I recently read a post over at Thieves' Cant regarding the representation of D&D bullywugs.
The author wrote, "bullywugs in my campaign are filthy, mucky, swamp loving brutes. More toady than froggy, more croaky than leapy."
I've always loved bullywugs, and that observation brought me to thinking about this post.
Let me state first - to each their own. Everyone has a right to construct their game in a manner and aesthetic that is fun for them.
However, we should note that the aesthetic history of the game suggests something very different from that represented in 4E.
From the outset, bullywugs were small, thin, frogmen. Monsters perfect for low-level adventurers alongside goblins, orcs, etc.
However, somewhere along the way to 4E artists dropped the ball. Instead of our beloved weak-kneed bullywugs, they became thick, muscle-bound toadmen. This evolution (devolution in my opinion) reflects the overall change in the game from playing feeble adventurers in need of hireling meatshields to characters that now begin play as heroes. What fun would it be in the current edition to beat up on poor thin-armed bullywugs? Not much I'm guessing, those of you who play 4E regularly can speak to this better than me.
The really interesting part of the aesthetic history of the bullywug is that, at a glance, one might look at the trainwreck that are 4E bullywugs and blame the latest iteration of the game. I'm not defending 4E, it isn't my bag, but as you will note below, bullywugs actually changed in 2nd Edition and subsequent editions have carried that aesthetic forward.
BULLYWUG: THE FIEND FOLIO (1981)
BULLYWUG: DWELLERS OF THE FORBIDDEN CITY (1981)
BULLYWUG: THE D&D CARTOON (1983)
BULLYWUG: THE D&D CARTOON FIGURES (1984)
BULLYWUG: THE ART OF THE D&D GAME (c.1985)
**Note: This is a moment where you stop and reflect on the above "iconic" image of the bullywug. All bullywugs are held against this standard for me. What an amazing sketch.
BULLYWUG: MONSTER MANUAL - 2ND EDITION D&D (1993)
BULLYWUG: MONSTER MANUAL - 3RD EDITION (2001)
BULLYWUG: MONSTER MANUAL II - 4TH EDITION (2009)
As a final note, MegaMiniatures has just released frogmen minis perfect for Old School gaming. Here's a sampling. You can check them out at their Ebay store.