Mongoose Publishing’s Monster Coliseum is a pretty standard, if light, ‘monster bestiary’ fused with 20 odd pages of information concerning gladiatorial games, chariot races and other ancient divertissements. Overall, it provides enough of a bestiary for a RuneQuest II GM to remain stocked up on threats, as well as a wellspring of potential PC races. The gladiatorial content, however, feels a bit tacked on.
Clocking in at 184 pages, Monster Coliseum consists of page after page of creature write-ups and about 25 pages of advice on subjects like how to run gladiatorial combat, have your PCs race chariots and use arena set-pieces in your settings. Each monster includes a pretty standard write up, a stat-block with skills and powers, as well as the number of dice to roll for each stat, should you want to generate them in the same fashion as PC. Moreover, Monster Coliseum gives tips on how to use every creature type in the book as a potential PC race and tips on how they would fight in the area.
Monster Coliseum covers most of your basic fantasy creatures. There are chapters on ‘Humans and Humanoids,’ ‘Arachnids and Insects,’ ‘Dinosaurs and Reptiles,’ and ‘Creatures of Legend’ (containing most of your more traditional monstrosities). While there are no glaring omissions, the range of creatures in Monster Coliseum feels kind of narrow. That said, the ‘Human and Humanoids’ chapter will likely get the most use for GMs as it provides stats for, and character creation information on, Gloranthan and standard Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, and the like.
Monster Coliseum also provides rules for twisting any of the creatures in the book with a chaotic taint. This takes the form a few random tables that can result in anything from random animal limbs to a creature being boneless. It’s a good tool for GMs to keep things interesting.
The arena information, while interesting, is very campaign specific. It’s an ok mix of rules and fluff useful for gladiatorially inclined games, and Monster Coliseum even provides example coliseums in number of different settings; including the world of Elric. This section is nice to have, but I can’t help but think that thematic rules with a broader appeal (say ‘Wilderness Encounters’) would have been a better choice.
Ducks. Monster Coliseum provides rules to create Duck PCs and this, in my opinion, is worth the price of admission.
Other than my fine feathered friends, the tips on roleplaying each creature as a PC are a nice touch and the book generally presents each creature in a well-rounded way. If you are looking for mindless or purely evil creatures, you won’t find much here (with the exception of the Broo).
What’s Not So Great
Monster Coliseum gives a number of human stock characters for GMs to use, but it’s a depressingly small range of character types and it’s very focused on the ‘arena’ setting. A broader range with a few NPC types like ‘Bandit,’ ‘Cultist’ or ‘Sorcerer’ would be useful.
A complaint I had with the RuneQuest II Corebook was that Spirit Magic felt a bit under-supported. Since Spirits are supposed to be interacted with, I think Monster Coliseum would have been a great place to include a ‘Spirits’ chapter to provide GMs with a batch of pre-made Spirits to use in their game. Unfortunately, the few Spirits in the book are treated as straight-up creatures and no reference to the Spirit Magic rules are made. This is a missed opportunity, in my opinion.
Monster Coliseum is a necessary and useful companion to Mongoose’s excellent Runequest II Corebook. While it could have had a broader scope and the arena rules feel a bit out-of-place, it remains a great resource for RQII GMs.