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Random Esoteric Creature Generator: For Classic Fantasy Role Playing Games and Their Modern Simulacra Paperback – December 3, 2008
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At first, you might think "oh, random tables? I can find these on the internet/old source books/make them up myself." And you'd be correct; you can find tables similar to these in many places. But it's not just the tables themselves; there's a logic behind how they're connected that makes this more than just a collection of randomly-determined attributes. For instance, the table of special abilities determines the number of rolls by how many hit dice the creature has, modified by a percentile die roll. A creature with 5 HD has a 50% chance of having special abilities, say, but for every full 10% less you roll on the percentiles, it gains another, so if you rolled 28, it would have 3 abilities. This kind of reasoning ties the tables together more than the "little from column A, little from column B" approach that I've seen in other generators, and although the results still vary wildly, the logic behind the process makes everything I've rolled so far playable.
The upshot of this is, you, as a GM, can create an encounter that your players will have no idea how to handle, and they'll have to use their wits again, experimenting, investigating, and possibly running away to fight another day--the way it should be when adventurers wander into the unknown. "The trick," Raggi points out, "is to make the players treat their gaming experience as brand new." To this end, he also includes a section on Putting It All Together, a short essay about how to handle weird creatures in your fantasy games. While I won't divulge too much here, the core of his message is to make even the 'common' monster encounters unique and important. And for me, that's the point of fantasy RPGs; if you aren't marveling at something new and mysterious, why are you even playing in the fantasy genre?
My only criticism of this volume, and it's a minor one I admit, is the physical layout. I would have preferred to see something digest-sized, rather than the 10.5" x 8.2" format. That would have made the book more durable and portable. As it is, the book is a little delicate; my copy came with a little bend in the corner. Nonetheless, that's a nit pick. The book is perfectly usable as is.
GMs: pick this up if you want new and unique creature encounters to challenge your players, or if you want some good advice about how to keep the magic magical in your game.