The Random Esoteric Creature Generator for Classic Fantasy Role-Playing Games and their Modern Simulacra – Tenth Anniversary Edition (OSR/system agnostic) (Patreon Request)
The pdf for this book clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 61 pages, which are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5).
This review was made possible by one of my patreon supporters, who made the purchase of the hardcover book when it was released possible, asking for a review at some time in the future. I figured that it was high time to get on it.
As you can see, the artwork on the cover features exposed breasts, which, if you look at this review on my homepage Endzeitgeist.com, will be hidden by a strategically-placed pen. The interior artwork also adheres to similar aesthetics, so if exposed breasts and gore offend you, then the artwork in this book will offend you. Personally, I considered the artworks to be gorgeous, particularly since they represent an evolution of previous editions’ artwork.
Before you start to swoon at the scope of the generator, I do have bad news – or good news, if you are so inclined: This being an anniversary edition, the book contains a new introduction, as well as all previous introductions – 6 pages are devoted to these. If you are interested in them, they might be worth reading, but personally, I got nothing out of them – I prefer proselytizing and calls to arms for specific playstyles to be left out of my gaming books, but yeah. I did like the inclusion of all artwork featured in previous iterations – these artworks take up 16 pages in the back; add to that the new stunning full-color full- and half-page artworks, and we have somewhat less content in this book than you’d expect from a book of this size. That’s no problem for me, but thinking of this more as 39-page supplement might be prudent.
If you look at that version on my homepage, you’ll also see that I own the original, first printing version of this anniversary edition –a decadent hardcover in a faux-leather slipcase, with foil stamped on the cover. The foil stamp for the “R” and “E” of “Creature” of my version of the book is not perfect, lifting slightly from the surface, but apart from that, the hardcover is a stunning, decadent tome regarding its production values, with sturdy binding etc.
Now, unlike most Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) supplements, this does not exactly subscribe to the system’s conventions, primarily because it was originally released before the system was penned. The book thus attempts to present a creature generator that works in the context of pretty much any OSR-game….and in many ways, one could argue that the book’s monster-creation method could be applied to more complex systems as well – you’d just have to fill out the stats, convert conditions and damage types and the like, but the validity of the themes and general ideas remains intact. This system-agnostic approach to creatures is explained in detail – the book spells out that improvements to AC are supposed to make the creature harder to ht, preventing misinterpretations in systems that employ descending AC. The default AC one should assume, is that of an unarmored human as a standard. The generator assumes that its intent is to create unnatural killing machines, and as such, Intelligence, culture and the like are less of a concern here.
The base damage assumed would be d6; decreased in die-size would make that d4; increases in die size d8 – and so on increasing the number of dice would make that 2d4, 2d6, 2d8, etc. – and after that 3d4, 3d6, etc. – increasing die-size and die-numbers are two separate operations. If your system uses morale, roll 1d8+4; movement per default is that of an unencumbered human, with stationary monsters requiring an ability to lure prey. Each creature generated is expected to be unique (which, funnily enough, contradicts one of my favorite artworks herein, which clearly shows more than one creature of the same type…); saving throw defaults are assumed to be based on the warrior/fighter, or, at the referee’s discretion, that of a more suitable type. Psychic ability is also mentioned. What does the book say about it? Two words: “Oh please.” I really wish I’d be kidding here – so yeah, even back then, the opinionated writing does get a bit in the way and/or might annoy you. Some people like psionics and psychic abilities; they make sense for chthonic monstrosities and unique aberrations of nature. Pity that none were included – I’d genuinely have enjoyed seeing a LotFP-spin on them.
Okay, so how does this generator work? First, we roll 2d10 to determine the monster’s basic shape: These range from being flat or amoeba-shaped to being polyhedral, with 7 entries in the table, one of which is a combination of two shapes; the polyhedral entry has 7 sub-entries, ranging from icosahedron to dodecahedron, with once more 2d10 used to determine the shape.
After this, we roll 2d10 once more to determine basic characteristics, with this time 8 different entries featured. These include fish, avian, plant, reptile, crustacean…you get the idea. Cephalopods are not their own category, if you were wondering, but we once more have the combination entry here as well. These shapes provide various benefits or traits – such as being cold-or warm-blooded, AC-bonuses, minimum number of limbs or, in the instance of crustaceans, at least one claw attack.
Once you’ve determined this general type, you roll again – with the dice involved depending on the type: Crustaceans get 6 entries, as do reptiles, while avian creatures and fish get a d20; mammals roll 1d30, here simulated by rolling1d3 and then 1d10. These do not have mechanical impacts on the stats of the creature. With 2d10, you determine the creature’s size – Tiny and Small creatures appear in numbers (2d10 and 1d8, respectively); human-sized critters are not modified – and above that, we have 4 size categories, ranging from Large (+1 HD, +1 damage die increase) to “Run! It’s Godzilla!” (triple HD, two die type damage increases, and doubled) – that did get a chuckle out of me.
Next up, you determine movement with 2d10, with 10 entries provided – these can include phasing, jumping, levitating and the like, and the entries are presented in a concise manner. For attack method, we roll 1d10, with 7 entries, one of which is “multiple” – bash, spikes, etc. Some of these decrease damage die size, some enhance it, and projectiles are possible. After this, we come to the first half of what can be considered to be the “heart” of this book: The massive 1d100-tabke of distinctive features, quite a few of which do have game effects and sub-entries. Unless I have miscounted, a total of 54 entries are included in the table, though e.g. distinctive markings has its own 8-entry subcategory, while the 100th entry has 6 sub-entries, one of which could e.g. result in damage dealt to the creature exchanging souls with it. You roll on this table until the creature feels complete according to your own aesthetics.
If this is the flavor’s heart, then the next component up would be the heart of the book’s mechanics: A massive 2d100 table with indeed 199 distinct entries that include ability score drain of various degrees, immunities to damage types, abilities to animate rock, plants, camouflage, defenses, better attacks – it’s a mighty table. To randomly determine how often you roll here, multiply the creature’s HD with 10%, then roll 1d100; for every 10% under its chance, it gets one roll on this table. For every attack, you roll on the 2d10-table to determine the delivery method. This table sports 9 entries that include sight, voice, spores, rays – you get the idea. With a d10, you can then determine rudimentary combat tactics, with e.g. entries like: “”Least Armored: The creature will always attack the least armored foe in combat.” There is one final roll – motivation. This table requires a 1d10-roll and has 7 entries, and focuses on the horrific – subsistence on fear, mating, hunger – suitable.
After another one-page artwork, we have a series of design-essays that help you put the creature together. These cover means of effective presentation, the power of surprise and summoning, not naming terrors, and how racism can be used potentially as a theme in elfgames suffused with the wondrous. These might be helpful to novice GMs, but to me, all information here was old news – if you’ve been running horror and dark fantasy games for a while, don’t expect to be have an epiphany here.
If you strip away these essays, you’ll be left with 27 pages of monster generator – it is an impressive beast, but it is also only about half of the book.
Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard for text, and uses what seems most suitable for the tables; big tables might take up the whole page, smaller tables might be all on one page. The pdf does try to minimize page-flipping from step to step, which makes the book easy to use. Artworks are stunning, full-color, and littered throughout – from the cover to the interior artworks, they tend to be evolutions of the artwork of previous editions, which is a nice touch. The pdf comes with excessive, nested bookmarks, making navigation comfortable. The hardcover edition, as noted, is decadent – from the slipcase to the binding, to the thick, glossy paper, it is a pretty impressive tome.
After finally reading and using this generator, I do understand why James Edward Raggi IV’s massive generator is begrudgingly acknowledged as an impressive tool, even by people who hate him and/or his company. If you’re a designer, bristling with creativity, then this might not necessarily be a book you need – or it well might be. This generator is a surprisingly mighty tool that delivers a lot of unique and interesting creatures in a swift and painless manner – and the results are good enough to provide a sufficiently detailed framework to structure adventures and encounters around them.
No matter where you stand regarding the company, this is an impressive tool, and one that does have value for more complex systems as well – provided your designer chops are well-developed enough to provide the mechanics. If this book has a single structural Achilles’ heel in the design, it’s the insistence on being system-agnostic, requiring adaption, no matter what OSR-game (or other game) you actually play in. Not much, granted – but it could be a tad bit more comfortable. But that is a nitpick.
An important notion would be the cost-value proposition here – the hardcover cost €33 when it was still available, and for 27 pages of generator, that is more than I’d personally would have paid – it’s a collector’s item and one I am glad that I own…but it’s, when taken for the pure content alone, an expensive one. And before you ask: Yes, I usually do not comment on the like, primarily because I think that EVERYBODY in the RPG-industry is criminally underpaid. But if you have to pinch pennies, the bang-for-buck-ratio of this book is a factor to consider, particularly if you’re contemplating getting the hardcover via ebay etc. at an even higher price. That being said, the softcover version that has been released since? It makes sense, as does the pdf. In the end, I could have lived without the introductions and artwork, and would have preferred more content, but then again, I’m a weirdo who is more impressed by content than awesome artwork. If you’re looking for a decadent book you can brag about, with artworks you can shock prude/sensitive people with? This delivers.
All in all, as a person, I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I can’t help but think that a table of…psychic abilities, for example, instead of the introductions? That’d have been cool. Or, what about sentient monsters? Culture-tables? More base shapes? Similarly, having the book adapted to full LotFP-rules? That’d have made it a) easier to use and b) finally filled the void of the absence of a bestiary. Just sayin’…
That being said, as a reviewer, I have a commitment to not just reflecting my own taste and what *I*’d want or have done, but to review a book for what it is. And this is a powerful generator that can enrich your game for years. It’s not a generator for everything you’d want to do, but if you want to make a weird killing machine? Then this delivers in spades. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get the pdf-version fo this mighty tool here on OBS.
You can find the softcover print version here on Exalted Funeral’s store (use this one if you’re in the US), or here in the LotFP-store (cheaper shipping if you’re in the EU). If you’re living in another region of the world, please compare shipping – I don’t have that much experience in that regard.
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