Gaming Diary – Bestiaries and Monster Manuals

Many Dungeon Masters have a never ending need to collect monster collections because lets face it – monsters and monster lore are fun to look at and read about! We get to be children again. But more than that, we get to use them to scare and challenge our players, and players love to see brand new monsters, as well as old monsters in a new light.

I have collected a good number of the lavishly colorized and “realistic” modern style monster manuals (I have at least a half dozen from 3E and 5E, and the artwork in them is indeed attractive). But I am now running traditional-style D&D, my tastes have changed, and I have lost a lot of interest in the uber colorized, flashy, post-3E monster art style. I have gone back to appreciating and wanting more of the classic black & white line art. This style allows the players to color it in the way *they* want. *They* get to use their imagination to fill out and expand the piece of art provided. I want to move away from the video game style of art where everything is put in your face. I want my players to hear my descriptions and visualize it for themselves, ask questions, and fill in the details themselves. This is what tabletop roleplaying gaming is supposed to be – collaborative and immersive. I think this black & white art style supports that.

So, with that in mind, I have been looking far and wide for some old school bestiaries and I have been fortunate to find some. Many of these are inspired by – or based on – the classic Basic D&D Creature Catalog, the AD&D Monster Manuals I and II, and the Fiend Folio, with slight stat differences and new black & white line art. I really love them! Sadly, though, this is a niche market and you have to really dig around to find the small publishers and independent game designers who cherish these alternate ways of doing things.

Just as OSR rules are light and allow for more options and imagination, the black & white art also allows people to open their imaginations to the strange realm of fantasy.

Imagination. Wonderment. Mystery. That is what I am focusing on in my game. It is my hope that I am moving in that direction.

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