Book of Beasts: Legendary Monsters 1
Publisher: John Brazer Enterprises
Release Date: 03/05/12
Get it here: DriveThru RPG
As a fan of the Legend product line from Mongoose, I’m always excited when another publisher invests the time and effort in putting out a supplement for the game. In the case of John Brazer Enterprises, I had already been especially pleased with their first offering, a book of factions for you to insert into your custom game world. I had high hopes then, when I picked up the first entry in their Book of Beasts line: Legendary Monsters 1.
If you read my review of Legend, you know that I lamented at length about the absence of any monsters of any kind – or even any non-magical beasts – in the core rules. If you so much as wanted to have your players harassed by a bear, or take their horse into a combat situation, you were utterly out of luck until the release of the very rushed Monsters of Legend.
This book adds only a total of seven new creatures to the repository, though that’s not an inappropriate number for a document that only sets you back $2.99. My concern really comes from the monsters chosen to be represented in the book.
Many if not most players will have heard of griffons, and a good few will know what a wyvern is (though the creature in Legendary Monsters 1 is a wyvernling, implying a smaller, flightless version of the already small dragon creature), but even a hardcore gamer like me had to go to Wikipedia to find out that what the story was behind the addanc (it’s a beaver-pelted alligator, apparently a bugaboo of Welsh mythological origins) and still am unsure where forest giants and pygmy sun trolls came from.
But by the same token, many GMs will love the Alien-esque nature of the hydrus, a tiny lizard that poisons its target into immobility, crawls down his throat, and eats his way back out through his stomach. And the gruff will be a welcome addition to any game where the players have read far enough into the Dresden Files books to have encountered these billy-goat creatures before.
So the quantity of creatures wasn’t ever a concern for me, but the quantity of material about them turned out to be. Not every creature has a picture (specifically the gruff and the pygmy sun trolls, both of whom I thought could benefit from the inclusion of at least a sketch) though a few that do are even in color. The text accompanying the entries is remarkably brief, usually just a paragraph of description, maybe a very short discussion on tactics that the creature would use, and little else.
Given the relatively obscure nature of some of these creatures, a little more effort towards an “Ecology of the …” style of article would have been welcome. As it is, only the hydrus is thoroughly documented enough to give the necessary short of plot hooks that you’d need to find a home for these critters in your own games.
I’m not sure I can give all that strong a review of the product – honestly, short of a strong sense of duty to companies that support a favorite game, or a specific need for the creatures included in the book, would warrant purchasing it. If you can find uses for these monsters, then you may well be well served. Otherwise, you may find yourself wondering just how wise your investment was.