Game: Monsters of the Mind
Publisher: Green Ronin
Series: Mindshadows: d20
Review Dated: 23rd, August 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
I’ve come across Monsters of the Mind before I’ve read Mindshadows Mythic Vistas campaign setting from Green Ronin. I think that’s because, at the time of writing, Mindshadows hasn’t been released. By accident or by design this has served to turn Monsters of the Mind into a rather successful appetiser for Mindshadows. I know I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it. Given the full-page illustration of the Mindshadows cover on page 2 of Monsters of the Mind we might jump to the “by design” conclusion.
I’m a Lovecraft fan. I thought I’d mention that because I get Lovecraftian vibes from Monsters of the Mind. The illustrations are superb. Oh look; Toren Atkinson, fellow Cthulhu fan, gets lead credit for the interior artists. He’s in good company; Drew Baker, Kent Burles, Kevin Crossley, Dennis Detwiller, Todd Lockwood and James Ryman. My own art skills are so dreadful that the world of illustration is distant and alien to me, nevertheless, even I recognise names in that list. It’s not surprising the illustrations in Monsters of the Mind are a storming success.
Okay. There are illustrations and there are monsters too. That’s Monsters of the Mind in a concise summary. The supplement narrows down even more, well, already noted is the Mindshadows connection and so all monsters are native to the island of Naranjan. Naranjan is a large island, a month’s sail east from Freeport, and the setting for Mindshadows. Fear not, you don’t need Mindshadows (or even Freeport) to use Monsters of the Mind. You do need to be playing with psionics though. As the title of the book suggests, all these nasties are psionic horrors as well.
Occasionally the Naranjan and psionic shtick combination misfires and we’re left with a lazy monster. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often. You have a good chance of spotting a lazy monster by looking for the Naranjani descriptor suffix. The risk here is that you’ve a standard monster (Monster Manual standard) that’s been morphed into a psionic version. Typically, other than the psionics, very little else has been changed and this leaves an “I could have done that” feeling. You’re still able to enjoy the top-notch picture for these creatures, as the book’s very first entry the “Aboleth, Naranjani” shows.
Most of the entries are good and original. The monsters have a standard format, their name in the especially curly font I expect we’ll see in Mindshadows, then a stat block, description, combat notes where special powers are described and an “In Naranjan” entry. The “In Naranjan” paragraph is never too long, just enough to do the business for people with Mindshadows and not annoy people without. The text size is nice and small too.
There’s a decent range of monsters. The very first page lists monsters by challenge rating. This list would have been twice as useful if it had included a page number reference for each. Challenge ratings range from a humble ¼ (of which there are two) and the scary 21 (also two). The term “monsters” is slightly misleading. In addition to neutral beasts there are good aligned outsiders like the Contemplative Deva and the Lunar.
Lunars are actually Contemplative Devas who’ve “gained an even deeper understanding of goodness” and have evolved. Whereas I’m incapable of not poking fun at the idea that understanding goodness seems to result in even greater butt-kicking abilities I think the idea of having a ‘monster’ that learns, grows and evolves is to be encouraged. I don’t really mean evolve in the sense that the Spotted Naga matures into the Elder Spotted Naga either, but I do appreciate their contribution to the book.
Text size, the 64-paged count, the one-for-one illustration to monster ratio and a price of US$14.95 ensures that Monsters of the Mind is a value for money book. It’s a good book, a rare sample of a bestiary that can inspire rather than simply serve as a reference book with more of the same.