My friend Brian had something he called "the red box." It was a new game, something we'd heard about -- Dungeons & Dragons.
We agreed not to tell our parents. They wouldn't get it. Brian's dad wouldn't let him listen to Megadeth because they were a self-described speed metal, and obviously "speed" was a drug reference. "You kids think I fell off the turnip truck yesterday," he said. We had no idea what the fuck he was talking about, so we didn't listen to Megadeth or play Dungeons & Dragons when Brian's dad was home.
That first summer, Brian hit level 20 or 30. He conquered an entire kingdom, cleared out all 7 layers of Hell, and killed Satan with a sword made out of an ancient red dragon's skull.
I considered myself an excellent DM. I was eleven.
The tales we studied in school mirrored D&D and its otherworldly entities: Theseus decapitating the Minotaur, Beowulf wrenching off Grendel's arm, Sigurd cutting down the dragon Fafnir. I devoured every tale of myth and legend I could find, eager for additional material.
My appreciation for the game was magnified on the day that I first held the Monster Manual. Sure, I'd already figured out that D&D was a horror game -- after all, the adventures had titles like Tomb of Horrors and The Temple of Elemental Evil -- but when I opened the Monster Manual, I found confirmation: demons, devils, ghouls, zombies, vampires, and hell hounds. The stuff of horror novels and movies.
For the next ten years, I ran blood-drenched games full of scenes lifted from Stephen King and Clive Barker novels, or whatever slasher movies I watched on HBO at a friend's house. In my D&D games, an NPC had the lifespan of a mayfly, and usually wound up getting torn to pieces by displacer beasts or trolls. Every dungeon wall dripped with blood. If you swung and you hit, then limbs went flying and guts splattered all over the treasure chest full of gold. Obviously.
At some point, I decided to write my own monster manual. It only took me the better part of three decades.
Teratic Tome was released in 2013, and people said nice things about it. A gentleman named Shane wrote, "I can only presume that Chandler dreamed up these monsters while smoking weed mixed with the ashes of Ed Gein." That was damned kind of him.
Now, a year later, I'm looking to create a new kind of evil. But unlike last year's tribute to the orange-spined books of my youth, this new tome features none of the traditional monsters -- you'll find no dragons, orcs, or demons in the pages of this compendium.
Lusus Naturae includes 100 new creatures, each more nightmarish than the last. Most are from my own warped imagination, but I've also included a few monsters inspired by mythology. The legends in question are all from Inca and Mochica tales, because as I approach 40, I've become quite curious about my Peruvian ancestors.
This enchiridion of entities, Lusus Naturae, is currently Kickstarting. The project is funded, and we're pretty close to the stretch goal of full-color illustrations throughout.
Do you love monsters the way I do? Does your dungeon crawl (or city adventure, or random hexcrawl encounter) sometimes resemble a horror movie?
Do you ever read monster manuals just for fun?
Do you like it grimdark and twisted?
If so, then this might interest you.
-- Rafael Chandler