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The first edition monster manual, and the OD&D sources that predate it, have the traditional mythological liminal beings - centaurs, chimeras, satyrs, sphinxes...

But was David Sutherland's invention of the drider for Q1 in 1980 the first original liminal being in D&D?

By liminal being for this question, I mean something that appears to be quite literally 'stitched together' - part X, part Y, a cobbled-together monstrosity or pastiche of motifs.

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Lizard man (1975)

"Liminal being" seems quite broadly defined by the Wikipedia entry, but appears to refer to a being which is part human and part something else, usually an animal. In that regard, the earliest I can find is the lizard man, in Greyhawk (1975). The foreword to that book is dated 1 February 1975, thus pre-dating all official D&D products except for the original 1974 box set.

In a 2007 ENWorld post, Gygax notes that his lizard men are an original creation:

Lizardmen I made up to add to the list of humanoid monsters. They were added to the encounter mix to provide another and different aquatic, marsh, or swamp peril.

A possible runner-up is the mind flayer, appearing in Strategic Review #1 (Spring 1975). It may be considered "liminal" by virtue of appearing as part human, part squid, or for their later defined origin as part human, part extraplanar being. However, Gygax originally intended them to be some kind of alien creature. It really depends how you define "liminal being", which is not a usual D&D term.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A liminal being is something that is part one thing and part something else. Hence, yes, a half-human half animal thing is liminal. So are the undead -- both living and dead. If a player's character is adolescent, that character is liminal -- part child and part adult. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mary
    Nov 21, 2021 at 20:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ A good answer, but not really what I was going for. Lizard men, as what your quote from Gygax calls 'humanoid monsters' are persons rather than cobbled-together monstrosities. They have their own culture and society, etc. I am looking for something that is more like a pastiche of motifs. As for mind flayers - rather than original, are these not copies of beings from the Lovecraft mythos? \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Nov 21, 2021 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kirt According to Gygax, they're an original creation inspired by the cover of The Burrowers Beneath. The mind flayers essentially seem to be Gygax's combination of the Chthonian tentacled creatures and humanoid form. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 21, 2021 at 21:52
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The original D&D release from 1974 contained almost entirely mythological or folkloric creatures and some from well known fantasy books at the time.

The first unambiguous exception to this, being a fully original monster, is the gnoll. Gygax himself claimed that it wasn't really based on anything specific.

There is also the kobold, which takes its name from a German gnome-like creature, but it has no similarities to the rat-lizard-dog creature that became iconic in D&D. However, not having the original source at hand, I don't personally know about their original description, and they did change quite a bit throughout later editions.

The 1975 Greyhawk supplement adds a significant number of new original creatures fitting the criteria, including blink dog, displacer beast, doppelganger, lizard man, owl bear, phase spider, shadow, and umber hulk.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In the sense that I mean it, probably owl bear would be the best example. If you could document that a bit better, I would consider accepting the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Dec 12, 2021 at 21:05

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