Atlas Animalia

I’ll be among the first to admit they’re something of a purist when it comes to their games. When I play Warmachine, I like to play pure faction, sans mercenaries. When I played VS System, my favourite decks were single team (with one or two notable exceptions). When it comes to RPGs, I like to lean on official resources. Part of it is simply acknowledging that if anyone ever let me come up with my own rules for things, they’d likely be imbalanced as heck. When I started DM’ing D&D again, after over 20 years of, well, not, I picked up the PH, the DMG, the MM, so on and so forth, but when I found Metal Weave’s Baby Bestiaries on Kickstarter I couldn’t resist backing them. Two absolutely stunning hardcover volumes written as guides to raising infant versions of all sorts of stereotypical fantasy gribblies. We alway see grown Owlbears, what about the cubs? Nascent shambling mounds? Diminutive Umber Hulks, not yet grown into their carapaces? The idea fascinated me, and I was thrilled to add the books to my library. Likewise, when they announced Atlas Animalia, it was a no-brainer for me to click the link.

Metal Weave’s books – at least, the ones I own – are supplements to help breathe life into your fantasy campaigns. The Baby Bestiaries asked where all the baby monsters were, and provided all sorts of information on the care and feeding of Hydra Snakelets, freshly hatched Dragon Turtles, and more, giving you a wonderful resource for that druid in the party that’s super keen to raise their own pet Bulette, or the ranger that really wants to establish ties with a local Harpy nest. With Atlas Animalia they take it another step further.

Everyone with a grounding in fantasy RPGs knows about Owlbears, but what if your game is set in a polar climate? How about an Asiatic setting? Atlas Animalia introduces owlbear variants tapping into Great Horned Owls, Sun Bears, Pandas and Polar Bear. Our own natural world has astounding subspecies of animals, why shouldn’t your fantasy setting?

With a narrative written from the perspective of a beastmaster, Atlas Animalia leads you through an array of climes and biomes with an eye to helping you enrich the atmosphere of your setting. If your party is adventuring through a tropical Meso-American style environment (hello, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan), wouldn’t it be interesting to have them come across a tribe of Axlotl lizardmen, or any other number of gribblies that ring familiar to veterans, but fit better with the setting?

As an example, behold yon Cockatrice. Traditionally depicted as a death chicken with a stony gaze, Atlas Animalia covers many of the basics of Cockatricia (Yeah, I’m just making up words now) as one would expect in a reference guide to the a species, and then it broadens your horizons…

Atlas Animalia introduces us to the Coiffed Cockatrice, the Shoebill Cockatrice, the Peacockatrice, and the Aquatic Cockatrice. Yes, notes on a death penguin with a deadly gaze that can turn you into an ice sculpture. I’ve saved you the horror of its evil penguinny visage so as not to terrorize you. Google Fairy Penguins instead, and feel that all is right in the world. For realsies, go do it.

One of the most rewarding aspects of DM’ing is bringing a world to life for your players, and weaving the story of their characters into a shared narrative. As much as campaign books can give you the framework of a story, so much rests on the shoulders of the DM in terms of breathing a semblance of fantastic reality into a world that, otherwise, is just words on paper. Metal Weave’s Baby Bestiaries and Atlas Animalia can work with quite literally any setting, and are a highly recommended resources.

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