The Monster Alphabet (2015)

Do you remember Hordlings from Monster Manual II? They’re meant to be the cannon fodder of the Abyss, creatures born out of the roiling chaos. As such, their entry was accompanied by a series of random tables, through which you could randomly determine their appearance and abilities, as befits a creature of pure chaos. I always kind of loved the idea of Hordlings.

The Monster Alphabet (2015) is a little like that. It’s a lot more, too. Basically, take The Dungeon Alphabet and apply the same method to monsters. The first page is a dice-drop table for generating monsters that does a pretty decent job of creating hordlings! But beyond that is a sort of ongoing deconstruction of D&D-style monsters and encounters. The musings here are briefer while, in turn, there feels like far more tables. They cover everything from effects to motivations to, well, what sort of monster is showing up to the party. I is for Insectoid lays out a variety of bug-centric attacks (which can be spliced onto any bug-like critter of your conception) where as I is for Infernal lays on indications of fiendish heritage, like a stench of brimstone or an affinity for pitchforks.

Monster Alphabet strikes me as a bit less breath-taking than Dungeon. The second in a series almost always is, though. I feel like I would just use this less — I rarely need to make monsters and when I do, I don’t generally need an assist. There is still lots of great stuff in here, I feel like the way I do things, this one is less liable to come off the shelf for me. For you? Maybe a different story. But while I love monsters, I understand them to a degree. I can’t say the same about dungeons, which are by definition confounding spaces.

A similar bench of artists bring the book to life. Even if I find the tables less helpful, the art alone is worth the price of the book. Special mention of Peter Mullen here, who I think delivers the goods. I love his blank eyed dragons so much.

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