Malleus Monstrorum (2006)

It’s funny how approach changes everything. Malleus Monstrorum (2006) is three times the size of the Creature Companion and it is an exhaustive haul of monsters and entities from Call of Cthulhu scenarios and Mythos fiction, but it is far from overwhelming.

A big part of the appeal for me, I think, is how it leans on the in-universe field guide vibes of the Petersen Guides. The entries mirror the Companion – descriptions and stats, for use in the game, but the art! Rather than have an illustrator like Geier plainly depict each monster (and, by doing so, rendering them prosaic), here the monsters are hidden. The illustrations are historical woodcuts, photos of artifacts, architectural details, paintings and such, often doctored to include a hint of tentacle or a dozen too many eyes. In effect, all the illustrations in the book amount to handouts for a CoC session. In doing this, the book works the idea, central to Call of Cthulhu, of the revelation of the truth behind accepted reality. All these scraps point to a larger secret pattern. Viewing them over the course of the book increases the mystery instead of diminishing it. Its a stroke of genius, really. Konstantyn Debus, who is credited with the art direction, deserves an award.

And that is saying something, because Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, the era to which this book belongs, is easily the ugliest edition, with its over designed page layouts and muddy printing. The new Malleus Monstrorum should be out any minute now (if it isn’t already), and it is a lavishly illustrated book, consistent with the pleasing design of 7th Edition, but man, I was a little sad they didn’t embrace the falsified art of the original.  

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