Reviewed by Patrick Henry Downs
The Random Esoteric Creature Generator is a very slim 32-page volume, easy to pass over on a shelf, but with every page packed with concise information and helpful advice you may find yourself wondering how it never existed before now. The book is designed to help you create a unique monster using an assortment of attractively laid out tables and descriptions. The book starts with a simple introduction and mission statement of shaking things up at the gaming table, and of reintroducing mystery and fear to players. The final five pages are an author’s essay of advice on how to use the book with some illuminating suggestions about how to present your creations to the players of your gaming group. Everything is generic enough to be applied to any gaming system, which might sound intimidating for stat hungry GMs but it is actually the simplest resource I’ve ever used. The hardest part of using the book is switching what kind of dice you are rolling to flesh out your monster.
Allow me to illustrate the usefulness of this book by walking you through the creation of a creature using this book. The first roll involves the basic body type of the creature, my roll gives me a combination of biped and quadruped, much like a centaur it will walk on four limbs and have two additional limbs for manipulation. Next I determine the basic characteristics of the body. I end up with avian, or specifically vulture, a result which gives the creature a bonus to its armor and covers the body in feathers. Already we have a rather unusual monster! The next two tables determine size and movement. From my rolls I’ve determined this creature is human-sized and wall-crawling. The next roll is for the monster’s main method of attacking, which results in claw attacks. Nothing surprising there but with all of these results I’m envisioning a creature with very sharp talons that it uses to latch onto stone walls and these talons probably are the creature’s main attack. But we’re not done, next up is a distinctive features table which can give the monster a unique feel, and I end up with the result of boiling/steaming body. My creation doesn’t have a special attack method, which was also determined randomly, so the only thing left is to quantify the monsters combat tactics. Rolling on two tables, this creature will attack the least armored opponent and is parasitic, turning its victims into creatures like itself. However I’ve decided this doesn’t make any sense. This is where the book ends and my imagination as a GM comes into play. Putting it all together I’ve decided that my six-limbed vulture-creature with boiling blood won’t have a head, instead it lives through a psionic gestalt which it maintains by clawing an infectious and magical disease into it’s victims. People afflicted with the disease are slowly taken over by the parasite and become part of ‘the brain’ by which this creature thrives. I see players having to kill or cure the parasite’s hosts in order to truly destroy the creature itself. It looks like my monster doesn’t even need a special attack because with a little creative push this book has given me a terrifying monster that any player could easily underestimate.
This book is an invaluable and amazing resource. The only shortcoming is that the author does assume you are familiar with typical D&D terminology, it describes itself as systems neutral but makes references to armor class and hit dice. I think the format alone just assumes you’re playing some version or imitation of D&D that exists on the market, but the book is written generically enough that it could be used for any system. GURPS, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, or even World of Darkness or Shadowrun, every GM’s favored system could use the information supplied by this supplement. The book is surprisingly enjoyable to use, it’s easy to read, and I can see myself using it for monsters in all of my games for the foreseeable future.