Guestwriter: Nick Monitto
[This review comes courtesy of a free PDF copy provided by the creator, Mark Taormino]
As anyone who sees my review list here could conclude, I am a huge fan of classic RPGs. Not in a way to be down on modern products, just that I enjoy going back to the ones I grew up on. Even decades after they were new, I can still play the systems almost on automatic and remember well the classic moments from some of the biggest modules.
In the last dozen or so years, the OSR* has helped to fuel this along. Like-minded folks who enjoy aspects of classic gaming have created a plethora of products designed to capture the feel of the past. Whatever you may have been into back in the day, there is a good chance you can find one of these ‘retro clones’ to tap into your memories.
[* Old School Renaissance/Revival/Revolution/choose-your-favorite-R-word]
One person who is taking advantage of this environment is Mark Taormino. He has been publishing modules in the classic AD&D style for nearly five years now, through his rapidly-growing imprint, Dark Wizard Games. After having produced four adventures with wildly diverse storylines, he has now created his first ‘supplement’ style product, “Monsters of Mayhem”.
Overall, it is presented in the same format as his previous works. The print version is a 32 page booklet with a heavy stock separate cover, the kind of structure seen in the original TSR Inc’s classic modules. The outside features full color art and comment text, as you might expect. Inside the cover, the flashback effect grows deeper, featuring four maps of various environments (An Arena, A Forest, A Dungeon, and A Cave Lair) rendered in the well-remembered blue ink style. Included in the booklet itself is a single page black & white wilderness map, as well.
Given its subject matter, the book does take a different turn from Taormino’s others. This one is not a module with a story line, but is instead a true reference book. 48 monsters are included; a few had been featured in Dark Wizard Games’ previous adventures, but the overwhelming quantity of them is newly seen creations.
After a foreword from Taormino and Table of Contents, there is a section of Explanatory Notes. This explains the meaning of each line item from the monster stat blocks. Then we dive right into the meat of things, as we are introduced to creatures from the gigantic Angular Abomination to the sneaky Wood Morph. Nearly every creature is featured in some sort of illustration, and all have a few paragraphs of description along with their stats. For example:
Frequency: Very Rare
No. Encountered: 2d4
Move: 90ft (180ft in woods)
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 4 (2 claws, bite, horn)
Damage: 1d4, 1d4, 1d6, 1d8
Special Attacks: None
Special Defenses: Infravision
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Very High
Lair Probability: 50%
Alignment: Lawful Good
Level/XP: 2/100 + 2 per hp
Psychic Ability: None
Farawyn are humanoid beings covered in fur with Elk-like heads, hoofs for feet and furry, human like hands. These wise beings prefer to live deep in the forests and are the guardians and protectors of nature, keeping an ever watchful eye on the expansion of other races.
The Farawyn are good at negotiating with the other animal like beings in this world and are excellent Rangers, Priests and Druids. They exist in great numbers and their societies range from primitive up to established kingdoms and monarchies. They prefer to live in peace but will fight to the death to protect their forests.
After the monsters and the wilderness map, the booklet finishes with one page of advertising and two pages for the Open Game and OSRIC [TM] Open Licenses.
One thing which should be noted is that content-wise, Dark Wizard Games’ products are not for everyone’s tastes. This book’s front cover includes an “M” rating and advisory box, noting that it is “Suggested for Mature Gamers 17+”. The strong content is most evident in the art, which features more in the way of blood and gore than you saw in Old School books. This is not, in my view, a reason to detract or lower my grade of the product. Rather, it is something to note, as one would in other entertainment such as movies, comics, and the like.
Overall, this is a very good book. I am pleased to see Taormino expanding in this direction; modules are great and can be quite useful, but some Dungeon/Game Masters just do not like to use them. This, though, is something anyone could draw something from. You could grab a few entries here and there if you needed something a little different to spruce up your own homebrew, or you could use the included maps to have a partially ready side adventure that would only require a short preparation time.
Nick Monitto is a gaming geek who came of age on the classic games of the 1970s and ‘80s. He is quite happy to restrict the mayhem in his life to the adventures around the gaming table.