Yup. It’s a cyclops.
I could finish it right there. What else is there to say? Anyone familiar with mythical monsters of old already knows what a cyclops is! They’re a perfect fit for D&D, sure. But in terms of creativity or originality, these guys have nothing to offer! They’re just a monster to throw at your players for a challenging fight!
This isn’t an especially interesting monster. It does the job, but it doesn’t do so with any creativity. This is the vanilla icecream of D&D monsters. Sure, it’s nice. Yes, you can do a fair bit with it if you add a few other elements. But on its own, it is fairly boring and predictable.
I’m not much of a vanilla guy. Sue me.
Lore: Big, Dumb and Strong
Did this book really just make me read seven paragraphs of flavor text to explain that these guys are big, dumb and strong?
A cyclops pays little heed to gods unless said divine being directly intervened in their lives. They’re simple creatures, not quite stupid, who live reclusive, on their own or with small families in caves, lives keeping livestock and trading goods with others of their kind. While they do speak and understand the Giant tongue, they can’t read or write. They aren’t good strategists or learners, making them easy to trick by a clever foe.
Have you seen/read ‘The Odyssey’? It’s that. That’s all these guys are.
Are you looking for a compelling villain? Look elsewhere. Do you want a decent sidequest? These guys fit the bill. You could go with a simple ‘Go kill the monster’, a simple but very open-ended quest. Or maybe you could use something with the monster’s family aspect? There are a lot of creative possibilities with the cyclops.
Even if most of them end with ‘trick the monster’ or ‘kill the monster’.
Design: Exactly What You’d Expect
Technically, this is an effective design. You can take one look at it and immediately tell what it is. But here’s the question: is it because of the artwork, or is it because it’s a fucking cyclops and everyone knows what it is?
Again: what is there to say? It’s a cyclops! It’s big, it’s ugly, and it’s powerful. What you see is what you get. It isn’t original, it’s far from creative, but it is certainly effective.
But in a game with such interesting and original monsters as the Beholder and the Aboleth? It’s far from interesting.
Stats: A Straightforward Challenge
This is the strongest point of the cyclops. Unfortunately, just like every other point before it, this one lacks in one majorly important aspect: creativity.
While the monster’s AC is decently beatable, it has a ludicrous amount of HP for a Challenge LVL 6 monster! Taking this thing down is a long, time-consuming process for low to mid-level players!
Not to mention a dangerous one! They have a terrifying +9 to hit, making it nigh impossible for these guys to miss players with a low AC (watch out, spellcasters!). If their club isn’t doing enough (even if they swing it twice), they can pick up and throw a boulder to deal 28(4d10+6) damage.
Which has a range of 30/120 ft. Use this only if you really want to fuck over that one dickhead caster in your party.
Sure, you can fuck up a cyclops pretty quickly thanks to their low AC. But they can fuck you up just as badly! Be very careful about how you use one of these monsters. Their damage numbers alone make it possible to easily kill a player!
Unfortunately, the fight itself is devoid of creativity. It’s all about hitting it until it dies and keeping everyone in the party alive long enough to finish the fight. Killing this thing doesn’t require much tactical thought from the player.
Outsmarting these guys is far more fun than just running in and killing them. So, should your party start decieving the monster, please: make it easy. Make it tense. Make it fun.
Because god knows the fight itself isn’t going to do it for everyone that isn’t the Barbarian.
My expectations for these monsters were astronomically low. Typically, I find the monsters taken from actual mythology to be less fun or interesting than the D&D originals. Unfortunately, the cyclops is no different.
Sure, their lore is a bit deeper and more interesting than I thought it would be. But their design is uncreative and their battles are straightforward. They lack creativity in every sense of it!
With all that in mind, let’s put the cyclops on the Best of the Bestiary!
- Death Tyrant
- Animated Armor
- Carrion Crawler
- Rug of Smothering
- Bugbear Chief
- Vine Blight
- Twig Blight
- Needle Blight
- Cyclops <———
- Flying Sword
- Crawling Claw
The cyclops only just manages to edge out the Centaur thanks to their lore. In every other regard, they’re a bore. You can have fun with them, sure. But when you have so many other more interesting monsters in the book?
Well… why would you bother?