The Dungeon Alphabet and Exquisite Corpses, as reviewed by my 5 year old

The Dungeon alphabet, by Michael Curtis.

“I don’t like the pictures of being mean. Fighting is being mean.”  So the awesome endpaper illustration by Peter Mullen and many of the interior pictures are out.

But she did like:

1) this guy of the cover:

2) the troll hiding in the mushrooms in the C is for caves illustration

3) the flowers in the W is for weird illustration

4) the N is for No stone left unturned illustration

5) the slimes in the O is for Ooze illustration and on the other Peter Mullen panoramic illustration

Exquisite corpses, by Steven Poag.

I was thinking this would go over a little better, because she loves a similar board book that has a bunch of faces you can change by flipping different tops, middles, and bottoms.  She liked a lot of the illustrations here.  She enjoyed flipping through them and laughed at almost every combination.  She particularly liked Horse-head, the centaur with a horses’ head.

Buy both of these immediately.

My review is that each of these books are astonishing examples of the kind of stuff you can see thanks to the “Old School Renaissance.”  I understand The Dungeon alphabet grew out of some posts on the blog The society of Torch, Pole, and Rope. As a concept it is ingenious; the finished product with illustrations by talents like Erol Otus and Pete Muller is beautiful.   If you don’t know this book it has a series of short essays, usually with a selection of tables, each on some aspect of dungeon design.  It is offered both as a guide to newbies and as a tonic to the jaded souls of experienced DMs.  It is definitely inspirational.  The first printing sold out.  A second printing is now on sale.

Exquisite corpses is a labor of love by Steven Poag. It is a sort of monster-construction manual  rather than a monster manual.  You have to cut about 2/3 of the pages into three strips to accomplish the flip-book effect.  There are 26 monster types (including a brain-headed alien, Lovecraftean horrors, leeches and snakes, etc.) which can be swapped around.  Many of the monsters are interesting as presented but mixing and match makes all kind of unusual chimeras.  The interior illustration is sort of comix/underground cartooning with a ton of character.  It is hard to compare it to anything else, which makes me think it is really good.  You can see the cover, a painting.  The text explains the dadaist game which the title refers to, and then how to use the book.  It is pretty fun.  The illustrations are badass, and the idea as a sort of artist’s book is very cool.  It really needs to be published on heavy, glossy stock.  (I printed my own from the pdf, which was free download for a while, but I’m not too happy with the “Office store” spiral binding; I can’t say how well Lulu handles this.)

You should buy both books if have any interest in awesome black and white illustration, D&D, or both.

Published in: on May 16, 2010 at 4:51 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice reviews!

  2. My thanks to you and your daughter for reviewing the Dungeon Alphabet. I’m sorry there were too many “mean pictures” for her tastes, but assure her that anybody getting the business end of a spear was a really bad man who deserved it.

    One minor clarification: The second printing is not yet available. Look for it in June on the Goodman Games website and in FLGS with exquisite taste everywhere.

    • No, Mr. Curtis, you’re wrong. I saw a blog posting saying the second printing is coming out in May. The internet loves me and would not lie to me. 🙂

      I do hope the little dudes being diced up, digested, and pooped out by a weird machine in that Erol Otus illustration deserve it, because they have pretty pitiful expressions on their faces.

  3. […] Nice review here from Mike Monaco where his 5 year old daughter apparently got some enjoyment out of ‘Exquisite Corpses:”… […]

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