Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Five Coolest Critters In The Dragonbane Bestiary

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Bestiaries, Monster Manuals, Codexes, whatever you want to call them they’re one of the coolest parts of any TTPRG system. Within these pages are new monsters and enemies for GM’s to use as a challenge for their players, but also frequently new playable races as well for truly adventurous stories. Plus, these books are often some of the best looks into the world of the game thanks to the snippets of folklore, culture, and history that is baked into the entries. The Dragonbane Bestiary, Free League‘s first big splatbook for their Dragonbane system, is a great example of how a book like this can be more than just an encyclopedia of monsters.

Unlike something like the D&D Monster Manual, the Dragonbane Bestiary is almost entirely written as if it is field notes by a researcher. There’s plenty of objective info boxes and statblocks, but the flavor of each entry is written from a single perspective. This gives you a great window into how each monster or people fit into the greater world and particularly how they exist within the world’s folklore and myth. Pretty much every single critter in here has at least one tall tale attached to it. The book also includes a random encounter for every single creature as well as adventure seeds for some of the most exciting and powerful ones, making it a great tool for Dragonbane GM’s. But the focus, of course, is the beasts themselves. As such, I wanted to spotlight my favorite new additions to the world of Dragonbane, the ones that stuck out thanks to their unique takes on folklore or just for their sheer originality as TTRPG enemies.

Frog People

I’m always a sucker for “little guy” races and Dragonbane is not short on them, especially in their different beast peoples included in the game, like these Frog People, the Cat People, and the swamp-dwelling Lizard People. All three are playable, but I think the Frog People are my favorite since they are a great little encapsulation of what a frog person would be like: secluded, skittish, and relatively quiet. Frog People in Dragonbane only communicate in signs, blinks, and croaks. I also love their (alleged) origin, where they came from a version of the Frog Prince fairy tale in which a prince was cursed to look like a frog before he and his lover abscond into the marshes and are never seen again. Thus begets the Frog People.

Karkion 

Dragonbane draws heavily on the same wells of folklore and myth that D&D and other classic fantasy TTRPG’s do, and you’ll find all the standard kitchen sink fantasy monsters in here, some tweaked more than others. But the Karkion, as far as I can tell, is something totally original to Dragonbane and its predecessor Drakar och Demoner. These strange winged catfolk are not regular monsters but are instead more similar to a D&D Celestial, being powerful demon hunters from another realm. Or, since the setting traffics heavily in legend and lore, they’re just some weird scholars who don’t like demons for whatever reason. Either way they’re a pretty cool “good” NPC for GM’s to use as well as a nifty challenge for Player Characters.

Beetlekin

The Insectoids of Dragonbane are maybe the most novel group of monsters in the Bestiary, since it’s rare to see sentient bugs in any tabletop setting beyond the Formians and similar hive dwellers. There are ant-people in this game, and legends in-game say that they, the Beetle Kin, and the Spider Kin (more on them later) might actually be refugees from another dimension. Beetle Kin are interesting to me as they’re fully sentient denizens of the underground (frequently fighting with Dwarves) who also find work as mercenaries and bodyguards thanks to their size, hard shells, and ability to spit acid. Despite being a bit scary to look at, they’re actually not big on fighting and will run if confronted.

Will-o’-the-Wisp

Dragonbane‘s folklore pulls are some of my favorites, but I think the undead Will-o’-the-wisp is emblematic of their approach to classic monsters. Like the traditional Wisp from folklore, these undead use a flame to try to lead people off their path. Unlike many other depictions of the Wisp, which make them at best helpful guides and at worst mischievous tricksters, the Dragonbane version is distinctly malevolent. They WANT you to be scared, and even better if they can get you to fall into a sinkhole or drown in the swamp. They’ve also gained some nifty powers like a ghostly wail, mind control, and even the ability to inflict nightmares on you.

Blood Demon

The demons of Dragonbane are all a bit different from what you’ll find in other games, being a lot less organized and a lot more animalistic than you’d expect. The Blood Demon stuck out to me as a cool mix of bat and demonic goblin, with not just a thirst for blood but the ability to make the blood of others boil. So much is it blood focused that its heart is audible from a distance. Essentially if you want a vampiric big bad, this is your guy.

You can grab the Dragonbane Bestiary from the Free League shop, Amazon, or your FLGS for around $40.00. Digital versions are also available through DriveThruRPG at an MSRP of $19.99.

Images via Free League Publishing

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