This blog post made me think it's high time I did my own list of top 10 D&D monsters. I've seen this sort of list and tried to put together a list before, but can't do it. There's just too many to choose from and not enough stand out for me. I usually get about this far:
Bugbears. My first favorite monster. Ever since the bugbear with the kabob skewer in Keep on the Borderlands I've thought, "Man, these guys are so sneaky!" Later, some revisionist history made kobolds the default sneaky race, but bugbears were really there first.
Kenku. I thought this race was cool from the minute I saw it in the Fiend Folio. It was years before I discovered this was from Asian folklore. I just saw spell-like abilities, the novelty of a mute race, and the incredibly cool hawk-headed illustration. But a lot of Fiend Folio monsters had that great artist going for them too.
Kuo-toa. The original underdogs of the Underdark. Stuck between trolls and the drow in the classic D series modules, these weird fish-men are just waiting to get their butts whooped by any PCs coming upon them.
Ogres. Ogres are usually the top dog of the low-level dungeon, but what I really like them for is their versatility. Ogres vary so widely in appearance that the only thing really uniting them is size and strength (and maybe low intelligence). And even size may vary, as verbeeg and formorian giants are really just much bigger ogres.
Dwarves. I'm going to cheat and count Player Character races, as they are also listed in the monster books. You can't read Tolkein and not love Gimli, Thorin, and the others.
Gnomes. Dwarves with magic, more like the original mythological dwarf, is how I play them. I play them as tough guys instead of comical types and, because their Alignment was variable in the Monster Manual instead of one set Alignment, I have made them more likely to be bad guys than dwarves, etc.
As anyone perusing this site has noticed, I don't get a lot of feedback here, but I'm going to invite my players to post comments and add what monsters stand out in their minds from the campaigns I've run in the past.
[Mar. 9, 2009 addenda]
Kobolds. Not really a favorite of mine, but I've always wanted to do something really different with kobolds and just never got around to it. I realized a long time ago that everyone was doing "Tucker's kobolds" and reverted to making them weak and ineffectually to be different, but what I've always wanted to do with them and haven't was make them insanely hi-tech. I have an idea for a high-level dungeon I've never written that is a trap-laden kobold lair, but the kobolds are wearing forcefield-augmented body armor. The little guy spraying the PCs with napalm may only have 4 hp, but you have to get through 100 hp of forcefield to hurt him.
Flinds/Gnolls. I guess I've always wanted to like gnolls, but what I really like are flinds, their cooler cousins from the Fiend Folio. I've only used flinds in small numbers as leaders of gnolls, which I guess I always felt was important for the flinds, that they have a built-in inferior race to push around.
H--- Hounds/Barghests. I did really enjoy using that one, over and over again, in the South Province campaign. Because it could track a single PC, it would always come upon him when he was alone and give him a horribly rough time. I hate the name of the monster, though. I used to call them fire dogs and left the name of the creature unsaid in the South Province campaign, but I later learned that these monsters are actually based on fairies called barghests, though the name barghest was stolen for something different in the old MMII. I had redone the stats for the barghest to reflect their original nature and posted them here.