Expand your world: Baby Bestiary Vols 1 & 2

It’s been a bonza month for Kickstarter delivery! While I’m keenly awaiting Widower’s Wood and Rail Raiders Infinite (and Super Dungeon Legends, and Modern Maker, and and and…), I was chuffed to receive a thick envelope in the mail with two gorgeous hardback tomes from Metal Weave Games.

See, I’ve been playing RPG’s since the late 1980’s. I started in 1986, but really sank my teeth in around 1990, rolled into my university days, and with a few gaps here and there, have been dabbling in the roleplaying pool ever since. I fought my way through Castle Greyhawk and died repeatedly in the Temple of Elemental Evil. I went on safari on the planet Dirt. I fought side by side with the Avengers, I lurked in the shadows of Chicago By Night, I fought the Wyrm in the outback, I got paranoid in Alpha Complex, I jacked in while dodging Dunkelzahn, and more… but one common thread throughout a lot of games? The gribblies that lined up against you, with few exceptions, tended to be combat-ready adults. We have hordes of monsters living in dungeons and the like, but oddly enough especially with the older modules, you’d wade through a horde of kobolds and not see a single chef. Laundry master. Gardener. A lot of the time you didn’t even see any identifiable women (yes, old D&D modules fail the Bechdel test pretty horribly).

When Privateer Press’ Monsternomicon was released for the new IKRPG, one of the things that made my nerdy side glisten with palpable delight (now there’s a visual for you) was that there are 9 pages of templates for you to customize your gribblies. The Dracodile isn’t just a Dracodile. It’s a Juvenile. It’s a Man-Eater. It’s a Protector. It’s Resilient. You aren’t just stuck with cookie-cutter beasties.

Well, these glorious tomes take it a step further.

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umberhulknymphThe Baby Bestiaries ask simple questions, like “What would you do with a baby Dragon Turtle?” or “How exactly does one train a Cockatrice?”. Each volume is filled with sumptuous art that shows a more tender side of the monsters that all-too-often the heroes just set about trying to defeat so they can steal their treasure.

If you had the opportunity to raise an Owlbear Cub, wouldn’t you want to? How would you find one? How would you interact with it? Raising a “monster” may seem irresponsible, but hey, we somehow turn teenagers into functioning members of society, so maybe we’ve got a shot at this. Ask yourself questions.

Can your beast survive in your environment? I’m not sure raising a Hydra Snakelet in the middle of urban sprawl is a great idea, though you may be able to swing it. Can your beast be trained as a mount? A guard animal? Should you consider raising with the intent of returning it to the wild? Valid considerations! Of course, I’ll have very stern words for anyone raising an adorable little Myconid Sporeling with the express purpose of turning it into spell components once it’s grown…

treantsaplingThe books are a visual treat, many of the art pieces showing adult versions interacting with the young, such as the Umber Hulk and Treant show her, but there’s so much more, from Naga Hatchlings to Satyr Foals to baby Remorhaz, Chimera, Kraken, even infant versions of Otyughs, Perytons, Harpies and… Purple Worms? Okay, that’s just silly…

But with each gribbly there’s a full page entry on finding them, how they’re bred, how to care for them, how to train them…

I once spent 45 minutes unloading on a shell-shocked teen about character creation, how min-maxing made for a shallow game experience, how the entire game is so much richer, so much more alive, when you’re playing a character, not just a bunch of stats on a piece of paper.

How much more alive will our fantastic worlds be if we breathe just that little bit more life into them? What if that Rust Monster was so damn tenacious because it was defending its young? Do your players just kill the infants, or are they more than murder hobos? A Chimera cub mewling at your fighter may seem comical, until you realize its mother is behind you. As players, our job is to bring our characters to live. As storytellers, we have whole worlds to shape.

Your stories can be amazing – it’s up to you.