Sunday, January 13, 2019

Review: Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual


Last month I received a review copy of Bloat Games' Cryptid Manual for Dark Places & Demogorgons. The official Kickstarter is slated to launch this Tuesday.

Trail Cams & Footprints, A Role-playing Game


Imagine riding an ATV deep into the rural American wilderness and collecting a trail camera full of wild life photos. As you look through the reel, you see a lot of nice animal pictures... Like a deer prancing around next to a squirrel in front of a Thomas Kinkade cabin or some shit. 

Pretty.

Nature can be brutal though, and sometimes you get something a bit more.... raw. Like a photo of coyotes eating an animal carcass or tearing apart a hare. That stuff is uncomfortable but honest, in a train-wreck sorta way.

*Gestures to hold on while he cracks open his PBR and turns down Coast to Coast AM.*

Once every great while though, the reel shows you something different. Something unnatural. Something grungy and alien like. Something stitched together at the seems. I'm talking about your mothmen, bigfoots (or bigfeets), and chupacabras.

These grainy and elusive delights are precisely what the Cryptid Manual is about... MONSTERS!

Monsters of the sorts you haven't imagined since your drunk and racist uncle recalled them at your family reunion.

Monsters that, once you have seen them skulking on your definitely not edited trail camera reel, will have you staying up late at night, chewing skoal on your porch, and waiting armed with thermal headgear; headgear that you purchased by taking out a second mortgage on your house.

Simple Concept


Bloat Games' new supplement is a monster manual that, as the name implies, focuses on cryptids. It also includes several mythological and conspiracy theory based creatures.

Structure


The meat of the book uses the tried and true format of stat blocks and lore/ecology. About equal space is given to mechanics and descriptions.  After the bestiary section, the manual has rules and mechanics for creating monsters and changing/evolving already existing monsters.

Content


Pretty much all the popular cryptids/local monsters are present in one form or another and some more uncommon ones that flirt with indigenous mythology are included as well, like the Nain Rouge and Wendigo.

Those folks at Bloat Games are busy at work in the gaming kitchen! Perhaps a bit drunk though too, as I found a chicken bone in my apple pie...

Side by side with the more traditional cryptids, we get entries for Greek mythology and.... ancient aliens?


As a Bloat Games connoisseur, I find the idea pretty novel. I don't know how well it fits with the theme of the book, but something about real-estate being allocated to alien 'probing' makes me smile like an idiot.

And lets be real, if you stat Cerberus, I am going to use him to attack the PCs no matter how far I have to reach to shoehorn him into the game.

After the bestiary portion, the book gives you some solid tools to create and modify your own monsters. I found the templates and enhancement/weakness tables to be really well executed and valuable. It really enhances the books utility and gives strong guidance for personally tailoring anything you throw at the PCs.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you took Cerberus and then applied random enhancements to him like those used in the LotFP summoning spell? How about what a T-Rex would look like with large functional arms? Of course you haven't because that is random as hell, but now the solution to our imaginary thought experiment exists.

Production


The review copy I received had excellent glossy paper and a functional binding. The layout, aesthetic, and art has set a new standard for Bloat Games. Everything looks visually appealing and the presentation gives us something very usable.

Final Thoughts


The Cryptid Manual is a welcome addition to the growing and expanding Dark Places & Demogorgons catalog. This supplement in particular has really good compatibility with the 'Survive This!' line. While there are some odd monster choices, the book covers its basis well and gives you an arsenal of options to use with your stranger thing style games.

This book is an easy recommendation.