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Ray Harryhausen, maestro of monsters

May 10, 2013

One_Million_Years_B.C.At the age of six or seven, I was (as all small boys – and indeed everyone else – ought to be) obsessed with dinosaurs. I remember being allowed to stay up past my bedtime because there was a film on the telly I wanted to watch called One Million Years B.C. Even at that age, I knew that dinosaurs had died out approximately 64 million years before that, but I must have seen an advert or something because I knew there were dinosaurs in the film. There was also, famously, a fur bikini-clad Raquel Welch, but that held no great interest for the young me. The frisky, tail-thrashing allosaurus, however, enthralled and amazed me. Later I learned that the man who breathed life into that dinosaur was stop-motion supremo Ray Harryhausen, who died on Tuesday at the age of 92.

Long before I read Tolkien or Lovecraft, Eddison or Moorcock, I learned to love legends and myths, monsters and magic, through Harryhausen films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans. When my friends and I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons, these wonderful films influenced our games much more than the classic pulp fantasy literature listed by Gary Gygax in Appendix N. We hadn’t ever read most of that stuff. Hell, I still haven’t read some of it. My favourite TSR module is still Cook and Moldvay’s X1: The Isle of Dread, which is about as close as you can get to a Ray Harryhausen movie in RPG adventure form.


R.J. Thompson of the blog Gamers & Grognards suggested a blogfest today in honour of Ray’s life and achievements. A splendid idea! There’s only half an hour left of “today” where I live, so I’ll stop blethering now. Here’s what I’ve come up with in the short time I’ve had to think about this. Next time you’re running a wilderness hexcrawl and the dice call for a random encounter, maybe you should set aside your usual charts and get your Dynamation on. Roll 1d30 on the Harryhausen-style table below.




1 Allosaurus


1 Baboon – actually a polymorphed prince


2d12 Cavemen – and cave women with fur bikinis and great hair


1 Clockwork owl


1 Clockwork owl bear


1 Cyclops – with a horn on his head and satyr-like legs


1 Djinni – looks and acts like a child


1 Dragon – wingless, no breath weapon


1d20 Eohippus – a dog-sized prehistoric horse


1d6 Giant bees


1 Giant bronze golem


1d3 Giant crabs


1 Giant gorilla – 12 feet tall, answers to “Joe”


1d6 Giant scorpions


1 Giant turtle


1d6 Ghuls – bug-eyed demons wielding swords and axes, not paralysing undead


1d3 Gorgons – not the bull-thing, but snake-bodied medusae


2d6 Harpies


1 Hydra – snake-bodied, none of that quadrupedal malarkey


1 Kraken – a monstrous aquatic titan


1 Living statue of “Kali” – like a Type V demon with legs


1 Minaton – a golem resembling a minotaur made of bronze


1 Pegasus


1d6 Phorusrhacos – prehistoric terror bird, “sword beak” or “axe beak”


1 Roc – two-headed


1d12 Skeletons


1 Smilodon


1 “Troglodyte” – like a hill giant with a horn on his head, wielding a huge polearm


1 Tyrannosaurus rex


1 Wizard / Wise man – 25% chance of resembling one of the first four Doctors

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 11, 2013 9:10 am

    I find myself oddly fascinated by the clockwork owl bear. Even something about the way the words go together tickles me.

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