Monstrous Compendium: Appendix I and II: Creatures of Dread (MC I)
Authors: William W. Connors
Summary of content:
Important note: This description of Desmond LaRouche has been ruled non-canon by the Kargat, as it contradicts other accounts of Tristen Hiregaard's life.
David "Jester" Gibson
Alight, gather round kids as it is time for uncle Jester to tell everyone a story.
Once, long ago, TSR used to publish Monstrous Compendium Appendices as loose-leaf sheets that could be arranged in binders so you could pick up all the Appendices you wanted and arrange them all in alphabetical order in one book. This was handy for you could also customize the arrangement for experience given and monster toughness, region, etc. Or you could take only the needed monsters with you to games. It had the disadvantage that you could lose entire monsters and binders make the sheets easy to damage and bend. They eventually discontinued the products but only after the first two appendices for the Ravenloft line were published. In fact they delayed publication of what became the third Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix to take advantage of the new format of softbound books as originally it was supposed to follow the first Appendix. Because of the delay they had a gap in the publishing schedule and hastily released the Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendix II to fill this gap. Eventually they republished both essential loose-leaf Appendices in one bound edition. They changed some of the art and updated them in a few places but mostly they identical. Sadly with the bound edition the cover to Appendix II has become lost in the Mists.
MCI has the original new monsters for the Land of the Mists and was originally published back in ’91 just after the original Black Box. Inside are some of the classic monsters of the setting such as the Ermordenung, Goblyns and Vampyres (with Ys), Reavers, Zombie Lords, Greater Mummies, New Golems and Elementals, Wereravens, Broken Ones and many more. Some were obviously inspired by classic Gothic literature such as the Broken Ones for Markovia or the various Vampires. Others, such as the Doppelganger Plant and the Reaver, take their inspiration from classic films.
I was never really a fan of the racial vampires though. It just seemed strange and really doesn’t work with the current template system. I never saw the point of making a dwarf undead so radically different from human undead. And their weakness and curses wary so wildly from the original any party, even a well prepared one, is likely to get slaughtered. And the items required to stake them or permanently destroy them seem unusually hard to obtain for generic monsters. These are not individual undead with salient strengths and specific vulnerabilities, every dwarf vampire requires a stalactite to slay. Not the easiest of weapons to wield.
There are some strange creatures whose inclusion seems odd, such as the many variants of undead such as the Bowlyn and the Bussengeist who are nothing more than standard undead with variants on cause of death. This over-specialization of monsters is a common point in 2nd Edition AD&D that still crops up in the most recent Books (Spirit Waif anyone?). Other entries have errors in the game text such as the Impersonator that gives far, far too much experience for its death.
The second half of this book is devoted to unique monsters, individual examples of such things as a Ghast or undead Treant. Despite being hastily made this book features a number of memorable foes and villains. When published back in ’93 many Domains were still underdeveloped and featured seldom-detailed Darklords. Some of the entries, such as that of Nostalia Romaine and Desmond LaRouche give a small glimpse into the leader of their lands. Sadly, the latter, has been declared non-canon as it contradicts other entries on Nova Vassa. Also included at the end of each entry is a brief Adventure Ideas section that offers advice in adding the character into your campaign. These are definitely useful additions at times. Most notable in this collection are the Living Brain, the aforementioned Romaine, Jacqueline Montarri, The Midnight Slasher, Chicken Bone, Althea, Styrix, and Ludzig although others have popped up here and there in future products.
The biggest flaw in these entries is they treated these NPCs more as generic monsters than as individuals. No statistics are included and it does not vary from the standard monster entry when the NPC structure would have been far better to use. Do we really need to know the Frequency and No. Appearing for Jugo Hesketh? There are also some particularly useless characters such as Palik the Thrax from the Dark Sun oriented Kalidnay who simply seems odd and out of place. Salizar the Meazel is also unremarkable. Additionally, both Senmet and Jahed appeared in previously in adventure modules (Touch of Death and Web of Illusion respectively) so their inclusion brings little new to the book. This Appendix did lead the way for the excellent Children of the Night series so it is notable for that.
Like many books from the previous edition much has already been updated and revised. Most of the monsters are now in Denizens of Darkness/Dread. There are a few creatures here that have yet to be updated. However, this book is one of the few places to gain the full details of specific monstrous NPCs. Romaine and Wagner have been mentioned in the Gazetteers but have not been detailed. For the most part this book is of little use for anyone running a game in Third Edition.
Original rating would be four severed digits out of five for the RL: MCAI and three out of five for II.
Currently I have to give both two and a half severed digits out of five because the books simply out of date.
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