Saturday, July 30, 2016

Thoughts on Monster Books

There have been a couple of posts lately about the plethora of monster RPG supplements and how they are mostly unneaded. Tower of Zenopus: Things I don't Need More Monster Books and Against the Wicket City: So Many Monsters So Little Time (which brought up this old post Elfmaids & Octopi: Monster Stats). These, and some other issues, got me thinking about what I'd need in a monster book. My problem is, even with all these huge monster books out there, none of them fill my needs as a GM. Sure there's 8 million variations on 8 million monsters. There's scores of alliterative Monster Manuals, Creature Catalogues, Deviant Databases, Fiend Folios, Teratic Tomes, Monster Menageries, Creature Codexes, Mutant Manuals, Archfiend Annals, Book of Beasts, Dangerous Denizens, Menace Manuals, Creature Commpendiums, Dragon Directories, Forgotten Foes, and Templates of Terrors. I don't need that, I need a Basic Bestiary.

I need is basic coverage of basic monsters. Animals (including dinosaurs & pre-historic beasties), mythological creatures, basic fantasy creatures (there are some common monsters that aren't from mythological sources per se, such as gargoyles, expanded types of 'lycanthropes,' orcs, some races of animal-men, some stuff from Jose Luis Borges' Book of Imaginary Beasts, morlocks & eloi, triffids, etc.), heraldic beasts, cryptids, fearsome beasts, and maybe Cthulhu Mythos and/or occult creatures. And then I want some basic templates such as zombie version, skeleton version, vampire version faerie version, elemental version, forest variant, dark variant, desert variant, mountain variant, etc. on top of that. Finally, the book should also include some random "mutation" type tables of different abilities, powers, features, traits and appearances so I can further modify the base creature any way I want (or create some new abomination).

With that kind of book I wouldn't need any other monster book, it would all be in one place. Sure it would probably be huge (one could fill the book with 500 different types of animal easily), but I could see splitting it into separate volumes for organizational and price considerations. I also think that having about 500 basic monsters should cover all needs (obviously separating out animals, as I noted above). Sure, with the sources for monsters I listed, that might be difficult (I could probably do 1000 different creatures from Japanese mythology alone), but it could provide a good basic grounding in enough different types of standard monsters, that with the added random table and template utilities, I would never need to get another monster book, ever.

As an example of my problem with many existing bestiary offerings, I'm going to examine Mutant Future. If you've seen my REVIEW, then you know I didn't like several of the included monsters (mostly because I don't feel they have a post apocalyptic feel). I also felt several types of monsters were lacking in representation (notably robot types). Out of the 196 monsters present (including all sub entries), I'd cut the following:
Ant, Giant
Ape, Albino
Bat (all)
Bear (all)
Bee, Giant Killer
Black Pudding
Carcass Scavenger
Cat, large (all)
Centipede, Giant
Crab, Giant
Crocodile (all)
Ferret, Giant
Fish, Giant (all)
Gray Ooze
Gray Worm
Green Slime
Hawk (all)
Herd Animals (all)
Horse (all)
Leech, Giant
Lizard, Giant (all)
Men (all)
Ochre Jelly
Octopus, Giant
Puddle Worm
Purple Worm
Rat (all)
Rhagodessa, Giant
Rhinoceros (all)
Rot Grub
Salamander (all)
Scorpion, Giant
Shark (all)
Shrew, Giant
Snake (all)
Spider, Giant (all)
Squid, Giant
Toad, Giant
Weasel, Giant
Whale (all)
Wolf (all)
Yellow Mold

Obviously, most of those are basic animals or giant variations thereof. As I noted above, I DO want basic animal entries, however, too many of the animal entries included here just don't illustrate a post apocalyptic setting, I want to see more mutated versions that I can rock with. The other monsters should be cut because they're more appropriate to a fantasy setting, and no effort was made to mutate or modify them into post apocalyptic threats. I've already written about Revising Men for the Post Apocalypse, so that replacement is already covered. But what about replacing (and making a slight addition of four more entries, to round out the list to 200 monsters) the rest of these monsters? I'd want to include some classic post apocalyptic creatures, much like how Cyborg Commandos, Morlocks, Eloi, Walking Dead, Tripods, and Spidergoats were included. I could also see adding some cryptids and science fiction monsters to the mix. So far I've come up with adding the following creatures:
Sasquatch (Yeti/Skunk Ape)
Rodents of Unusual Size
Mutant Riding Beasts
Mutated Men types
Little Green Men
Alien Greys
Bug Eyed Monsters
Predator Aliens

I also would include a much wider range of androids, cyborgs, and robots (Terminator variants would probably be good, and I could get behind including Daleks). Cthulhu Mythos creatures might be another possibility. I'd be a little leery of using Star Wars or Star Trek material. Thundarr the Barbarian has some good creatures though. I should probably revise Apemen to be more in line with the Planet of the Apes franchise as well. Importing stock creatures from the Fallout and Wasteland franchises is a possibility. Other good sources could include Vanpire Hunter D, Spaehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (some good mutant types), Hell Comes to Frogtown (those frogmen were pretty good), Beowulf's Children (the samlon and scribes), A Boy and His Dog (androids, mutants, and telepathic dogs), Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (had great androids, cyborgs, and robots), Beastmaster (fantasy I know, but those "Winged Creature" humanoids, Witchwomen, and Death Guards were pretty sweet; the Juns and cultists would adapt pretty well too), Kung Fury (Triceracop, Laser Raptors, Videogame Machine Robot, T-Rex riding, Wolf-riding Viking Babes...yeah), Korgoth of Barbaria, Krull (The Beast, Slayers, Cyclops, The Widow of the Web (and that sweet looking spider), and Fire Mares are all pretty gameable, since this movie is more science fantasy), Endgame - Bronx lotta finale (A Spaghetti Apocalypse film that has some decent mutants), The Black Hole (the robots, but special mention goes out to Maximilian), Resident Evil (maybe), Falling Skies (bio-mech aliens), Warm Bodies (Corpses & Boneys/Bonies), and Heavy Metal.

I know I'm probably missing several classic creatures, though I've deliberately left some out.