January 2013


Teratic Tome is a retro-styled monster manual compatible with OSRIC and other old-school fantasy role-playing games. The cover and interior have been designed to capture the look and feel of some of the classic AD&D hardcover books of the early to mid-80s – the fonts, organization, and colors are all there, and a dead tree copy of this tome would fit right in next to the original orange-spined core books.

The monsters within are truly monstrous, not just big and hairy, and could easily cover a shift to let one of Clive Barker’s Cenobites have a day off. There seems to be a strong theme of creatures that seek out specific victims – the Acronical, for example, is an insectile beast created by ancient priests to find and destroy those who have been unfaithful to their spouses, as well as any who have aided and abetted such activity. The Epexiant is a tentacled serpent who seeks out those who are so wracked with grief that they do not wish to carry on with their lives. (What it does when it finds one, I won’t go into.) And these are not even entries from the demon or devil sections!

These are not monsters for a cheerful, fairy-taleish dungeon crawl. The dragons feature a list of horrific events that occur to herald their approach – unnatural weather, animal slaughter, and much worse. The halflings keep hell hounds as pets, and torture their captives for entertainment. If you’ve been looking for a bestiary to flesh out a Lovecraftian mythos styled fantasy campaign, I think you need look no further.

The artwork is superb, and other than a few typos and a section where some paragraphs were repeated, the layout and content is excellent. It’s difficult to read most of the entries without getting ideas about how to work them into a game, even as you’re shuddering at the thought. And that’s really where Teratic Tome shines – the attention to the details and motivations of the creatures really brings them off of the page.

As a side note – there’s an interesting twist on the way treasure is handled that would be worth using in most of your OSR games, even if you don’t get a lot of use out of the monsters.

Because I review a lot of RPG products with young people in mind, I feel obligated to say that these are NOT monsters to put into a campaign that you’re going to run for your kids. Please don’t. Save these for the grownups. And only the grownups with strong stomachs. Please.

My two gripes: The beautiful retro-styled cover isn’t a part of the PDF, and I think reading the monster entries before bed every night for the last few days may have given me nightmares. And some plot ideas. Okay, make that one gripe. (EDIT: Rafael informs me that the cover is now part of the PDF, so I am out of gripes.)

Check out Teratic Tome at DriveThruRPG

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Old Magic, New Tricks

I’m always a sucker for random, instant inspiration. Sam Mameli has a nifty idea for those old Magic: The Gathering cards that may be collecting dust in your closet – pull them out, sort them into piles, and use them to brainstorm some plot and setting ideas!

Well the holiday season is mostly over – but I’ve spotted a couple of leftover goodies at the bottom of the ol’ bag of holding! Let’s drag them out and see what we’ve got.

– Floor tiles and fantasy buildings: Courtesy of Billiam Babble (who himself creates some excellent floor tiles of his own that are not all free but well worth what he’s charging) is a link to the Black Ronin Roleplaying Games website, which has a bunch of free dungeon floortiles, sci-fi floor tiles, and fantasy wargame buildings that are yours for a click.  If you like what you see and get some use out of it, consider buying some of their other products (only two are available at present – river tiles and street tiles – and they are very reasonably priced) and keeping an eye on them for upcoming releases.

Character development: Someone on Google+ asked about tables that you can use to build backstory and life events for characters, and I mentioned the  Central Casting books which usually provide some very crazy results, but are a goldmine for ideas. While searching for a link for more info, I discovered that all three books in the series are available (legally) for free on scribd – Heroes of Legend, Heroes Now!, and Heroes for Tomorrow. You can read each online or download them as TXT or PDF files. Start rolling on tables and making notes the way Jacquays intended, or just leaf through them and see what catches your eye – either way, you’ll get a more colorful, interesting character in the end. (EDIT: My friend Marques asked if Central Casting: Dungeons was also available, and it is! I didn’t even know that one existed, and it looks like a pretty neat supplement for fleshing out a dungeon crawl. Grab it, too!)  (Sorry guys, looks like these aren’t legal after all. My apologies to the authors and publishers.)

– Lastly, there’s this marvelous thing – Dave’s Mapper, a widget that spits out random hand-drawn dungeons. You can make a dungeon from a mix of different artists, or narrow it down to a few or even just one, then export the result to PNG to print out and stock with monsters, traps, and treasure. It’s a lot of fun to play with.

Enjoy, and I’ll be back soon to talk about this year’s New Year, New Game project!