If I have said it once I have said it a hundred times. I LOVE Monster books. Any and all monster books. I even grab monster books for games I don't play. So when Eric Bloat they head monster hunter at Bloat Games asked if I would be interested in looking over his new monster book (Kickstarting today) for his FANTASTIC Dark Places & Demogorgons I screamed HELL YES at my computer.
Now I promise to be fair here but a couple of words of full disclaimer. First I was sent this book as part of an agreement for a review. That is no big, I get a lot of books this way and I always try to be fair. Secondly. Well, look above. I am predisposed to like Monster books and I already love DP&P and cryptids are a TON of fun. So please keep all this in mind.
Dark Places & Demogorgons: Cryptid Manual is a digest-sized book weighing in at 90 or so pages. Some bits look like redacted Governmental documents and blood splattered hunter's notebooks. It's actually pretty cool looking if not 100% original (see Chill, Supernatural and Conspiracy X). That being said though it is also 100% EXPECTED. That's HOW I want my 80s monster hunting guide to look like.
The interior and the cover features two-color art (blacks and reds) on glossy pages. Now the gloss might just be my pre-copy version, or not. In any case the color, the art, and the layout are all a leap ahead in terms of style and look than all the previous DP&D books. If this is the future of their books then the future looks good.
A little over 50 monsters fill this book. They use the same stat block as DP&D so that also means they are roughly compatible with Swords & Wizardry (I'd say about 99%) and most other OSR-flavored games. Given the size of the book it fits in nicely with my Swords & Wizardry Whitebox games, so I have another monster book now for that! Each monster gets a page. Some exceptions occur with the Bigfoots and the E.T.s, but still, it's a good bit for each one.
There are also templates in the back of the book that work like the monster templates from 3.x. So you can apply the Vampire, Werewolf or my favorite Radioactive, template (among others) to any monster. Radioactive Bigfoots? Hell yes! There is also a table of enhancements and how they change your monster. So now it's Agile Radioactive Bigfoots!
There are some conditions ported over from 3.x (more or less) but very, very useful and I am happy to see them here.
Ok what are some of my favorites? There is the Almasti, which I also used in Ghosts of Albion. They have a special place in my heart. I'll likely include Almasti Shamen in my DP&D games like I did with Ghosts. Old faves like the Bunyip and Chupacabra. Holy crap there is a Crocoduck!
I have to admit I nearly shot coffee out of my nose when I first saw that. Worth the price of the book alone in my mind. Flatwoods Monster, all the various extraterrestrials (Nordics, Reptilians, LGMs, Greys), Hellhounds, the Hodag! (love those things!), Jersey Devils, Skin Walkers, and the Wendigo. So plenty really and many more. The monsters mostly come from modern cyptids, but there some classics from myths and local monsters.
This book is great really. While I may have been pre-disposed to like it, it really delivered and then some with me. The art is great and fun. The layout top notch and the monsters are just too much fun.
While reading it I could not help but think how well this would also work with White Star or other White Box derived game. So even if you don't play DP&D (and you should really, it's just too much fun) you can still get a lot of enjoyment out of this book. For example the Cryptid Manual is 90% compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box. There is not a lot of overlap in monsters, so this makes the CM a perfect monster book for S&WWB players. Also, there are a lot of "new" monsters in S&W for the DP&D player/GM. Who's to say that an alien life form could resemble an orc or a wyvern.
In fact, this is true for nearly every clone. The clone game provides monsters for DP&P and the Cryptid Manual provides new monsters for your clone of choice. You just need to justify why they are there.
Worth picking up.