A Dungeons and Dragons Monster Review by Jonathan Wojcik
The Drow or Dark Elves are by far one of Dungeons and Dragons' most popular evil races, regarded by legions of male and female basement dwellers alike as an epitome of sexiness. Unfortunately, that lonely geek fantasy has the potential to go hideously wrong - or maybe hideously right - should a kinky dark elf be an even kinkier Yochlol in disguise.
Yochlol, you see, are cycloptic, tentacled pillars of dribbling pus who can freely shape-shift into a seductive elf at any time, as well as a gigantic spider or stinking gas. That hypothetical fantasy just keep getting better! These demons are in fact the agents or "handmaidens" of Lolth, a demonic spider-queen worshipped by the Drow as a goddess. Why does a spider queen have heaps of ooze as minions? Because it's awesome.
...And besides the inherently badass concept, Yochlol carry a very rare, perhaps unique distinction: I can't pick a favorite portrayal. As picky as I've been about the monsters thus far, every single Yochlol I've ever seen has been a precious, perfect snowflake of putridity, beginning with their earliest portrayals in Queen of the Demonweb Pits and the Fiend Folio. That small, eerily human eye set in that molten-looking mound is remarkably eerie.
Tony Diterlizzi's Planescape Yochlol remains perhaps the most distinct, appearing more solid and fleshy in a truly vile yet subtly comical fashion, with a tiny eyeball innocently rolling in a warty, flabby mountain of stinking, scabrous meat. I especially like the branching hair, a weird feature you don't see all that often.
I'm not really certain of the chronological order of these, but I think everything from here on out cropped up in third edition. This one has a really unpleasant looking texture, like a rubbery, tarry clot of rapidly melting sewage with a thin, slippery coating of snot. The thick eyelashes give the huge red eye a nicely unsettling touch of humanity.
There's an especially unreal supernatural quality to this paler, milkier Yochlol by Baxa, with its vaporous edges, haunting eye and half-formed drow disguise. The constant, fluid motion it conveys is downright beautiful, calling to mind a lump of congealed grease swirling in a forgotten pot of rancid broth.
I suppose if I were forced to settle on a favorite, this particular Yochlol just might slime her way to the top by some slim margin. The hollowed-out candle design is just damn cool, and you can easily imagine her sticky, yet oily texure, like a towering clump of warm, wet earwax. This one also gives a lot more depth to the eyeball than usual; it looks so perfectly round as it rolls in that gooey socket.
Our final Yochlol to review appeared in the Demon Queen's Enclave adventure, another specimen in mid-transformation. This Yochlol forms more tentacles than usual and lacks the usual levels of sludginess, but the many thin mucous strings are suitably horrid, and that all too human eye looks completely out of place in the best possible way. This might be the most intense and even nerve-wracking of the bunch.
The Yochlol truly never fails. It's nothing but an eye and some snot, but from that simple template we see an amazing range of creativity. Every artist seems to have a lot of fun experimenting with the texture and consistency of these lovely ladies, and I always look forward to more.