Replacing Mind-Flayers and other I.P. protected monstersPosted: November 5, 2011 Filed under: aldeboran, art, ideas, monsters, publishing, weird 16 Comments
I was doodling in the sketchbook this a.m. and came up with some sort of flying squid that was eating an off-market He-Man’s brains — something inspired by looking at too many old pulp sci-fi / horror magazine covers no doubt.
It occurs to me that this is how I might replace ‘I.P. protected’ monsters like ‘the mind flayer’ and others when I publish Mines of Khunmar eventually — plus it has an ‘Aldeboran’ vibe that I like.
I imagine this thing is capable of eating the victim’s brains and then using the brainless victim as a puppeteer uses a marionette. Obvious ripoff of Wolverton’s Brain-Bats of Venus I guess… but nothing really feels original anymore, so why not just go with it? Of course, it should have other cool powers as well. Gone is the mind-flayer’s human body — but the mind flayer really didn’t ‘use’ the human-like body it had (other than for walking around and using it’s hands to open doors). The ‘brain octopus’ (don’t have a good name for it yet) could travel around by crawling unless it has a ‘puppet’ — then it could just ride around and let the puppet do the walking.
While we are on the subject, since monsters like “The Displacer Beast” were obviously ripped by Gygax and company from an A.E. Van Vogt story (1) how is it that Wizards now ‘owns’ it? I mean, I guess Gygax (or someone at TSR) came up with the name ‘Displacer Beast’ — shouldn’t the monster itself belong to Van Vogt’s estate while Wizards owns the name ‘Displacer Beast’?
1) Wikipedia tells me it is called ‘Coeurl’ and appears in the story, “The Black Destroyer”, which also features a space ship called ‘The Beagle’. I know ‘Beagle’ is a reference to the career of Charles Darwin, but didn’t a space ship called ‘The Beagle’ for the basis of some of the ‘Blackmoor’ adventures published by TSR (I’m thinking ‘City of the Gods’ and ‘Temple of the Frog’?)
Yeah, there's a huge artifact beneath Glantri City in the Known World that is the nuclear reactor that powered the USS Beagle; when the Beagle's reactor exploded thousands of years earlier, it destroyed the world at that time (including Blackmoor). Those TSR adventures for Blackmoor involve time travel.
If those octopus things sucked someone's brain out ripped their empty head off,climbed in and stole the body that would be pretty sweet.
I read van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle earlier this year. It's a fix-up novel including a revised Black Destroyer story. While the “tentacled cat” look of the Displacer Beast was inspired by the Coeurl, I don't recall the Coeurl displacing itself. WOTC might assert that this is the distinguishing characteristic of the Displacer Beast.
BTW, as reported here, the Xill from the Fiend Folio is another monster (the Ixtl) inspired by the same book, which may have also inspired the alien in Alien. The book is episodic and reminiscent of Star Trek, and may have been an influence on the original series. I highly recommend it.
Philip Reed had a collection of monsters that replaced the original that are OGL. It's kinda similiar in that it's a giant squid like thing that lands atop the person's skull and controls them. Pretty cool from what I recall but it's been many years. Some fantastic illustrations.
@JoeGKushner (or anyone else reading this) any idea what the name of that Philip Reed collection is? It sounds really interesting.
I'd prefer you make up your own versions of any monster you don't feel you can legally use. New monsters are cool, and revising them in your own distinctive way is way cooler than dredging up the same old musty D&D creatures again anyhow.
Oh, and WotC seemingly ignorant of the game's roots? Color me shocked! Very little in D&D could be called original, although to be fair, after years of use and evolution through different editions, settings, etc, things borrowed from literature or movies have taken on their own identities at this point.
“how is it that Wizards now 'owns' it?”
I think they own the elements of it that are original to them. In D&D, most of the time this seems to be the name and not much else.
Like Marvel doesn't own the concept of the god of thunder Thor, but you still can't rip off the Marvel character Thor (although where the border lies might be unclear, and Marvel might make exaggerated claims about what they own).
Parasitic Brain-Octopus sounds like a good, descriptive name.
As much as I like generic names for creatures for the core books, I also find it nice to have unique names to help them fit in a setting. Like how Gamma World calls Land Sharks “Seps”, or how Dark Elves are known by a myriad of names: Dökkálfar, Svartálfar (both Norse mythology), Moriquendi (Middle Earth), Drow (D&D), Druchii (Warhammer), Dunmer (Elder Scrolls), Moredhel (Midkemia), Ur-Ukar (Fading Suns), etc.
WotC getting upset about people using the displacer beast is like Metallica getting upset about people downloading their old Diamondhead covers.
When Paizo used the coeurl in an adventure (End of Eternity), at least they paid Van Vogt's literary estate for the right to do so.
Wizards of the Coast, TSR, Games Workshop and Disney: all fiercely protective of 'their' IP, all largely basing that IP on the work of other people.
Yep anarchist, exactly.
Yeah, legally if the coeurl is very similar to the displacer beast, WOTC is infringing on Van Vogt's IP. The displacer beast is a derivative work, and the original author of the expression owns the rights to make derivative works. Now, maybe the idea of a tentacled cat that is invisible is just such a common idea that no one really owns it, but that's probably unlikely. The real reason is probably because Van Vogt's estate hasn't bothered to sue. He might be able to get statutory damages, which could be alot of its shown WOTC knew it's infringing.
I've just done a guest post on copyright and Creative Commons, which might be of interest to some people:
they arent saying that they OWN these things.. they are just saying that “if you use the OGL, you will not use these few things we want to own”