Seeing Monday’s interview with Rob Heinsoo, the architect of the new Fourth Edition of D&D, I got an old thrill. I never played 3rd edition—I moved around too much for the last ten years to find a group to play with. But Dungeons and Dragons is embedded into my brain, my way of thinking—for instance, I’ve just finished reading Neil Gaiman’s forthcoming The Graveyard Book, and immediately I saw the possibilities of playing whole campaigns in that world. It’s a way of absorbing and making your own some of the awesome things we read, especially the creations of incredible world-building authors.
And from the interview, it looks like it will be easier than ever to adapt the ideas of folk tales, myth, and fiction to this new edition. I thought I’d write a little about two books on my shelves, two amazing bestiaries, and then toss it out to everybody out there.
First, the classic Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges is an amazing find. I love it just for the depth of Borges’ research (I mean, he includes the Simourgh, a mythical bird from the classic 12th century Persian mystical poem The Conference of the Birds by Farid ud-Din Attar) and for the sense of whimsy he has about these creatures, what they are, and their ultimate significance. In other words, the books gets you thinking about the monsters and beasts in ways that stretch and tantalize your imagination.
The other bestiary I love is the recently published Beasts! edited by Jacob Covey and published by Fantagraphics. Each entry has a small paragraph of mythology or folklore followed by a full page painting or illustration by some of today’s most exciting cartoonists, illustrators, and graphic artists. We’re talking Art Chantry, Brian Ralph, Tim Biskup, Colleen Coover, Mat Brinkman—artists who’ve done some of the coolest comics, rock posters, grafitti, and graphics around today. The first edition sold out, but the paperback will be available in October, about the same time as the second volume comes out.
So, what’s your favorite catalog of strange creatures and mythical things?