Gargoyles are, at least for me, one of those creatures whose monstrous existence has completely usurped its mundane origins. By which I mean, when I hear the word “gargoyle” I immediately think “monster that looks like a statue” rather than “statue that looks like a monster.” As such, as a player I’m quite ready and willing to smash any statue that’s carved into a humanoid shape – even if it’s not a gargoyle, it could easily be something else.
Still, it’s important to remember that in-game, most characters won’t think like that. To them, a gargoyle is just a fearsome statue. Its status as a monster is something else altogether – and it’s that something else that’s the purview of Tricky Owlbear’s Behind the Monsters: Gargoyle.
As with all aspects of the Behind the Monsters series, the primary part of the book is an in-game explanation of the monster’s origin. In this case, gargoyles were created by a powerful sorcerer-king who was looking to create ageless guardians for his realm. Inspired by a statue, he experimented on criminals – apropos, considering they once preyed on society – and eventually created a powerful artifact of Elemental Earth that turned people into gargoyles. The rest, as they say, is history.
Personally, I’m ambivalent towards this story because my instinct is to shy away from specific origin stories for aspects of a fantasy world. Questions of divine/magical creation versus evolution aside, such worlds don’t tend to have the greatest historical documents, and oftentimes something far enough in the past is just lost forever, even with divinations. Hence, for me, having such a specific tale runs against the grain. That said, gargoyles aren’t quite natural creatures (being monstrous humanoids with the earth subtype) so I can see them as created beings.
The book has several secrets about gargoyles following, including two new gargoyle variants. One is a neutral breed of gargoyle, while the other is a good type. Personally, I was hoping for some sort of new gargoyle that corresponded to the kind from the Disney cartoon, but I can understand that turning into stone during the day would be something of a deal-breaker…wouldn’t it (vampires do just fine)?
The book closes out with something new: a sample creature lair. This is a small extra on the book’s part, but I quite enjoyed it, as it serves as an easily-inserted encounter, adding a practicality to the book that was missing before. While the lair is fairly simple, being a large open space with three areas covered in more detail, enough is given to make it worthwhile, such as the attendant traps and treasure to be found. I truly hope Tricky Owlbear adds more of these to their Behind the Monsters series.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. While the backstory wasn’t for me, I can respect what it does, and why some characters would want it to help flesh out their world. Moreover, the new gargoyle secrets and variant breeds are nice touches to make gargoyles more unique as creatures. Best of all though is the new lair, which really makes this product useful to GM’s who want something they can directly add to their game as-is.
[5 of 5 Stars!]