A Guidebook of Creatures Malevolent and Benign
This tome contains alphabetical listings of monsters designed for use with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game system. Each creature is describes and most are illustrated for easy identification. Using the new encounter tables contained herein, this work is sure to add new excitement to any AD&D game.
Fiend Folio (1981) was the fifth hardcover book for AD&D, and the first book that wasn't part of Gary Gygax's original plan when he announced the new game in The Dragon #8 (July 1977). When it was released at Games Fair 1981 (July 1981), it marked the beginning of AD&D rulebooks as a once-a-year enterprise.
British Book. The Fiend Folio was also the first AD&D hardcover to have its genesis beyond the walls of TSR - and indeed beyond the shores of the United States. It originated in the pages of Games Workshop's White Dwarf as a column, edited by British gamer Don Turnbull, called "The Fiend Factory." The column was very long-lived, running from White Dwarf #6 (April/May 1976) to White Dwarf #73 (January 1986).
Early on, Turnbull found that he was getting even more content than he could publish in the pages of White Dwarf, so he decided to start collecting some for publication as a new collection of monsters. The resulting Fiend Folio consisted mostly of monsters that had been submitted for "The Fiend Factory," but only some of which had actually been published therein. Even the published monsters were generally expanded and cleaned up, such as the "gluey" in White Dwarf #7 (June/July 1978), which became the "adherer" in the actual Fiend Folio.
The Fiend Folio was to be published by Games Workshop as an official AD&D book, as announced in White Dwarf #12 (April/May 1979). At least that was the plan.
Legal Limbo. Don Turnbull started work on Fiend Folio in early 1979, before AD&D was completed; he finished work on it somewhere in August 1979, but it sat unpublished for almost two years. Turnbull later said that it had sat in a "legal limbo" for those two years, the result of disagreements between TSR and Games Workshop.
The problems may have been that TSR was growing much more reluctant to license third-party publications like the Fiend Folio. However, the situation with Games Workshop was more complex, because by late 1979 TSR was seeking a merger with them — and Games Workshop was resistant. Eventually TSR decided to form their own office in Britain, TSR UK, headed by none other than Don Turnbull. It opened for business on March 31, 1980.
TSR claimed that they'd come to an agreement with Games Workshop to publish the Fiend Folio themselves around the same time, in The Dragon #37 (May 1980). Apparently the "final agreement" that Gygax trumpeted wasn't quite as final as he thought, because the publication intended for that May or June was put off for more than a year more. Some have speculated that the creation of the TSR UK branch might have been the source of that new strife.
Legal limbo indeed!
Considerable Critique. When Fiend Folio was released, it received a surprising critique from Ed Greenwood in the pages of TSR's own magazine, Dragon #55 (November 1981). Greenwood didn't like some inconsistencies with the AD&D rules (in part the result of the Fiend Folio's early genesis), nor the fact that some monsters filled existing niches (nor the fact that some monsters didn't seem to have any niches at all). More broadly, the Fiend Folio gained a reputation in the '80s as being "that book of silly monsters." With critters like the adherer - which looks like a mummy but instead got weapons stuck to it - one can perhaps understand its reputation. The Fiend Folio was also the source of the infamous flumph, the flail snail, the lava children, and other monsters that were admittedly a bit… silly.
However, history has been much kinder to the Fiend Folio, which also turned out to contain some of the most unique and interesting critters seen to that date in the AD&D game. Neville White's shadow demon was quickly co-opted for the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (1983-1985). Ian Livingstone's hook horror and phantom stalker have become iconic elements in the game. However, no Fiend Folio creator was as successful as future science-fiction novelist Charles Stross, who contributed the death knight, the githyanki, the githerzerai, and all of the slaad. The death knight would become a crucial feature in settings like Dragonlance and Ravenloft, while githyanki, the githerzerai, and the slaad went on to become three of the eleven protected monsters in the Product Identity of Wizards of the Coast's d20 SRD - suggesting that they've become some of the most well-recognized and (mostly) original monsters in the world of D&D.
About the Creators. Shortly after the release of Fiend Folio, the first of TSR UK's adventures saw publication - U1: "The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh" (1981). Don Turnbull contributed to Dave Browne's design of the adventure (though he was mostly busy running TSR UK in the years after Fiend Folio).
About the Product Historian
This history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.