This article started out as “The Top 10 Dragon Magazine Covers With Monsters That Are Not Dragons”.
What It Became
It kind of became just “Weird Monsters Of Dragon“.
Maybe some of these aren’t so unique and strange. But a lot are.
Since the 1970s, counting the “Best Of” issues, there are around 109 Dragon covers with some kind monster on the cover that is not a dragon.
From those, I picked 21 to move into the finals before I chose the ten I’ve prepared for you here. What I’m saying is… it was a lot of work.
Before You Start
- Rolling Nostalgic: Top 10 DRAGON Covers Of The 1980s
- Rolling Nostalgic: The 10 Best Female DRAGON Covers
- The 10 Best 1980s DRAGON Covers With Dragons
The Best Dragon Covers With Weird Monsters
Mobile device? Click the images for a close-up.
10. #138 (October 1988), Jeff Easley
When I asked some of the Goblins with help IDing this creature, they said all “skeleton”.
Which was weird. I mean, does that look like some SJW NPC undead to you?
NO! There is malevolence in that skull!
So, I went looking for some other official explanation and found the skeletal warrior from 1st Edition Fiend Folio.
The face looks almost identical.
9. #141 (January 1989), Daniel Horne
Daniel Horne puts a couple of gnome guards into a sticky situation with a qullan. That’s right, a qullan.
The qullan are a race of seemingly insane humanoids that wears warpaint in a wild variety of clashing colors and sports their battle scars proudly. They wield swords which have been sharpened to an incredible sharpness.
9. #176 (December 1991), Lissanne Lake
Gnolls, goblins, and leucrotta hurl themselves across the last barricade in an elven
mansion, as the defenders wield spells and steel against them. The final moments of a
doomed elven house are recorded this painting by Lissanne Lake.
Not a great work of art but a very evocative concept; we rarely see elves lose in D&D and we almost never see them losing to a cannon fodder race like the gnolls.
7. #211 (November 1994), Gerald Brom
Mr. Brom has many other strange and terrible paintings for sale on his website.
6. #109 (May 1986), Daniel Horne
“Attack of The Taer” on this hapless cavalier was Horne’s first cover for Dragon magazine.
A taer is a solitary primate-like creature resembles a muscular gorilla that lives in cold mountain caves far away from civilization and despises all company.
Basically a yeti, the taer first appeared in the original Monster Manual II (1983).
5. #186 (October 1992), Thomas Baxa
That’s a harpy, right? Wrong.
According to the official Dragon description that is a vampire dropping in on our cleric friend. But not really a vampire that I’ve ever heard of. I looked up all of the Dungeons & Dragons variants and the closest I could get is the Bruxsa, a Portuguese vampire, or the Irish Dearg-due.
Both are female vampire-kin, both hang around graveyards, both are invincible. Well, they are women so of course, they are invincible! Duh!
Maybe it’s some kind of alternative vampire form and I just missed it. Let me know!
4. #151 (November 1989), Jim Holloway
Again, not the best painting but I have a soft spot for 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.
Obviously, what we have here is a female sohei, a fighter-cleric hybrid, about to get blindsided by a kappa, possibly of the vampiric kind.
For some reason she’s not wearing a bikini.
3. #81 (January 1984), Steve Peregrine
I have no idea what this creature is. Maybe a foo lion or a Chinese guardian lion?
The tamed and trained baby woolly mammoth is definitely a nice touch. The whole motif reminds me a little of the Lone Wolf book, The Caverns Of Kalte.
2. #133 (May 1988), Daniel Horne
A sudden confrontation between a hot-tempered barbarian and a marauding sea troll is the subject of yet another great cover by Daniel Horne.
The sea troll — aka marine troll, aka scrag — first appeared in module S4, The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, alongside new monsters like the umber hulk, the piercer and the water weird.
The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth happens to be the first D&D game I ever played.
1. #190 (Febuary1993), Kevin Ward
This is just an amazing painting of a dramatic sea serpent attack on a Viking longboat. I’d love to own this painting.
The style reminds me a lot of the Basic D&D rules covers, which had some of the best art in the entire brand.
I’m currently adapting some of the sea-based X modules into a 5th Edition campaign, so this one is also a little personal.
Now my day is complete. If you have different Dragon covers with weird monsters on them in your top ten let me know below.
And of course, If you’ve got any other ideas for top ten Dragon covers (or anything else you’d like to see at Rolling Nostalgic) please let me know in the comments below or over on the Film Goblin Facebook page.