Supplement Review: RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 by Nicholas Cloister and Cloister Publications

Monsters. They’re a staple in tabletop RPGs and regardless of the genre or setting, it’s always fun to get inspiration from different sources. Whether you prefer yours to come from fairy tales, myths and legends, popular fiction, outer space, other planes, or the evening news, there are plenty of places for ideas.

My first exposure to monsters for roleplaying games came from the first edition AD&D Monster Manual and Fiend Folio. I fondly remember paging through those books and wondering what our dungeon master would throw at us next. There were plenty of critters to choose from and back in the early to mid 1980s, we spent many weekends with our characters slaughtering many of them (and occasionally getting slaughtered in kind). Suffice it to say I still have a soft spot for monster collections, especially today with the broad array of RPGs to choose from. We can always use more monsters!

So when Nicholas Cloister dropped me a note about his system-neutral book of original creatures called RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 and I started paging through the PDF online, I knew I had to review it. If you don’t know Nicholas, he’s a freelance artist in Sweden who’s done work for a few companies (including Paizo Publishing and Fantasy Flight Games) and has a great gift for illustrating monsters. (His online portfolio is incredible and I encourage you to check it out!)  He has an amazing touch for rendering fantasy elements in a way you’d almost swear they were real.

RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 contains 50 different unique creatures, each with its own full-color page. The stat blocks are system-independent with a detailed description containing plenty of detail to make them easier to integrate into your game world. The art is simply amazing, with images that in some cases seem to be caught in motion. And these are some of the most bizarre creatures I’ve seen in a long time – like what I might expect from some of the NASA artists showing what aliens might look like in different environments.

That’s not to say that you can just drop them into your campaign. Each monster’s stats will need to be tweaked a bit, regardless of whether you’re playing D&D 3.5e/Pathfinder, 4e, Savage Worlds, FATE, etc. Once you figure out how to convert one of them to a particular system, you’ll have the formula for doing the rest. But there might be some trial and error in getting the stats just right.

Out of everything, that’s really the only negative I have for the book. I would have liked to have seen a series of appendices detailing how to transform the Bestiary’s stats to your favorite RPG system. Even if he created a separate PDF or blog article somewhere and simply made it available as a supplement to the book, that would give GMs/DMs a leg up on actually using these impressive beasts. I might also suggest releasing the round thumbnail images for each monster in the Table of Contents as a token a GM could print out and use on a game map to represent each monster.

Ultimately it’s all about the monsters – and these creatures are amazing and like nothing I’ve seen before for D&D or other game systems. Some of my favorites include the Ra’Khuni, an ape-like creature who live in small groups in the desert; the Elor Than, which looks like a smaller version of some of the strange aliens from Monsters; the Calmorock, which reminds me looks-wise somewhat of the salt-hungry creature in “The Man Trap” episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, using its suction cups in combat; and the PanPanarih, which give Venus Fly Traps a serious run for their money…

The book uses a simple two-column layout with headings clearly visible. Each full-color piece takes center stage on whatever page it lands on, and it’s obvious that Nicholas didn’t stop with the art but instead had a whole ecosystem and description in mind for each of these beasties. I was also happy to see that the whole book is hyperlinked. You can quickly get from the TOC to the monsters and back again without having to page through the book looking for something.

Whether your PCs are exploring strange new worlds or the darker regions of ones they think they know well, RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 offers one heck of a lot of inspiration to throw something new their way. I’d love to hear from GMs who have used some of these creatures to see what their players thought of them. But I wonder what other creepy creatures lie in wait inside Nicholas Cloister’s head!

Check out RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG today and pick up a copy in time to scare your players on Halloween this year!

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3 comments to Supplement Review: RPG Creatures – Bestiary 1 by Nicholas Cloister and Cloister Publications

  • I picked up this book as well and was really impressed. The imagination behind these monsters is stunning and I think people running either sci-fi or fantasy will get some serious mileage out of this tome. Good review choice Fitz, cause this one has rapidly become one of my favorite purchases ever!

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