Lust is one of those aspects of the Pathfinder RPG that tend to get glossed over. It can’t be helped – in a game whose mechanics reward killing things and taking there stuff, it’s hard for the game rules to incentivize the PCs’ desire to have sex. The next best thing is to make enemies that are physically attractive and have lust-themed powers – the ubiquitous succubus comes to mind. Still, such creatures are comparatively few in number.
The fourth book in Open Design’s Monsters of Sin series, Monsters of Sin: Lust expands the roster of lust-based monsters, albeit only slightly.
The book gets most of the technical aspects of a PDF RPG supplement right. It has no bookmarks, which it really should, but copy-and-paste is enabled. There’s no printer-friendly version, or for that matter any sort of format for other types or easy-reading (e.g. tablets, Macs, etc.), but again its brevity helps to make that be less of an issue.
The artwork, it must be said, is of a high quality. Cory Trego-Erdner’s cover of the succubi stripping a hapless young man is vivid both in terms of its quality and of how expressly it connotes what’s happening. Likewise, Aaron Riley’s black and white interior artwork quite literally paints a start contrast, showcasing the monsters with striking depth.
Eleven pages long, with seven devoted to the eponymous monsters, Monsters of Lust contains a grand total of five monsters. The first isn’t really a monster per se, but rather is the lust slave template. Even calling this a template is hard, as it adds only a single new ability (annoyingly lacking in an ability tag – presumably it’s extraordinary) which has the lust slave creature gaining a bonus if the object of their adoration is in sight, but is confused if not. I personally thought that a confusion effect was the wrong mechanic to use here, but should have been some sort of penalty from their depression at being separated from their beloved. Ah well.
The first fully-fledged monster is the inbred orc, which needs no real introduction as to where these particular variants come from. Racial information is given for these hillbilly orcs, which are perhaps not surprisingly different from their normal counterparts – chief among them being two tables of mutations – one fortunate and one unfortunate. An NPC stat block helps to round things out.
Personally, I thought that this particular monster was good, but would have worked better as a template. Orcs aren’t the only humanoid creature that seems lacking in civilization enough to start inbreeding and suffer the effects thereof. It’s not too hard to take inspiration from this monster and use it as a baseline for varying other creatures in a similar manner, but this would have been easier as a template.
The lovelorn, a CR 11 creature, is a sort of ghost that died after being betrayed by a cruel lover or was simply so unlucky in love that they died heartbroken. Interestingly, there are shades of the banshee here, as they have a moan-based attack (though nowhere near as deadly, thank goodness!), and it’s likewise fitting that they deal Charisma damage. The lovelorn falls into a narrow gap of being different enough from similar incorporeal undead as to be distinct unto itself, but not so unique that your players will easily figure out what to do about it – there’s a lot of fun to be had here by a cruel GM.
For me though, the most interesting monster in the book was hands-down the truffle. A weak (CR 3) fey creature, the truffle looks like a small naked human child…making it clearly obvious that it has no sexual characteristics whatsoever. Not malevolent, truffles understand nothing about sex or gender identity, and so are intensely curious about creatures that have these characteristics when they meet them. This can quickly become awkward and even dangerous, however, when they start exercising their natural abilities to forcibly manipulate other people’s bodies, making people take their clothes off and demonstrate their sexuality to sate the truffle’s curiosity. Normally I frown on monsters with no original powers, but the role-playing potential – demonstrated excellently in the monster’s write-up – is incredibly strong here. This is a monster that should only be used with groups that can handle mature subjects in the game, but it’s likely to be quite worthwhile to do so.
The final creature in the book is the embodiment of lust itself. I wasn’t sure what to expect here, and was somewhat surprised by the creature’s description – that of a ten-foot tall creature with a vaguely feminine figure, but it entirely translucent, like a statue made out of glass. Of course, just being around the embodiment is exceptionally dangerous, as its Challenge Rating of 21 demonstrates. Just being around it can make you its lust slave, stripping naked as you approach it, and making you willing to do whatever it asks. I do wish there’d been more about the embodiment as an individual – it says that it has its thralls do its bidding, but there’s little explanation about just what that is. Presumably this creature has no particular agenda or goals beyond corrupting mortals into the sin of lust, but even this simple desire isn’t made entirely clear.
A few sidebars are peppered throughout the book. One talks about using sex in your campaign, but can basically be summarized as “don’t make people uncomfortable” – it’s the ubiquitous disclaimer that’s part and parcel of talking about sex in your game. Likewise, the issue of lust in the Midgard campaign is one paragraph about the lust and death goddess Marena, and two about how one man seduced several merchant’s daughters as a means of starting a war, allowing him to pick up power in the aftermath. Interesting to be sure, but so brief as to be little more than anecdotal.
My overall impression of the book is that while it’s probably stronger as part of the entire series (and certainly will be in the inevitable compilation volume), on its own it feels like it’s just starting to ramp things up when it suddenly comes to an end. The five monsters – really four and a very brief template – don’t seem like enough for the theme of the book. This isn’t to say that they’re not well-done, because they are; they’re simply not showcasing everything that could be done here. From the truffle showing us the unexpected ways that monsters can be developed around this theme to the embodiment of lust’s needing further expansion on what it wants to do to the inbred orc needing to be a full-fledged template, there’s more that could have been done here.
It’s primarily due to the book not living up to its potential that I’m giving it less than full marks. What’s here is worth four stars, but what’s not here would have been the fifth. Having said that, this book provides some fun new creatures for your game, dealing directly with the idea of lust without becoming tawdry. Pick up Monsters of Lust, and add a few new ways to scare your PCs with sex.
[4 of 5 Stars!]