Monstrous Lair: Ghoul Nest (system neutral)
This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.
The approach to a ghoul’s nest is littered with things that can hint at the threat to be faced – the stench of rot, marrow sucked from broken bones, footprints in grave mould and dirt – some winners here, though two entries for stench of “the grave” and “rotten meat” feel a bit redundant for such a small table. When reaching the ghoul’s den, 10 entries allow you to customize what’ll be going on: Picking teeth with a fragment of a rib, cracking open a rib cage to get at the morsels inside…or what about a ghoul, bloated from a feast or necrotic gasses, holding its stomach? Perhaps the ghoul is gazing into the distance, drool dripping, its eyes focused on something far away only it can see? Nice one. Notable features for the lair include rocks and skulls forming a makeshift altar, and bones and burial shrouds may make for a twisted discard pile. Shattered canopic jars and chewed upon bodies – the table manages to feel adequately ghoulish and specific.
The table that deals with trinkets to be found within a ghoul’s den can include a disgusting scum of coagulated blood and rotten meat, floating in a stagnant pool, humans missing fingers wedged into the walls for later consumption in a grotesque parody of a larder – some strong ones here! For appearances, we have ghouls stumbling around on crippled legs, those wearing strangely ornate belts or wielding skull-topped branches as makeshift clubs. Rotten and scarred skin, black blood oozing from open chest wounds – some visceral and nice ones here. As far as treasures are concerned, we can find ceremonial robes with death-related themes, sheep skulls with crushed gems made into crude maces, finger/tooth-pouches and strange grimoires are provided. The 10-entry table of trinkets, finally, features thick ropes made from intestines and sinew (EW!) or broken blood-stained cups as a kind of offering…and sacks of rotten limbs.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.
Steve Hood’s ghoulish dressing herein manages to hit the mark – the respective entries resound with a strong leitmotif of necrophagy, of the remains of sentient beings made meat. The themes of death suffuse the entries, firmly contextualizing them as pertaining to ghouls, and some visuals were really genuinely creepy – to the point where I have to say that I’d love to see what the author can do with a really wicked horror module…but I digress. Considering the fair price point, this is a neat 5 star-offering, with only the comparably weak approach table costing this my seal of approval.
You can get this cool, inexpensive dressing file here!
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