Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review & Commentary On Monstrous Miscellany #01 From James Mishler Games For Your Old School Campaigns

Folks when life hits you with apples and sometimes it hits you with monsters, the type of monsters that can echo around a game table for years to come. The ones that the players say, 'Hey remember that time we encountered the Evil goat-headed fey who could transform our adventurers into goats'. 'You know the one with all of those Fey enslaved to its evil will?'. Well I'm happy to report that you get exactly that style of monster from the pen of James Mishler's Monstrous Miscellany #01 has this foul fiend and more!

Is there an over arching theme of this first Monstrous Miscellany #01? There's is a tinge of the demonic and cosmic about the monsters in this product. And that's one of the things about the monsters in this book, they're of a level not only to be encountered by your PC's but their of a strata of the mythological that an entire adventure or encounter can be written around them. There's not a spec of art for the Monstrous Miscellany #01 but it really doesn't need it. The monsters here are full of the flavor and gusto that drips of the page in a solid product. So what are we getting into in the Monsterous Miscelleny? Here's what your getting for a dollar according to the Drivethru blurb:

Abnokh, 3 HD Chaotic Evil Demon-Kin that trouble the Material Plane, seeking out victims for their terrible rites and rituals...
Greethaw, 13 HD Chaotic Evil giants steeped in demonolatry and sorcery, seeking that which has been lost and forgotten... and slaughtering all who get in their way...
Notoros, 1 HD Chaotic Evil goat-headed fey who use the bones of their victims to frighten foes, can transform their prey into goats, and seek to enslave elves, pixies, and sprites for vile purposes...
Styram, 5 HD Lawful Good angels of retribution, summoned to the Material Plane to avenge the desecration of Lawful holy sites...

So yes these are some very cool monsters but are they actually useful for throwing into a game adventure? Well right off the bat the Abnokh, is rife with possibilities for use as the center of a demonic cult or other horrific encounter. I could see using these as a part of a Lamentations of the Flame Princess style cult. Here's a good example of why I really love the Abnokh,
ECOLOGY: Abnokh are native to the Demon Worlds of the Plane of
Chaos. On the Material Plane they subsist on the flesh, bones, and blood of intelligent beings; they can survive on other meat, but they only truly thrive on the flesh of intelligent beings. They are of course
not natural to the Material Plane; they are usually brought hence through a summoning spell in service to some sorcerer, or through a permanent magical gate, and remain to bedevil locals until they are
One of the things that I think that makes these monsters interesting is that they can be used as both a one off encounter and a recurring foe for characters. In fact I would go so far as to say that these monsters should be used as fodder and templates in the creation of NPC villains. These monsters are far too interesting just to be 'one night stand monsters' or simply 'monsters of the week'. The Greethaw are horrors that should be used very sparingly. This race is straight out of the pages of the Bible, accursed giants whose abilities are both nasty and dangerous. There is a ton of potential here to take these as fully realized villains and create entire adventures around them.
"Greethaw are accursed giants; long ages ago they made terrible pacts with Demon Lords. Though they gained thereby great power and immortality, they lost something essential that they have forgotten, and continue to search for it many long ages hence."
You get not only a description of the bench marks of abilities for each of these monsters but full opportunities to use them for adventure encounters. The ground work is there, you fill in the details as needed for your campaign and world. The Notoros are one of my favorite monsters and demonstrate one of the fundamentals of Fey. These things are other worldly beings of ancient and dangerous aspect, they are not the benevelont creatures of Tolkein fantasy movies of Hollywood. In the mythologies across the world they were always both of good aspect and of dangerous aspect. The Notoros are no different and flesh out the evil bits of the Fey. They are monsters that adventurers are going to be lucky to walk away on four legs and not end up as dinner or worse.
"Notoros are Unseelie fey; they are the personification of dreadful and evil tendencies native to dark, old-growth forests. They protect their forest not out of a love for it, but out of a jealous hatred
of all other beings. Notoros subsist upon grasses, greens, and wild vegetables of their forest, but they feast upon the flesh of other fey and elves. Humans and demihumans they can take or leave, finding their flesh
unpleasant; they usually simply torture them to death for fun, then use their skulls to build their beegoh’s throne and the other bones for their weapons, tools, and as warning signs to outsiders."
Personally I think that if your going to use the Notoros they should be the center of an adventure or as a part of an adventure within a campaign. They're that unique and interesting to warrant that kind of attention on the Dungeon Master's part.
Finally this brings up one of the trickiest monsters in the whole lot, the Styram. A bit of my background when it comes to angels and upper level angelic beings. I've used them since I was seven or nine years old to great effect in OD&D and never once did I have a problem with anyone at the table taking offense at them being included. Ever since Dragon issue #35's article Angels by William Fawcett in Dragon magazine issue #35. I've always used them sparingly. The Styram are the divine equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction with a conscious and a mission. That being said these are a well thought out and balanced monster of frightening proportions. As they well should be and these angels should be used as the center of a campaign ending or importance adventure. They are not something to be taken lightly and are used against the forces of Chaos and depravity. These are what I like to refer to as 'campaign center' monsters. Creatures whose visits can start or end a campaign but these things are always important and dramatic. The Styram are creatures of order whose outlook is very alien and whose very being is dedicated to the extermination of chaos and those who desecration of it's god's shrines, temples, and divine works on the mortal plane. Lots of opportunities for adventure possibilities right there.
"A styram is a being from the Angelic Spheres of the Plane of Order. They may be summoned to the Material Plane by a Lawful cleric through the casting of the 4th level summon styram spell (see below). Styram are a type of angel of retribution; they may only be summoned when a Lawful temple, shrine, or other holy site has been
desecrated. They can hunt down the offenders without fail, barring use of magic that obscures location (such as an amulet of proof against detection and location)."
The Styram are incredibly detailed, dangerous and should be played as they are alien beings from other dimensions whose mission is one of destruction and divine retribution
Not too bad for a dollar OSR monster book, with lots of potential to drive and move a campaign forward.I have to give this product five out of five because of the quality and ideas that continue to come out of  the  James Mishler Games company.

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