Monsters of the City: Sin’s & Virtues by Andrew Cawood (@cawoodpublish)
I came upon the ‘Monsters of’ series with Monster of the Underground (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/290974/Monsters-of-the-Underworld?affiliate_id=1507682), which I relished reviewing and got me hooked on the series, after first getting to grips with Cawood’s work through his Treasure Hunts (https://www.dmsguild.com/product/287659/Treasured-Finds?affiliate_id=1507682), which I remember, get this, while waiting in line at the post office – like actually outside of the house with people (it’s been a long, long time grounded for many of us in the at risk category)... What am I talking about? How I never go into town, I mean city anymore – now we’re back in business! Monsters of the City (MotC) continues this wonderfully, original and inspiring series full of wonderful expansions of the familiar, the finest picks from myth and folklore and swathes original oddities with all new for monsters us to want to hide in our homes or run away to the country, because there are monsters in them there city! So when I saw the Kickstarter go up I couldn’t have backed it more quickly or been more excited to get my paws on this!
The Introduction opens on discussion of the City, these “worlds unto themselves” in adventures with an impressive amount of evocative portrayals of polis in one paragraph.
Game Master Advice
An efficient breakdown of the different kinds of questions and situations DMs may face running a city, from purchasing a meat pie, mercenary or mansion to considering the local history and lighting situation in the avenues and alleyways, as well as some great Traditional Population sizes of small, medium and large conurbations. Did you know, “a square mile of settled land will support about 200 inhabitants”? That’s a fascinating factet.
Sins & Virtues
A really cool concept Cawood has included in MotC are the personified legendary sins and virtues included in complimentary pairs at the beginning of each district section with the advice of using them as “powerful beings that influence the district through their minions”, having “a pair vying for control”, or running “a megacity that includes all of the sins and virtues.” However they are used, they are an awesome addition and inspiring NPCs to use in your games.
The Alliance of the Griffon
Gemma Goldheart is a truth teller and member of the Alliance of the Griffon, a faction that unites characters from the previous Monsters of Manual. She is used as an example of how various elements can be pulled together to flesh out a character, including the Cleric Domain of Truth that can be found at the end of this supplement, along with the Paladin of the Heart.
City Adventure Hooks
A whopping 40 adventure hooks are included from “the Alliance of the Griffon sends your party on a mission with the truth teller Gemma Goldheart” to the umbral urban “an unnatural darkness descends on the entire city” provide all manner of inspiration and jumping off points.
Monsters of the City is divided into seven districts from Castle District to the Sewer District, with the likely creatures and denizens, as well as the legendary sin and virtue found therein. Each district comes with relevant Themes, Authority, Factions, Landmarks, Stores, Inns and Taverns, Services and d20 random encounters.
This is the seat of power for most cities, home Pride, the “spiderlike” fiendish princess with devilish needles, and Humility, the humble, dishevelled celestial, as well as the unholy Anti-Paladin and Fallen King, along with all manner of courtly folk from Ambassadors of the classic fantasy origins, Friendly Ghosts and Armored Griffons, to the singular annoyingly foppish Royal Pain and the cold, calculating Sleepless Governess.
This is where the other half live, beside Gluttony, the oozing, multi-headed, cube birthing, demon, and the Celestially chilled, water-loving, Temperance, along with the flying food of Animated Feast, the gorgeous horseous, Daydream and the handsome hidden horror of the Rakshasa Lord, as well as among others, the glorious wordplay creations of the Duck of Many Things and Rich Lich.
This is where the pious pout and party, crashed by the apoplectic demon-rider, Wrath, and Patience always waiting in the wings. There is a veritable rogues and heroes gallery here, including the Cynical Sage of Old Age, wrathful Dracorians, Lost Souls channeling the Lost Boys, the outraged mob, sinister Red Robe and serene Saint.
The eclectic, hectic hub of commerce presided over by the inscrutable devil, Greed, on his piles of gold, and bolstered by the joyous celestial, Charity. In the crowd you can pick out the demonic Beserk Butcher, the shameless Charlatan, the foul fey Death Scribe, the deluded ego of the Hollow Man,the terrifying killer in the kitchen, the Pieman, among others, and above them, watching the strange, stretched, shadow sentinels Stalker Walkers.
The docks are a busy district filled with the sights, sounds and, especially smells of the catch of the day and less savoury denizens. These poor, unfortunate souls have the intoxicating effects of Lust and the patient respect of Chastity. The docks are filled with all-manner of strange figures, from the famous pirate, Gray Beard, the tentaclular, aquarian crimelord, the Codfather, the schmoozing Handsome Devil, the enchanting gang-leader, Mesmerella, the famed adventurer and seeming amalgamation of David Bowie and The Shadow/ Darkwing Duck (but “Let’s get serious”, quite the opposite), Sirius Moonlight, and the bizarre conjoined undead, twins and needles with needles shooting out of one body and a bloody glaive the hands of the other.
“The Slum District is the poorest and the most populous area of the city. The majority of the peasants, the bulk of the population, live here” alongside the masked and demonically disturbing Envy, and the empathic wanderer, Kindness. Among the masses living in this district, the Anxious Apprentices, with their wild Spellcasting Chaos that could cause their spells to work backwards, turn them into a frog, or amongst others cause “the closest creature changes gender for a week”, which is somewhat problematic and something you would need to have an a firm understanding of your group and implementation of safety tools to even consider (might be best to re-roll this result), the terrifying fey Cradle Snatcher ripped from the pages of the darkest faerie tales, The Critic who holds a very real mirror to an aspect of myself, “a fraud whose outgoing personality hides [their] true self...an un-happy person caught up in the lives of others”, the Fagan-esque Lord of the Slums and our Truth Teller from the introduction, “vessels of wisdom” who teeter on the brink of being “profoundly present and genuine” and “taken over by ego”.
The Slum District also houses the largest number of ‘traditional’ fantasy creatures with Goblin and Werewolf Spies, Satyr Brutes, among others.
“The Sewer District is the most overlooked of any of the districts. The sewer system, catacombs, and other labyrinthian spaces make up the underground area”, home to the sorrowful sad hag that is Sloth and the-hardworking, toned Diligence with his utility belt of mediaeval tools. Other fellows of the flues are the enigmatic emperor, Cult Leader, the friend to rats, Druid of the Undercity, my personal second favourite creature and most loved work of wordplay, the Fowlbear (Press F to pay respects), the slacker, slothful sorcerer, Lothar the Lethargic, my actual most favourite creature, Quog, a society of a fungal humanoids who spit spores and look unbelievably adorable, almost like a combination of the fungi worm and madcap from Monsters of the Underworld, the “Underworld Boss”, the longsword waving, rat summoning Rat King, and the truly terrifying antithesis of the Easter Bunny, the Shadow Rabbit!
A sturdy city map clearly showing all the districts, free of labels, is provided to help make your own city.
The monsters are listed by challenge rating and again by creature type for ease of reference.
Player Character Subclasses
Cleric Domain of Truth
“This cleric is born a truth teller. They are innately present and are wiser than most humanoids. High priests search the land for these blessed beings and help guide them along their challenging path. These clerics are destined to speak the truth and change the world.”
These Clerics open themselves up to the world and see more and are wiser for it, allowing them greater awareness of the world around them, keener insights which they lend others and ultimately truesight.
Paladin Order of the Heart
“This paladin has a deep connection to their heart and the collective heart in the multiverse. Everything they do comes from a place of love. These paladins are romantics, seeing beauty in everything. They feel their emotions intensely and act to make the world a better place.”
These Paladins open their hearts to love, lending them greater awareness of evil and alignment, as they grow their crits also heal their companions and a loyal pegasus becomes their steed. Ultimately, those they call friend who fall before them have no fear of untimely death.
I...love these subclasses and that’s the...truth! But seriously, these add a lot of flavour and truly reward the pure of heart and mind.
City Events Tables
Two d100 tables or city events are provided with all manner of events to spice up or inspire your games, from a “huge dragon flies by” to “a portal opens up”, to an “earthquake” or “tornado”.
City Encounters and Location Tables
A d100 table of creature/s from this book you might encounter is provided, as well a d100 city locations table from an “underground temple” to a “Wizard’s tower”.
From Baldur’s Gate to Evernight, Waterdeep to Akros, Sharn or any other urban environment and beyond, Monsters of the City has an absolutely phenomenal range of creatures, characters, districts, subclasses, seeds and locations that will flesh out and bring wherever your players are to life, as well as making up a colossal city full of flavour ready for you to put your own mark on and drop into your games!
A fabulous variety of over 100 creatures and denizens, as well as the individually inspiring characters and the big goodies and baddies to populate, inspire and add to your arsenal of intriguing challenges to set. Before your players!
Cawood’s writing and concepts continue to be truly inspired and Hanson’s art is spectacular as always, and with the introduction of McCaplin’s art direction and graphic design, the whole package comes together in a seriously splendid, aesthetically awesome and gosh-darn gorgeous supplement. This is by leagues the most professional and pleasing Monsters of Manual yet and I truly hope to see more of the Terrific Trio™!
I do feel the need to mention that gender roles, particularly with the Sins and Virtues, but also in a number of places throughout the supplement seem to conform to expectations, opposed to reality. I appreciate that these personifications, as inspired and tweaked as they are, are based on the archetypes of the original sins and virtues, but I do feel that in this day and age it would be better to move away from gendering such large and oppressive concepts, especially with those that reinforce stereotypes and misconceptions of femmes. This is something seek across the board with TTRPGs and D&D, shown most recently with Tasha of the Hideous Laughter, Cauldron of Everything and young girl’s sweet concept turned cruel, over-sexualised witch by Gygax, so this is not just a problem of this supplement, but the industry as a whole so I feel it is important for me to make my observations here, despite my otherwise thorough enjoyment of the supplement as a whole. A similar issue is also seen in the unfortunately named aquarian, Fishmongrel, whose name comes from the tongue-in-cheek wordplay seen throughout the supplement, combining fishmonger and mongrel, which does come with racial baggage when applied to a sapient humanoid/ amphibioid. Though, again, I am certainly not casting aspersions at Cawood and the playful use of language in this supplement, this is something we all need to be more aware of, especially when this character can bring to mind the decidedly racist Deep Ones of H. P Lovecraft’s Innsmouth.
On the whole I absolutely love this supplement thay absolutely bursts with flavour, inspiration and a whole toolkit of city splendours, urban delights and the darker underbelly.
I can never get enough of the Monsters of Manuals and I cannot wait to see what Cawood and the Terrific Trio™ do next!
Designer/Editor/Project Manager: Andrew Cawood (@cawoodpublish)
Illustrator: Travis Hanson (@TravsTheBean)
Art Director/Graphic Designer: Gordon McAlpin (@GMcAlpin)
Special Thanks to: Anders Aagaard, Chris Anderson, Sarah Bagshaw, Tim Broekhuizen, Toby B., Sarah Cheney, Leroy Dullemond, Justin DuPont, Oskar Eggertsson, Jeremy Esch, Nikki Ewart, Travis Fauber, William Hart, Keith Healey, Lucas Henderson, Jacky Leung, Sarah Mair, Susan Mair, Tim Mcdonald, Michael Mordor, Mittin, Daniel Niehsner, Montana Rosalle, Curse of Sebs, Frances Sinclair, Andrew Strobl, GM Tim, Doug Vehovec, Philip Vlummens, and Hanno Ziegler
About the Creators
Andrew Cawood has written Monsters of Feyland, Monsters of the Underworld, The World of Myrr, and many other RPG books. Andrew lives with his wife and daughter in Vancouver, Canada.
Travis Hanson is an Eisner-nominated illustrator and the creator of the RPG comic Life of the Party, The Bean, and many other games and books.
Gordon McAlpin is a Filipino-American book designer, illustrator, and animator based in Somerville, MA. He wrote and illustrated the comic strip Multiplex from 2005 to 2017, after which he launched the award-winning animated web series Multiplex 10.
My Affiliate Link: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/327314/Monsters-of-the-City?affiliate_id=1507682