Wednesday 28 February 2024

There's Always a Deeper Pit

Continuing from last week's delve into Beyond the Pit. I'm examining a handful of creatures from its follow-up, Return to the Pit.

Again, we'll start with the first spread and jump around from there.


So the first two entries don't seem all that inspiring, but this Alligator at least has a fantastic Russ Nicolson piece. 

Let's see if the text has anything beyond what we can already assume of a gator.

We get a mix of the utterly redundant (that they're similar to crocodiles) and some stuff that at least places them within a fantasy world, even if it's nothing too shocking (they live on the banks of rivers and in wetlands). 

It gets better, though! They suffer an attack penalty on land, and if they roll high enough they do a special death roll attack. Even though this is still mundane animal stuff, it gives a bit of food for thought to a GM running an alligator encounter. The death roll is basically an instant-kill, which I guess elevates the Alligator to sit alongside save-or-die royalty like the Basilisk and Beholder. 

Finally, it notes that a metal bar can be wedged into a gator's jaws to effectively incapacitate it. This definitely has the whiff of a gamebook solution: "if you have the iron bar, turn to page 45". 


A big fish. Really big. 

Now, we're on shaky ground comparing these monsters to their real-world mythological influences, but isn't the point of Behemoth that it's the land-based equivalent to the aquatic Leviathan?

Let's go into the rabbit hole. If we check the monster index helpfully contained in this book we see that there's also a Leviathan monster! This one very much the huge sea-creature that you'd expect. It originated in a completely different book to the Behemoth, so maybe the author wanted a Leviathan, but didn't want to use the name of a creature from another book.

However, both books were written by the same author! Now I don't know what to think. 

There's something strangely charming about the cobbled-together nature of this fantasy world. Bringing together creatures and places from disparate books and trying to make it all fit together. An ancient tradition. 


Yeah I wrote about them last time, but I guess every one of these books has a dino section.

My eye leaps to the phrase "the second Great Dinosaur Incursion happened half a millennia ago" which is a pretty great sentence to take away with us. 

Again, I'm confident this is in there because forty years ago there was some silly book about fighting dinosaurs, but I love that it sits in here alongside all the elves, demons, and sorcerers. Dinosaurs sometimes feel tacked-on to fantasy settings, but I enjoy that they have their own place in Titan's history.


I always liked these entries that have multiple variants of the same monster. It's another thing that made the world feel expansive. Like you might encounter some orcs but what type of orcs is something that really mattered.

Here we get five types of Ghoul, most of which are from different gamebooks to each other. 

Greater Ghoul, also known as the Huge Ghoul, is pretty big I guess. Where do you go from there?

Fuck yeah! Megaghoul! I love the idea of ghoul-creep, necromancers trapped in an arms race of ghoul creation. 

No Gigaghoul or Ultraghoul as far as I can see, so perhaps this is the pinnacle. 

But what happens when a ghoul dies its second-death?

Shadow ghoul! A pitiful ghost creature that doesn't really do much, but I like the idea of the ghost of an already undead creature. This could be taken further.

The steel ghoul is a ghoul with a bunch of metal strapped to it.

The stench ghoul is an extra-stinky ghoul.

Nothing especially interesting here. Let's get out of ghoul town and head toward the back of the book.


I'm so easily won over by the artwork in this book. Check this guy out.

The description paints a very clear picture of a singular gamebook encounter. The adventurer sees the Tremlow from behind, judging it as a hideous creature. If they keep looking it turns around, and it's even uglier from the front. The Tremlow shrieks pitifully and flees. 

We also get a section detailing how the creature will occasionally hunt, with a decision for the prey to make when they feel a tingling between their shoulder blades. If they turn to face the creature they must pass a Luck roll or else flee, horrified, and permanently lose 1 Skill as they spend the rest of their life glancing over their shoulder in fear of the creature. 

Look, I'm usually a fan of ugly, pathetic creatures, but this one just feels strange to me, like it hasn't fully made the transition from gamebook-encounter to a monster that truly exists in this world. 


These books are great fun to read through. I'm heavily biased by nostalgia, but think the art alone makes them worth checking out. 


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1 comment:

  1. Love the Nicholson alligator. It's disguised yet everything draws your eye _into_ it at the same time. And that's just what it wants!

    I'm kinda meh on infinite ghoul variations. I'd rather 6 different ghoul pack vibes or behaviours. Ghouls on the style of the Graveyard book are a _great_ encounter complexity up from skelo's/sombies