A Hundred Hellish Hordlings (OSR)
This massive bestiary clocks in at 128 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 2 pages of notes, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 115 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) so let’s take a look!
Okay, nominally, this is intended for OSRIC as the default OSR system of choice here, but as always, modification to other games should be easy enough.
The massive book begins with a note that each hordling may be a unique creature or a type, which might influence how they can be summoned. Similarly, this obviously influences frequency. Armor Class is standardized and, since many hordlings are conglomerates of critters, they may have different AC values for different regions, ranging from 3 to 10. (Yep, descending AC.) While HD default is intended to be 1d6 + Constitution bonuses, the respective hordlings don’t have HD ratings per se. Sizes noted range from miniscule to titanic, and movement rates can oscillate rather significantly. A plus would be that most hordlings have more than one attack routine – 2 tentacle slaps and a bite, or a poisoned tail with a “sae[sic!] vs., deadly poison.” A big note: “hellish” does imply Lawful Evil; that’s not the case here. We have essentially a vast cadre of chaotic evil beings.
The special abilities often include immunity to certain spells and offense also include spell-like abilities. Where applicable, these don’t concisely codify whether their daily uses are counted by spell-like ability, or by respective spell-like ability. There are also a few instances, where things like “reactions” are noted – whether you like that or not depends on how you run your OSR-games. Purists may scoff there. If you, however, run a non-OSRIC-game, you’ll be happy to note that we do get scores for all 6 attributes, which is usually not something we get for OSRIC monsters.
A huge bonus herein would be the massive hordling generator in the back: First, you determine 10 base form types: 300 (!!!) entries for animal components; then you add multiple body parts (10 possibilities), roll 1d6 times on the 20-entry extra body parts table, have a dedicated table for humanoids, dogs, a d50 bird table, a whole subsection of cosmetics…and from coloring to size and a d20 table of weird stuff (using a four-letter word instead) all makes this generator a resounding success. It does what “isle of the Unknown” took too far – the result of the hordlings and their aesthetics is efficient, because it hearkens back to medieval bestiaries, to strange chimeric creatures and oddballs. This bestiary really does the strange amalgamation thing exceedingly well without making the critters feel random.
That being said, this supplement does have a couple of aspects that will make it pretty much a dud for some gamers. First of all, the aforementioned formatting deviations are somewhat annoying; but more importantly, the hordlings all have the same XP-value “18perHD +1 per HD.” Every single one of these has this rating. Every. Single. One. This would be less of an issue, if there was any sense of parity between their powers. There is e.g. a walrus-style thing that is really big: It can squish you. If it smashes you, you’re pulp. Damage values for the natural attacks also seems to be rather inconsistent, and same goes for the application of ability score drain and level drain. In short, it’s pretty obvious that this component has simply been used without much deliberation on how deadly the respective hordling is. With a few exceptions, the statblocks featured herein, ultimately, also are often simply not that interesting – there isn’t much variety regarding abilities and differentiation methods between the hordlings on a mechanical level. I noticed a few exceptions herein, but when examined for the mechanics alone, this is not exactly going to blow your mind. On the one hand, the hordlings herein provide quantity over quality, so if you’re like me and like your critters to do unique things or provide a serious amount of lore, you won’t find more than one small paragraph per critter here.
On the other hand, each of the different critters gets its own artwork. A black silhouette of a human allows you to easily see the size in comparison. And if you’re like me and SUCK at drawing, these alone may well warrant getting the pdf. Why? Well, while the b/w-drawings are obviously hand-drawn and not necessarily something that will blow an artist away, they have a uniform style, and honestly, they work better for me than many in comparable publications. The sheer amount of medieval bestiary-type artworks herein alone warrant leaving a tip for. I certainly know that plenty of artworks herein inspired me to the point where I’ll make more interesting stats to represent the monsters within.
It should also be noted that this booklet is not organized in a meaningful manner – hordling names jump back and forth regarding initial letters, which, if you’re like me, may make that OCD-monkey voice its concerns.
Editing and formatting are decent; there are quitea few hiccups in the rules-syntax here and there, and there are quite a few typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard with serpent-like stuff on the borders – aesthetically, this is solid. The artworks, as noted, represent a selling point for me, and a highlight. Even when goofy, there is something uncanny here. I like them. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a nasty comfort-detriment for a book of this size. I printed this massive bestiary to review it, and it should be noted that, when printing this, I have encounter irregular blocks on a couple of pages, which basically make a negative of the page. This never obstructs rules-text, but if you’re conscious about ink/toner used, it’s something to look out for.
I don’t want to crap all over Stephen Andrew McCavour’s hordlings here – I really don’t. This is clearly a work of passion, and the sheer amount of artworks deserves applause. Indeed, there is a consistency to these hordlings that makes them weird, but still oddly plausible. My direct comparison would be “Isle of the Unknown” – in contrast to that book, there seems to be more correlation between monster and abilities featured, which is a plus. If you like the quasi-medieval style, then this is worth getting. It does become somewhat stale and redundant, but both generator and some of the small ideas herein do help. Still, as a whole, I consider this to be worth checking out, but apart from the generator, I won’t use anything but the artworks herein. As a whole, this represents, at least to me, a mixed bag on the negative side of things. HOWEVER, this is available for PWYW, which is a big plus.
And yes, this IS worth leaving a tip for. That being said, if you’re not as demanding regarding critters, not as anal-retentive regarding mechanics, then this may be a true steal for you. Whether or not this works or crashes and burns for you, ultimately depends on your preferences. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.
You can get this massive bestiary here on OBS for PWYW!