The Warlock Menagerie (1980)

The Warlock Menagerie (1980) is the last of Balboa Games’ rulebooks. They also had an adventure and a book of villains, but I’ve not been able to get my hands on those.

Anyway, this is fully a monster book. As with the previous book, there are no stat blocks. Monsters are described in prose that is peppered with numerical traits — it isn’t an ideal way to present monsters, honestly, but I like the breezy, advicey tone. There’s a lot of information on how particular monsters think and live, which is rudimentary in 1E D&D and only starts to really develop in the later Monstrous Compendiums as a matter of course. The monsters are mostly drawn from folklore (and the manticore is wingless, as is right and proper — well done!).

There are also three profiles of monsters drawn from fantasy fiction: The ticklemouse from Stephen Goldin’s Clockwork Traitor, the Xorno Tree from William Rotsler’s The Far Frontier and the Hralcin from The Door into Fire by Diane Duane. I’ve never heard of any of these books before, which is fine. I particularly like the Xorno Tree, because I am always down for a carnivorous plant, but they are all interesting in their way. The most interesting thing about the section, though, is that all three are put forth as examples of how (and why) to adapt monsters from fiction. It’s still pretty good advice, but it is also a pretty good example of how casually and enthusiastically derivative the hobby was in the old days. Everything is a sourcebook, then, and now!

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