Thursday, July 11, 2013

D&D Creature Catalog - Redux

You may have noticed that WotC released the Rules Cyclopedia PDF. There was a lot of chatter about it over on G+, and several blog posts about it. My love for the RC is well known, and I thought about writing about it again, but instead I went camping. However, since WotC decided to follow that up by releasing the DMR2 Creature Catalog, I thought I'd write something about it, since it's such a good book.

Well, it turns out I already did. Way back in 2010 I wrote a review of the D&D Creature Catalog, and I'm reposting it here, slightly updated.

I recently reacquired the D&D Creature Catalog.  I had a copy back in my Rules Cyclopedia days, and as I was working on my megadungeon I remembered a few choice entries that I wanted to make use of. 

E-Bay delivered me a well loved copy for $4.  It complements my well loved Rules Cyclopedia, but I do wish I still had my original.  For one thing I think it was in better condition... but it was lost somewhere in one of many moves, sad to say.

For those unfamiliar with this fine volume, it is the equivalent of the Monster Manual II for later editions.  The Rules Cyclopedia includes 179 different monster listing (in this case counting "Bears", "Dragons", "Spiders", etc. as one entry).  The Creature Catalog adds an additional 154 critters.  There are some that I'm not sure ever made it into any future products, and others that I think are just cool, so I'm going to share some of them with you, my dear readers.

The Gray Philosopher tops the list of my favorite creatures from this volume.  This poor tormented gent was a chaotic priest who was so distraught at various internal philosophical debates that his soul refuses to move on until they're resolved.  Over time his dark thoughts begin to take on a malicious form.  While the Gray Philosopher will ignore you, his malice won't!  He isn't much of an team player, but he can make for a spooky encounter.

The Nosferatu is a vampire variant who has control over whether those he kills return as vampires. A good alpha villain who can be a former fighter, thief, cleric, or magic user!  

Dragonflys are giant magical insects with breath attacks that mirror those of the dragons.

The faithful Dog is also listed, with 3 varients: Dog, War Dog, and Elven Dog.  A well trained war dog makes a nice addition to any adventuring party, especially if you get it some armor

In addition to the elven dog, there are a number of other fey creatures included like Brownies, Red Caps, Coltpixy (fairy horse), Faedorne, Flitterling, Shargugh, Silver Warriors, and Wood Imps.

The Rakasta also make an appearance, though not as they appear in later editions.  In this edition, the Rakasta are a humanoid species that seems to be as native to the Known World as orcs and goblins.   They are cat people who's society mimics that of the Mongols.  When they appear in the D&D Thunder Rift adventure Rage of the Rakasta their society more closely resembles that of feudal Japan (aka samurai and ninjas).  Either way they employ metal claws that do 1d4 damage each. 

Other notable humanoids are the Gator Man, Hutaakan (jackal people), Kara-Kara (tropical orc like people), Lupin (dog people), Nagpa (vulture people), Pachydermion (elephant people), Shark-Kin, Sis'think (The Desert Scourge - Lizard people), Snappers (chaotic turtle people), and Tortles (lawful turtle people).

In addition to the creatures there are a couple of pages discussing using the various creatures and suggestions for creating your own variations on existing creatures.  Everything from re-skinning monsters to adding new powers is covered, along with making unique named monsters to really amp up the cool factor.

At the end of the book are a variety of wandering monster charts, and an index of all D&D creatures for the Rules Cyclopedia era, and in what product they can be found in.  

The art in the book is overall pretty solid.  Most of it is fairly basic pen and ink, some more detailed than others.  There are a number of creatures all done in the same style, mostly undead that give us remarkably similar headshots.  Granted there often isn't a whole lot that makes various undead look different from one another, even if they function in completely different ways, but the artwork is just too similar. My favorite artwork has to be that of Dave Simons, of which there is remarkably little to be found via Google search. It's definitely the best of the book.  Here are two pieces I really like: The Gray Philosopher and the Iron Gargoyle.

I'm looking forward to incorporating some of these beasties into my megadungeon.

If you come across a copy, it makes a nice addition to the monsters included in the Rules Cyclopedia, and I heartily recommend you add it to your collection. If you can't find a hard copy, pick up the PDF. It's totally worth it!


  1. As the only person to reply to your CC post three years ago, I feel honor bound to reply to this one, too.

    Those of you without the Creature Catalog, go get it!

  2. This is one of those supplements I go back and forth on. It's got some winners-- what you listed definitely among them-- but Mentzer was fond of some very weird and silly monsters. You notice this a lot in the Companion, Master, and Immortal sets too, the guy had very strange tastes. Gotta give him points for creativity.

    I can confirm that some of them had continuing lives. I know the Nagpa eventually made it to 2e and lupines were even a PC race for 3.5 in an issue of Dragon.

    1. Granted there were some oddballs, but there's rarely a monster manual that doesn't have it's weird things. And in this case, I think the fact that they are so creative that you can still get some use out of them, even if it's a one-time thing.

  3. Any creature book is bound to have some chaff and some wheat, as it were. Personally, I've managed to get a lot of mileage out of many CC critters, since many are less well known by players at large. Still, there are a few that I doubt I'll ever use, as you say, Rachel, they're just too strange.

    1. Yup! I loved being able to spring CC monsters on my 2e players. They didn't know what hit them!

  4. Remember that DMR2 is an edit of the earlier AC9 Creature Catalogue, which was produced by TSR's UK branch. As anyone who has the Fiend Folio can tell you, the Brits have a slightly different way of doing things with regards to monsters (which I like, personally).

  5. I haven't managed to get my hands on AC9 yet. It's on my bucket list. As for the Brit vs US viewpoint, I'm totally with you!

  6. Aside from replacing a few ho-hum monsters with ones that were included in some Gazetteers, the biggest, bestest change is the replacement in DMR2 of some *really* wretched artwork. The new stuff (by former Marvel Comics artist Dave Simons) is a godsend.

    At its worst, the new art at least matches the description this time.