Monday, February 20, 2023

Monstrous Monday: Basic Assumptions about Basic Bestiary

Schutzengel by Bernhard Plockhorst
With the OGL fiasco settled (for now), I have returned to work on Basic Bestiary. In truth, I have enough to publish right now; I just need some art for...well, most of them. 

I was recently (this last weekend) going through an old hard drive I rebuilt (ugh...never buying a Seagate drive again), and I found some files from 2013. One, in particular, was filled with monsters I had written for a Pathfinder project that was never picked up. It has about 170 monsters on it but the point of view is of a fantasy Earth.  Many of these creatures already have similar entries in BB. Other ideas went on to live in Monster Mash and Monstrous Maleficarum. But many of them are still good and worth giving new life to. 

This leaves me with two conundrums.  Both relate to a basic assumption I am making about Basic Bestiary.

When I was working on Basic Bestiary, I focused on the monsters of myth and legend, especially the cool, lesser-known monsters. Many, if not most, of these creatures are very much tied to a specific location and cultural set of myths. The assumption is then I would be crafting these using an Earth-based or Earth-like frame of reference. Something that many publishers try to avoid.

So Conundrum 1 is "How do I make Angels work?" D&D has angels. I have a lot more. They are very much tied with the myths, legends, and stories of various real-world religions.  They are the biggest section of BB I still need to finish.  My wife suggested I move them over to my demon book and make it "2024 problem." There is a certain amount of logic to that. Angels and Demons are more alike to each other than they are to say to dragons or goblins.  It might be a good idea to move them on over. It would reduce the total monster count right now, but this new batch I found would more than make up for it.

Conundrum 2 deals with my Earth-centric focus. One of the monsters I found was a very Norwegian-focused Troll. Another was a very Algonquin-focused.  Do I clean those up or lean into them? Classic wisdom suggests I make it all more generic, but other publishers have had some solid success keeping an Earth focus. I am thinking of leaning into them to be honest. So when I say a monster is from Norwegian mythology and tales readers can know where to put it in their own worlds. 

I know. I keep finding ways to over complicate this project, and I have been doing it for so long I nearly lost my window to publish.  So I think I am going to try to wrap this up soon. I'd like to be done with this one and maybe even BBII by this year.

One can hope.


Lance Duncan said...

I definitely like the idea of an angels as counterpoint to demonstrate in the same book.

I also like to know the real world inspiration to know if it's useful for my world. if I wanted to use something with specific origins in a generic way, that's fairly easy, going back the other direction is a bit harder

Nathan Irving said...

I've been working on a bestiary since 2001 (or earlier!), and am finally making progress again this year. Must be something in the air.

Anyways, yes, move the angels over to the demons (and angels!) book. It works.
And yes, lean into it. I'm more or less going the other way, giving them "fantastic" details rather than "in the real world" detailing, but that's what scratches my itch.

Looking forward to it!

Timothy S. Brannan said...

@Lance, YES! This is what my wife kept telling me.

@Nathan, I have not been picking at that long, but certainly for as long as I have been doing my Monstrous Mondays.

Nathan Irving said...

@Timothy I bought art for the cover in 2002 or 2003, I think. 😁 Still love it. And a few critters may have originally been written up for 2e...