The Level 1 Creature Generator (OSR)
This pdf clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin with instructions, which are simple enough – you see, each of the tables here contains a matrix of 4 columns and 10 rows – these generally span 2 pages per table. You roll a d4 to determine the column, a d10 to determine the row. Simple, nice. With the entries differing in density and complexity, the respective font-size varies from what looks like regular sized 10 or 11pt (not good at differentiating those) to pretty large letters, so if you’ve got issues with your eyes, this still renders the pdf pretty usable.
Nice: In spite of not per se subscribing to a particular old-school rules-system, the pdf does take its time to properly explain its terminology – that means a couple of things: “Being” refers to an entity with a modicum of intelligence (so not oozes and the like); several entries make use of ability score checks, which are suggested to be resolved with a roll-under mechanic; in absence of the like, quickly rolling 3d6 to determine a value or fixing one is suggested. Alternatively, saves vs. death, breath, etc. are mentioned as a different means to resolve abilities.
Shapes are deemed to warrant a HD-rating, and bonuses stack; basic shape determines modes of movement; birds can fly, spiders climb – you get the idea. Distance references are handled via two abstract approximations – “Close” refers to 0 – 5 feet, “Nearby” to 5 – 60 feet. Several entries reference “roll with advantage/disadvantage”, so if you’re one of the hardcore grognards or Lamentations of the Flame Princess purists that dislike this rule, that’s something to bear in mind, as the modification to chances of critical success and failures mathematically is a bit more complex to replicate – an alternative would have been nice. AC is assumed to have a base AC of 11, and is presented in an ascending AC convention.
In case you were wondering – you can get a regular creature in 4 or 6 throws of the dice: The first table determines the basic shape, which can range from man to frog etc. – this entry determines AC, HD and damage dice caused by the attacks. Poison is noted here as well, and worm-monsters at half health split in two; butterfly monsters can cause AoE damage with poisondust (no save/text RAW – ouch!).
Table number two determines the form, which may be almost impossibly flat, incredibly cute, surrounded by a windstorm, have free-floating body components, etc. – there are some serious gems here, and quite a few of these shapes may have additional rules effects. Carapaces grant more AC, hypnotic eyes, being a thing of Hellraiser-ish pain etc. – a nice selection here.
Beyond these, the third, and arguably optional table, contains abilities – singing targets to sleep, exhaling a noxious cloud of poison gar, absorbing nearby gold, generate biological trap mechanisms – some pretty evocative ones here!
As an aside, if you don’t want to roll the dice, the tables are big enough to act as die-drop charts, if you choose to employ them as such.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, with a b/w-image of some ruins acting as a border, over which the tables are situated. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length – indeed, I’d recommend just printing the 6 pages of tables, laying them on the table and throw the dice on them. Monster generation done in seconds.
Michael Raston’s level 1 critter generator was a pleasant surprise – which not as potent as some other monster-generator engines out there, it is ridiculously comfortable to use and fast. If you’re time-starved as a referee/GM, you will love how smoothly and quickly you can make unique critters here; and as an aside, the results are very likely more sensible than the ones in e.g. “Isle of the Unknown” – there is more correlation between shape and function here, and while the respective entries are brief, they still manage to retain a surprising sense of cohesion.
The pdf does have a few weak points – not explicitly subscribing to a particular old-school system would be one of them. In an ideal world, there’d be an iteration for B/X, one OSRIC, one for LotFP, etc. – adapting the content herein truly to your game in question may require a bit of thinking first. (Do that when first reading the generator – the beauty of OSR-games is that they’re so rules-lite and simple that, after contemplating that, you won’t have to do so again.) Still, that is the one aspect of this super-nifty little tool that I consider to be less than ideal. Did I mention that this pdf costs a grand total of a single buck? Heck, you can purchase next to nothing for that nowadays, and this pdf is certainly worth leaving this symbolic obolus. It’s not perfect, but it’s a fine little tool to have. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this nice little generator here for a single buck on OBS!
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