I'm sick, so forgive me if I don't have anything quite as personal as Kole's post. I echo much of what he says though our flavors of mental illness are different. I don't get anxious, I just get sad. But right now, I want to talk about monsters.
I love a good monster encyclopedia. I have more than a few of them, though not enough to truly call a collection. If pressed to name my favorite thing, it might be monsters. The word encapsulates idiot skeletons, cosmic unknowables and emotionally resonant, symbolic killers of all kinds. There's a joy to the fear, the fascination with the alien, the morbid curiosity. Monsters own.
Some of my favorite Encyclopedias of Monsters are, of course, Dungeons and Dragons Monstrous Manuals. Of these, the 2nd edition is by far my favorite. It's awesome enough to have some really great and evocative Fantasy Art as well as some absolutely hilarious shit Fantasy Art. This book was the first time I remember being exposed to the idea of different kinds of dragons, mimics, liches and, of course, The Terrasque, the basis for Death Claws in Fallout.
It's a great book that functions as more than a picture book with stat blocks. There is a whole section about the ecology of these monsters, where they live, who they get along with. It's like a book of seeds for stories. And not just table top RPG stories but any sort of story. From an early age and to this day, the suggestions of resonant detail light a fire in my mind. Hits that, "Shit, that's cool" part of my brain.
D and D doesn't have the market cornered here. The other major RPG I played a lot of growing up was Shadowrun and let me tell you, Shadowrun has a HELL of an Encyclopedia of Monsters. I've found a whole pdf of the 2nd edition book and I really recommend anyone reading this take a look.
The cool thing the Shadowrun book does is that monsters in that world are based on creatures we have now, so you get this sense that these paranormal creatures are possible. Not only that, but each entry features shadowrunners discussing encounters with the creatures on a message board. How fucking cool is that? It makes the monsters feel way more real.
Here's another book I've read cover to cover several times (and as an adult!). The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia isn't strictly an Encyclopedia of Monsters but it may as well be. It includes places and gods and people but the best entries are on the creatures. The source material is not only from Lovecraft but also his followers and contemporaries so each entry has a decent amount of writerly flourish. Ghouls gibber, Nightgaunts tickle, Brown Jenkin nuzzles. I can't explain it but I just fucking jazzed on this shit. I could pick up this book almost literally any time and have fun freaking myself out with it.
I don't know what that says about me. And I don't know exactly why this essay belongs here, on our backer blog. My thinking was twofold:
1) Monsters are obviously such a huge part of video games and further, learning about, recognizing and cataloging these monsters is key.
2) I've been pretty grumpy lately. Between Zone of the Enders and 999 and some nonsense on the Something Awful Forums, I've been a downright super crank. So I wanted to write about something that gave me pure joy, something I'm not critical of. And this was the first and strongest thing that came to mind.
How about you guys? Do you have favorite Encyclopedias of Monsters? Let me know. Let's talk about the horrors that lurk between the pages.