Monsters and more - a Mephisto review
Book of Beasts
The printed Book of Beasts already shows by its premium design with imitation leather cover that it is another basic rule book. It complements the classic trinity of fantasy role-playing game rule books with the monster manual for Forbidden Lands.
Accordingly, the book starts with 28 new monsters, each introduced on four pages. After a page-filling illustration and a background article from the in-game perspective, the description and game statistics, including the table for the different attacks of the monster, are provided. In addition, however, each monster entry offers encounter suggestions for incorporating these creatures into a campaign. These random encounters are presented compactly as a small scene and can thus be easily incorporated into a campaign. The entry is supplemented by background knowledge that player characters with the appropriate skills may possess and hints about what resources can be obtained from the monster. For example, the eggs of amphibians are very nutritious, while the mandibles of giant spiders are suitable for building weapons. Sometimes the new talent alchemist is necessary for this use, and sometimes other characters also benefit from these resources.
The selection of monsters includes classics like basilisks, giant spiders, or vampyres, but also offers unusual creatures like the tupilaq or the rat king. Typically, these beasts are still adjusted slightly to the background of Forbidden Lands, so that basilisks, for example, have an unusual weak spot.
However, this bestiary only occupies a little over half of the book. The following chapter provides the game master with another 36 random encounters, which can enrich a campaign as individual scenes or serve as hooks for smaller adventures.
In addition, the game master gets some further tools. There are new traps, tables for books (incl. talent or skill increase, title, and short comment), random tables for the condition of the area and camps depending on the terrain, as well as random tables for the weather. For strongholds – the headquarters of the player characters – the personalities of servants can now be determined by random tables (and serve as another hook for stories). In addition, there is a new talent for alchemists, which allows for brewing potions and poisons. It is also used for resource extraction from monsters.
In addition, artifacts can be determined randomly, some of which have helpful effects, many of which are strange, and some of which are a hindrance (an artifact that telepathically gives its bearer a bad reputation is the kind of unusual equipment to avoid).
The book concludes with the now-inevitable solo rules, which are designed to allow solitary exploration of the Forbidden Lands through a mixture of random tables and player improvisation. Thanks to companions, however, the player character does not have to go entirely alone. The so-called oracle, for which playing cards are used, helps the solo player determine answers to typical questions such as “is the encounter friendly or hostile”, “what will I find in the area” or “where does this character come from” through the card suits and numbers.
The Book of Beasts thus provides an excellent supplement for Forbidden Lands, whose core topic is indeed the monsters, but which offers the game master and the potential solo player much more. The ideas of monsters and encounters provide material for many game sessions and help the gamemaster to improvise the player-driven campaign. Although I am still generally unconvinced by the concept of solo play, this volume provides a solid basis for that approach as well. For Forbidden Lands gamemasters, the Book of Beasts thus offers an all-around recommendable toolbox and source of ideas.