The Call of Chicago: Herding, Culling, Listing

[Edit: If you are super-sad your favourite monster has been missed out, post in the comments – SJR]

Much to my surprise and delight, my last few weeks have been consumed neither by vampires nor by Elder Things, but rather by a whole horde of monsters. And like I need to tell you, dealing with a whole horde of monsters is a great way to get bloodied, and to get experience.

While I was in Pelgrane House in January (on my way to the lovely WarpCon festivities in Cork, Ireland), Simon suddenly announced that he was taking me to lunch at a Michelin-starred French restaurant, Gauthier, ostensibly to fulfill a pledge for a high-level Stoneskin Press Kickstarter patron. It was after that meal, while my higher faculties were dulled by wine and risotto, that he asked if I’d like to wrangle the 13th Age Bestiary.

I begin to see a method to his madness.

Upon awakening fully, I found myself up to my armpits in monsters. We’d already worked out the general notion of what each monster writeup needed to contain: not just the bare bones fighty stats, but also the monsters’ possible relationships to the Icons — and how changing those relationships changed the monsters. What do orcs in the service of the Three look and act like? (Besides kobolds.) Plus character and story hooks. Plus rumors and arguments and statements that might not be true. Plus new variant types of monsters, to keep things interesting. Interesting-er.

With our great banquet of possibility for each monster laid out, Simon left the specific notion of how many monsters, and which ones, up to me. Between the D20 SRD, all human legend and fiction, and the fecund imagination of our authors (Steve Townshend, Ryven Cedrylle, Kevin Kulp, Rob Wieland, and the capitalized-for-intensity ASH LAW) we had approximately eight zillion monsters to pick from. I decided that whatever the final number was, it should be divisible by 13. No sense establishing a leitmotif if you’re not going to let the brass section pick it up now and again, after all.

So I dove into the aforementioned sources and started up lists. Simon and I went back and forth and added some and removed others. We had to avoid monsters that get a big play in 13 True Ways, so there went the devils and the gnolls (my personal favorite humanoid race). We didn’t want to just reprint monsters from the corebook — but what’s a bestiary without orcs and dragons? Some monsters already had art available, the equivalent of showing up in a suit for their interview. And I wanted to add some monsters that would make the book feel more unique to 13th Age and less like, well something culled right from the D20 SRD. At the last minute I realized that the elementals were all in 13 True Ways, and found-slash-invented four more perfect monsters with elemental resonance to replace them. (Poor xuanwu. The world was never made for a tortoise-snake as elementally watery as you.) After much backing and forthing and sobbing openly at the realization that the mind flayer is still Product Identity and searching Monstropedia and going downstairs to the basement where I keep my actual bestiaries, I had a truly spectacular, balanced, intriguing list of 104 monsters that got approval from Simon and from Rob Heinsoo, who was nice enough to take one or three of them himself. Man, that was a good monster list.

And then I did the math and realized 104 monsters, treated in the kind of detail we insisted on providing, would make our book roughly 404 pages long, not counting the introduction and the part where we explain all that stuff about the Icons.

So back we went. Simon went through mean-girl style and slam-booked all the monsters he’d never liked in the first place and only agreed to if it would shut me up about the mind flayer, and then I went through again and selected for balance and style and between us we cut the list in half. 52 monsters. These are they:

Basilisk, Bugbear, Bulette, Centaur, Chaos Beast, Chuul, Couatl, Demon (Babau), Demon (Dybbuk), Dire Vampire Bat, Dragon (Black), Dragon (Red), Dragon (Shadow), Dragon (Skeletal), Dragon (White), Drow, Egregore, Ettercap, Fungus (Ambulatory), Genie, Ghoul, Giant (Frost), Golem (including Bronze and Marble variants), Griffin, Hag, Hagunemnon (spelled “Shoggoth” in other games), Intellect Devourer, Jorogumo, Kobold (my second-favorite humanoid race), Lammasu, Lich, Manticore (I’m doing this one), Naga, Ogre, Orc, Purple Worm, Remorhaz, Rust Monster (by special Simoniac request), Sahuagin, Screaming Skull, Skeleton, Soul Flenser (why whatever do you mean?), Stirge, Tarrasque (dibs also), Vorthr (Night’s Black Agents represent), Wendigo, Zorigami, and five monsters to be invented out of whole cloth by the writers.

So that should make a pretty good menagerie. And wait until you see the variants. There’s a kobold who … well, I shouldn’t say. It would spoil the surprise when you go around that turn in the corridor and don’t see anything.

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