Sunday, March 10, 2019

Bestiary of the Fabled Occident

A long time ago I started to put together a bestiary. I've pursued various other projects in the time since but I still have a fair bit of material I'd like to publish and a reasonably coherent design philosophy. I'm honing an approach to the layout and information design. None of these three mockups are finalised.

For various strange  reasons I am establishing intense focus on the Mantyger family of heraldic grotesques: I am mesmerised by themes and variations within themes. The approach of just doing the mantygers does not illuminate the full range of procedural elements that could be utilised in this kind of bestiary but it does at least allude to the fact of their being a range of options that could be utilised.

Laying things out in Photoshop is very tedious. I will be moving onto Indesign to preserve my sanity.

Have a look at the layouts and be as excoriating in critique as possible. I have deliberately overdone things so as to infuriate design boffins into offering free advice.

Basic idea:

- Folkloric monster manual that draws from a variety of historical sources
- 10-word descriptions (I can't remember why I do this but I have been doing it for many years)
- Procedural generation to include as much intriguing miscellany as I can  get away with.
-Double page spread for most monsters, more condensed for less important

Open in new tab or you can't see anything

The Lampago and the Satyral are entirely without historical information, being nothing more that fanciful heraldic charges


  1. Good lord, Tom. You're just too good!

  2. My wallet is ready to support this endeavor.

    1. Hells to the yes, I agree, Dan! Tom Fitzgerald- I like what you do!

  3. I just discovered this awesome blog. Besides this Bestiary of the Fabled Occident, what other coolness are you working on?

    1. Many years worth of evaporated projects litter my hard drive and my house. I'll tally these up one day soon.

  4. This looks spectacular. If you want any critique, I'd decrease the letter spacing a bit. As well as potentially put the name of the monster within the text box instead of above it, as that does give the top margin a bit of a cramped feeling, but I'm less sure of this. It depends on how it would look.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I see what you mean.

  5. Like the content. I do find it overall a bit hard to read thought. The artistic looking font for the main title name of the monster hard is, for me, quite hard to read easily. The reddish letters against the parchment are also hard to read. I think you perhaps need paler parchment and darker red or something to increase the contrast. My eyes these days seem to be more picky about what they like or can read without giving me eyestrain. If this is available as a pdf with a more print/read friendly option I’d definitely be interested.

  6. Ten word description, procedural generation of miscellany, and fits on 2 pages? This is already great. The closest other example I could think of would be the Welcome to Umerica: Twisted Menagerie Manual, which I also love.

    But lets give a shout-out to two ideas you didn't mention in your post. First, number appearing determines activity - so one roll of the dice determines two facts! Second, you pull the same trick again - all that procedurally generated miscellany? Those rolls are also determining the hp total from each Hit Dice. So rolling up its hp, which you have to do anyway, generates everything else you need to know about the beast. Brill!

    1. I have been playing with the idea for a while . Thanks for the feedback.

  7. The ten-word descriptions are great and determining spoor by rolling HD is BRILLIANT - every dice determining something is probably a little too much work for me, but I can absolutely see myself generating spoor based on HP. The more powerful it is the more outrageous the spoor. I love it.
    Also the illustrations are so beautiful <3

    1. Thanks for the feedback. There's easier ways of using astragalomantic ontogeny. It can be as simple as having three different options for different hitpoint ranges. E.g hp 7-21 Option one, hp 22-35 option two, hp 36+ option 3.

      Lower HD creatures are easier. Higher HD creatures can start to get ridiculous. One way I thought about doing the Martikhoras is grouping together trait for individuals. In the original form it was all in a single table so you could roll one dice to discover you've got Ardargushnasp the Recalescent and then just read across to see his traits. A full bestiary of 200 beasts would allow for a variety of approaches.

  8. 1. Nice art!
    2. Fancy lettering is a bit unreadable in places. Perhaps you can repeat the name in the top or bottom margin of the facing page, not only making it readable, but allowing readers to flip through pages quickly to find the monster they are looking for?
    3. I assume you roll all hit dice at once and read the results left to right for the random tables?
    4. Numbering and arrangement of these table is a little confusing. I would recommend either arrange the tables in rows (Delirium and Vulnerability would be at the top of the second page for the Satyral, in other words) or increasing the gutter between the columns and even adding a thin vertical rule to help emphasize where to look for the next table.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I do love that typeface but it can be hard to read so your advice on that will be implemented immediately .

      As for how to generate the options, I think that clear guidelines for generating stuff is a must. I'll incorporate that as well.

  9. I like the fancy title font, looks medieval. Talysman's notion to have the name repeated in a corner for flipping pages is good. I love the plunder categories. I want to read those treasure tables!

  10. Echoing others, I was hesitant about the title font at first, but it's kinda like a "magic-eye" picture - look at it long enough and it comes into focus. Also, having a parenthetical for alternate names gives some helpful context.

    I would gladly buy the whole "Fabled Occident" series (bestiary, grimoire, whatever the antique name for players' handbook is...)

  11. Layout - I find it hard to read the title in at least one of these - option is maybe add the title to the list of names to the right of it. Increase the size and density of that list, possibly making it a multi-line in the same place instead of one line.

    There is available real estate at the top of the left sided page, if using it doesn't bother your sense of aesthetics. Some element of the description could be moved up there, either the descriptive line just above the image of the monster, the line 'Hit Dice Rolls Determine various things, or if you want to be be super radical, a two-column stat block. Either way, frees up space to make the monster image slightly bigger.


    Others have spoke about the red text, it does make it slighly harder to read but does mesh correctly with your aesthetic. Maybe a shade darker? On the table titles at least. Table titles could be bigger and more dominant w less white space around them. Less pretty but a lot less eye searching around the page if they just stamp out at you and claim the table under them.


    Don't know if you want to include a Glossary in the back but might be a neat idea or educational aid. Lot of extra work but would be good to inform the youth.


    For Marnkhoras, Agenda, 7 - could change to finish eating the scions of a particular noble house. If he already ate them thats less of an Agenda.

    Don't know if you want to arrange the tables in the order in which the information is (probably) going to be encountered in-game.

    For Martikhoras (I acan't read the title text easily), should probaby be;

    Spoor, Lair, Oddity, Tail, Name, Agenda, Relic

    (Maybe swap relic and agenda)

    For Lampago; Spoor, Lair, Aspeacts, Atrocity, Servitor, Motive

    For Satyral; Spoor, Special, Horns, Delerium, Vulnerability, Legendary

    (Method could be, for *encountering* the creaturem roll its hit die and record from first to last, but to *integrate* a creature into the adventure, read from last to first, so you begin with what it wants, then end up with its spoor.)


    Your illustrations are beautiful and I don't want to see them broken up, but I also want to see them huge, not sure what to do about that.

    I want the monster pictures fucking massive, even stretching across the centre line a bit if necessary, or even just crossing it in full. Still have no good ideas about what to do about it.

  12. Thanks everyone (except for Patrick, who I do utterly scorn for the greatest of dastards).

    There are many improvements that can be made and I'm very grateful to everyone who offered their opinion. The idea of there being multiple ways of using the same format occurred to me and deserves significant unpacking. I have much to think about.

  13. I offer no direction, only heap praise.
    Especially the visage of the Marnkhoras

    1. Dash it all, Scrap . It says Martikhoras, which is man-eater in Persian and the origin of manticore. Patrick read it that way too. Inadvertently you hammered the final nail in the coffin of that illwguble typeface.

  14. I love it! Utterly brilliant. Love the layout, adore the writing. Terrific creatures, these three, too. Already want to put them somewhere in my sandbox. JUST WANT MORE. Man it's good!

  15. I am so glad i found this post.

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