As the third book of the Fantasy Safari, my choice has been the Theragraphica for Atlantis: The Second Age. Having been released as pdf only last November, the printed book has just been shipped to backers of the kickstarter campaign. It’s simply an astonishing book and in my opinion even beats the Fiend Folio. It was actually the main reason I did pick up the Fantasy Safari series after such a long break, simply because I want more people to know how amazing this book is. (And the game it’s for is really great, too.)
Since this is a very new book by a small publisher, and they haven’t put the art for it online, I am not going to copy all the pictures here. But I think for this book this also won’t hurt much, as these creatures are really much more about their strange behaviors and weird abilities, and simply going by physical appearance might even create the false impression that they are rather mundane. But believe me, they are not. Or don’t believe and see for yourself what I am going to tell you about them. There are over 170 creatures in this book and I am only going to talk about my personal favorites in detail. Otherwise I’d never get through all of them.
Theragraphica for Atlantis: The Second Age by Khepera Publishing, 2014; 131 pages of monsters.
Atlantis is a relatively simple system, compared to D&D and d20 games, so the stat block for each creature is quite short. They have 14 stats plus two lines for damage and armor, and a short list of any special abilities and weaknesses. As a rules-medium game, the explanations for all special abilities are explained once in the back of the book and not elaborated on in each individual creature entry. Which at first was a bit confusing, because the creature descriptions often don’t really say what these abilities do either. But in truth, this works all really well and effectively. Aura of Fear always works the same for all creatures (with the specific strength depending on attribute scores) and is really pretty self-explanatory. The creature is scary. Those who see it close up get scared. Poison also always works the same way and a creature that attacks with its teeth obviously has poisonous bite, and one that attacks with a stinger obviously with a poisonous sting. This is information that does not need to be spelled out again every time and every GM can figure out how to describe it with a little bit of imagination. Because of that, the descriptions for each creature are really very short. Often just three or four sentences. But the free space that is left on each page is used well with a big picture of the creature, which are mostly very well done. All this combined, I feel like I am getting a lot more flavor from these monsters than from most other monsters books. My descriptions of each creature I’ll present will most likely be longer than the actual descriptions that are in the book, putting into words and talking about all the thoughts that come to my mind from these very dense entries.
I actually have not read the entire thing myself yet, but just having read a quarter of it in detail and seeing all the pictures has gotten my really exited about this. So, here we go:
Chapter 1: Alba and Iber
The islands of Alba and Iber are inspired by the British Islands, with a clear gaelic influence.
Let’s start with the Caorthannach, a really quite weird looking beast. Their bodies resemble large and heavily muscled dogs with black skin and big claws. But their face looks like… I really haven’t the slightest clue. The closest words I can find is a combination of a human skull and a lobsters head, with big evil glowing eyes. Not something you want to encounter in the dark. Does this get another mark on our demonic wolf counter? I think not, but let’s get to the description of it. It really only tells us that they burn down villages and cause mayhem wherever they show up. Heroes often go hunting for them, but a lot of them end up dead themselves. No matter how many are killed, they always come back in large numbers, but nobody knows from where. So far, this really doesn’t sound very interesting. Like just another demonic wolf with a weird face. But wait! Did it say they burn down villages? How would an evil dog do that? So let’s look at the stats. Intelligence of -2 isn’t very bright, just above the smarter kinds of ordinary animals. But holy shit! Strength of +8? That it quite a lot. Actually, flipping ahead through the book, there are not a lot of creatures that even get close to that. This is the range of trolls and hydras. A Constitution of +5 isn’t anything to laugh at either. Their Threat Level is 3, which I think in a d20 game is comparable to a Challenge Rating of about 12. And looking at it’s abilities, this thing gets even scarier. It has a poisonous bite, can spit venom, and is really fast on the ground. And it also has a breath of fire. That’s how they burn down villages. If you want to upgrade them, the book suggest to give them Armored Hide, which has a certain chance to shatter weapons that hit it; Sunder, which makes every successful bite not only injure the target but also damage its armor; and Regeneration. Did I say the first impression is a big evil wolf with an ugly face? This thing is just a total nightmare! As I said, the description text is minimal, but you really have to look at every entry in the stat block to see what they are really about. And these go around destroying villages? They are just terrifying!
Next comes the Carraig Fuileachdach, which is a bit of a shame because we just started and I think it’s the greatest monster in the whole book and perhaps the best creature I’ve ever seen. People have explained to me that gaelic spelling is not nonsensical at all and that there aren’t any pointless letters in Irish words, like the ones that English is so very fond of. But seriously, if you don’t know how gaelic spelling works, these names are just completely unpronounceable. But that really isn’t a big problem here, since our Craig here is a very rare creature found in only a few places in the world and there are probably few people who know that there are more than just one. The appearance of this creature is very unusual. It really is just a big slab of stone. It may have been cut into a specific shape and may have images or runes carved into it, but it really is just a big slab of stone. On which humans have been sacrificed. For thousands of years and countless generations. And which each sacrifice, a little bit of the essence that was send to the gods got absorbed by the stone on which they were killed. Over time this adds up, until the stone becomes infused with power and gains a sentience of its own. And what do they want? More blood! Being simply a big slab of stone, the creature can not move in any way. But it’s Perception and Will are pretty high and their Intelligence, Charisma, and Constitution are each a staggering +10. Armor and Hit Points obviously enormous. They also have a number of special abilities, like an Aura of Fear, a Damaging Aura (in form of a cloud of sharp stones that whirls around it), can Drain Life-Force and Speak Like A Man. How does it talk with no mouth? It does not say, but obviously it would be either a disembodied voice in the wind or from below the ground, or perhaps telepathy. It’s up to the GM. But looking at the description of Drain Life-Force, the creature has to touch the target to drink it’s blood or something similar, whatever is appropriate? So does it have a special power to cause a huge geyser of blood shot from a nearby creature like in the Legacy of Kain games? If so, what range would that have? And how would it make an attack roll against what defense? Well, my own view is that this is an ancient altar on which human blood has been spilled, so for this ability to work, a target has to be on the altar in some way. How does the target get there? Has the stone cultists who would bring it sacrifices? Well, there is one last small entry in the special abilities that changes all. “Spell Ability (Dark Arts)”. What does that mean in Atlantis? It means the monster is a sorcerer with access to eight forms of magic with the exception of Influence. (Which is interesting, as that means no mind control of other creatures. All who serve and worship it are doing so willingly.) Atlantis is a rules-medium game, so it doesn’t have specific skill ranks for each skill but just an average Ability Level that applies to all skills. And in the case of Craig here, the level is +31. Which is just plain out terrifying. Only the great dragons can beat that. When a mortal sorcerer increases any of his eight magic skills above 15, he gains one horrible mutation for every point, so when you want to get into really powerful magic you quickly turn into a Spwan of Yog-Sothoth and it’s only downhill from there. To get the amount of power that this guy has, you’d need to take 120 mutations, that just for reference. It also can cast 32 spells in a row without suffering penalties for getting tired and even then it’s massive Ability Level means that it can keep on casting for quite some time without a noticeable dent in spell strength or chance of success. Magic in Atlantis is pretty freeform and there are no predefined spells. Except for mind control, this thing can do pretty much anything that magic might possibly do. Which includes picking you up in the air and crushing your skull to goo on its surface. Or shot fireballs, lightning from the sky, the ground opening beneath you, summon hordes of demons, turn you into any imaginable shape. This is just one big old slab of stone? Yes, but a big old slab of stone of DOOM! I love super-powerful AIs in sci-fi games, and this thing is basically that. Except that it can not be shut down or is limited by the machines it controls in any way. This thing wants it, and it happens. If you have played The Witcher 2, do you remember the start of Chapter 2? This is what I think a Carraig Fuileachdach is like. Only much, much worse. It says they are often worshiped as gods. As far as I can tell, they pretty much are gods. Angry gods, that thirst for blood.
A Fearbeag is a tall, seemingly humanoid creature wearing a dark and dirty robe with a deep hood which hides it’s true form. Below this disguise, the creatures true from is a swarm of little, 15 cm tall men, and it’s voice sounds like dozens of children talking at the same time. This is a pretty classic ghost on the road story monster, as the creature merely wants some company, but will try to kill and eat any who reject it. They are not particularly strong creatures with no outstanding abilities, so they don’t seem to be intended as combat encounters. If Heroes react friendly towards them, the Faerbeags may share their extensive knowledge of hiffen paths and secret places in the wilderness, which might be quite useful. Giving the players a hint where they might find a guide to a lost ruin or hidden lair, but not telling them it’s a Faerbeag might lead to some quite interesting encounters. Especially, since the creature can fully regenerate as long as at least one of the tiny men survives. In case of a fight, it’s quite likely the Heroes might leave a very angry enemy behind, that could lead other villains to them out of spite.
Chapter 2: Anostos
The lands of Anostos are located on ancient and mythic Greenland and are the homeland of the evil Formorian giants.
The Blydwueld is a strange plant creature consisting of a large central bulb covered in long spines with several 10 meter long vines growing from it. It’s not a particularly powerful creature, but preys on humanoid people in a rather gruesome and horrifying manner. The blydwueld attacks with its vines, which do not cause any damage themselves, and then use them to impale its victim on its spines to kill him. Once the victim is dead, the creature ripps of its head and sticks it on one of the spines on its top. As the brain rotts, the remains drip on the main body of the blydwueld, which allows it to absorb some of its knowledge and memories. Killing the blydwueld and eating it is said to provide a person with lost and secret knowledge. I see how this could make for interesting adventures. The Heroes are chasing an enemy with vital information to Anostos but only find his mutilated body impaled on a blydwueld. Who is the lucky person who would try to kill the plant and eat it? No telling what weird things you might learn from it.
The Brass Horror seems to be a creature closely tied to a specific place in the setting, which I don’t really know much about as I only have the rulebook and the monster book for Atlanis. So I don’t really know what is going on here, but it’s still an interesting creature with enough flavor to build your own story around it for your own setting. A brass horror is a roughly human shaped creature that appears to be made entirely out of molten brass. These creatures regularly emerge from a strange lake and wander the nearby area, attacking anything they encounter on sight until they are destroyed. Which might take a while, as they have the Regeneration ability and are pretty tough and strong to begin with. What intrigues me about them is the one little detail that when slain, the liquid brass hardens, and could probably be salvaged. However breaking open the dead creature causes a demon to come out and attack. But sometimes not, and instead you get a perfectly grown and healthy human child instead. This is one very weird creature. I am sure there is more about them in the setting book, but I am intrigued. There is another type of creature that lives in the same land called the Uln, which is a strange hybrid of Jinn, Naga, Lemurian, and Atlantean (the four ancient races that preceded humans). The Uln hunt and destroy the brass horrors, claiming they are traitors to their lord, Ba’al, one of the two great gods of Evil. What is going on? I wouldn’t put it past the game to just not give an answer and simply keep it a mystery. That’s oldschool, after all.
A Mythsiger is a very large insect that can wrap itself in its wings, which are covered in strange (and I guess supernatural) patterns, which allow the creature to appear like a cloaked human to people until they get very close. When prey comes near, they discard their Edgar costume and attack with their four mantis-like arms. I guess it’s a neat surprise the first time players encounter one, but this entry doesn’t really give much indication what the creature would do beside this one trick.