Tabletop Review – Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters

A procedurally generated monster manual with nearly 300 monsters.

A review copy of “Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” was provided by the publisher. Find more Tabletop Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Todd Otto

“Procedurally generated” is a common buzzword (buzzphrase?) in gaming. It basically means content that is more intelligently randomly generated, involving parameters, settings, and algorithms.

Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” is a procedurally generated monster manual. The 285 enemies within aren’t even generated until you purchase the PDF, creating a uniquely bizarre concoction of mad-libs Frankenstein monsters that I don’t see any DM wanting to actually use.

The result of the random monster generator leans way too heavily on its strict randomness, doling out traits, attacks, and personalities without caring to create interesting, meaningful monsters. Even the names are randomly generated from a nonsense combination of letters and vowels, such as Sextiaternial, Terocrutruct, and Smibraepial.

The Sexiaternial, for example, is a CR 17 celestial with fly and swim speeds, but the description says they are nomads who live in “Mountain” and ignore difficult terrain while living in “Mountain.” They are the sworn foes of “Ambiostly” and hate them for some reason. There are only so many descriptive paragraphs, and all of them contain very obvious variables that allows the generator to replace keywords with other words from a table.

The result is baffling nonsense. No monster entry has a physical description whatsoever, and there’s no artwork at all, though I’m not sure how you could even create artwork if you’re generating these odd creatures on the fly.

Keep in mind that even video games that rely heavily on procedural generation typically don’t construct monsters from scratch. Instead they take base models and add traits. For example, a zombie could have the ability to spew poison gas, or a gnoll could have double the health, or be able to clone themselves.  A randomly assigned traits system could be an interesting, valuable tool. But this is just chaos.

There are a few new abilities here that seem fun and interesting. Bone lance skewers and restrains with a gnarly attack. Deathburst causes a large-scale AOE explosion upon death. Mind sap causes spellcasters to take damage every time they cast a spell. These traits give me some solid ideas over the actual monsters themselves.

I get the idea behind creating a monster generator, but it’s something best left to quick button presses on the internet, rather than a randomly generated PDF. Instead of trying to create random nonsense, more care should’ve been placed on altering existing monsters, or creating a few new ones and then assigning lots of different variables. There’s a way to create a useful monster manual generator with a ton of interesting variety, but this isn’t it.

Pros:

  • 285 monsters spread out over 15 types and 26 different challenge ratings.
  • A few interesting new abilities.

Cons:

  • Procedural generation results in hilariously generic monsters with a mish-mash of traits and abilities and mad-libs descriptions.
  • Balance is all over the place.
  • No artwork for any of the monsters, and no physical descriptions.

The Verdict: “Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” proves that procedurally generated content always pales in comparison to custom, hand-crafted creations.

A review copy of “Beastlands’ Maelstrom of Monsters” was provided by the publisher. Find more Tabletop Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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