Posted on June 19, 2009 by Flames
“The Malleus Monstrorum: Creatures, Gods & Forbidden Knowledge” is a supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG by Chaosium Inc. The book includes entries on all of the creatures described in the works of H.P. Lovecraft as well as other authors who dabbled in the Cthulhu Mythos, such as Ramsey Campbell and Clark Ashton Smith. Also included are some of the critters created specifically for CoC adventures and supplements.
Overall the Monstrorum is an excellent book, not only for CoC players, but for any fan of Lovecraft or the Mythos. It is a great source of adventure ideas just in reading the creature descriptions and story excerpts. Fans of the source material will enjoy having so many bizarre creatures in one volume, while those new to the Mythos will find themselves looking up the source material to learn more about the Elder Gods and their servants.
The Monstrorum gives a small fiction excerpt at the beginning of each entry, then a more in-depth description of the creature and how they fit into the Mythos. Special attacks are described as well as unusual or unique abilities. Each entry also gives complete CoC stats.
The Mythos creatures are divided into a few main categories, grouping most of them as Servitor Races (those that directly serve the Cthulhu Mythos), Independent Races (those that are just bad on their own), Deities (which include the Great Old Ones and Outer Gods), and unique and mythical beings.
There also is a section on mundane animals, in case your investigator ever needs to wrestle a squirrel or step on a scorpion.
Several extra sections are included, such as a pronunciation guide while helps you correctly say “Ycnagnnisssz” (ee-kannig-NISZ) or “Yig” (YIG). There also is a section on describing the indescribable, creating your own horrid abomination and one on The Dreamlands.
The only area of disappointment for me in the Monstrorum was the section on more “traditional” supernatural menaces, like vampires, mummies and werewolves. In all honesty, this was the most boring section of the book. Each creature is presented in the most “classic” depiction, which we’ve seen hundreds of times before. I was excited to see a Cthulhu-twist on vampires and werewolves, but instead found them very flat and see no reason to ever have one of these critters in a CoC game when I have more than a hundred better critters to choose from.
The illustrations throughout are fantastic, and could easily act as player aids. All are presented as historical artifacts which depict the subtle and insidious influence of the Mythos on all aspects of humanity, from artwork on pottery to wood carvings to newspaper clippings to old-time traveling circus posters that hint at things obscene and wicked.
Another incredible part of the book are the journal entries of Sir Hansen Poplan. Scattered throughout the book are these excerpts from the works of an explorer who skirted the edge of the Mythos throughout his career, uncovering dark secrets and attempting to inform and warn future investigators. Again any of these journal entries could be used as player aides or the starting point of an investigation.
I have to give this book high marks, high enough in fact to say this is a necessity for any Call of Cthulhu game (simply for its reference and game aids) or any H.P.Lovecraft/Mythos fan.
Review by Michael Erb