Tabletop Review: Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)

Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast (Originally TSR)
Page Count: 130
Cost: $9.99 (Originally $20)
Release Date: 06/04/2013 (Originally 1991 and 1993
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Ravenloft was the campaign setting that sucked me into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the first Monstrous Compendium for it is still, in my mind, the best ever produced for the system. Even to this day, I have fond memories of those sixty-four pages crammed into a blue softcover three ring binder that I carried to any game I ran, even if it was a different system! There were so many great ideas amongst those loose leaf sheets that I ensured those monsters appeared in Call of Cthulhu, Chill, Beyond the Supernatural and even a Shadowrun game now and then. Only the first generic Monstrous Compendium (later collected with the second as the Monstrous Manual) and the Dragonlance edition even began to come close. I could write a page on each of the monsters in this collection, but instead, I’ll just give you my ten favorite monsters from this collection in alphabetical order, highlighting just how insanely awesome the first appendix was.

#1: Doom Guard. Animated suits of armor that act as early golems for low level characters. All of the fun of animated fiendish thingies, but not of the severe weapon and magic protection!

#2. Elemental, Ravenloft. Oh my god, I loved the Ravenloft elementals. Grave for earth, Pyre for fire, Blood for water and Mist for air. These things were not only exceptionally creepy, but always made for memorable encounters. I even had a wizard who summoned and bound a pyre elemental in one campaign, and it became a familiar ally of sorts to our party. Ah, memories.

#3. Goblyns. Without orcs and the like, the flesh eating goblyns quickly became the rank and file cannon fodder for many a Ravenloft game. Plus their 4+4 Hit Dice meant they could be used against mid and even high level characters and give them a slight challenge. Goblyns were a wonderful twist on a trite and somewhat stale fantasy gaming trope.

#4. Lycanthrope. Werebat. Holy crap, are these creepy. They’re also unexpected by most newcomers to the Dark Domain, which ensures a nice surprise with low level adventures and adventurers. Werebats also work wonderfully outside of Ravenloft too.

#5. Mummy, Greater. I’m a huge fan of mummies, but AD&D ones really didn’t have the oomph this undead race needed, especially at higher levels. Enter the Greater Mummy. A single one can do TERRIBLE things to an entire party, and it’s always fun to run one in an adventure where they make sense. After all, a mummy in a tropical paradise or tundra doesn’t make much sense.

#6. Reaver. It’s about time the Creature From the Black Lagoon got his own race in AD&D. Reavers were just a fun race to use, especially on river based journeys.

#7. Shadow Fiend. Just a wonderfully creepy creature that made for a good mid or end boss.

#8. Vampire, Elf. Jander Sunstar fans unite! The Elf vampire is a very different vampire from a human one, as are all the demihuman undead in this compendium. The Elf vampire takes everything you expect from a D&D vampire and turns it on its head. Even longtime AD&D gamers will have their hands full trying to figure out the powers and weaknesses of an elven vampire.

#9. Vampire, Kender. HAHAHAHAHAHA! Hilariously twisted, the undead bloodsucking Kender is one of the many reasons I love the Ravenloft version of Lord Soth. These are pretty creepy and something most gamers won’t see coming. I also like the reasoning behind why these particular vampire are easy to turn. Just a fun idea across the board.

#10. Zombie Lord. I’m not a fan of the brain eating Romero zombies, having always preferred the more voodoo-esque version of the creature. The Zombie Lord is a fun, intelligent zombie that you can surprise your players with. I also love their list of special abilities and the fact that PCs very rarely expect a zombie that can think and plan.

There are so many other fun creatures in this compendium, like the Greater Werewolf, the Red Widow, the Vampyre, the Ghoul Lord, the Bone Golem and so on. This compendium alone is worth $9.99, but wait – you’re also getting the second Monstrous Compendium for Ravenloft in this collected edition! RA2 was very different from any Monstrous Compenium appendix that came before or after it. This is because all the monsters in RA2 were unique creatures meant to tailor entire adventures or even campaigns around! Although you couldn’t get as much use out of RA2 as you could out of RA1, there were some very memorable creatures introduced in this collection that would reappear throughout Second Edition on through to 3/3.5. This collection is also worth the full $9.99 on its own, so it’s wonderful to get them both for this low price tag. Here now are just a few of the antagonists you find in the pages of RA2:

#1. The Living Brain! It was about time a brain in a jar entered AD&D, especially Ravenloft. From the Mi-Go to post WWII movies about Hitler, brains kept alive by scientific means without a physical body to encapsulate them have been around forever, and with mad science being a big part of Ravenloft, I was actually surprised it took until the second Appendix for something like this to get stats.

#2. The Half Golem. This is such an odd concept and one that is borderline silly, but the story behind it is exceptionally well done, and as a unique villain, rather than a commonly occurring foe, it really works.

#3. Jacqueline Montarri. Although she didn’t get a lot of face time (ho ho ho) in 2e, Ms. Montarri popped up more frequently in 3.0/3.5’s version of Ravenloft. She’s an exceptionally creepy and yet tragic antagonist, and I’ve known many an adventure or even campaigns to be set around her. It’s a fun take on the headless horsemen legend.

#4. The Bardic Lich. A chaotic good lich whose magic is bardic rather than arcane. How crazy awesome an idea is that? There are so many ways to use Andres Duvall in Ravenloft, it’s not even funny. He makes for a great accidental foe, a reoccurring anti-hero or even a fast and true ally.

#5. Jezra Wagner, the Ice Queen. Another popular character from this campaign setting that debuted here. Ms. Wagner is another tragic character who was never truly evil, but the Dark Powers of Ravenloft turned her into a creature of fear and legend. There’s a lot of adventure potential with her and, like Jacqueline Montarri, she’s quite popular with long time Ravenloft fans.

#6. Athakeetha the vampire Illithid. People, it’s a vampiric MIND FLAYER. Athakeetha even got his own figure in D&D Minis. This is a great enemy to freak your players out with.

#7. Vladimir Ludzig. Vlad is a vampyre rather than a vampire. This means he’s a living being rather than an actual undead creature. He’s an homage/parody of Vampire: The Masquerade and well worth mentioning as a fun antagonist to throw at your players.

All in all, MCA2 is nowhere as good as the first MCA for the campaign setting, but it has enough memorable characters that it would be a worthwhile purchase all on its own. The fact you’re getting both of these together for less than ten dollars makes this a must buy for ANY AD&D, Second Edition fan – not just Ravenloft ones. Hell, even if you don’t play 2e, it’s worth picking up for a wide range of monsters that will set your imagination free, giving you many an idea for an adventure or full fledged campaign to write.



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2 responses to “Tabletop Review: Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Second Edition)”

  1. […] descriptions of the creatures, the methodology and personalities. For example, take a look at the Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II. Bone Golems, Pyre Elementals, Wereravens, Vampire KENDER and more. This book was weird and […]

  2. […] The Mummy. I love mummies. They’re my favorite undead. Whether it’s old Anktepot from Ravenloft to modern mummies like those found in the award-winning Mummy: The Curse, I have owned and/or […]

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