Everyone who took sixth-grade social studies knows the story of the minotaur—literally, the Bull of King Minos, that inhabited the labyrinth into which the tyrant threw his prisoners. In the myth, the minotaur (there was only one) was the cursed offspring of a bull and Minos’s wife, Pasiphae (ew), and the labyrinth was built by Daidalos to contain it so that it didn’t rampage among the populace, devouring the king’s subjects. In Dungeons and Dragons, minotaurs (plural) are a humanoid species with bovine heads and hooves.
So . . . evolved creature or not? The Monster Manual flavor text seems to want to have it both ways:
Minotaurs are the dark descendants of humanoids transformed by the rituals of cults . . . [who] come to the cult seeking a life free from authority’s chains—and are liberated of their humanity instead as [the demon lord] Baphomet transforms them into the minotaurs that echo his own savage form. Although they begin as creations of the Horned King, minotaurs can breed true with one another, giving rise to an independent race of Baphomet’s savage children in the world.
If the MM can’t commit to one explanation or the other, maybe we can’t, either. Maybe we have to accept that some minotaurs are evolved beings, and some aren’t. Maybe the logical extension of this premise is that some minotaurs behave as an evolved creature would, while others don’t, depending on whether they’re born as minotaurs or transformed by a curse. In other words, if your adventure includes a minotaur, in order to know how it will behave, you need to give it a backstory. (more…)