Wandering Monsters - More Than Just a Shaggy Ogre

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Wandering Monsters 
More Than Just a Shaggy Ogre

By James Wyatt

Mazes. Baphomet worshipers. Sailing. Minotaurs have a lot of lore behind them, and James takes a look at all of it, then presents you with a summary of the potential D&D Next minotaur.

Talk about this column here.

More Than Just a Shaggy Ogre

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

When I think of minotuars, I think of Ordruun Commando from The Ravnica series of Magic The Gathering. 

They are big, strong, and dangerous when defending it's home. An evil villian might hired a group of minotuars to protect his dungeon. When defending a dungeon, they know the lay out and only attack when the terrain gives them an advantage. 

If a PC becomes a minotuar, I wonder how that Maze Cunning gonna work?  
In my home campaign, Minotaurs are a noble race of individuals who mostly worship the Sun God. They just get out of slavery and they are trying to restore their civilization. While the story expressed here by James Wyatt is an excellent take of the Minotaurs, many of us have already inserted Minotaurs as important members of our home Worlds. If you proceed with this idea, please provide us some additional statistics to use Minotaurs as Player Characters. We can change the lore ourselves.
I just read the article and answered the poll.. but I think my answer was a bit strange unless clarified a bit. So this is my take on it.

I picked "Awesome—this is how I will use minotaurs in my games." and "I must be able to play a Large minotaur character." which does not really go well together =P

Well...  I really liked the thing abot the cultists of Baphomet (or a similar to Baphomet in a different setting) getting transformed as a dubious gift and a asked-for curse. This puts a very dark and interesting twist on a creature I previously viewed with quite mild interest. =)

However, seen from that perspective Minotaurs should not neccessary be beings of low intelligence, savage and animalistic yes (embracing the teachings of Baphomet) but not dumb.
They would be former cultists, and they would still be although transformed.


The transformation often happens to a single cultist—sometimes a leader and sometimes an ambitious underling. In some of these cases, the minotaur remains with the Baphomet cult, serving the cult as both a guardian and a totem or icon of sorts.



This fits in the ambitios underling case, or if a selected underling (or a prisoner) is transformed in some ritual. But if a leader of the cult is transformed, he should remain as the leader. He is blessed with the power of his "diety" but remains as the savage warlock (or cleric?) he was before his transformation. Does that not make this version of the Minotaur more interesting?

So then we come to the playable aspect...
To the degree it should be viable to play a worshipper of Baphomet... that's a different question (maybe the PC is a runaway from the cult, or maybe someone witha dark twist on a druidic mindset could appreciate Baphomet from that angle).

But anyways..  I could picture this as a warlock build. Not as a race (as Minotaur is no race) but as a class/variant that slightly like the dragon sorcerer calls upon the power of Baphomet to bless them with savage power. They could start out with getting melee buffs and rage-like powers at early levels and then get the full Minotaur transform at later levels (although not permanent).

I dont know if that would be a good class (it has a dark twist that I like though) but I could not select any other alternative than that it should/could be possible to play one (a cultist of Baphomet that is)
I don't like much, if anything, of the Putting It Together section.  I want classic D&D minotaurs, with Baphomet as their patron.  Put Krynn minotaurs in a setting module along with character creation rules.

Kalex the Omen 
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Interesting.

In my Six Kingdoms setting, minotaurs are the remaining members of a shamanistic tribe of barbarians once protected by a primal Bull Spirit who equally sacrificed itself to turn the massive tribe into noble minotaurs.

95% of minotaurs are medium sized and normal intelligence. 5% grow into classic giant idiot maneaters and find themselves into bad crowds.

So I need both types.

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I definitely like the idea of playable Minotaurs being a Dragonlance item.  Mind you, there is nothing stopping you from ganking them for a home game, but the medium-sized Roman-esque Minotaur belongs in Dragonlance.  Thing is, Dragonlance also had the regular large-sized Minotaur as well, called the Thoradorian Minotaur, so best of both worlds there.

I don't know where I sit in terms of the idea of Minotaur being transformed cultists.  
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I have never been a big fan of the Minotaur as a PC. I have yet to play one in 4e because I dont think they did a good job with its specific attacks (rushing, goring, etc etc). I also have never really given a whole lot of thought to the Minotaur as a monster. I cant remember ever using one in a game, or if I did it was way back in the heyday of 2ed.

With all of that in mind, I REALLY like the ideas presented in this article. Instead of Minotaur being a race with a culture and history and half-Minotaurs and all of the things that go along with a species, we have a physical form that other beings are transformed into. I like that a lot! We have so many OTHER monsters who have cultures and such, this idea gives a totally different type of background and story arc. Lets face it, any story about a tribe of Minotaurs could easily be adjusted to be about Orcs, Bugbears, Ogres or just about any other race of barbarians. But the article presents a whole different type of story you can build around.

I dont really care if Minotaur is a playable race or not. I do think, however, that like the Drow, the player better have a darn good story for how his character came to be OUTSIDE of its normal habitat.
I definitely like the idea of playable Minotaurs being a Dragonlance item.  Mind you, there is nothing stopping you from ganking them for a home game, but the medium-sized Roman-esque Minotaur belongs in Dragonlance.  Thing is, Dragonlance also had the regular large-sized Minotaur as well, called the Thoradorian Minotaur, so best of both worlds there.

I don't know where I sit in terms of the idea of Minotaur being transformed cultists.  



I'm kind of in the same place, I definitly want a playable minotaur at some point for people who like that, and I do think the cursed concept is kind of cool for the minotaur, but I'm feeling that do not like it.  
I also should say that I love the fluff of 4e minotaurs surrounding the legends of Arkhosia, and Bael Turath.  An intelligent and noble race with a great civilization brought low, devolving into savagery due to the insidious worship of Baphomet.  While this leaves the door open for some surviving civilized members of the race, I would be free to say that none of this type escaped the decent into savegry and madness that occured around the fall of the dragonborn and tiefling nations.

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Minotaurs have always been savage monsters to me. Even when I played 4e, I never quite felt right about having a minotaur Cleric walking around with the party; I feel like the DM had to stretch to not make every city visit a "Oh my f'ing god, it's a giant bull thing that's gonna eat me!". I'm fine with this kind of minotaur, but I will probably also add the ability for minotaurs to breed and populate.
I'm not sure what to mke of the whole "minotaurs aren't a race" concept. In my games, minotaurs are common enough that they would need some other means of occuring. I mean, if I want to have an underground city of minotaur, how would I justify its existence if minotaurs are magically created freaks?

Here's an idea I think could fit for the minotaur. Minotaurs were first created by priests of Baphomet who transformed themselves and their followers into these beasts to more closely follow their god's instructions. (Or is Baphomet a demon lord?) The minotaur began as warriors that obeyed the orders of the cultists, but eventually became savage, acting like beasts and attacking enemies and cultists alike. These savage minotaurs escaped and became a race of monsters in the wild.
Today, minotaurs thrive in mountains and caves, especially mazes where their own knowledge of their home gives them an advantage. Some rare minotaurs are more intelligent than others, and may even become adventurers. They may also attempt to make contact with other races, or find fellow "evolved" minotaurs, although such a goal is a difficult one indeed. Any of the minotaurs that escape the savage instincts of their inner beasts become hated enemies of Baphomet, who encourages his followers to hunt and destroy such "traitors" with fanatical passion.
There are also minotaurs that become far larger and fiercer than their kin. These minotaurs are the blessed of Baphomet, and often become champions or warriors of their kind. When a blessed of Baphomet is born into a civilized minotaur city, it is likely shunned, as its bestial instincts urge it to slaughter. In such a case, the civilized minotaurs may seal it away if they cannot kill it, or the monster may destroy the civilized minotaurs.

 This is just my idea of what the minotaur is. I will likely be using this, or at least parts of it, in my campaigns. If anyone wants to use this material, feel free to do so.

I like the way 4E combined three approaches to minotaurs into one race and would like to see a Medium minotaur variant as part of the normal minotaur race and play it as a character


IMHC after the introduction of the PC Minotaur in PH3, I was forced to come up more substance for the race than what was available for a couple of demanding players.  So I took the Minoan timeline and culture, added key figures from the Taladas minotaurs, added fluff from “The Minotaurs of Mistwatch”, “Playing Minotaurs”, and “Winning Races: Minotaurs Tangled Origins and Mysterious Clans”  along with previous information mentioned in 4E.  Thus adding a concrete explanation for the “newly civilized” minotaur race to satisfy all the players after their 2-year late inclusion to the campaign.

Please try to include all player races from the start – after besetting monster gnomes [and their minions] on my players the race was viewed with so much scorn and hatred the might as well have been tinker gnomes or gully dwarves.


On a side note:

I’ve always have had some form of non-evil minotaurs in my AD&D games after an article in Dragon 36 (1980) introduced player stats for an NPC minotaur based on Silver Bells, from Thomas Burnett Swann’s Minotaur Trilogy.


Of the Dragonlance minotaurs I prefer the Imperial League of Taladas over the "seafarers" living on the isles of Mithas and Kothas; as undoubtedly a skillful culture such as the Imperial League already has shipbuilders and sailors – this is a learned skill and not a racial ability.

[edit - included issue number]

Here's the response I posted on the Comments:

I choose "All of the Above".  I like the "Cursed/Blessed by Baphomet" idea for creating new, full-blooded Large Minotaurs, but would also have a race of Medium Minotaurs descended from these transformed humans that fit the Krynn (and Tauren) versions.  *How* these Minotaurs diluted their blood would be campaign-specific. 

One such homebrew origin could be this: a Baphomet Cult's totem Minotaur mated with the human females that were 'sacrificed' to it, and the resultant spawn were "runts" with smaller physical forms closer to the human norm.  These Runts weren't necessarily Evil, so some of them managed to escape the Cult and breed further with the human population of the nearby islands.  Time marched on and eventually the "Minotaur Runts" began to breed true.

So, long story short, I think WotC should present statistics for both the Minotaur and the Minotaur Runt in the MM and let the DMs sort out how they're related. 

***

I must admit that I have a soft spot for the wily, cunning, semi-civilized Minotaur from my Eberron campaign.  I had a Droaam minotaur that specialized in trading high-quality magical components from Droaam to the rest of Khorvaire and had become quite wealthy in doing so... to the point where he could serve as a Patron of Dubious Repute for my PCs.
 
I strongly dislike the idea of minotaurs being transformed cultists. Just take what we have and make all versions available. It´s no good to come up with another concept of something that already has so many versions. They could do the classic greek minotaur and minotaurs as a race separate entries in the MM. so it would be up to the DM to choose witch one to use in his campaign, or booth if he likes. The same approach would work with the medusa and other unique monsters. I don´t despise the idea of medusas or minotaurs as a race, as it´s being part of D&D in several editions, just make it neutral so every DM can choose.
I like the idea that Minotaurs are rare, but I also like the idea that they're in some sense naturally occurring. They wouldn't necessarily have societies, or even be likely to bond with other minotaurs, but they're still a type of creature.

I also don't see any reason for minotaurs to be dumber than average; while they're probably not savants, low intelligence isn't nearly as core to their identity as it is to the identity of a dozen other creatures with similar silhouettes. I'd just drop that. They shouldn't be super-geniuses, but I think they're actually scarier if they're less feral and less stupid. They rage and are very agressive, but they're also intelligent, and potentially patient; if you're a in a minotaur's labyrinth, it will doggedly track you down and end your life, not rampage out of control looking for you in a maddened fury. More "most dangerous game", less "thrown to the wolves".

The labyrinth angle also suggests that minotaurs might not actually be that dim. Unlike being big or angry or having an axe, mazes are solely the domain of the minotaur and other monsters with similar silhouettes have nothing to do with mazes (and probably are terrible at them.) I'd play the maze angle way, way up. Rather than making them dim and then giving them the ability to smell you out in a maze, maybe they could be average intelligence but possessed of otherworldly levels of spatial ability. In a minotaur's mind, what looks like a baffling labyrinth to you is a simple toy easily unwound, so trivial that it's practically automatic. The minotaur sees all the paths to you and understands the psychology of its prey enough to know where a victim is likely to turn. You can't lose a minotaur in a labyrinth any more than you can lose a lion in a huge empty savannah. The ability to see through arbitrarily convoluted systems might extend to non-mazes; a minotaur isn't creative or inventive or clever, but it sees through anything that most intelligent creatures would find confusing or misleading or baffling. Every system either can be untangled and simplified, in which case a minotaur can and does do so, or is random nonsense (like a maze with no proper route), which the minotaur also recognizes instantly. (And might have some degree of distaste for.)
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I like the idea that Minotaurs are rare, but I also like the idea that they're in some sense naturally occurring. They wouldn't necessarily have societies, or even be likely to bond with other minotaurs, but they're still a type of creature.

I also don't see any reason for minotaurs to be dumber than average; while they're probably not savants, low intelligence isn't nearly as core to their identity as it is to the identity of a dozen other creatures with similar silhouettes. I'd just drop that. They shouldn't be super-geniuses, but I think they're actually scarier if they're less feral and less stupid. They rage and are very agressive, but they're also intelligent, and potentially patient; if you're a in a minotaur's labyrinth, it will doggedly track you down and end your life, not rampage out of control looking for you in a maddened fury. More "most dangerous game", less "thrown to the wolves".

The labyrinth angle also suggests that minotaurs might not actually be that dim. Unlike being big or angry or having an axe, mazes are solely the domain of the minotaur and other monsters with similar silhouettes have nothing to do with mazes (and probably are terrible at them.) I'd play the maze angle way, way up. Rather than making them dim and then giving them the ability to smell you out in a maze, maybe they could be average intelligence but possessed of otherworldly levels of spatial ability. In a minotaur's mind, what looks like a baffling labyrinth to you is a simple toy easily unwound, so trivial that it's practically automatic. The minotaur sees all the paths to you and understands the psychology of its prey enough to know where a victim is likely to turn. You can't lose a minotaur in a labyrinth any more than you can lose a lion in a huge empty savannah. The ability to see through arbitrarily convoluted systems might extend to non-mazes; a minotaur isn't creative or inventive or clever, but it sees through anything that most intelligent creatures would find confusing or misleading or baffling. Every system either can be untangled and simplified, in which case a minotaur can and does do so, or is random nonsense (like a maze with no proper route), which the minotaur also recognizes instantly. (And might have some degree of distaste for.)



Nice ideas.
I think the idea they can up with is a great idea. For it can also include minotaurs as a race, as they could be descendants of those transformed cultists, this would explain their low numbers. As for the labyrinths, you could say that form of construction is favored by balphomet cultists and they would know their way around it. Many minotaur descendants would have been born in these labyrinths and when circumstances force them to leave, they would find or build similar places for the comfort it brought them.
Yuan-ti also have a cult based around mutational empowerment. Heck, even drow have their driders, so I'm trying twists:

  1. As much as the idea intrigues me that minotaurs were a noble race that all turned bestial out of worship of Baphomet, what if minotaurs were beasts who longed for the wisdom of humans and a god made them humanoid?

  2. Minotaurs were originally the sacred animals or chosen people of some god, but then a second god, maybe Baphomet, tempted them away from their creator or conned the old god out of them. The wronged god turned its erstwhile creations into minotaurs to spite the second god. Closer to the Greek myth, too.

  3. Minotaurs believe cattle and humans used to be minotaurs too, until the two gods that fought over minotaurs split many of them apart into separate species to settle the argument.

If minotaurs are a player race, I'd rather they not split hairs and just make them the same size as the basic minotaur. Making separate, lesser forms of monsters just to make them player races (Changelings vs Dopplegangers, Shifters vs Lycanthropes, Dragonborn vs Half-dragons) bugs the Baator out of me.
I'm a pretty big Dragonlance fan so I'm all in favour of medium sized minotaurs as a species. But, that's an add-on that comes later. For the initial version of the game, I'm okay with minotaurs that are the product of curses (like in 2nd Edition).
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I strongly dislike the idea of minotaurs being transformed cultists. Just take what we have and make all versions available. It´s no good to come up with another concept of something that already has so many versions. They could do the classic greek minotaur and minotaurs as a race separate entries in the MM. so it would be up to the DM to choose witch one to use in his campaign, or booth if he likes. The same approach would work with the medusa and other unique monsters. I don´t despise the idea of medusas or minotaurs as a race, as it´s being part of D&D in several editions, just make it neutral so every DM can choose.

Agreed.  Not a fan of the transformed cultists backstory.  Prefer them as a race with their own origins, life cycle, etc.
I dug it.  I like the D&D spin on the Greek myth.  Personally I despise most if not all monster races as PCs.  But I don't care if others want them in their games, so a option for them is fine.  
I don't get why people are saying that the cursed cultist is like the Greek Myth, where really the minotaur is the curse. 

I like Fourth Edition, Baphomet created the Minotaurs but they are forever caught between their dual natures. Some turn to Erathis some to Melora, but those that fall fall into desecrated savagery. An ancient labyrinth city exists that Minotaurs believe will rise again. Until then Erathis' will guard their cities, while Melora guards their nomadic cattle.
I'm a traditinalist whose always loved the mythic roots of D&D so I don't dislike the notion of them being rewarded cultists or cursed victims.  Gods create monsters.  I also play in Greyhawk, which has a very human- vs orc -centric setting.

However, if you want to stick a bull's head on a race and call it minotaur I have major no problem with that either, but that race isn't really a race of minotuars to me, just bull-headed humanoids.  The idea of a true minotaur family eating dinner in their house is just awful to me but I understand that some players think playing a bull-headed character is cool so let them go for it.

Stick to the beast as a base and add a module for Krynn-style minotaurs.  That's how it used to be.
I don't get why people are saying that the cursed cultist is like the Greek Myth, where really the minotaur is the curse. 

I like Fourth Edition, Baphomet created the Minotaurs but they are forever caught between their dual natures. Some turn to Erathis some to Melora, but those that fall fall into desecrated savagery. An ancient labyrinth city exists that Minotaurs believe will rise again. Until then Erathis' will guard their cities, while Melora guards their nomadic cattle.



Exactly... 4E version is pretty nice, they don´t need to change it that much ... just incorporate other versions in a neutral book like MM, and more specific version in campaign settings books. Actually in terms of lore, they don't need to reinvent all stuff, just accommodate all versions that are true to D&D.

A while back on another forum, I asked why minotaurs are generally beloved in dnd...and came up with the following points:


****************************



  1. They are a long running humanoid in mythology, running back to greek mythology. 

  2. it's a race that's easy to define (bull man)

  3. They are big and scarry, but can be almost lovable in certain situations (my nickname for them is chewbacca cows

  4. They have a legacy beyond the original myth, in first dragonlance (krynnian minotaurs were awesome), and then eventually other settings (such as warcraft).

  5. they have that ...savage barbarian feel that all the pcs like :P.

  6. There are a lot of cow related puns which can make for amusing character names


****************************


Honestly, the minotaur that James Wyatt defined feels like like a step in the wrong direction.


They should be a viable pc race.  


By defining them as a curse, you just took all options for customizing them by an individual party or world.  Furthermore, you assume that they are monsters outright, and quite frankly, they are usually one of the most requested alternative race, dating back to dragonlance and phantasie for the frieking apple 2e.


honestly, the 4e minotaur came to the closest to balencing them as a monster and a pc race and should be kept. 


If you need to flesh out critters, start with the more conventional humanoids.




Honestly, the minotaur that mike mearls defined feels like like a step in the wrong direction.


The article was written by James Wyatt, not Mike Mearls.

There are a lot of cow related puns which can make for amusing character names




Not to mention the infamous Minotaur Bard Bruce Dickinson .... MORE COWBELL
Honestly, the minotaur that mike mearls defined feels like like a step in the wrong direction.



The article was written by James Wyatt, not Mike Mearls.




d'oh and fixed. 

If James Wyatt wants "Greek mythology" to inform the minotaur, than this isn't the right way, the beasts should be released upon humanity as a punishment (created by Baphomet works well for this anyway) They should be creatures raised from a young age to eat humans, and PC minotaurs should be fighting this inner nature.

If it's just a fig leaf, and really he just likes the idea of converted cultists who turn into beast men after profane rights, well then Lycanthropy, named after King Lycaon who butchered his children in an attempt to disprove the gods, doesn't require this same shoe horning.
With humanoids, it's abit like they increase in size but are just raiders of PC races - goblin to hobgoblin to bugbear to ogre to ettin to hill giant etc

Thus i'm happy for any details to provide variety in monsters.

With Minotaurs i've always had them allied with Harpies (tough barbarians on the ground with fast shock troops in the air) working for a draconic or demonic cult. Either are not subtle enough for Hell, so tie them to the Abyss or sheer Draconic power.

Being underused previously it was good that that Dragonlance-Taladas (Time of the Dragon) used Minotaurs like a Roman Empire, but it was too far from the Greek Myth version for me to sit comfortably with.

You could raise their Intelligence abit so they could be raiders and cultists, but have some choose to embrace the fury of their cult/dark deity etc and become berserkers, basically the classic minotaur. Both types could have a Wisdom save to resist taunts/challenges etc.

Another option is make them medium as 3 hit dice, then get bigger and stupider with age, so the elders are not wise but frustrated berserkers.

Key things for D&D - Where is the character from and why do they do what they do? / Recurring NPCs - allies and enemies / Plot, World and Personal Events.

I like the idea of minotaur like PC race. It could be published in a future "Dragonlance player handbook". 

And I have said monster PCs could have got weaker abilities score. For example if minotaur monster have got +4 Str, the PC minotaur only +2 Str, because PCs are like the runt puppies of littler. 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

So it's impossible to play abig hurly burly mino'?

How about instead you give the PC race a +2 str, and don't tell people he's a runt. Just don't go around assuming every monster block is incredibly average in every respect like 3e did and it won't matter what str rating the minotaur in the MM has got vs. the PC race, especially if the MM version has something less than 26.
In this case, there seems to be a good reason to have two different species. One a monstrous frankenstein-style curse by a sea spirit, the other a beastfolk (furry) humanoid bovine.

But generally, I would rather see all races be able to advance while leveling. So the more powerful traits of a nonhuman are available to adventurers except at a higher level.

Maybe race should really be addon specializations that allows a choice of skills, feats, and powers to swap in while leveling?
Not a bad idea, and not just for 'monster' races. 
Do rebember now a specie can be monster with different stats. For example a minotaur can be a level encounter 1 "soldier of imperial league of Taladas" (the classic canon fodder) or level 5 "guardian of labyrinth" (like elite or "dungeon boss"). 

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

Maybe race should really be addon specializations that allows a choice of skills, feats, and powers to swap in while leveling?

Actually, this solves the problem of Nonhuman races too.

The Human is the default, who eschews racial options and chooses to select all character options from the background skills, class traits, and specializations feats.

But the Nonhuman can swap out one or more of these skills, traits, and feats to choose one or more racial skills, racial traits, and racial feats.

For example, the Wood Elf race can offer Speed and Shadowvision as feat choices, and Stealth and Nature as skills.

Separately, the High Elf race can offer Elf-Shine (Light Cantrip but advancing in power while leveling), Extra Spellslot (advancing while leveling), and so on.

These options from races (and subraces if any) can have appropriate prereqs.

Regarding the ability modifiers, the choice of a race could restrictively require a class whose ability score bonus can be placed in the favored ability of the race. Or permissively allow the class modifier to apply to the race ability, even when the class doesnt normally allow this.