Miscreated Creatures

Coractus by Heather GwinnMiscreated Creatures is an upcoming book of monsters written by Nicholas LS Whelan of Papers & Pencils, with illustrations from Catherine Bradley, Ronnie Whelan,  Heather Gwinn, and others. Working together, our goal is to produce an array of terrifying and ferocious beasts to populate your dungeons.

The book will contain monsters which are more than merely unique. Our goal is to construct creatures which present players with new problems, and force them to think in different ways. No monster in this book can be approached with a simple “hit it until its dead” attitude. But, with the application of clever tactics, most could potentially be defeated even by low level adventurers.

Once completed, the book will be compatible with the Lamentations of the Flame Princess role playing game, as well as other retroclones spawned from the original Dungeons and Dragons game.

Project Goals

  • End the project with between 290 and 320 monsters.
  • To be completed preferably before January 2015.
  • No GM should be able to open this book to any page and ever think “Pft, I could have come up with that in 2 minutes!” Every monster should be unique and exciting. Not just because they look cool or have a cool backstory, but because they challenge the players in creative ways.
  • When finished, the product should be of high enough quality that I am comfortable asking people to give me money for it. Because I plan to ask you to give me money for it.

Update (February 2, 2016)
Only just today did it occur to me that this page is over a year out of date. So what happened with this project?

Well, it’s certainly not abandoned. But there have been setbacks. As it turns out, writing a book is difficult. I’m super glad I didn’t do anything stupid like run a Kickstarter campaign before the writing was finished. That would have been awkward. For the curious, here are some of the major failings that prevented the project from getting done on time:

  • It got too special to me. I have spent a lot of time artificially bogging myself down by obsessing over making everything perfect. I should have known better than to do that. Perfectionism is productivity poison.
  • 2015 was a really, really bad year for me. I know this is a bullshit excuse. It’s unprofessional, claiming that your personal life prevented you from getting your work done. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that in 2015 I allowed my personal life to get in the way of my work. Not cool, me.
  • I wasted massive amounts of effort. The second draft of the book was meant to be near-final. But just as I was wrapping up that second draft, it began to dawn on me that what I had created sucked. I’d focused so much of my attention on attempting to write mechanically interesting monsters, that I’d failed to create monsters that were actually interesting. Originally my plan called for the 3rd draft to be a sort of “go through and make sure everything is consistent” affair. Instead, the 3rd draft has become a complete rewrite of every monster. The results have been exponentially improved, but it has taken time.

So where are things right now? There are 330 monsters with fully written second drafts. Now, the second drafts do suck, but all of the really difficult creative work is already done in them. 66 of those 330 monsters have been updated to the 3rd draft.

The art situation is less promising. There are currently 24 completed pieces of art for the book. They’re all phenomenal pieces, but as it stands it looks like there will be a significant gap between when the writing is completed, and when the art is completed. The simple fact of the matter is that this is my passion project. It is a black hole of time, money, and effort. Even if it succeeds beyond my wildest dreams, no one is going to see worthwhile returns on it. All of the art completed for the book so far has been charity, and I’m immensely lucky to have gotten the high quality pieces I’ve got. I mean…do you fuckin’ see that eye monster at the top of this page? That’s legitimately one of the best pieces of monster art I think I’ve ever seen.

All of that brings us to the real question. What’s the future of Miscreated Creatures?

Current Goals

  • Complete all writing for the project by the end of 2016. At present, this seems like an extremely achievable goal. Even my laziest writing schedules would have me finishing the work long before this point.
  • Begin a savings account to hire artists. I am fortunate to be friends with a number of remarkable artists. Unfortunately, artists need to eat. Hopefully they don’t need to eat very much, because I’m poor. But one way or another, I needs to start working on an art budget if this project is ever going to see fruition.
  • Investigate avenues of publishing. There are a couple publishers I’ve considered approaching with the manuscript, though, given what an odd beast it is, I am assuming that the book will need to be self published. In that event I might pursue kickstarter as the most effective way to pay for artists, layout, and printing costs. A Print on Demand option is also on the table, but that’s a last resort I think. I’ve put way too much of my soul into this not to get a proper print run out of it.
  • Speaking of, eventually I’m going to need to hire a layout person. I can manage layouts well enough by myself for a 20 page module. But the very idea of managing a book of this size, along with all the added complexities of laying it out for a print run…it makes my eyes bleed.

So that’s where Miscreated Creatures currently stands. Rest assured the book will get done. Way too much of my self worth is wrapped up in this project at this point for me to give up on it.

7 thoughts on “Miscreated Creatures”

  1. This is an excellent idea! After playing D&D (and now Pathfinder) for so many years my core group and I got incredibly bored with the same monsters and as a DM there’s nothing worse than pulling out the final hurtle and the response you get is: “Oh, another red dragon, haven’t seen that before.” “oooooo, a stone giant, been a couple of months since you dragged that old bastard out.”
    Not to mention it’s incredibly difficult for seasoned players not to use knowledge of the monsters in any way. Blocking out the Meta is almost impossible, and makes it so much less fun. So we would create our own monsters. I once made a construct ‘Roller Shark’, he was mounted on 2 big wheels and 2 small wheels in the back, had side fins that mounted clubs and could fire rockets and his eyes shot laser beams, and of course a bite attack. Creation of a demented Gnome Techsmith.
    Obviously I’ve digressed, I’d love to contribute, or help in anyway, and would definitely be interested in purchasing a finished copy. I can’t draw worth a damn, but I’d be happy to give you some of the past monsters I’ve got stashed in my monster closet.

    1. Great to know you’re excited about the project! I’ve recently started writing as a full-time occupation, and the book is making much better progress now than it was before.

      I’m afraid I can’t really take any monster ideas for the project, but I do appreciate your offer.

  2. I certainly hope your project is comming along! I have been looking forward to it for sometime now.
    Good luck and keep up the good work.

  3. Interesting project! I would like to share something that may help with the “art situation”:
    http://cloister.deviantart.com/gallery/

    The art is pretty good, and there’s about a hundred potentially interesting creatures there. Summarily, his terms for commercial use are:
    {Begin summary}
    You may use 1 to 50 of the Cloister Catalogue Creatures in your product in return for royalties on the revenue/turnover from that product:
    1-2 Creatures – 1% royalty
    3-5 Creatures – 2% royalty
    6-10 Creatures – 3% royalty
    11-15 Creatures – 5% royalty
    16-25 Creatures – 10% royalty
    26-50 Creatures – 25% royalty
    {End summary}

    It may be something worth considering.

    1. Thanks for the link! However, all of my 300+ monsters already have specific designs and concept art attached to them. Further, the glossy, polished style of Cloister’s digital art would clash with the aesthetic of the book. The art in the book is mostly traditional media, and entirely amateur.

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