|First appearance||the original Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974)|
A gelatinous cube is a fictional monster from the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. It is described as a ten-foot cube of transparent gelatinous ooze, which is able to absorb and digest organic matter.
Oozes are relatively common antagonists in fantasy fiction; in addition to the oozes of Dungeons & Dragons, examples include the monster from the film The Blob, slime in Dragon Quest, and flan in Final Fantasy. These fictional oozes may have been inspired by microscopic organisms such as amoebae, which, like oozes, can consume organic matter by engulfing it (phagocytosis).
The gelatinous cube is an original invention of Gary Gygax, rather than being inspired by outside sources and adapted to the roleplaying setting, as were many mythological monsters such as the minotaur and dryad, all of which appeared in the 1974 Monsters & Treasure book of the original boxed set.
Being a cube that is a perfect ten feet on each side, it is specifically and perfectly "adapted" to its native environment, the standard, 10-foot (3.0 m) by 10-foot (3.0 m) dungeon corridors which were ubiquitous in the earliest Dungeons & Dragons modules.
The gelatinous cube appeared in first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in the original Monster Manual (1977). The creature was further developed in Dragon #124 (August 1987). Published first edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventures which included gelatinous cubes as adversaries that the player characters encounter included "The Ruins of Andril", published in Dragon #81.
Under the ooze entry, the gelatinous cube appears in the third edition Monster Manual (2000), the 3.5 revised Monster Manual (2003), the fourth edition Monster Manual (2008), the Monster Vault (2010), and the fifth edition Monster Manual (2014).
A gelatinous cube looks like a transparent ooze of mindless, gelatinous matter in the shape of a cube. The cube's transparency coupled with a dimly-lit dungeon gives it the element of surprise to engulf unsuspecting beings, and only an alert adventurer will notice the cube. The cube slides through dungeon corridors, being able to mold its body to flow around objects and fit through narrow passages and then returning to its original shape once enough space is available. A cube will absorb everything in its path, with its acidic digestive juices dissolving everything organic and secreting non-digestible matter in its wake. David M. Ewalt, in his book Of Dice and Men, describes the gelatinous cube as "a dungeon scavenger, a living mound of transparent jelly", The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters called it a "dungeon clean up crew", well adapted to this unique fictitious ecosystem.
Tyler Linn of Cracked.com identified the gelatinous cube as one of "15 Idiotic Dungeons and Dragons Monsters" in 2009, stating: "Unless an encounter plays out exactly like the steamroller scene in Austin Powers, we fail to see how the Gelatinous Cube ever kills anybody who's not either glued to the floor or fast asleep. In fact, we're pretty sure the Dungeon Master's Guide reads: The first player to ask "Can't I just get out of the way?" automatically defeats the Gelatinous Cube."
Chris Sims of the on-line magazine Comics Alliance stated of the gelatinous cube that "there can be no question of what is the greatest monster" in D&D, calling the gelatinous cube "amazing".
The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters called the gelatinous cube one of the "iconic monsters" of the D&D game.
Levi R. Bryant calls the gelatinous cube "irksome and dangerous", "populating many a dungeon".
In other media
A gelatinous cube appears in the 2020 Pixar Animation Studios film Onward. The film's credits include a thanks to Wizards of the Coast for allowing them to use the Beholder and the gelatinous cube.
- Weinstock, Jeffrey, ed. (2014). The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Ashgate Publishing. p. 193.
- de Rituerto, Blanca Martínez; Sparrow, Joe (2019). Dungeons and Drawings: An Illustrated Compendium of Creatures. Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews McMeel Publishing.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
- Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. Dungeons & Dragons (3-Volume Set) (TSR, 1974)
- Gygax, Gary and Robert Kuntz. Supplement I: Greyhawk (TSR, 1975)
- Allston, Aaron, Steven E. Schend, Jon Pickens, and Dori Watry. Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (TSR, 1991)
- Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1977)
- Ed Greenwood (August 1987). "The Ecology of the Gelatinous Cube". Dragon. No. 124. TSR. pp. 56–57. ISSN 0279-6848.
- Melluish, Ian (January 1984). "The Ruins of Andril: An AD&D adventure for 4-8 characters, levels 8-11". Dragon. No. 81. TSR. pp. 41–56. ISSN 0279-6848.
- Cook, David "Zeb", et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume One (TSR, 1989)
- Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1994)
- Williams, Skip, Jonathan Tweet, and Monte Cook. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2000)
- Cook, Monte, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
- Mearls, Mike, Stephen Schubert, and James Wyatt. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2008)
- Thompson, Rodney, Bonner Logan, and Sernett, Matthew. Monster Vault (Wizards of the Coast, 2010)
- Mearls, Mike, Crawford, Jeremy, and Perkins, Christopher. Monster Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2014)
- Clinton Boomer, Jason Bulmahn, Joshua J. Frost, Nicolas Logue, Robert McCreary, Jason Nelson, Richard Pett, Sean K Reynolds, James L. Sutter, and Greg A. Vaughan. Dungeon Denizens Revisited (Paizo, 2009)
- Ewalt, David M. (2013). Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It. Scribner. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-4516-4052-6.
- "15 Idiotic Dungeons and Dragons Monsters". Cracked.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2009.
- Bricken, Rob (September 16, 2013). "The 10 Most Memorable Dungeons & Dragons Monsters". io9. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
- Sims, Chris (October 19, 2012). "Ask Chris #125: The Greatest Monsters in 'Dungeons & Dragons'". Comics Alliance. Archived from the original on October 21, 2012. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
- Weinstock, Jeffrey, ed. (2014). The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Ashgate Publishing. p. 194.
- Bryant, Levi R. (Oct 2012). "Substantial Powers, Active Affects: The Intentionality of Objects". Deleuze Studies. 6 (4): 529–543. Retrieved 2020-04-21.
- Yu, Derek (2016). Spelunky. Los Angeles, CA: Boss Fight Books. ISBN 9781940535111.
- Stahl, Ben (February 16, 2001). "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance". GameSpot. CNET Networks. Archived from the original on November 6, 2001.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- Bishop, Sam; Zdyrko, Dave (November 26, 2001). "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance". IGN. IGN Entertainment. Archived from the original on June 11, 2002.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
- Zachary, Brandon (March 6, 2020). "Onward Features an Infamous Dungeons & Dragons Monster". CBR.com. Retrieved 9 March 2020.