Monster Manual 2
Back in college I bought two of the Dungeons and Dragons books to get an idea of how the game worked and to try and figure out how to games of my own. This remains my favorite of the three monster manuals that Wizards of the Coast released for Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. The first Monster Manual had nearly everything you expect to find including: goblins, kobolds, dragons, skeletons, zombies, and the like. However the Monster Manual 2 introduced me to some of the stranger dungeon denizens lurking in the shadows. Bullywugs, centaurs, the cockatrice, cyclops, dimensional marauders, giants, gnolls, gnomes, Oni, rust monsters, kenku, sphinxes, and behirs all leapt off of the page fueling my ideas and my desire to be a part of the game. There’s also a great section on the metallic dragons which I’ve always enjoyed. In case your curious the cover features Demogorgon the Prince of Demons, an unpleasant two-headed fellow who is always irritated by the difficulty he experiences when shopping for hats.
Kenku are diminutive creatures that look a bit like an enormous crow or raven, and they also happen to be one of my favorite monsters. They’re interesting because unlike a lot of the creatures a party of adventurers might encounter they’re not inherently evil or bloodthirsty. Kenku are clever, sneaky, and a greedy. They are far more likely to steal a merchant’s gold and leave them trussed up in the back of a wagon than they are to fall in with fomorians, vampires, or redcaps. Their ability to mimic sounds and voices is a great tool for GMs to employ in order to trick party members or lure them into traps.
One of the first characters I ever played was a Kenku Rogue named Kikiap Krowsfeet. At the behest of the bard in that party Kikiap sang a rhyme known by all Kenku that became something of a favorite at our table for years to come.
They’ve been appearing in pretty much every edition of Dungeons and Dragons going all the way back to the first fiend folio and I like that tie to the history of the game. Like many other D&D creatures the Kenku may have been influenced by mythology, namely the Tengu found in Japanse folklore.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Arthur Dent is you. Arthur Dent is me. Arthur Dent is a dork in a bathrobe forced to cope with space travel, bureaucrats who want to bulldoze his planet to build an intergalactic bypass, a robot suffering from depression, two-headed politicians, and poetry that’s so bad it could kill you. I loved this book, and the subsequent successors that followed in its footsteps, and I think the humor of Douglas Adams lends itself quite well to the realm of tabletop games. Fate, Diaspora, and Savage Worlds are the first three systems that leap to mind that could serve as perfect platform to launch a Hitchhiker’s Guide campaign. There is something appealing about the idea of the series having a system of its own with some actual books though.