It’s not really Higher Level Gaming’s focus of interest but if you haven’t heard, there’s a new game out there available at something called an “App store?” called Pokemon Go. It’s based on the original material that Wizards of the Coast brought over from Japan right after it bought the rights for D&D from TSR back in the 90’s. Now I’m not one to read things like the news or Internet blogs but I keep my ear to the street and it seems as though the game is fairly popular, at least from what my wife tells me. At its essence the game is about creatures, big and small, and that I can relate to. Searching for conspiracies, waging war on neighboring kingdoms, and pulling the perfect heist, can all be great threads for game plots but what would an adventure be without a couple of fun and terrifying creature encounters. We all joke about how funny it would be to run into a Beholder at level 2 or a bunch of Kobolds at level 10 because it’s funny, and it’s funny because we know the stats. We’ve seen the pictures and heard the descriptions; we know the challenge because WE have the MONSTER MANUAL! So what are some of the more interesting Poke-indexes out there for tabletop gaming? Here we go.
1) Monsternomicon- for Iron Kingdoms by Privateer Press
Privateer Press’ last release of their Monsternomicon was in 2005 with edition 3.5. Containing 80 creatures with gorgeous art, this book provides beauty and depth at the same time. Detailed descriptions, explanations of prestige classes, and updated monster encounter rules inclusive to environments; speak well to the developer’s eye for detail. The creatures are formatted for most D20 campaigns and provide “un-imaginable terrors” for the hardiest of players, and the name is kinda awesome too. Privateer Press also offers a selection of miniatures for some of the creatures.
2) Penumbra Fantasy Bestiary- Atlas Games
With an equally awesome name Atlas designed the Bestiary to be adaptable to most campaigns. However, it holds a little more weigh than the previous entry with 220 creatures and what they describe as “atmospheric descriptions, evocative illustrations, and solid stats”. The wealth of descriptive content is only surpassed by the artwork of Grey Thornberry, Chad Sergesketter, and Brian Figur. As with Privateer Press, Atlas also offers a selection of miniatures for 9 of the creatures within the Bestiary.
3) Monstrous Arcana books-D&D 2.0 by TSR
Gone but not forgotten. Not everyone was a fan of 2nd edition but I mention these books here because the concept was pretty interesting. Three sourcebooks were published, each for a single monstrous creature type; I, Tyrant, The Sea Devils, The Illithiad, and I. Each sourcebook was then provided three corresponding adventures focusing primarily upon that creature type. Each source book was around 96 pages and pretty much contained every absolute detail TSR could imagine, write and illustrate about these 3 creature types. While out of date, they’re still an interesting read totaling 228 pages about 3 very specific creature types.
4) Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the newcomer to the table. With D&D 5th edition came about a newer better Monster Manual, which was as you know created through a playtest of over 170,000 D&D fans. Easy-to-use, descriptive, and quality illustrated, this baby smells nice. If you’re worried about losing your old favorites, don’t. They’re all here; ready to hug you, and squeeze you, and suck the marrow from your bones. With an online resource of the Monster Challenging rating index for DM’s and a price tag of$33.10 you probably already own this book so I don’t have to tell you about it.
Monsters are a cornerstone of role-playing and random encounters with them make the stories of legend. Great monster manuals improve our gaming experiences and take us back to our roots in terms of adventure. They embody our history, our fears, and our desire to overcome. I’m glad that there’s a ton of monsters out there, in every shape and form, even the one in my mirror. It would be a boring game if there were only 150, and I just want to point out that you don’t have to catch them all. Some of them are really dangerous and trying to catch all of these creatures in-game would be time consuming and in-humane.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.