Monsters of Myth and Legend II (1991)

Around 1987, Mayfair Games’ efforts at producing generic Dungeons & Dragons products switched from the Role Aids line to City-State of the Invincible Overlord, newly licensed from the remnants of Judges Guild. Between 1987 and 1989, Mayfair released eight City-State box sets, all shockingly dull. Unsurprisingly, the line wasn’t well-received, so in 1989, Role Aids once again emerged. I believe Ray Winninger (Underground) kick-started the revival; he was basically entirely in charge of Mayfair’s RPGs by 1990 (and would, amusingly, wind up working on D&D, most recently directing the development of 5E in 2020 through 2022).

This is the first sourcebook of the second wave, Monsters of Myth and Legend II. It still has some of the old trade dress and features a frankly gorgeous Boris Vallejo painting on the cover. The title treatment is fresh and, like a lot of Mayfair graphic design from about 1989 to 1992, reminds me of an AriZona Ice Tea can (how and why the Southwest art style crept into the design language of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s is a mystery to me). Inside Timothy Dzon. I find his work, in isolation, overly sketchy for my taste, but flipping through the whole book feels more cohesive. There is a funny aversion to nipples, though; I get not wanting to have partial nudity, but I dunno if just erasing nipples is better than adding implausible braziers.

Like the previous book, there is some taxonomical confusion between cultural groups and geographic regions, so the five sections are Africa, Central and South America, Japan, the Inuit and the Middle East. Three of those are overly broad, flattening the beliefs of many cultures and there quite a few insensitivities that are infuriatingly casual (mixing gods, actual monsters and regular people in a book explicitly about non-European monsters sure is a choice). On the other hand, I do think the selection of monsters is pretty good. The ‘90s, man. 

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