Monday, July 8, 2013

Talking 'Bout Teratic Tome

Recently, quite a few Indie RPG publishers jumped on the Pay What You Want train to what I can only hope was Profit-town.  Since I'm actually playing quite a bit of DnD right now, and since DnD Next is extremely OSR-friendly in terms of material you can use with it, I decided to spend a little money.

Teratic Tome.
One of the things I picked up was Rafael Chandler's Teratic Tome.  I always like having new monsters to
spring on my players,  and since most of them have been gamers for many years, they pretty much know all the standards and new monsters are a good thing.

So, in that regard, Teratic Tome certainly delivers.  There are lots of new monsters here, and a fair number of interesting ideas, but on the whole, I have decidedly mixed feelings about  the Teratic Tome.

Things I Like:
  • Some of the art.
  • The dragons.
  • Story hooks built into many monsters.
Things I Don't Like:
  • The rest of the art.
  • All the story hooks are pretty much the same.
  • That one story hook doesn't exactly work for DnD.
  • The whole book comes off kinda creepy.
The Art
The art is generally good, although it switches back and forth between traditional fantasy and hentai in a way that is a bit jarring.  I don't really have a preference in terms of style, but I like a book to stick with one or the other.  Some of the artists are extremely good, great even, but just as many are solidly "meh".

More problematically, there are a substantial number of tentacled vaginas (vaginae?) in this book.  And by that I mean, at least 5, although I'm not going to take the time to count them.  There are also many creatures based on naked women.

Before you get up in my grill, I want to go on record as saying I have no inherent problem with the idea of tentacled vagina art or naked woman art.  I have an internet connection and a Reddit account.  I have seen things.  We all have.  The the vagina with tentacles is appropriately creepy-gross, and fits with the horror-movie theme of this book.

But.  There are no spiked penises here.  Or whatever the creepy-gross male anatomy equivalent is.  In fact, there are lots of creatures based on creepy versions of naked women, pictures of breasts and so-forth, but basically no creatures based on creepy versions of naked men. It all comes off as a bit juvenile.  All I think as I read through it is "wow, somebody REALLY liked that picture of the succubus in the ADnD Monster Manual".

The Dragons
Are awesome.  They are horrible monsters that bring the apocalypse.  I will steal this idea forthwith and I doubt I will return to regular dragons, except perhaps as spawn/offspring of these monstrosities.  The dragons are almost worth the price of admission.

The Story Hooks
Many of the creatures presented in the Teratic Tome aren't exactly monsters in the traditional DnD sense of something that you might run into in a dungeon and then kill for treasure.  They are more like story hooks with statistics.  Story hooks and stats come up with by a sexually repressed Japanese man, at that.

Let's take the Altar Beast, for example.  It preys on "those who dissolve the holy bond of matrimony" by possessing one of the people who want to get divorced, then emerging from their body to feed on anyone that "encourages and permits this sin."  It's a towering, purple, tentacled phallus with lamprey mouths (OK, I guess there are some penis-equivalents in this book).  That smells like strawberries.  Holy Fuck.  Leaving aside that this thing is like the fevered masturbation fantasy of Sara Palin after a weekend-long hentai binge, this monster is essentially the template for half the book.

Here is the template: People are being murdered.  Find out the connection and confront the monster that is using a victim to cause the murders.  We see this repeated maybe 20 or 30 times in the Teratic Tome.  It's basically monster design by template.

Step 1: Pick obscure god of something.  Step 2:  Creature created to punish sin.  Identify the sin using this handy chart.  Credit:  Catholics, of course.  Step 3: Random colors and smells.  Step 4:  Graphics by hentai design school with focus on variations of naked women.  Step 5: Profit?

Many of the monsters in this book are essentially the crib-notes for a horror movie.  Which is OK, I suppose, if you can pull that sort of thing off in your DnD game.  They rely on physical horror - monstrous shapes emerging from human bodies, awful eyeballs with spider legs, that sort of thing.  Problem is, I don't think that physical horror works well in DnD.

Characters who regularly go toe-to-toe with giant spiders or the walking dead don't really blink at a towering purple dong-monster.  Horror like this relies on the known and understandable - a human murderer, for example, turning out to be something alarming and inhuman.  But since alarming and inhuman is just a day at the office in DnD, it loses quite a bit of potential punch in this setting, so many of the monsters are less useful than they could be.

In Summary:
Horror-based retro-clone monsters.  Compatible with most versions of DnD except probably 4e without much modification.

If you run LotFP, horror or dark-fantasy themed games this is probably a good supplement for you.

Don't leave it lying around if you have kids.  The focus on female-nudity-based monsters may not be for everyone.

The dragons are awesome.

What I'm Gonna Do With It:
I'm going to reskin quite a few of these monsters into summoned creatures, demons or magical abominations.  I don't think I'll use the horror-element story hooks too much.  The dragons have already been incorporated into