Quotables: Words that Stuck with Me in 2022

I don’t think that you can be a reader and not love words. There is something special in the infinite combinations of letters and the amazing things that come from them. Sometimes a book quote comes along that just floors me, whether it hits in a way that feels incredibly personal or just makes me laugh until I get sick. I love looking back at the quotes that stuck with me throughout the year. Below are a few favorites from 2022. You can find my Quoatables posts from previous years here: 2020, 2021.

“She looked up at him, red eyes wet with tears “Our secrets and lies are the monsters we feed. You should know that.”– The Monsters We Feed by Thomas Howard Riley
Review to come

“That’s the mark of real friendship, I think: to be the person you are when you’re alone, but in front of someone else. Just as free. Just as messy. The kind of friend where you don’t have to stress over every little thing you say, because one little fuck-up in front of them won’t make them think any worse of you. A single impressive act won’t alter things either, because they’ve seen enough of your failings not to put you on a pedestal. They know you. The “you” beneath the bullshit.” – One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold
Review

“This wasn’t about using nostalgia as a shield, it was about celebrating the things that defined them, the characters that spoke to their heart’s truth, the things that made them different and unique and powerful in their own special way. It united them.”– The Shadow Glass by Josh Winning
Review

“It wasn’t the same song, it never is, each time you play it the song changes, but the feeling remains the same.”– We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
Review

“I was just thinking that you don’t have to forget who you were … because that’s what brought you here.”- Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree
Review

“Perhaps a story is simply a reminder to the reader that time is a funny thing: it stretches and snaps. It bends and wobbles. And it slows down when you move too fast.”– The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Review

“But then, how were others to know that beneath her cloak of adept composure there existed a panicked thing, alternately crying and screaming and longing for a nap all while craving something glazed in sugar?”– Miss Percy’s Guide to the Care & Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
Review to come

“There is nothing so broken it can’t be repaired.”– Empire of Exiles by Erin M. Evans
Review

“Do you know what you’d do to stay alive? Most of us never have to make that call. Not so clearly that we have to weigh up our life against another’s. Instead, we make that choice in a hundred little decisions every day, when we put our own life, and our own comforts, over everyone else. We all live our lives off the blood of other people; they’re usually just far enough away from us that we can convince ourselves that it isn’t the case.” – One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold
Review

“I read once that books bend both space and time, and the more books you have in one place, the more space and time will bend and twist and fold over itself. I’m not sure if that’s true but it feels true. Of course, I read that in a book, and maybe the book was just bragging.”– The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Review


Here’s to many more amazing quotes! Happy reading!

Universal Monsters Book Tag: 2022

Happy almost-Halloween, for those who celebrate! I’m actually not that big on Halloween (I know, I’m weird), but I love the Universal Monsters. I created a book tag revolving around them a few years ago and I’m dusting if off again this year.

Feel free to do your own! Please tag me so I can see your answers. Enjoy!

Dracula- a book with a charismatic villain:

Yes, Lord Soth is a death knight. Yes, he could have prevented a world-ending disaster (a Cataclysm, if you will) and instead mucked it up. Yes, he’s really not a good dude. But he is so much fun to read about! He’s to Dragonlance as Boba Fett was to the original Star Wars movies: a mysterious, hardcore character whose legend builds with time.

The Invisible Man- a book that has more going on than meets the eye:

There are bands that sell out and then there are bands that sell…something. Trust Grady Hendrix to take the idea of an almost-made-it band and combine it with forces dark and sinister. I had to set aside all my preconceptions about We Sold Our Souls. There are twists upon turns and nothing is as it seems.

Wolfman- a complicated character:

Not only is this love letter to 80s fantasy movies absolutely genius, but Jack is also an incredibly complex character. He had a broken relationship with his dad, and both loves and resents the movie world that took up so much of his dad’s attention. He’s angry and grieving, uncertain and sad. His character growth throughout the book is through the roof. Basically, The Shadow Glass is amazing.

Frankenstein- a book with a misunderstood character:

As with all mysteries, everyone has secrets in Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone. There were a couple of characters in the book that were completely misunderstood by everyone else. Of course, I misunderstood certain motives and actions too, which is the point of a mystery. This was a fun one!

The Bride of Frankenstein- a sequel you enjoyed more than the first book:

I didn’t think it was possible to enjoy the sequel more than Shadow of a Dead God, but Nectar for the God took all the (many) things that I loved about the first Mennik Thorn book and added new levels. The stakes were higher, the world became more fleshed out, and Mennik was…even more of a walking Murphy’s Law. Seriously, you need to read this series.

Creature from the Black Lagoon- an incredibly unique book:

The Hero Interviews, aside from being uproariously funny, has an incredibly unique feature: footnotes. Elburn Barr, Loremaster and narrator extraordinaire, interviews heroes throughout the book. These interviews come complete with his tongue-in-cheek observations, given as footnotes that add an extra layer of hilarity to an already hysterical book. The Hero Interviews will be released December first, but you can preorder it now on Amazon.

The Mummy- a book that wraps up nicely (see what I did there?):

Legends and Lattes was a sweet delight. The book was the print version of a nice, cozy blanket. It left me smiling and feeling a little bit better about life. The ending was perfect (in fact, I really can’t think of a single aspect of the book that wasn’t).

An Author’s Monster Manual: Table of Contents

I’m a big fan of TTRPGs. I love the imagination involved in creating a story with friends and I love the memories that are made. I often find myself thinking about how cool it would be to include a creature I’ve loved in a fantasy book in a TTRPG setting. I’ve been lucky to have some amazing authors and bloggers share hypothetical Monster Manual additions over the last two weeks.

Here is a list of the awesome guest posts, in case you missed any.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the writers who helped make my idea an awesome reality! The amount of talent gathered here is incredible.

Table of Contents:

An Author’s Monster Manual

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Andi Ewington

An Author’s Monster Featuring J.E. Hannaford

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Geoff Habiger

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dan Fitzgerald

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ryan Howse

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Sean Gibson

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Ricardo Victoria

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jeffrey Speight

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Joshua Gillingham

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Luke Winch

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Virgina McClain

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dorian Hart

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Dorian Hart

Dorian Hart is an excellent addition to a hypothetical Author’s Monster Manual. His series, The Heroes of Spira (which is phenomenal, by the way) features many unique creatures. All of them would be great additions to any TTRPG.

First, a thank you to Jodie for including me in this most excellent feature!

I make no secret that my Heroes of Spira series uses  a long-running RPG campaign as its source material. I’ve written at length about the perils and pitfalls of that approach, and about the fundamental differences between novels and  campaigns. That said, like many a good RPG,  my epic quest fantasy books sure do feature a wide variety of nonhuman creatures!

In no particular order, the Heroes of Spira includes, among other things:

  • One-eyed gopher bugs
  • A misanthropic living storm
  • A dangerous turtle
  • A cadre of evil, mathematically-inclined cultists 
  • A dragon
  • Intelligent giant ants AND intelligent giant spiders
  • A tentacled blob-monster
  • A bat-winged marble statue that’s deadly when animated
  • Joyously violent goblins
  • A powerful demon lord whose fortress hangs above a lake of boiling pus
  • A 9’ tall oracular toad
  • A snarky telepathic cat
  • A multi-legged but otherwise featureless ball of insect chitin.
  • Massively powerful talking gemstones
  • A giant acidic slug that, let’s be honest, is more-or-less a reskinned Gelatinous Cube, because those things are great
  • Avatars of multiple gods
  • Some good old-fashioned mummies

There’s more, but that should be enough to let you know what kind of series I’m writing.

For a stat block, I’ve chosen from that list the marble statue, whose informal name is a Blood Gargoyle, and whose official name is a [SPOILER REDACTED].  At the risk of some minor spoilers:

In The Ventifact Colossus, the first book in the series, one of the protagonists (named Dranko) meets a Blood Gargoyle in its inanimate form. Even as an inert statue, it scares the living daylights out of Dranko, instilling an unreasoning fear in the man despite not even twitching a wingtip. Here’s the passage where he first beholds the thing:

* * *

Dranko wasn’t sure what he was looking at. 

No, that wasn’t entirely true. He knew it was a statue, half again as tall as he was. He knew that while it was humanoid, it wasn’t human; no man or woman or goblin-touched had fangs that long, or claws that sharp, or eyes that far apart, or a chin that long and pointed, or wings neatly folded behind its back. And he knew that it was made of rock, some kind of striated marble as orange and luminous as a harvest moon.

But he also knew that this thing was more, and that it was worse, and that he wanted as little to do with it as possible. Its deep-socketed eyes, two blood-colored marbles with cat-slit pupils, were like windows into the Hells, and something looked out of them, eager, hungry. Though it was just an inert stone sculpture, inanimate, incapable of causing him harm unless it fell on him, Dranko had to fight down his flight reflex from the moment he laid his eyes upon it.

* * *

Later in book 1, we learn that (off camera) the Blood Gargoyle attacked  and nearly killed the heroes’ ancient and powerful wizardly patron, Abernathy. But while the reader still has not seen one in action by the end of The Ventifact Colossus, if you think I’m going to let a perfectly good Chekov’s Gargoyle sit around on the mantelpiece for a full five books without it going off, I can assure you that [MORE SPOILERS REDACTED].

It’s one of the more fearsome members of my novels’ bestiary, so I don’t recommend throwing it against low-level adventurers unless you’re itching for a TPK.  If you want to use it in a campaign, I suggest first letting your characters encounter it in its inanimate form, and then springing the “live” version on them many sessions later, once they’re powerful enough to (maybe) handle it. Ideally, your PCs will burst into the villain’s sanctum just as they’re finishing up the animating ritual, and the blood gargoyle will fight your heroes  while the villain escapes via secret tunnel, teleportation circle, enchanted flying contraption, or a similar contrivance.

Here’s a stat block for it:

C:\Users\Dorian\Desktop\blood gargoyle 2.jpg

Regretfully, I cannot supply you with art for the Blood Gargoyle, as my abilities in the visual arts can only be measured using an electron microscope. I hope the above description is sufficient for you to imagine one.

About the author:

Dorian Hart is the author of the Heroes of Spira epic fantasy series, which currently includes The Ventifact Colossus, The Crosser’s Maze, and The Greatwood Portal. He also wrote the interactive science fiction novella Choice of the Star Captain for Choice of Games.

In a bygone century, Dorian graduated from Wesleyan University with a degree in creative writing. This led circuitously to a 20-year career as a video game designer, where he contributed to many award-winning titles including Thief, System Shock, System Shock 2, and BioShock.

Now he writes books in his Boston-area study, serves as the stay-at-home dad for his two teenage daughters, and happily allows his wife to drag him off on various wilderness adventures.

Amazon links:
The Ventifact Colossus
The Crosser’s Maze
The Greatwood Portal
The Infinite Tower

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Virginia McClain

No Monster’s Manual would be complete with a creature that is at least a little draconic, although once again my guest author pulled out all the stops. Virginia McClain,author of both the Gensokai series and the Victoria Marmot series, puts a new- and incredible- spin on a massive serpent, showcasing a creature from her next book,  Eredi’s Gambit!

Twisted Monsters or Twisted Tropes?

As much as I enjoy “proper monsters” (killing machines that don’t have much motivation beyond wanting to eat the hapless adventurers unfortunate enough to cross their paths) one of my all-time favorite tropes is the monster that secretly, well, isn’t

Even going back to when I first started playing D&D (around age 8—which was…a long time ago…shhh) I preferred it when our party ran afoul of creatures who had some motive for wanting us dead besides hunger/unexplained hatred of everything around them. Whether it was accidental, “You idiotic humans just got between me and my babies! Perish, foolish mortals!” Or intentional, “I may look like an average bugbear, but I am actually a minion of this super sneaky mindflayer that lives just around the next bend, so why don’t you chase me and see what happens?”

I was fortunate to have a DM (my big brother) who also liked giving motivations to his monsters, so we had some delightfully interesting campaigns even when we were at the age where cannon fodder monsters would have been perfectly standard. Perhaps that’s why I have always leaned into the fantasy books that question the existence of monsters that it’s always morally unobjectionable to kill. 

As a kid and into my teens R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt books were some of my favorites for precisely that reason. Despite the constraining rules of writing within the Forgotten Realms, Salvatore did his level best to question how an entire group of people could be any one thing, especially if that thing was “evil.” I loved that. I loved it so much that the first novel I ever finished a complete draft of was a pretty solid Drizzt knock off, set in the Forgotten Realms, and with my own original characters, but… let’s just say it was derivative enough that I don’t have any plans to publish it. (Though if Wizards of the Coast ever comes knocking I’d be willing to dust off that old manuscript and see what’s salvageable — just sayin’.)

These days I make my own worlds, and I delight in creating characters that look like traditional monsters but who are in fact quite pleasant once you get to know them. Meanwhile, certain perfectly average looking humans (along with the systems they create/sustain) are the true monsters. I like to keep my readers guessing.

Take, for example, this big ol’ sea serpent. 

She looks intimidating. You probably would be pretty freaked out if you were on the deck of that ship she’s in front of. And, as she can’t speak any of the human languages, most of the humans she encounters take her vocalizations for the rage filled cry of a monster hellbent on destruction. 

Mostly she’s just shouting out questions to try to figure out why the pesky humans are approaching her territory. Why she bothers she isn’t sure. The humans seem far too stupid to answer her, and always attack her rather than engaging in a simple conversation. Lately though, one of those pesky spirits has been convincing her friends to attack humans that aren’t even in their territory. Horribly rude.

Needless to say, when these misunderstandings lead to humans attacking her, she’s forced to defend herself. To say it doesn’t generally go well for the humans or their ships is… a bit of an understatement.

I suppose you probably want some stats for this monster who isn’t a monster though, eh? I mean, I don’t generally roll up characters sheets for anyone in my books because as deep as my D&D roots go, I prefer the freedom of creating people and worlds outside of those rule sets. That said, if this sea serpent were going to show up in a D&D campaign, she’d have stats similar to a dragon. Sea serpents in this world are essentially water dragons anyway. So very high hit points, a water breath attack, a crushing attack, a bite attack, and a tail lash. All of those would deal massive damage, but a human would have a decent chance at saving against said damage by using evasion. Bryllth (that’s her name for the purposes of this sheet) is very large, but not so fast that you wouldn’t be able to dodge if you could see her clearly. Of course, she can hide underwater, so you won’t generally see her coming unless she wants you to. 

In other words, she’s bad news for the people who try to fight her. Still, she’s very much misunderstood by most humans, and certainly her first appearance in Sairō’s Claw doesn’t make her seem like the calm welcoming creature she *can* be. 

But I’m delighted to report that we’ll learn more about her, her motives, and the people who are actually able to communicate with her (and thus clear up a few misunderstandings) in the next book – Eredi’s Gambit. 

Here’s the character sheet I worked up for her pretending that she was a very high level dragonborn ranger. 

I went with a character sheet rather than monster stats as Bryllth is one of the protectors of her people and absolutely has a life of her own beyond sinking ships that show up uninvited and start attacking her without any explanation. That said, a lot of this character info is slightly off, because she’s much larger than any dragonborn, and she’s a natural swimmer with a water attack rather than a cold attack. But it was the best I could do with a free digital sheet from D&D Beyond.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Bryllth, and if you’d like to see her in action, you can find her first appearance in the very final pages of Sairō’s Claw. Bryllth is just one example of the way I enjoy twisting monster tropes; you can find more in pretty much all of my books.

About the Author:
Virginia McClain is an author who masqueraded as a language teacher for a decade or so. When she’s not reading or writing she can generally be found playing outside with her four-legged adventure buddy and the tiny human she helped to build from scratch. She enjoys climbing to the top of tall rocks, running through deserts, mountains, and woodlands, and carrying a foldable home on her back whenever she gets a chance. She’s also fond of word games and writing descriptions of herself that are needlessly vague.

To Purchase:

Chronicles of Gensokai
Sairō’s Claw: Gensokai Kaigai Book One 
Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Luke Winch

One great thing that I’ve learned is that I am not the only person who reads about a cool creature in a novel and thinks, “Wow, it would be fun to encounter that in a TTRPG”. It turns out many reviewers have similar reactions to the monsters found in fantasy and sci-fi books.

Luke Winch is a fantastic blogger and podcaster. He is also a fan of D&D and was kind enough to share his STAT Block for…The Sludge Man from The Grey Bastards!

Deep in the Lot Lands, some forty miles from the seas lies a huge swath of miry, boggy, wetlands called The Old Maiden Marsh. For miles are sickly streams, thickets, and crooked trees. There is a foe who inhabits the swamp that even make the mighty orcs think twice about travelling through. He is no man, but he treaties with half-orcs and men alike if it suits his desirous needs. He has been called djinn by outsiders, demon, or a foray of indecent slurs by the half-orc hoofs of the Lot Lands.

He is The Sludge Man. A pale humanoid with soft, fat flesh, a sizeable belly, and thinning hair. His ever-suspicious eyes see all in his domain and if you go to treat with him, words need to be chosen carefully, for to ignite his anger, is to invite a battle, that, if you are not prepared for, or have not the numbers for, you will likely lose.

A team of multiskilled warriors, druids, mages, and rogues are required to beat The Sludge Man in battle. He can control large leech like sludges that surround the party and can envelope and consume their targets. The Sludge Man can move with lightening speed in combat so sharp reactions are required.

This formidable foe also has the ability to send the strongest of elves, mages and warriors into a slumber as the large sludges encase them in their black, oily bodies. Tactics and quick thinking are needed by the party to survive any battle with The Sludge Man, but his arrogance can be his downfall.

So, tread carefully when traversing through The Old Maiden Marsh. Treat with The Sludge Man at your own risk, always read the small print on the contract and, if you go to battle with him, make sure your party is in full health and have their wits about them.

About the author:

Luke Winch is the host of multiple podcasts, including Turn of a Page and Observing the Pattern. He writes for Before We Go Blog as well as writing his own blog. Basically, he’s superhuman. Check out his blog at https://lukewinch.com/

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rob Edwards

I am so excited about this blog series discussing book creatures as entries in an author’s Monster Manual! Each new creature is unique and so, so cool! Rob Edwards’ addition is no exception. His series, the Justice Academy, is excellent!

Art by Edward Bentley

Hey Jodie, thanks for having me back. I’m excited to talk monsters, even if you’ve had to stretch the rules a little bit to include me! 

I’m not a Rules Lawyer, but…

So, at first blush, it’s possible that my book, The Ascension Machine, was not a great fit for this blog series. Rules as written, “An Author’s Monster Manual” leans into a Dungeons and Dragons feel, and my books are sci-fi, not fantasy. Moreover, my books don’t really have monsters in them. Plenty of villains, several of whom are quite monstrous, but no actual bona fide monsters.

Fortunately, we can deal with both of these issues. As to the first, D&D recently released a 5e version of their Spelljammer setting, which lets you take the adventures to space (kind of, go with me here). So, for the monster I had in mind, I switched out their ray guns for hand crossbows, and we have problem one solved.

As for the monster part, I mean, when it comes down to it, what actually is a monster?

Well, according to the introduction of the 5e Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, in the section “What Is a Monster?”, “A monster is defined as any creature that can be interacted with and potentially fought and killed.” And if that doesn’t convince, it goes on to say, “The term also applies to humans, elves, dwarves, and other civilised folk who might be friends or rivals to the player characters.”

I think that pretty clearly includes the Brontom Clone Warriors, so we’re in the game!

Begin these clone warriors did 

I hadn’t originally intended to have the Brontom play a major part in my books. Originally, they were a throwaway gag in the opening scene. Our hero, Grey, tells a tall story about pretending to be a Brontom to fool an ATM. An unlikely story because Grey is not 7’ tall, green, and only has two arms instead of the Brontom’s normal four. But Brontom are all identical clones and the only way for an ATM to tell them apart is by scent, so you can fool them using perfume. Or so Grey claims.

It was a fun gag. 

But the idea of this clone race started to tickle my imagination. There was no choice, but I’d have to introduce a Brontom in the main plot. And so, we meet Brontom Clone Warrior 4,923,016,734. Seventhirtyfour to his friends.

Yes, we are all different

The idea of a clone warrior race is hardly unique, I grant you. Star Wars has its clone troopers, Doctor Who has its Sontarans, but it remains a fascinating idea. What are the differences between the clones? 

There’s a question of nurture versus nature here. Every Brontom is physically identical, receives the same training, goes through the same exercises, but even then, what happens to the clone who is always on the losing side of training exercises? The one who has an unlucky accident early on in their training, or a lucky one for that matter. How does that affect their personality, their outlook?

While they are all unique individuals, it’s conformity that is the Brontom’s greatest strength on the battlefield. They have been literally trained together since birth. They know what their squad mates will do, and how to take advantage of it.

Rating, challenged

And then there’s Seventhirtyfour, who is a mutant Brontom. He’s two inches too tall. For a human that may not mean anything, but for a Brontom every uniform, piece of equipment, every doorway is designed for someone exactly two inches shorter than you. You stand out. You probably hit your head a lot.

For some this could make you resentful and bitter. Not Seventhirtyfour. He rises to the challenge of leaving the barracks for the first time with a positivity that practically shines out of him. He makes friends quickly, and will defend them to the best of his considerable abilities, always.

The stat block in this article is not Seventhirtyfour, though, his abilities would be too spoilery to include. No, this is a standard Brontom Clone Warrior, right out of basic training and ready to crew a… Spelljammer ship. Sure, why not?

Multiattack

Each round, this post can make one link to the book, and one to a website for more information about Brontom and other facets of their universe.

About the author:

Rob Edwards is a British born writer and content creator, living in Finland. He writes about coffee, despite not drinking it, spaceships, despite being down-to-earth, and superheroes, despite everything.

His debut novel, The Ascension Machine was published in 2020. His short stories can be found in anthologies from Inklings Press and Rivenstone Press. A life-long gamer and self-professed geek, he is proud of his entry on Wookieepedia, the result of writing several Star Wars RPG scenarios in his youth.

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Jonathan Nevair

I am so excited to have Jonathan Nevair, author of the Wind Tide series, here to discuss his Mutant Bukki Tiger! Half amphibian, and half tiger, this is such an intriguing and intimidating monster!

And guess what? Jonathan Nevair has a new book releasing in December! Find out more about Stellar Instinct here or go ahead and pre-order it here (you know you want to; it’s going to be great).

Credit for the amazing art goes to Stephen Wood at https://stephenwoodgames.com/.

Half tiger, half amphibian, the Mutant Bukki Tiger is the tragic result of a radioactive accident interfering with nature. The Mutant Bukki Tiger is confined to a roughly five-thousand-kilometer grid of jungle on the planet, Hesh-9, known as the Red Zone. A nuclear waste carrier heading to the capital city of Hikesh, from the far side of the planet crashed, rendering the area off-limits until radiation half-life reached safe levels. Rumors of mutations to whatever survived the bloom added disturbing flavor to popular myths and folklore about the rainforest region. Travelers who dare to traverse the Red Zone risk crossing paths with this most grotesque and ferocious creature. 

 The Mutant Bukki has five cat eyes, two jaws complete with fangs, four good legs, and one-half leg sprouting out of its spine, held together by a slimy frog-like torso. It is a radioactive horror that contains high levels of radioactivity that make it a most frightening and potentially deadly encounter. Yet, there are tales of individuals with powers of persuasion (driven by compassion) who have been able to calm the beast and sympathize with its tragic circumstance. Those who do so, it is rumored, have come to no harm.

About the author: Jonathan Nevair (he/him/his) is a science fiction writer and, as Dr. Jonathan Wallis, an art historian and Professor of Art History at Moore College of Art & Design, Philadelphia. After two decades of academic teaching and publishing, he finally got up the nerve to write fiction. His space opera trilogy, Wind Tide (Goodbye to the SunJati’s Wager, and No Song, But Silence) was inspired by Ancient Greek texts and myths and released in 2021. Stellar Instinct, a standalone spy-fi space adventure, is slated to release in December 2022. Jonathan’s books explore speculative secondary worlds where language, culture, ethics, technology, and gender are reimagined to inspire human potential and growth (space opera sprinkled with a dash of hopepunk.) Find out more about Jonathan and his books at www.jonathannevair.com

To find out more about artist Stephen Wood: https://stephenwoodgames.com/

Pre-Order Stellar Instinct:
Amazon

An Author’s Monster Manual Featuring Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies

I really enjoy playing TTRPGs. There’s always a moment when I’m reading a really good book where I muse a little bit on what some of the creatures in the book would be like in a D&D campaign.

It turns out I’m not the only one who would happily fight a unique book character during a gaming session. Today, Rowena from Beneath a Thousand Skies is here to talk about a character that she thinks would be a great addition to a TTRPG.

Not only is Rowena a TTRPG expert, but she also runs an awesome blog, so be sure to check it out!

Fan Credit: Rowena at Beneath a Thousand Skies

Now, maybe it’s been because I’ve been itching to read Tamora Pierce for a while and this was the perfect excuse, but when Jodie asked me to join in with this week Stormwings were the creature that sprang immediately to mind. Which gave me the perfect excuse for a reread. While they feature primarily in the Immortals series by Tamora Pierce (Wild Magic, Wolf Speaker, Emperor Mage and The Realms of the Gods), they also appear in other series set in the same universe, including Protector of the Small (my favourite!!) and Trickster.

‘These were monsters. No animal combined a human head and chest with a bird’s legs and wings. Sunlight bounded off talons and feathers that shone like steel.’

(Wild Magic – Tamora Pierce)

Denziens of the Immortal Realms, these half-human, half-bird creatures (with the latter half made of metal, and razor sharp) are a fascinating part of the Tortall universe. Created from human nightmares, and intended to be a deterrent from war, they would make for a great addition to so many TTRPG settings, whether the world has wide-spread conflict where Stormwings could feast on the battlefield, to a world with plane-hopping (as a member of one such campaign, it’s been great to see the different denziens of the various planes even if they’re not always friendly) and more. Plus, fighting a creature that can fly and zap you from a safe distance is always a nightmare as a player, but makes for a fun combat encounter (until they kill you at least…)

There’s also a great intrigue/political aspect that you could use with Stormwings, because they are intelligent and sneaky, and while their interests will always be in favour of their own kind, especially their rulers, they are willing to work with humans and other creatures for those goals. Winged allies, who can travel great distances, and aren’t easily fooled by illusions or held back by barriers are a fantastic tool for any villain (or even just a leader trying to extend their influence) and as shown in the Immortals series, they can also provide an escape route as they are strong enough to bear a human away (although you would want a cradle, otherwise you might get some nasty cuts in interesting places from their wings and claws).

Or, for a more personal/emotional aspect, despite their nightmarish appearance, stench and the fact that they feast on the dead – Stormwings have a fondness for children of any kind, including human and will befriend and protect them. This is due to their difficulty in reproducing (all that metal makes creating life a little challenging); but could make for some interesting encounters in a ttrpg.

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Tamora Pierce: Website: https://www.tamora-pierce.net/             

Immortals Series: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B074CGBPGQ

Stormwings fandom page: https://tamorapierce.fandom.com/wiki/Stormwing#Appearances 

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Blogger Bio: Rowena is a book blogger at Beneath A Thousand Skies blog and primarily reads and reviews SFF especially indie/self-published. When she isn’t buried beneath the TBR, she’s hoarding dice and playing D&D.

Blog Link: https://beneathathousandskies.com/ Bio: Blog link: https://beneathathousandskies.com/

An Author’s Monster Manual

One of the fun things about table-top roleplaying games is the ability to stretch imaginations and have encounters with the most unique of creations. Dungeons and Dragons even has books dedicated specifically to the creatures that the unwary player can accidentally antagonize, the most well-known of these books being the Monster Manual.

As creative as the thingies found in the Monster Manual can be, they can’t hold a candle to the amazing creatures encountered in a myriad of novels written by extremely talented authors, some of them even inspired by TTRPGs played by the authors!

I somehow managed to convince an amazing group of authors and bloggers to help me discuss creatures in books and how they would transfer over to a TTRPG campaign setting. Keep your eyes open: the talent popping up on the blog over the next little bit is astonishing!

There are so many creatures in fantasy books that I would love to see in a TTRPG setting! When thinking about this series, two books in particular came to mind: Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames and The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. Both have amazing creatures that jump off the page.

I wouldn’t want to make the ink witch from Bloody Rose angry. Tattoos that can attack seem both brutal and pretty stinking clever. Can you imagine being in the middle of an honest tavern brawl, and all of the sudden your character finds themself facing a butt-kicking in the form of body art? That encounter would be the sort that players talk about for years.

And who wouldn’t love to have Mephi in a TTRPG? I’m still not entirely sure what he is, other than loyal, brutally protective, and absolutely adorable but seeing him pop up during a game session would be so much fun.

Honestly, though, having Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) in a TTRPG would absolutely make any campaign a delightful one, in my opinion. I took a stab at a Hobbes STAT Block. I owe a huge thank you to my amazing husband for helping me bring this to life!

Fan STAT Block made by Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

There are so many creatures brought to life by authors that would make for incredible additions to a late-night game session! Over the next several days, we will get to meet some of them, with introductions and STAT Blocks created by the authors. Grab your dice and let’s have an adventure!