Thursday, March 17, 2011

Necromancer Games Tome of Horrors (part 1)

Probably a lot of people already know that Necromancer Games is going to be releasing a Swords & Wizardry Tome of Horrors. Some of the information about it is scattered here and there, so it's worth a recap/summary here. The official description and preorder page is HERE.

Quick Disclaimer: I've realized in re-reading this post that it might sound defensive, since I'm answering questions rather than hoo-rahing the book. I'll hoo-rah the book when I see it, but don't take this as defensive - I'm compiling answers to several questions that have been asked on the net so that they're all in one place.

First off, this is a Necromancer Games product - not Frog God Games, but the original Necromancer Games company. It will be distributed by Frog God Games, just as Necromancer Games products have generally been distributed by other companies in the past (White Wolf, Troll Lords, etc). This fact is largely irrelevant to gamers, but it does introduce a couple of variables that I'll discuss in the second part of this article.

The book is being released in one Pathfinder version and one Swords & Wizardry version. The production teams (other than layout and Bill's final editing) are completely different. The Swords & Wizardry adaptation of the monsters is being done primarily by John Stater (of the Land of Nod magazine).

The page count on the Swords & Wizardry version is, like the Pathfinder version, estimated at around 1000 pages; the book comprises the monsters from all three volumes of the 3e Tome of Horrors. The reason the Swords & Wizardry version will reach this page length is because of extra material: each monster will have an encounter lair or hex description with it. If this were being written by a Pathfinder author (no offense to PF guys, but the style is very different), I would be eyeballing this additional material with grave doubts. However, it's being done by a serious old-schooler who has already demonstrated awesome skills at doing this sort of thing.

Back to that page count question. One significant reason for keeping the monsters to roughly one-per-page is due to a layout issue - you can only digitally re-size illustrations a certain amount before they start to pixellate. All the illustrations were done to match with long monster descriptions (3e), so they'd require a lot of re-sizing and possibly cropping to fit them into a layout where there were three or more monsters per page. Result - pick between (a) short monster description, big illustration, and whitespace or (b) 3+ monsters per page, but pixellated illustrations with shapes that cause the text to dodge, bob and weave just to stay readable. Neither would be an attractive option. The third option that Necro invented is pretty good, in my opinion.

Given that issue with layout (need to keep illustrations fairly large), adding a lair-type description with each monster is a fairly elegant fix in terms of what to do with the remaining white-space. This is especially true since many of the monsters from Tome of Horrors I are re-treads from the AD&D books that will already be familiar to old-school readers (this isn't true of the ones from volumes II and III). For the re-tread monsters, the only added value here is the illustration and the lair description; the lair description alone, if John maintains the quality of what he's done for Land of Nod, will be worth the cost of that page.

If we just crammed in the monsters, the book would likely be shorter, but the only added value on several of the monsters would be the illustrations. Now, monsters from the original Fiend Folio or MMII are included for more than just completeness.

More in the next post.


  1. That's an interesting approach. I wasn't planning on getting this new version, but the idea of having a lair for every monster sounds pretty sweet.

  2. I wasn't keen on it at first, I have to admit - I was mentally stuck in the idea of what a monster book has "always been" instead of thinking outside the box. I've not only become reconciled to the idea, I think it's a neat idea.

  3. Oh wait - so you didn't just want a bunch of 10x10 rooms containing a monster and random treasure? Dang, I have some re-writes to do.

    Truthfully - I'm working on U/V tonight and tomorrow, WXYZ over the weekend, then animals and templates next week - almost done!!!

  4. Thanks for the clarification on the NG/FFG relationship here, I'd found the whole thing still confusing until now. I'm also beginning to want both versions of this behemoth...although I think I'm going to wait until I can get a look at how they come out.

  5. Templates? We're seriously going to do that? I hope you're planning to totally gut and rebuild that concept, because just the WORD "template" is going to create the assumption that it's not designed around old school thinking.

    I can see using some of the basic template concepts as a springboard for ideas about how to throw in some special abilities for combining ideas into a monster, but if it's called a template, that's a public relations disaster.

    I'm going to email Bill about that. It's a baaad idea.

  6. I'm really glad you mentioned that, Matt. I've emailed Bill that we should either drop or heavily adapt that section. It's not a bad concept, but (as applied) it is one of the most creativity-killing monster design concepts in 3e.

  7. Just a note regarding resizing raster (pixel) images: they can be *reduced* in size without any appreciable loss of quality (except the loss of very fine detail inevitable when you're looking at a smaller version). It's only when a raster image is *enlarged* that you start to run into problems with blurring and pixelation.

  8. Honestly, I would very very much prefer something in the vein of the original Monster Manual: multiple monsters per page & small illos.

    Granted Matt of NOD's involvement in the lair writeups is pretty awesome, but Matt is pretty much the only reason I'm optimistic about this scheme.

    I will definitely be buying the S&W version regardless!