My favorite animal is…anything that has the word “dire” stuck on the front of it. This has to be one of the best/worst approaches to creating monsters D&D has. I love that there is a super-sized version of pretty much any run of the mill creature you think of. However, I also hate that throwing the word dire in front of animal also means it has the same generic physical description. Spikes, red eyes, and its bigger than normal. Every. Single. One.
You might think that the designers could have been a little more creative, but no. I feel like this a Spock’s goatee version of making an otherwise animal seem sinister and menacing. “i know, give it spikes and stuff. Make it big,” says Designer 1. “Oh yeah, and give it red eyes. Red eyes are badass,” says designer two. And they agree and dire animals are set print as part of the roster of D&D monsters.
I do however, like the idea that there are improbably more terrifying beasties living just beyond the forest’s edge, so to speak. A warthog seems like it could be dangerous, but maybe isn’t that big of a deal. On the other hand, a dire boar is a handful, and can tear a PC apart. Same goes with rats. In fact, Dire Rats help ratchet up the scale of danger when I need to throw little curve-balls.
All in all this is a