Like a great many gamers of a certain vintage, part of the enduring appeal of roleplaying games - and particularly those that involve dungeoncrawling - comes from an early love affair with the original Monster Manual.
Every book in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons trilogy held the mystical allure of a mind-expanding Lovecraftian tome, but it was brief, but evocative, descriptions (with accompanying black and white art) of the Monster Manual that held sway.
Ultimately, they were the inspiration that made me want to go exploring underground...
Now Mark Taormino, of Dark Wizard Games, has captured that old school lightning in a jar once again, with his first collection of creatures: Monsters Of Mayhem #1
Already renowned for his gonzo Maximum Mayhem series of modules (four have been published so far, with a new one about to hit Kickstarter), this supplement - which, as with his adventures, emulates the design of the original TSR modules with a separate card cover around an easily-digestible 32-page black and white interior.
Monsters Of Mayhem #1 features 48 new monsters - ranging in strength from one hit dice to more than 14 - that will keep player-characters on their toes and, more often than not, fearing for their lives.
|Beware Pandora's Worms!|
It feels almost churlish to single out any particular favourites (I know Tim Brannan, of The Other Side, for instance, has a penchant for the 100ft demon from the lower pits of Hell known as Demonia Gigantica).
However, I will say I could see myself throwing a "block of hungry flesh" (a grotesque David Cronenbergian body horror twist on a gelatinous cube) at my players - just to see their skin crawl.
As a fan of horror movies, I spotted plenty of innovative riffs on cinematic favourites here, reimagined for a Dungeons & Dragons-style environment.
All the creatures come with original art that perfectly captures the old school vibe Mark's products are always aiming for.
As well as stirring memories of the old Monster Manual, through its mirroring of the design aesthetic and inspirationally innovative creature creations, there's a definite Arduin or Booty And The Beasts flavour to many of the creatures as well - which ticks another key OSR box for me.
Complementing the art and monster write-ups are assorted random maps (four dungeon fragments inside the card cover and an atmospheric wilderness in the main book) for gamesmasters to use as they wish, which is nice added value for the the product.
However, the highest praise I can heap on this supplement - besides being eager for the next volume to appear - is that it seriously makes me want to dust off my Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books again and run the Tuesday Knights through a (semi-)serious dungeoncrawl!
Monsters Of Mayhem #1 - and all of the Maximum Mayhem modules - can be ordered direct from Mark via his Dark Wizard Games site.