I've got a review copy of A Groats-worth of Grotesques* from G. Edward Patterson III, one of the alpha readers for my Teratogenicon book. He gave me valuable advice on my book, and I'm not sure I am completely unbiased (so this is not exactly a review), but this book looks very interesting.
In short, this is an OSR bestiary, or a "baroque bestiary" as the author call it.
Here is the blurb:
Being a SYSTEM-AGNOSTIC Role Playing supplemental treatise ON MONSTERS; which is to say a BESTIARY for your Tabletop Games of Fantasy. Styled in the manner of the Baroque Period; a Curiosity Cabinet of Creatures for enlivening the table!
The over 100 entries were gathered out of sundy authors, philosophers, physicians, and poets; sacred and profane. The illustrations are collages of diverse prints and emblems. From the lowly ant to the earth shattering Behemoth, the mundane dog to the alien Ch M G, this collection is a rollicking gambol through history and myth.
This style of language in used throughout the book. It reads like an "in universe" (or diegetic) bestiary, with no separation between "ordinary" and magical beasts; it has ants (who makes friends and enemies out of other insects), crocodiles (that impale people on their thorny backs), dragons, golems, aliens, and even a haunted umbrella (pictured in the cover) listed by alphabetical order.
I really like this idea; there is no reason why ants in Elfland should be identical to earthly ones, and "in universe" writing is always good for inspiration.
It also has entries for fighters, magi, clerics, etc., with various orders, philosophies and so on.
It doesn't include many "typical" D&D creatures like elves and ogres. Instead, it focuses on the bizarre.
Here is a typical page:
The art is old public domain stuff of the same quality you see above. Every monster is illustrated. The sidebars are full of small details and ideas about the monsters. The book contains a fully hyperlinked Table of Contents. It also contain a rules appendix with many ideas on large monsters, swarms, grappling, etc.
I think this would make a good bestiary for "genuine" medieval campaigns, inspired by Arthurian legend and medieval myth rather than Tolkien and Vance (it reminds me of Ars Magica*, for example) or to add some new, strange creatures to your D&D/OSR games.
Check the previews on DTRPG* to see for yourself!
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