4 hours ago
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
I like the the original AD&D Monster Manual. Besides nostalgia, it has an amateurish sort of charm for me. The much maligned Fiend Folio is good, too. Despite the lackluster nature of some of its critters (but be fair, the Monster Manual has its share of duds, too) the art lends it a darker, more weird fiction feel I appreciate.
My favorite bestiaries though, have the right combination of interesting creatures and evocative art. I even like ones for games I don't typically play if it contents are inspiring and the the artwork is good.
The various iterations of the Talislanta monster compendium are cool in this regard. The creatures are often interesting, and there's that P.D. Breeding-Black art. We never got a full Jorune monster manual, which is a shame, particularly if Miles Teves had illustrated it.
My favorite currently is probably the Malleus Monstrorum for Call of Cthulhu. It isn't the sort of thing that I steal a lot from for other games, but its just about a pitch-perfect presentation for the material. Instead of going with the typical cool illustration of a tentacled horror coming at you, it uses historical art work, vintage photos, and other pieces of "found art"--many of which are clever forgeries or manipulations. It can become a little "Where's Waldo" for the creature/entity, but that adds to the "realism" of the proceedings. It mimics exactly the "horror slowly unfolds and changes your world" ambience that Call of Cthulhu should have. Some highlights: the photo of the de Loys ape as a member of the Martenese family, a poster for the silent movie Der König in Gelb (by Fritz Lang, no less!), and the suggestiveness of the antique ink bottle photo next to the the Formless Spawn entry.
That trick wouldn't work for every monster manual, or for every game, but I wish every one would put that level of thought into it.