The Denzellian from the classic Fiend Folio monster collection showed up in my google+ feed this weekend. People were debating whether or not it was “ripped off” from Star Trek. I happened to recognize this as one of Lewis Pulsipher‘s contributions to AD&D, so I figured… why not ask him about it?!
Here’s what I wrote to him:
This one came up in conversation recently and I saw it was credited to you.
Can I ask… how much of it was inspired by the classic Star Trek episode “The Devil in the Dark”? Also… can you tell us gamers what it was like getting the critter published in a UK magazine and then incorporated into AD&D canon via a first class hardcover…?
I presume this one and the others collected in the Fiend Folio came out of your campaigns. Do you have any stories about that…? Were the Elemental Princes of Evil the “boss monsters” of a dungeon or something else?
And here is his response:
I don’t recall where the Denzelian came from (or even what it’s like, though I recognized the name). But I played basketball in high school, which was on the same night as Star Trek, and with no TV recording back then, I didn’t see all that much of Star Trek. Nor have I watched much of reruns since, though I did watch the movies. Maybe I got tired of the charismatic sort-of-Paladin CPT Kirk talking the bad guys into failure or peacefulness (seemed to happen enough to be called a formula).
I have no idea what that episode was about. I doubt the monster was ST inspired.
My monsters got into the Fiend Folio in a simple way. There was a general call for submissions, but I wasn’t interested. I’d submitted some monsters to White Dwarf magazine (and they’d already used some I wrote). I was in the Games Workshop offices one day (I also designed their first boardgame) and Steve or Ian asked me if they could use some of the monsters in FF. I said, OK, if I get a free copy. I didn’t think any more about it until the FF appeared. It’s nice to have my name in it, even though it tends to silly monsters (Don Turnbull’s point of view, that, he was the editor).
I used many of the monsters in my own play, but not the Princes of EE. My campaigns were relatively low level, someone who reached 10 or 11th level was extraordinary – but not really up to the Princes. So as far as I know I made them up just for the heck of it.
I did run into the fire prince once as a player. We were 9th-11th level. We fled “posthaste”.
And I had one character who lost an eye to one of my monsters. Man, it’s not exactly fun running into your own monsters.
I have never thought in terms of “boss monsters” in D&D, that’s a video game mentality. I tended to use lots of monsters (with several different kinds) at a climax rather than one super monster “boss”. It varies, of course. But in D&D, unlike video games, if you die you don’t have a “save game” to go back to; video game bosses are designed to kill you many times before you succeed. Can’t play D&D that way.