Sunday 27 December 2020

Bestiary Review - Planescape Appendix I - A to C

 The Monstrous Compendium was an interesting idea, no? 

Big, modular bestiary full of stuff. Great idea. Unfortunately, a lot of it seems to have fallen into the trap of 'Giant Worm'. 'Giant Bat'. 'Red Worm'. 'Blue Worm'. etc.

i.e., endless uninspired derivatives. 

 People often deride weird niche monsters, but ill take them over the 37th variety of ghost any day. 

I feel like i saw this on someone's OSR blog. Scrap Princess, maybe? Regrettably unsure.

This blog is/was technically a Planescape blog, since that's the setting i've run pretty much all of my D&D Games in thus far, excluding a single jaunt to Ravenloft for Curse of Strahd

So I decided to look at the Planescape Appendix for the Monstrous Compendium, because i like it. 


Aasimon - ★★☆☆☆

I've always considered D&D angels uninspired, then this entry opens with a story about a diviner driven to drink by witnessing the deployment of an angelic superweapon, and that gave me pause. 

Unfortunately then it's straight back to discussing how they're paragons of utter goodness who can sense evil and shit pure marble. Not much consideration is really applied to the concept of a bunch of flying authoritarians who'll deploy a spell that leaves a 200ft. deep crater, without hesitation, on their own soil.

The Light Aasimon get three stars for being judgy clouds of shimmery rainbow energy, which is way more interesting than Winged Guy. 

Animal Lord -★★★☆☆

Animal Lords are fuckin weird. Good. Each one is basically a divine figure for all animals that fall into its category, which is kind of interesting in a setting crowded with humanoid deities. All of them have, effectively, limited precognition, and can shapeshift. 

I think their position as 'Animal Gods' is probably the most interesting part of them, the bestiary entry mostly goes on about how specifically they stab you to death, and the animals chosen - Cat, Wolf, Lizard and Hawk - aren't so inspired. 

What's the Crab Lord's deal, huh? What about the Frog Queen? The High Imperial Minister of Newts? Leech Pope? 

I actually used a version of the Peacock Lord as a patron in my most recent session of my Planescape game. 


Baatezu - ★★★☆☆

I have a soft spot for the Baatezu. 

Wait, I phrased that wrong. I have a soft spot for using them as villains, and watching the players kick the shit out these immortal, shapeshifting, soul-eating, hyperbug warlock fascists. 

The Baatezu (and their cousins the Tanar'ri) are interesting in a way none of the Celestials (or Yugoloths) ever were. Covering every individual type of Baatezu would be a fool's errand, but special mention to the Osyluth and it's hilarious art. They really made that thing scarier in the 5e Monster Manual. 

And to this piece of art for the Abishai. What's going on here? I want to know. 

Baku - ★★☆☆☆

I like seeing monsters from other mythologies in my elfgames. The world's full of beautiful ideas, and the Baku is one of them. 

The first half of the (two-page!) entry is a story about a kind old man who's actually a Baku in disguise, who has to abandon his disguise to go and slay his evil Baku brother. That's cool! 

Unfortunately, the rest of the article is just about exactly how these 'timid, peace-loving creatures' specifically kick your ass. The stats are likely for the small (and exact?) percentage of Baku that are evil. 

The bestiary leaves out the actual mythological Baku's power of eating dreams, which is a really cool concept, and it's a shame. 

The thing saving this from one star status is the fact there's a small sliver of Baku society who are explicitly neutral and apparently Baku holy figures, which I want to learn more about. 

Bariaur - ★★☆☆☆

The entry opens with: "Bariaurs, probably a hardy relative of the centaur and created by the same sylvan being eons ago". 


Give me that lore! Which shitty Aes Sidhe decided to just get wild with it and start mix-and-matching body parts? 

In an interesting departure from the themes thus far, effort is put into making the 'Good' Alignment actually seem earned, by discussing how the greatest sadness for a Bariaur is when a friend is sad, and how their society discourages rivalry and shame, which is interesting.

Unfortunately, the Bariaur are a little generic otherwise. You could replace every instance of Bariaur with Centaur, and nobody would notice. 

Bebilith - ★★★★★




Bodak - ★★★★☆

This creature's entry starts with an interesting story that is made up of remixed elements of Greek Mythology (including the imaginatively named characters Basileus, Helen and Diomed.), but ends up being a version of the Odyssey where Troy is the Abyss, and Odysseus is an undead horror so foul that the mere sight of him kills all present. 

Which is metal as fuck sign me up, hell yeah. The idea of that story alone made me add like 2 stars. 

The Bodak themselves are also interesting, being corrupted humans with formerly good intentions. I feel like you could do a lot with these dudes. 

And their art is hilarious.