Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A New Monster Book?

Printing Death Ferox Doom's going to be expensive, and my printer gives me a break if I print a whole bunch o' stuff at once. And Hammers of the God has sold faster than any of the modules so far, in no small part because it was a very easy combo to get with the box set.

So I'm entering parallel development!

I did a Twitter poll the other day. "What do you want to see from me?" One interesting response was "Things that can fit into any campaign." There was more to it than that, but that's the part that stuck with me.

Monsters are good I think. I've been having ideas for a new monster book.

But not an ordinary monster book. And not a "core" LotFP: RPG kind of release.

I find that most monster books are simply a catalog of things to kill, but of course my monster book isn't going to be that way. I don't know if it's fair to say that it'll be a catalog of things to kill you, but the idea is that every single monster has the potential to be a game-changer. Not just stuff you drop into Room 2b when you're in a hurry and need a little help stocking the old dungeon.

So I'm trying to put together a book of monsters whose very existence in an adventure or a campaign is an indication that things just ain't right. A monster book fully of scary stuff, hopefully to the reader of the book just as much as to the characters in a campaign.

What do you think?


  1. Sounds pretty awesome, that what I think.

  2. Throw down with some body horror and I'm sold. Monsters that used to be people, monsters that lay eggs in people, monsters that infect you with various things, that kind of craziness.

  3. Is the Insect Shrine ever going to be published?

  4. I'm confident that you can do unique work monster-wise. It's something of a tread ground in the OSR at this point, though, considering that bunch of OSR books I've read through the last month. There's a couple of monster generators and the Expeditious Retreat Press monster book out there, for instance, and the fanzines seem to publish monsters in every issue. In general, while I'm no expert on the D&D scene, it seems to me that monster books are a bit of a routine thing.

    I like the idea that a monster can have far-reaching implications and consequences, however; the best monsters in that ERP book Malevolent & Benign touch on this ideal. The other good monster type is the one that presents a clear tactical or strategic challenge or resource (I like the tent-bird that comes up early on the book, for example). The dullest sort of monster is the one that relies on a more or less evocative fictive image, but is otherwise just some freak to pound on with attack rolls until it stops moving. Even those aren't that bad when the image really is evocative.

    It's also notable that the difference between a good monster and a dull monster is often in whether the reader picks up the possibilities. I'd like to suggest that being explicit about using the monster in its write-up might be more fruitful than the traditional manner of writing about it from inside the game fiction. To pick an arbitrary example, all those undead creatures that copy themselves by killing victims become much more interesting tactically and strategically when you use them in ways where this potent contagious element comes into play. This is just an easy example, most GMs probably realize the potential of the monster even without pointing it out explicitly, but the monster selections really do range all the way from obvious to obscure in this regard; there are many monsters where I've only realized years afterwards what the whole point of the critter was supposed to be.

  5. Have you considered taking this monster thing in a bit wider sense? It seems to me that you could make an unique product out of campaign ideas, sort of - not preplanned campaign plots, but things and situations that when executed provide far-ranging structure and direction to the game. My point is that thinking that all of these things have to be monsters is a bit limited; while the final encounter of Death Frost Doom is exactly the sort of exciting monster encounter I'm thinking of, a magical treasure or any other element can provide this same sort of kick. I'm reminded of these magical stones in El Raja Key's Magical Treasury that imply a religious schism by their very existence; easy to insert into a campaign, but very potent as a source of emergent spin-off adventure. It seems to me that there's little reason to limit yourself to just monsters when considering potent, exciting encounters to add to your adventures; there does not have to be a difference between monsters, traps, treasure, NPCs and even character build options (yes, having the adventurers encounter a secretive order of paladins with weird game-changing powers goes on this list) in this regard, as they all share or fail to share this property of being "game-changing" that you reference. It could be a potentially very interesting book if you developed a bunch of stuff of this sort and perhaps added some rudimentary guidelines or sandbox seeding tables or such to encourage and direct the placement of the material into a campaign.

    I suppose that my point is that I'd be more interested in a campaign sourcebook than a monster manual. Perhaps the two are the same thing when you're running a sandbox and not preplotting the game, though.

  6. >>Is the Insect Shrine ever going to be published?

    Yes, but my gut feeling is that two adventures released at once is not as good an idea business-wise as adventure + sourcebook type thing.

    >>Have you considered taking this monster thing in a bit wider sense?

    The Knights of Science character class is going to be in here, actually. I have a hard time thinking of interesting treasure out of a specific context though, and traps seems a bit more like a one-use thing which isn't the point.

    More meta-commentary on the use of monsters rather than just giving an in-world view was part of the plan though.

  7. You know I want a monster book that fits the theme of Weird Fantasy so count me in!

  8. As a favor to my friend Tim of Gothridge Manor can you include of list of stuff that you can harvest from each monster? He and I ran across this in Hackmaster 4e and it looks cool. With your ideas on wierd fantasy it would be more just additional treasure.

  9. >>As a favor to my friend Tim of Gothridge Manor can you include of list of stuff that you can harvest from each monster?

    Roll d6:
    1- A Curse
    2- A Disease
    3- A Curse and a Disease
    4- Internal Organs that are Lovely with Milk
    5- Internal Organs that are Not Lovely with Milk
    6- The Soul of the Last Schmuck This Thing Ate. Oh, Make a Saving Throw or it Possesses You.

  10. Zak, are you hinting at ... something?

    Yes, a monster book written by Jim and illustrated by Zak would be truly weird - in a sweetest way possible.

  11. I really think you should do it given what you've produced so far. All Monsters as potential game changers sounds cool and progressive to me.

  12. I think you should work with Andy Hopp, an illustrator/writer, who does 'weird' work by default. Many of his creatures sound like they would be right at home in the type of gaming you talk about.

  13. Along with prebuilt monsters, I'd really like a "monster construction kit", in the sense of starting concepts, specific horrific features, and their in-game effects. One of my pet peeves about "Call of Cthulhu" is that Lovecraft et al made up new creatures for each story, while most modules reuses the same dozen creatures or so, with the occasional minor horror.

    I'm less interested in "Challenge Ratings" or balancing encounters or the like, which "Tucker's Kobolds" easily disprove. Mind you, a five-tier system of "weaker than a child" to "run for your lives" might be useful.

  14. I'd love to paint the cover to it.

  15. This sounds great - go fucking nuts with it. There is a product called "The Book of Unremitting Horror" (originally for d20 Modern, rereleased for GUMSHOE) that is modern-type monsters but, like you're saying, not critters in a dungeon but real full bore horror monsters you might base a whole movie on. But I've never seen anything of the same ambition done for fantasy/ancient D&D.

  16. The game definitely needs monsters; as you say, not as a kill-list but as a way of further defining game-style. It's a glaring omission from the boxed set.

    By the by, I'm a semi-pro artist and I'd love to contribute something to the piece (no charge). If you'd like to send me a description, I'll knock up a black 'n' white for you.

  17. I want list of unique monsters to kill, like beast that was killed was last of dying breed, the tribe of humanoids wiped out were the degenerate remains of pre-human Hyberborean/Aghartan/Atlantean civilization.

    That sort of stuff.

    Also, illustrations.

  18. Cynthia Sheppard will be doing the cover, which of course means just to afford the darn thing this has been moved from a "something else to release" to "major project." :P

  19. You were going to do this whether we wanted it or not...

    ...And that's Apple's style of customer research, and I like it best.

    But, of course, this is really what the world most needs from you: shattering the current morass of commodatized monsters, encounters, dungeons, power-gaming, style, and even settings! DO IT YESTERDAY.