Written by Jonathan Wojcik
One of D&D's most "Lovecraftian" monsters, the Gibbering Mouther first appeared in the original Fiend Folio, an amoeboid mass of slobbering facial features with powers about as disturbing as you could ask for; simply hearing the endless, incomprehensible babbling of its many mouths causes confusion in other beings, its spit can ignite in a blinding flash of light, the ground around it - whether earth or stone - steadily melts into a pit of quicksand, it sucks the body fluids from its prey and eventually gains a new set of eyes and teeth upon absorbing an enveloped victim. It's a whole grab-bag of disorienting weirdness supposedly created, like dozens of other monsters, by the experimentation of a mad wizard.
The Mouther's lore changed little in 2nd edition, but good old Tony D's illustration is just fantastic. Whichever "face" you look at is deliciously insane, the whole hodgepodge such a perfect balance of the comical and hideous, more confused of itself than we are of it. It's this sort of innocent fun that often feels sorely lacking from more recent D&D materials, but as we'll see, it's difficult to depict a giant pile of eyes and mouths without at least a little goofiness.
The first Mouther of the third edition seemed a lot less humorous at first glance and initially failed to impress me, but looking at it now, I can really see how much fun Tom Baxa had with this assignment, sprinkling his Mouther with a diverse collection of teeth and eyeballs. I especially like the one eyeball it appears to have dropped, and the various eyes with cartoonish X-shaped pupils.
As with many third edition monsters, the Mouther was now said to be a product of the Far Realm, a plane of alien madness beyond the laws that normally govern reality. Many classic creatures like the Otyugh and Carrion Crawler are now classified as "aberrations" created by the Far Realm leaking into the material universe, and Mouthers are perhaps the purest embodiments of its twisted influence. Spooky!
The Lords of Madness update is considerably less playful in tone than its predecessors, but surprisingly enough, I love it almost as much as Tony's. It may be more serious, but it pulls off an intense ghoulishness without the sense of forced drama plagueing many other D&D monsters. It really is an absolutely terrifying image, and there's a fevered, dreamlike quality to its red and yellow coloration. It successfully feels like it just doesn't belong in reality as we know it.
Pathfinder (a Dungeons and Dragons alternative) offers up another very distinct Mouther, with horrendously human eyes and gummy mouths in its putty-like flesh. This is another one oozing with a very twisted sense of humor.
In Fourth Edition, the Gibbering Mouther became just one flavor of Gibbering Beast, a family including the tougher Gibbering Abomination and titanic, floating Gibbering Orb (below). While there were unique things I enjoyed about every prior Mouther, I think artist Pete Venters really nailed the "raw, living insanity" theme with these depictions. There's a roiling, seething quality to them that actually looks like gibbering, which is pretty impressive to pull off. The updated text tells us that a creature who dies exposed to Far Realm energy may give rise to a gibbering beast when its face rips itself off and crawls away. Tell me that isn't the most beautiful thing you've read all week. We're also treated to what I believe is our first actual snippet of Mouther dialog:
"Sbix grpligar. Nxfgasz! Shffu shffu. Ordorx ia! Naaaaaaaaaar! Theren betray! Hrmlrmara nt zyx!"
Preach it, bro.