REF4: The Book of Lairs II (1987)

REF4: The Book of Lairs II (1987) is an immediate correction of many of the mistakes of its predecessor, released blazingly fast thanks to a large pool of freelancers (Lairs I was written by just two folks, which goes a long way toward explaining its relative flatness). The selection of monsters is wider and weirder, and the locales more exciting. The one problem left uncorrected is the lack of art. Most of the art in the book is recycled from the Monster Manuals, which might actually be worse. I’d have honestly preferred maps.

A couple highlights. First is Jennell Jaquays’ frost giant encounter, which starts as a raid, changes into a pleasant dinner and then probably goes back to a raid. Nothing super surprising, but I like the way it keeps shifting gears over the course of a single page. Rick Swan’s got an encounter with brownies, who really just want to get back to their card game. My favorite, though, is Ed Greenwood’s trio of very clever otyughs, lairing in the city sewers. They display intelligence just slightly greater than animals, and Greenwood has them apply it in plausible ways that will challenge any party, especially if the GM excels at having the garbage monsters coordinate their tactics. Players’ll never see them coming.

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