Friday, March 27, 2015

Review - Monsters of Myth & Legend

Monsters of Myth & Legend is a 1984 monster book published by Mayfair Games, under the Role Aids label. It contains roughly 80+ pages of monsters compatible with 1e AD&D.  It contains creatures from six very different mythologies (Native American, Australian Aborigine, Chinese, Greek, Irish, and Norse).

These monsters are treated in more detail than those in many early monster books and each have their own individual feel. The book is organized much like Deities and Demigods in that s organized by mythology rather than all mixed together.

Old School Credentials: Because it is an AD&d (1e) compatible product published in 1984, it's automatically "old school" to me.

The Good: The internal art is quite good, with the mischievous fox spirit and wise-looking monkey spirit being a couple of favorites.

This is a monster book and most of the monsters are quite interesting. For example, he Chinese section's Roc Demon is too powerful too add to a campaign, unless it is on a far away continent. But a monster that is so powerful that it warps the very nature of the planes in a 500 mile radius and can permanently destroy a target's magic using ability, has potential as an ultimate opponent for a campaign, or it could be used merely as an easy, though terrifying for magic users, means of traveling to the outer planes. The other monsters in the book are less powerful, but are mostly very intersting.

The Bad: The print quality is inconsistent with some pages suffering from extremely bad bleed through. About 5-10% are seriously marred by this, the worst I've seen outside of cheap newspapers.

Some of the monsters will be very difficult to use in most campaigns. For example, the White Elves / Black Elves from the Norse section are just the classic Elves (High, Wood, etc.) and Drow in rawer, mythological, not modern fantasy, interpretations. Making them fit with the modern interpretations would be challenging, likely relegating them to alternate worlds or planes, at best.

It's not the fault of this book, but a few of the Chinese monsters have since gotten "official" versions in Oriental Adventures, which came out a year later. The "animal spirits" of MoM&L and the Hengeyokai of OA clearly share the same origins, though they are quite different interpretations. 

Likely Use: This monster book is likely to used two different ways. First, like the Fiend Folio, there will be a few monsters that the purchaser loves, but most will be largely unused. However, because each section is based on a specific mythology, it is invaluable to any campaign set there. For example, if I were starting an OA campaign, I would certainly use the monsters from the Chinese section.

Value: Like any used product, the value is likely to vary greatly. I paid less than $12 for my copy from Amazon earlier this year. Today, the cheapest I could find in good or better condition is $16 (counting shipping). At $12, it's a pretty good value, at $16 it's still a fair deal.

Overall: I love this one, but I'm less certain that someone who isn't especially fond of comparative mythology would like it. It has many interesting monsters, but some would be very difficult to integrate into a typical D&D world.  For me this book is an A, but I fear that most people would give it a B or C.

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