rage. This thing wants to torture and torment before it kills. It wants to feed on the agony it is about to inflict. As deadly a creation it is, the true terror here hides in the shadows cast by the light of its cruel intelligence.
Richard Sashigane’s offering is next.
Looking at this, you see something that is truly a monster. A stitched together amalgam of parts of creatures both familiar and alien. All of which are bound in a body that radiates torture that has succumbed to the most diabolic madness. The tortured anguish here is as frightening to look upon as it is to contemplate its origins. Where the above entry hinted at intelligence, this creature brings with it just as much physical menace but the fire of intellect is gone, replaced here by something else. Something far darker, far more insidious. It looks as though it is a creature that is not motivated by impulses a rational mind could understand but rather the sole intention of ripping asunder anything that dares cross it’s path and to do so without hesitation or mercy.
Tiffany Chiu finishes up this list.
This being, clearly born from the most profane, fevered dreams of those who have glimpsed the alien horrors that dwell between the stars is a writhing mass of unnatural, alien evil whose existence in our world is a sign of some wicked plan come to fruition. If the summoning of such a living beast of pure insanity weren’t bad enough, its sheer immensity ought to be more than enough to send one’s mind into the inky depths of madness just before this horror devours you – body and almost certainly soul. Here we have both the savagery of the most titanic of beasts but also an intelligence (of a single mind or many) that finds this world as strange terrifying as we would find its own. Those unprepared for such an encounter will find their mind’s reduced to a psychic wasteland. Perhaps a fate worse than the destruction of their physical form. When this thing has taken your mind, the real torment will begin.
Of course, these are only a few of the Honorable Mentions from the contest entries that jumped out at me. You can check out all the spectacular work of these artists here at the contest’s website and you can watch the reveal video hosted by Mike Mearls right here to get an idea how the winning submission was chosen by the D&D Team. I have to say, all the submissions unveiled as part of this contest were top quality and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pop up in some future D&D product or perhaps in some future set of Magic: The Gathering. These creatures are too good to leave on the shelf, or hidden in the Undermountain.