Friday, February 24, 2012

Obscure Art Friday: Masher by Erol Otus

     I'm going to start a weekly series called "Obscure Art Friday". First up is an image I've used for years as my avatar on the Acaeum & Dragonsfoot forums. It's small (low-res) and has a moire pattern in the background due to its source: I snagged the image long ago (2004?) from an auction of original Erol Otus drawings that was posted on the Acaeum. The seller was the Burntwire Brothers, who are long-standing Acaeum members with an impressive game room featuring their collection and much original artwork, which they shared in this thread. The Collector's Trove (who I believe purchased the Otus artwork) later indicated that the back of the drawing has "Monster Manuel" [sic], "Reduce 60%" and "Masher" written on it. This suggests the drawing was intended to illustrate the Masher entry in the 1E AD&D Monster Manual, which describes them in this way: "These worm-like fish move slowly along coral reefs, crushing and eating the coral growth...Mashers have a number of dorsal spines, 4' long, with poisonous secretions". The drawing fits this description accurately, showing an underwater worm with dorsal spines, mashing coral.

      The Masher originally appeared in the Blackmoor supplement, albeit with much less description: "Coral eaters, harmless unless frightened, if so is just like 20 hit dice Purple worm, with treasure". This is one of Steve Marsh's contributions that Gary elaborated on for the Monster Manual, which thanks Marsh "for devising the creatures for undersea encounters which originally appeared in BLACKMOOR." The masher is one of the most obscure monsters in the MM, often entirely forgotten due to being aquatic and lacking an illustration. The Monster Manual had artwork added to the first four printings (1977-1979), as detailed here, so this piece may have been intended for a further revision that never happened; the original MM never included any Otus pieces. The Masher would certainly gotten more attention over the years if it had a cool Otus illustration!


  1. Very cool, Zenopus. Looking forward to this series!

  2. Ah, the Masher! Along with the Irish Deer and some other obscure entries, I've never used it in a game.

    I'm also looking forward to this series.

  3. Baader Meinhof? I was just flipping through the MM last Friday night when I noticed the Masher for the first time ever! Actually, it seems highly unlikely that I didn't notice it back in '81 when I got my first monster manual, but I quickly forgot it. Thanks for the art, good to know what they look like.

  4. I wasn't a big fan of EO back in the day, but I've since learned to love his artwork. This is an excellent little illustration, something which the MM and all manuals monsterous could do with, along with a good written description. I probably used this monster in my once campaign aquatic since there were never that many aquatic monsters available in published material.

  5. Thanks for the info. I'd been wondering about that unfamiliar EO illustration.

    Also, thanks for the link to the Burntwire Brothers game room complete with the cover art to C3: The Lost Island of Castanimir. I own a couple of original Jeff Easley illustrations of monsters from that module, as I posted here:

  6. Cool! I like Easley's B&W interior art more than his color covers. I had fun running C3 when I was a Scout camp counselor for a group of other counselors. I need to pull it out as I haven't looked at it in years.

  7. Interesting fact is that the Masher is so obscure a monster that EGG forgot include a line for Appendix E: Alphabetical Recapitulation of Monsters (with Experience Point Values) in the 1e DMG, though he included all the others in the MM.

    1. I didn't realize that! I just checked the two printings of the 1E DMG I have and sure enough it is missing in both. There's something so forgettable about the masher entry. Thanks, Colin!