Dungeons. Dragons. Graph paper. Funny dice.

The Book of Imaginary Beings

Despite the fact that Jorge Luis Borges is one of my favorite writers, I had only briefly flipped through The Book of Imaginary Beings at the library. I recently noticed that Borges’ bestiary appears on the inspirational source material list at the back of the Moldvay basic book, so I grabbed a copy to see what material could be appropriated for gaming. The book contains over a hundred entries for monsters, each entry 1-2 pages. For a quick bit of general inspiration, pull it off the shelf and read two or three entries at random. There are also many specific details that could profitably be stolen for your games. I found these, for example, in three random entries:

  • the shaft of a griffon’s feather makes a marvelous bow
  • angry villagers who slay a monster might have it taxidermied and prominently displayed to visitors
  • the dots on tortoise shells are treatises about the cosmos

Book of Imaginary Beings cover

If you’ve never read any of Borges’ fiction, I strongly recommend it. His stuff isn’t strictly fantasy, but it certainly falls under the heading “literature of the fantastic”. Start either with the Everyman’s Library edition of Ficciones or one of the out-of-print Giovanni translations. Unfortunately, the widely available Andrew Hurley translations are discouragingly stilted.


Jayson October 5, 2010 at 12:41 AM

I need to find a copy of this. I love what I’ve heard of the Peryton entry.

Paul October 5, 2010 at 4:06 PM

It’s definitely worth browsing for D&D material, though a minor work in Borges’ oeuvre.

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