Friday, November 5, 2021

[Review] A Groats-Worth of Grotesques - a baroque bestiary


Full disclosure: I bought this in PDF when it came out, because it’s a historical bestiary and it looked right up my alley! Then at some point the author got in touch with me and offered me a free copy. I told him I already had the PDF, and he was cool enough to send me a complementary physical book! Thank you, G. Edward Patterson III, good sir.

So, here’s an overview/review of this thing!

A Groats-Worth of Grotesques, by G. Edward Patterson III (2021) sets out to bring the fantastic world of baroque bestiaries to the gaming table.

Overall, it contains some 120 grotesques. Each gets an illustration or two (curated from period sources), a description, and a simple stat block (HD, AC as equivalent to armor type, speed “as human” or “as horse” or something similar, brief description of attacks). The descriptions are in a flavorful, baroque style, whimsical, and often give hints on how to use these creatures in-game. There are notes on the margins (in italics, but, luckily, in “printed font”, none of that unreadable “pseudo-handwriting” nonsense).

There are classics as old as ages (Catoblepas! Leviathan! Wildmen!). There are weird creatures, based on partial descriptions or illustrations, supplemented by the author’s whimsical fantasies. Some are “imported” creatures, for example the Haunted Umbrella (at least I think it is an adaptation of the kasa obake). There are “natural” but exotic beasts (Ostriches, Elephants). The “common” beasts like Cats and Dog are given some little twists, as the author retells superstitions of legends connected to them.

There are also a couple of NPCs: Clerics, Fighters, Magi and Rogues. These entries are great, as each class gets a handful of flavorful “subtypes”. The Fighters also stand in as ruffians, for example the Damned Crew are carousing, rapier-wielding bastards. The Chartumim subtype of Magi are “reasoners or disputers upon difficult points in philosophy who have become enchanters and conjurers”, and often serve as advisors to local nobles. There is a baker’s dozen of Rogues. This is VERY GOOD stuff! Instant story seeds & hooks and great for that historical flavor.

The physical book is softcover print-on-demand, pretty easy to use, especially how each monsters gets a separate spread. My only minor complaint is that the digital version is a 600+ megabyte unoptimized PDF – but at least this way you get good quality images and can delight in every cut of the historical engravings.

Overall, I think this book strikes the perfect balance between being an atmospheric and authentic in-setting text, while maintaining actual gameability and content you can utilize when running your campaign.

If you run Lamentations of the Flame Princess – pick this up. If you need some classic (as in “going back to antiquity”) beasts and some weird, interesting monsters for your OSR game – pick this up. It is a delight and a good source of inspiration.


It's $4.99 for the PDF, so, I guess, that's the exchange rate of a groat? Anyway, these Grotesques are definitely worth a groat.

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