Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts

Monday, November 21, 2022

Monstrous Monday: The Magaga Beast

Magaga Beast
A special one today. I was inspired by recent events for this one.

The Magaga Beast

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 60' (20') [6"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 20d8+80***** (170 hp)
  Hit Dice (Gargantuan): 20d20+80***** (310 hp)
To Hit AC0: 4 (+15)
Attacks: Trample, Bite (every other round)
Damage: 4d12+2
Special: Cause confusion (speech), Immune to mind-affecting magics, Regeneration, Summon drumpfs 
Languages: Common*
Size: Gargantuan
Save: Monster 20
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: See below
XP: 7,750 (OSE) 8,000 (LL)

Str: 17 (+2) Dex: 9 (0) Con: 20 (+4) Int: 5 (-2) Wis: 5 (-2) Cha: 3 (-3)

Once every four years, the dreaded Magaga Beast will rise up out of its dismal lair to attack the countryside, eating everything in its path. Standing 45' tall, the bloated Magaga Beast, and thankfully there is only one, lumbers through the countryside eating, babbling on, and worse summoning other horrible creatures to its side. It appears as a behemoth creature, vaguely humanoid in shape, though it lower half is obscured by its massive flesh. Two arms stick out with tiny, useless hands. It has slapped a large bit of yellow straw onto its own head in a close approximation to hair.

It is large and virtually unstoppable, but slow and slow-witted. It babbles on in something resembling common, but any who listens to it becomes confused. Its main attack to just trample over everything in its path. It can reach down with its giant maw and attack to eat. On a critical bite attack, it can swallow a person whole. It can only bite once every other round.

Its worse trait is it attracts a large number (2d20) of drumpf goblins to its side to encourage it on. In the presence of the magaga beast, drumphs have a moral of 12 and are more prone to violent behavior to "protect" what they see as their lord and god. The magaga beast will happily eat any drumph that gets too close to its mouth. Nearly as bad is the trail of offal it leaves behind. This offal trail can cause sickness for any that do not save vs. poison. A fail means they are incapacitated for 2d6 days. Success means they can not breathe unless they move at least 10 ft. away

The magaga beast is immune to any mind-affecting magic. Simply put there is not enough of a mind here to be affected. The magaga beast regenerates 5 hp per round, even if reduced to 0 hp it will regenerate. Though if it is brought down to 0 hp it will hibernate for another four years, stirring as soon as two years if disturbed. 

Various communities have tried different means to defeat or sway the magaga beast. Giving it food only makes it demand even more. Others have sent various warriors for justice at it. But sadly it just keeps coming back. Even when reduced to 0 hp it finds a way to come back.

--

The resemblance to any real person is purely conjecture.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)

Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)
One of my favorite adventures is X2 Castle Amber. It covers so much of what I love in an adventure. Plus it is full of great Clark Ashton Smith homages and nods.

Among these homages is the Neh-thalggu or the Brain Collector.  It is such a creepy ass monster and I really love them. 

If the amount of OGC on them is any indication, then others like them too. You can find them for d20 3.x style, Pathfinder, and 5e.  This is in addition to official D&D stats for Basic and AD&D 2nd Ed.

Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1
SIZE: Large
HD: 14 (d10) (77 hp)
MOVE: 60 ft.
AC: 16 (natural armor)
ATTACKS: Bite (1d10) + Poison (Save vs. Con or Paralyze), Claws (1d6) 
SPECIAL: Brain collection, Incorporeal, Spell Casting
SAVES: M
INT: Genius to Supra-genius (20-22)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
TYPE: Aberration
TREASURE: 8
XP: 6,000

The neh-thalggu, also known as the Brain Collector, is a creature from the Outer Darkness.

Neh-thalggus hail from distant worlds, traveling the gulfs of space on immense living ships that swiftly decay when they land upon a new world, leaving behind a deadly cargo of hungry monsters. Neh-thalggus are crablike nightmares with lamprey-like mouths, twitching eyes on their legs, and several blisters along their back that hold human brains. Some speculate that neh-thalggus encountered in this reality may merely be juveniles of their kind, perhaps exiled from their home worlds by greater kin until they can prove their worth on other worlds.

Combat: Neh-thalggu attack with their mouths they attempt to latch on with their mouths and claws to extract the brain from their victims.  They attack primarily with their mouths (bite) and then try to latch on with their claws.  On a successful bite and claw attack the victim must make a Constitution save or become paralyzed. Once paralyzed the creature will remove the victim's brain. 

Brain Collectors. Neh-thalggus are carnivores, but they do not digest humanoid brains they eat, rather, these brains lodge in one of several bulbous blisters on the creature's back and help to increase its intellect. Their brain collections may be a morbid form of currency in their home realm, or the thoughts in these brains may merely be fuel for a dark apotheosis into an even more sinister mature form.

Incorporeal: A neh-thalggu is not wholly in our reality but always remains partially extradimensional. Thus it can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better weapons, magic, or psionics, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. It can pass through solid objects at will, and its own attacks pass through armor (except for its bite attack, which is treated as if a corporeal attack). It always moves silently unless it chooses otherwise.

Mind Masters. Neh-thalggu masters lord it over their lesser kin by applying the drained brainpower of their victims toward mastering psychic magic and mesmerism. They may inhabit elaborate mindscapes as their lairs or may subtly influence the thoughts and senses of creatures they lure into their lair in furtherance of convoluted plots to manipulate the societies around them while they dwell in secret. Some dwell alone or with mind-controlled slaves, while others organize clusters of their own kind to spread their sinister schemes and feed their insatiable alien hunger.

Spell Casting. Neh-thalggu can cast spells as 1st level wizard. For every brain, they collect they add one more level of spell casting for a maximum of 12 brains to 13th level wizard.  For this reason Neh-thalggu will target wizards and other magic-using characters.

--

Might need some tweaks, but yeah this is one nasty beastie. 

The plot hook is obvious. A bunch of never before seen monsters are attacking the countryside the day after a shooting star was seen. Worst of all are reports of a "ghost monster" that feeds on brains. 

Don't forget the Indiegogo campaign for Amazing Adventures going on right now!  Grab the books and you can use this guy.

Amazing Adventures


Monday, November 7, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Year of the Monster and Mastodon

I am at a pivot point with my Monstrous Mondays.

I have a bunch of projects I am desperate to get out because I am tired of them languishing on my hard drives and instead need to be on my, and hopefully your, game shelves.

So much so that I am dubbing 2023 "The Year of the Monster." I just have so much I want to do.  I ma hoping to have the first thing in your hands by December 26, 2022, the last Monday of the year. But I really need to get my butt moving on that.

In other news, I have a new place to scream into the void. I set up an account on Mastodon. I don't have much there right at the moment.  Now I have no intention nor no desire to leave Twitter. So you can still find me there.

Ok, let's bring this all together for a post.

One of the coolest things about living in Illinois is the number of mastodon fossils that can be found here. My uncle dug some giant molars from my maternal grandparent's property 60 years ago and we still have them now. I also used to love going to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield to see the Mastodons and other Ice Age fauna on display.  So why not an ode to my new social media account, one of my oldest favorite ice age creatures, and all for the newest iteration of my oldest favorite game.

Mastodon at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL

Mastodon, Undead

For Old-School Essentials

Undead remains of an ancient elephant species. Prized mounts of winter warlocks and sought-after guard animals of frost giants.

AC: 4 [15], HD 12 (45 hp), Att 2 x tusk (2d6) or 1 x trample (4d8), THAC0 10 [+9], MV 120' (60'), SV D8 S9 P10 B10 S12 (8), ML 10, AL Chaos XP 1,900, NA (0) (1d4), TT Tusks

  • Charge: In the first round of combat. Requires a clear run of 60 feet. Tusks inflict double damage.
  • Trample: 3-in-4 chance of trampling each round. +3 to hit medium (human-sized) or smaller creatures.
  • Ivory: Each tusk is worth 2d6 x 100 gp.
  • Undead: Makes no noise until they attack. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (poisons, gases). Immune to mind-affecting magics (charm, hold, sleep).  Turns as a 7-9 HD monster. 

Mastodons are larger than elephants but smaller than Mammoths.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: D&D Undead

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)
Wow. It is the last Monday of October and it is Halloween.  If you think I have been saving something special for today then you would be correct.  Today I want to talk about the Undead!

Ghosts. Vampires. The Undead. These are the monsters that got me into D&D from the start. Yes it was fun to see all the monsters of mythology here, but I didn't want to be Perseus or Heracles, I wanted to be Van Helsing (I ended up as Dr. Seward, and that is fine). 

So it is to the undead that my monster-hunting eye has always turned. This has been true for every edition of D&D I have played. Second Edition AD&D had Ravenloft and The Complete Book of Necromancers. Third and Fourth Editions have had today's subjects.

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)

PDF and Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

Libris Mortis was the undead book for 3.5. Undead were covered in the Book of Vile Darkness for 3.0 and here they get more attention and more details.

Introduction

Tells us all about this book and the basics of the Undead and undeath.

Chapter 1: All About Undead

Gets into the detail of the undead including how they manifest; largely along the traditional Corporeal/Incorpeal lines. Undead physiology and details like metabolism and feeding are covered. There is a useful table of various undead monsters and whether or not they feed, what they feed on, and whether it is needed or just desired. This also covers their senses which can be very different than the living stock they came from. All Undead have Darkvision 60' for example, but their sense of touch is limited. 

Also, undead psychology is covered. Namely, how does one deal with being nearly immortal and never changing? There is a bit on undead religion including some gods (in 3.x format) of the Undead. Some of these we have seen before or have seen mentions of. Doresain the King of Ghouls, Nerull the Reaper, and our good friend Orcus are all mentioned here. 

Though one of my favorite sections is the Fighting Undead section which covers weaknesses and tactics that can be used in fighting the undead.  Much like Professor Hieronymus Grost informs us in Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, all undead (not just vampires) have a means to their destruction.  This section should make the undead scarier than other monsters. Orcs and Dragons die the same way. You reduce their HP enough with weapons and they will die.  Not always so with Undead.

Chapter 2: Character Options

This is a 3.5 book so there are going to be character options. These start with the feats. They are split between undead-friendly feats and undead-hunting feats.

Building off of the Savage Species there are rules for Undead Characters. This includes level adjustments for undead characters. Not every group will want undead characters, but these rules do help. There are even some Monster Classes. Of course, the best use of these is to make unique undead NPCs to threaten characters with. 

Chapter 3: Prestige Classes

3.x was all about the prestige classes. And there are several here that I found a lot of fun. There are Death's Chosen (high level lieutenants for the undead),  Dirge Singer (a fun bard idea), Master of Radiance (one my Paladin went into), Master of Shrouds (their evil counterpart), Pale Master (Prestige Divine Necromancer), Sacred Purifier (another good undead fighting class), True Necromancer (Prestige Arcane AND Divine Necromancer).  The True Necromancer advances in both Divine and Arcane spellcasting classes and gets special powers. It is also an odd Prestige Class in that it has 14 levels. Obviously to give the maximum effect of taking three levels in a divine class (need Knowledge Religion 8 ranks, cast summon undead II) and three levels in an arcane class (need Knowledge Arcan 8 ranks, cast command undead). I also can't help but think this is an obvious nod to the Death Master.

There are also Undead Prestige Classes such as Lurking Terror, Master Vampire, and the Tomb Warden.

At this point, I could run a 3.5 campaign and battle only undead and never run out of combinations and permutations of monster, class, feat, and prestige class combinations. 

Chapter 4: Spells

Covers spells for Assassins, Blackguards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Sorcerer/Wizards. There are many here that are new. I'd have to go line by line to see how many came from the Complete Book of Necromancers. 

Chapter 5: Equipment

A shorter chapter that covers new equipment. There are alchemical substances, toxins, poisons as well as undead grafts and magic items. 

Chapter 6: New Monsters

Nearly 50 new monsters here and only a few seem to come from previous versions of D&D. The Brain in a Jar stands out as a previous one, but the rest are new. 

I never get tired of new monsters, especially undead ones. 

Chapter 7: Campaigns

This covers the last quarter or so of the book. It covers how to use undead in various roles including using them in encounters. There is also a great section on variant undead. I believe that all undead should be unique in some fashion, often relating to how they lived or died (see "A Christmas Carol"). Only a few examples are given, but they can be extended to all sorts of undead. 

There are various cults here that can be used anywhere and in any version of D&D. There are also adventure sites and seeds which can also be dropped anywhere but require some minor conversion for other versions of the game. 

This is one of those books I keep coming back to for more ideas. Yes I have been using the undead in my own games for more than 40 years now, but there is something else to do, something else to learn, and more to the point, more monsters to fight. 

Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)
Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 224 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

This book has a solid pedigree. First off one of the authors of this, Bruce R. Cordell, was also one of the authors of Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead.  He was also one of main designers of the epic HPE series of Orcus-focused adventures for 4e. This means to me at least that if you are running the HPE series and using undead (and of course you are) then this book is a must-buy.  There are more details in this book that make it a great book on D&D Undead, but I will get to those in due time.

Chapter 1: Undead Lore

This book starts much like it's 3.5 Edition counterpart. This chapter covers the hows, whats, and whys of undead. There are sections on physiology, outlook, and psychology, as well as society.  These sections are very similar to the 3.5 edition, which makes sense, with the addition of edition specific details.  

For my point of view, the two books (Open Grave and Libris Mortis) both compliment and complete each other. Together they are not the final words on Undead, but they cover quite a lot. 

The section that is newest here is the one on Shadowfell (and thus why it is a great resource for the HPE adventures). 

There are few undead monster stat blocks featured here as well. 

Chapter 2: DM's Guide to Undead

This covers DM's rules. In particular there are skill challenges, how to handle hauntings, and building undead into campaigns. This section in particular is good advice to any DM of any edition wanting to use undead in their games. 

There are also some artifacts detailed here including the Mask and Sword of Kas, the Soul Sword, the Von Zarovich family sword, and more. Like 3.5 there are even some undead grafts. 

New rituals are also detailed. Something I felt D&D 4e never had enough of.  

Chapter 3: Undead Lairs

Location-based encounters were a big deal in 4e. This covers ones with an undead flavor to them for Heroic, Paragon, and Epic level tiers. Three of each are featured with character levels from 1st to 26th. As with all 4e encounter listings, there are plenty of quasi-unique monsters here. Sometimes they are new, and often they are just an edit on an existing creature.  

Chapter 4: New Monsters

Ah, here is what we want! There are more than just undead here, there are the "unliving" as well; monsters that have cheated death but are not undead themselves. There are 122 statblocks of monsters here. These included variations on the Ghoul, Lich, Mummy, Skeleton, Vampire, and Zombie. There are new creatures including undead constructs and oozes. Our old friend the Brain in the Jar from Ravenloft is also back. So many of these are at least familiar to me and some are new.

Undead Hall of Infamy

This flows from the Chapter 4 material and is nominally part of Chapter 4, it is its own section. Here we get some stats for some of the biggest undead names in D&D history. They include Acererak, Ctenmiir the Cursed (from White Plume Mountain), Kas the Betrayer, Kyuss, Osterneth the Bronze Lich (a new NPC but has the relic, the Heart of Vecna), Strahd von Zarovich, and Vecna himself.

Templates

Also part of Chapter 4 these are templates for undead creatures.

Alternative Powers

Undead should be unique, so these are alternate power for various undead that replaces one or more of the powers they have listed. 

The utility of this book to the 4e DM can not be overstated. Especially if you are running the HPE adventures or dealing with any undead.

Undead

For me, these books complement each other well. They cover the same basics but go into different sorts of details even outside of their system-related materials. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Devils

Last week I concluded my This Old Dragon retrospective of the Devil and the Nine Hells as they appeared in Dragon Magazine. Today for Monstrous Monday I want to look at some books about devils and show how there is a direct line continuity from those Dragon articles in 1983 to the 3.5 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells from 2006 and even the 4e The Plane  Above in 2010.

Devils 3e and 4e styles

Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (3.5)

Tyrants of the Nine Hells
PDF and Hardcover. 158 Pages. Color covers and interior art.

This book does for Devils what the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss did for demons. Sadly there is no Fiendish Codex III. For this review I am considering my hardcover I bought back when it came out and the PDF on DriveThruRPG.

Preface: This might one of the more important bits of D&D fiction out there. Devils in D&D have always had a problem. No not from busy-body mothers and evangelicals looking to ban D&D because of devils and demons (they would find something else anyway), the issue is that the very nature of the devils in question tie them closely to the Abrahamic religions.  Asmodeus is a Jewish demon, Baalzebul comes to us from Beelzebub, another demon found in the Bible by way of Judaism. Mammon comes from the New Testament and Belial from the Old Testament.  Remove the Judeo-Christian origins who are these demons? This new(ish) preface gives us the new origins of these devils and how they fit into the D&D cosmology and the Blood War.

Introduction is just that, tells you what this book is about.

Chapter 1: All About Devils covers devils and hell. The only valuable things in Hell to the devils are souls.These are what they strive to collect, to barter, and bargain with.  Where demons are spit up from the nature of the Abyss itself, devils need souls to make more devils. This should imply there is a distinct dichotomy in the devilish hierarchy; devils that were raised up from souls to devils that fell. Speaking of hierarchy this chapter goes into that and how devils rise up from one form to the next. Also discussed are Demons and Devils and the Blood War. 

There is advice on running devilish encounters and how to deal with Faustian Pacts, devil worship and infernal alliances. Yeah, this in not 80s D&D.  Pretty much everything in this chapter can be used with any edition of D&D.

Chapter 2: The Hells. A detailed "guided tour" of Hell. We are going over some of the same ground back when Ed Greenwood took us here in 1983 in Dragon #75 and Dragon #76. There is more details here and some layers have changed a bit; Avernus comes to mind. Throughout the layers, we also get a listing of the various D&D Gods that live in the Hells. Something that I spent a lot of time covering in my series One Man's God.  There are updates not just from the AD&D 1st ed time of Ed Greenwood's article and the Blood War material of late 2nd Ed AD&D, but from 3.0 D&D as well. Phlegethos is now controlled by Fierna instead of jointly controlled by her and her father and Glasya in the newly anointed Lord of Malbolge having offed the Hag Countess. All great material and more than I'll ever use in a game.

Chapter 3: Game Rules. This cover the 3.5 D&D specific rules. There are Hellbred characters, new feats, and new Prestige Classes. Of special interest to me is the Hellfire Warlock. There are also plenty of new spells. 

Chapter 4: Devils are our new monster listings of devils. The Abishai are back, along with 16 other devils, some new and some updated.

Chapter 5: Lords of the Nine detail the Nine Archdukes. You can pretty much tell what version of D&D you are using by who the Archduke of Avernus is. In 3.5 it is Bel. Though I think he might have been it for late 2nd ed as well. All the Archdukes get a bit of a makeover from their 1st Ed days. Dispater has hair now, Mammon has a new cursed form, Levistus is the lord of Stygia, and Glasya gets the best upgrade and is now Lord of Sixth Layer Malbolge. Baalzebul still looks like a slug. Mephistopheles is still working on Hellfire. Only Asmodeus is constant. As he demands it. 

As its sister product, this is a great book on Devils and the Nine Hells for any edition of D&D.


The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 160 Pages. Color covers and interior art. I am considering both my hardcover (one of the last D&D books I ever bought at Borders I believe) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

4e reordered the Cosmos and that is fine for me really. In 3e they explained that how one perceives the outer planes is largely based on how they believe they should perceive them. So Hell in 4e is both a "Lower Plane" and an "Upper Plane." No contradiction really.

This book has the same relationship to The Plane Below as the Fiendish Codices have to each other. 

Chapter 1: Astral Adventures cover adventuring on the Astral Sea. Again it is easy to see why Wizards of the Coast moved their version of Spelljammer to the Astral. The seeds for that are all here. Indeed Spelljammers are mentioned on page 19 as a means of siling the Astral Sea.

Chapter 2: Divine Dominions deal with the homes of the gods and the afterlives of mortals. Different sorts of creatures are detailed here; gods, angels, the exalted, and Outsiders. A few divine domains are also detailed. Arvandor is the home of elves and eladrin. Celestia the Seven Heavens. Chernoggar is a plane/world that essentially has the Lawful Evil Gods of War Bane and Gruumsh fighting it out for all of eternity. 

The Nine Hells get their own special sections. This repeats some of the details (but not copy-paste) from 3e about the fall of Asmodeus and the creation of Hell. [Aside: D&D really needs its own Silmarillion, Kalevala, or Enūma Eliš] There some small adventure encounters here too. A few more domains are also detailed.

Chapter 3: The Deep Astral Sea is very far removed from the normal lives of mortals. Here various new races are discussed like the familiar Githyanki, and the less familiar Maruts and Quom. Here there are also forgotten and "shattered" domains like Carceri and Pandemonium. 

Chapter 4: Astral Denizens cover our "monsters." Here are 44 new monster stat blocks including six new devils. Among these, there is the return of Bahgtru, Luthic, and Other Side favorite Vaprak

This book would make for a great trilogy of books with "The Plane Below" and "Manual of the Planes." With the PDFs from DriveThruRPG it would not be too difficult to print them out and rearrange as needed.  It would be a 480-page book, but it would also be the ultimate source of the planes knowledge in D&D 4e.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Demons

I have spent the past year or so going through all the various D&D monster books. Seeing what makes them work well and what doesn't. My homage, as it is, to the book that introduced me to D&D in the beginning.

Today I want to cover some of my favorite creatures to use (and pit players against) demons.

Demon books in D&D

Demons, as D&D describes them, are Chaotic and Evil. But more than that they are of unrepentant evil. You never hear of demons becoming good, ever. So rare that when it does happen, it becomes a thing of legend

It also means that the only appropriate way to deal with a demon is to send it screaming back to the Abyss from where it came. 

So if 2nd Ed AD&D was the golden age of Settings. Then 3rd and 4th Ed D&D was the golden age of fluff and story.  Here I have some books about Demons and the Abyss with details that are still in use in 5th Edition today.

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (3.5)

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (D&D 3.5)

PDF and hardcover. 162 pages. Color covers and interior art.

Published in 2006 this product had three aims. First, update all the various demons to the 3.5 D&D rules. Second, introduce new rules about the Abyss and new demons. Finally to provide a more "PG" sort of book rather than the "R" rated Book of Vile Darkness. This book expands on everything we know so far. Indeed for a chaotic race, the power structure of the Abyss has been in place since the introduction of Eldritch Wizardry 30 years prior.

This book gives us the notion, likely introduced in the 2nd E and I may have missed it, that demons are spawned from the Abyss itself, which may also be alive. 

Chapter 1: Demonic Lore 

This covers what is currently known about demons and the Abyss. It also introduces a new source of demonic knowledge, the Black Scrolls of Ahm. We get a bit on demonic physiology, in this case, a dretch, though it is also noted this can vary from demon to demon. A bit on the nature of death in demons. Demonic roles and possession. 

Chapter 2: Demons

Ah. Now I was one of the first ones to complain about the bowdlerization of Demons into Tanar'ri during the AD&D 2nd days. D&D 3rd Edition kept them, but also kept demons. Here is the payoff for them doing that. Tanar'ri are but one of three (in this book) types of demons. Green Ronin began this with their demon books early one and I even did it back at the end of my 2nd Ed days.  It is a natural and logical assumption in my mind. And one I am glad to see here.  The two new types are Loumara subtype (a new type of demon) and the Obyrith (an ancient, primeval type of demon). Each has different traits. So now demons are listed as something like "Always CE Medium outsider (chaotic, evil, extraplanar, tanar'ri)" or similar. There are still chaotic evil monsters in the abyss that are not any of the three demon sub-types.   

Among the Loumara we have: Dybbuk, Ekolid, and Guecubu. For the Obyriths we have the Sibriex. There are more Obyrith lords coming up.

Chapter 3: Demon Lords

Here we have names going all the way back to the beginning, but all updated. The art for Demogorgon reminds me of the cover of Eldritch Wizardry. There are plenty of old favorites here. As well as plenty of new and somewhat revised ones. There are Obyrith lords like Dagon, Obox-ob, Pale Night, and Pazuzu. Dagon has had an interesting history in D&D due to the god, devil, and Lovecraftian creature that all share the same name. This Dagon tries to, and largely succeeds in, uniting all three into one horrible creature. 

Chapter 4: Trafficking with Demons

Deals with demonic followers, both human and demon. It's 3.x so there are feats to be had here! There are also new spells and uses for skills. We are introduced to the Black Cult of Ahm and their lore including the various scrolls of Ahm. There is the Abyssal Mundus, the Black Writings, and the Rubric of Tulket nor Ahm. There is also the Transcriptions of Ergon, rumored to be an apprentice to Tulket nor Ahm.

Chapter 5: Into the Abyss

I mentioned this was a golden age of story and fluff, this chapter is a good example. We get a brief history of the Abyss, the various demon types, and of course The Blood War. We also get details on various Abyssal layers and areas. We get Graz'zt capital of Zeltar which exists on three layers simultaneously. The infamous Demonweb, Orcus' layer of Thanatos, and many more.

Appendix I covers all the lords of the Abyss, their titles, areas of concern, and their layers.  Appendix II covers the known named layers of the Abyss and their rulers. Appendix III covers demonic monsters from other 3.x books. 

Even if you are not playing 3.x or any system similar to it, this is still a great book on demons.

The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)
The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)

PDF and hardcover. 162 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This book also expands on demonic lore. This time for 4e. Though this book also expands on various chaotic and elemental forces. Making the connections between the Abyss and elemental chaos stronger. 

 This is divided in five chapters. 

Chapter 1: Chaos Incarnate

This chapter covers the nature of the Elemental Chaos of the Astral Plane. You can see the start here of why Wizards of the Coast is setting Spelljamer in the Astral and not Wildspace. It makes sense. This deals with the nature of chaos, traveling in it, and features of the plane including hazards and various skill challenges. 

For warlocks, there are even three new Patrons. And "new" cults like the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye. And "new" artifacts like the Crystal of Ebon Flame.

Chapter 2: Races of Chaos

This covers Archons, Djinn, Efreets, Genasi, Giants and Titans, Githzerai, Slaad, and brief entries on others like Dao, Dwarves, and Primoridals. No stats, all background information.

Chapter 3:  Elemental Locales

Various important locales in the Elemental Chaos. These include The Brazen Bazaar, Canaughlin Bog, Gloamnull the City of Rain, Irdoc Morda, the Pillars of Creation, The Riverweb, the Glittering Mine (with encounters), and The Body Luminous (with adventure). Save for the last two there is only minor game-related details. So use in any game would work.

Chapter 4: Into the Abyss

Same title as Chapter 5 of Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss this covers similar ground.  Travel and hazards of the Abyss, the so-called "bottom" of the infinite elemental chaos. We get a listing fo demons from other 4e books and ideas for adventures and skill challenges.

Some demonic locations are given and these are for the most part different than what we have had before.

Chapter 5: Creatures of Chaos

Now, this is the reason I pulled this one out for today. We get new oozes, new archons, and of course new demons. There are mostly elemental creatures here and chaotic ones like Slaad who are largely chaotic evil here. There are some unique creatures as well including Ygorl the Lord of Entropy.

Demonomicon (4e)
Demonomicon (4e)

PDF and hardcover. 160 pages. Color covers and interior art.

Easily one of my favorite D&D 4e books. This one presages the 5e books with excerpts from the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv. 

This one has three chapters, but each one is packed.

Chapter 1: Demonic Lore

Here get the introduction to the Demonomicon of Iggwilv, its history and its special features.  We learn the first of six volumes titled the Demonomicon of Iggwilv was based on an earlier work, the Tome of Zyx.  What follows is said to be from these tomes.

We go back to the birth of the Abyss with the Obyriths coming into this universe from their dying one. Here Tharizdun planted the "Seed of Evil" into the Astral Sea and from it, a tear in reality opened creating the Abyss.  Here we learn that an ancient Primordial came to the Abyss to become one of the first Demons, he became known as Demogorgon. Here Dagon, an Obyrith, challenged Demogorgon for control while Obox-ob claimed the seed and became the first Demon Prince.

Here in this Dawn Time, the Cult of Elemental Evil was formed. Demons rose, Angels fell and soon even Tharizdun fell and was chained. Here we get the start of the Blood War.

Much like the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss we get some details on Fiendish physiology. Most notable is how demons adapt to their environments by changing their physiology. We cover topics of demonic possession, demonic ascension, lords, cults, summoning demons (with one reused bit of art), and legions. There are legions for every demon lord but only a few are detailed here. 

Quite a bit of material here that feels like an expansion of the material that came before it.

Likewise, there is some reused art, but it is good art so I can't complain.

Graz'zt and Iggwilv

Chapter 2: The Abyss

This one covers the nature of the Abyss, expanding on what the Elemental Chaos book covered. Many layers are also covered, most getting a few pages of content. Graz'zt layer of Azzagrat gets some detail. While some of this is familiar to readers of Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss it also provides new details and different information. This is true for some other layers as well. 

There are also minor realms and Abyssal portals, delves, and temples. Some with encounter information.

Chapter 3: Demons

There are 45 new abyssal monsters here which are mostly demons (Tanar'ri and Obyrith) and a few Demon Lords not covered in the Monster Manuals.

If you are playing 4e and dealing with demons (which many of the adventures do) then this is really a must-have book.  If you like the history of demons in D&D then this is also a must-have.

--

All three add to the sum total knowledge of demons in D&D. Having the PDFs I am tempted to print out the fluff sections and add them to a guide of demons I have had since the 2nd Edition days.

Maybe D&D is about demons after all?

Monday, October 10, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Books of Vile Darkness

It is the spooky season out there and we need spooky material to work with. So today I am going to cover the two different Books of Vile Darkness for the D&D 3.0 and D&D 4.0 games.  But first a bit of an explanatory note.

Books of Vile Darkness

History

The Book of Vile Darkness was a magic item / semi-artifact found in the original Dungeon Master's Guide. It was a book of power for evil clerics. It raised your wisdom by 1 point and gave you enough XP to move up one level. Its counterpart for good was the Book of Exalted Deeds. 

For both reviews, I am using my physical copies and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG

Book of Vile Darkness (3e)
Book of Vile Darkness (3e)

PDF and Hardcover. 192 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This one caused a bit of a stir when it was first released. For starters, there was a warning label on the cover "WARNING! Content is intended for mature audiences only." There were discussions online about it before it was released, many thinking there was nothing but shock value here. It even took some hits from Dragonlance co-creator Tracy Hickman. The book does cover more than a few topics people might find distasteful and there is more nudity in this book than ever seen in an official D&D book.

The book however was less shocking than expected and it even received praise for the author Monte Cook.

The book is filled with all sorts of ideas and if you are planning to send your players to any of the lower planes then this is a book you should consider. 

The first six chapters are, briefly:

Chapter 1: The Nature of Evil. This covers evil as a very real force in the multiverse of Dungeons & Dragons. There are a few new evil gods, some purely evil races, and notes on creating evil villains and some examples. There is a very cool demon-possessed blue dragon, Enesstrere.

Chapter 2: Variant Rules. This short chapter has rules for possession, sacrifice, disease, curses, and aspects of evil. 

Chapter 3: Evil Equipment gives us torture devices, execution equipment, drug, magic, and quasi-magical alchemical items. 

Chapter 4: Feats and Chapter 5: Prestige Classes have our D&D 3.0-specific materials.  Some of the Prestige Classes are rather fun like Demonologist and the Diabolist. Many Devils also get a "Disciple of ..." prestige class.  Demons likewise get a "Thrall of ..." class.  I will note that the Thrall of Graz'zt on page 69 features art very reminiscent of the witch on the cover of Dragon #114. Not the pose mind you, but it could be the same character.

Chapter 6: Magic is exactly that. Spells and magic items of an evil nature. There are lot of spells here and quite a few evil magic items all the way up to evil major artifacts including the Ruby Rod of Asmodeus. 

Chapter 7: Lords of Evil and Chapter 8: Evil Monsters are the chapters that bring this book to my attention today.

Lords of Evil gives us a brief description of the lower planes and a bit of background on the Blood War. then it gets to the good stuff. Up first are all our Demon Lords. Most of the big names are here too, Demogorgon (before his Netflix fame, though I am not a fan of the art), Graz'zt, Juiblex, Orcus, and Yeenoghu. Arch-devils are also covered. Bel is lord of the First layer here, latest (well for 2003) in a line of lords of the First. Dispater, Mammon (looking like Geryon), the incestuous Belial/Fierna (if you look closely you can see she it flipping the bird in the art on page 152), Levistus, the Hag Countess as Lord of the Sixth (a new one for me back then), Baalzebul, Mephistopheles (now a master of Hellfire), and Asmodeus. Each one is listed with major servants, lieutenants, and followers.

Evil Monsters gives us a bunch of old favorites and some new ones. In particular, we got the new Eye of Fear and Flame and the reptile-insect monsters, the Kython.

While I would not buy this for the monsters alone, it is worthwhile for the Lords and the magic chapters.

Book of Vile Darkness (4e)
Book of Vile Darkness (4e)

PDF 128 pages. Two soft-cover books 96 and 32 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This one is a bit different. The physical edition comes in two softcover books in a cardstock slipcase/sleeve.

The 32-page book is a replica of the Book of Vile Darkness on outside (great to show players) and on the inside has character options (in line with the original BoVD). This includes character themes, of the Cultist, the Disgraced Nobel, Infernal Slave, Reaver, and my favorite the Vile Scholar. Paragon Paths include the Blood-Crazed Berserker, Contract Killer, Demonlogist, Idol of Darkness, and the Vermin Lord. We get one Epic Destiny, the Exemplar of Evil. 

The 96-page book covers many of the same topics from the 3e version. This includes the nature of evil and running evil games. But does not go into the detail that the 3.0 version did.

There are some monsters here, but not a lot. There are Fallen Angels, something new to this book. A demon, a devil, and a new type of hag.  So not as dark as its predecessor. 

Still, it is one of the 4e books I have held on to because there are some good ideas here. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Fiend Folio (3e)

Fiend Folio (3e)
Welcome to October. If there is any time of year to remind me of my love of monsters it is now. Watching horror movies (or "monster movies" as my dad and I used to call them when I was little) is so deeply tied into my love of both Halloween and D&D that it is hard to tease them apart.  

This month I want to cover some horror-themed monster books for review. My ultimate goal here is to get a good feeling of what makes a monster book "good" and what doesn't. Or maybe what makes them good for me. All year I have been focusing on D&D monster books of all sorts. My second goal is to wrap up this process before 2023 when I do something a little different.

Given I have some D&D 3.x books still cover and five Mondays in October I am going to cover some of these or at least the ones that have the most horror elements to them.

Up first, the Fiend Folio.

Fiend Folio (3e)

PDF and Hardcover. 226 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This is the third "Fiend Folio" we have gotten for *D&D over the last 20+ years.  Like the first one for 1st Ed AD&D, this one is a hardcover book. Like the second one for 2nd AD&D, this one expands the list of monsters. 

This Fiend Folio lives up to its title a little bit more by giving us a lot more fiends. There are demons and devils here as well as the demodands (originally from the AD&D Monster Manual II). Here they get the alignment of "often Neutral Evil."  There are plenty of new demons and devils here too.

There are some Fiend Folio "repeats" here, or my updates is the better term.Just eyeballing it there is the Blood Hawk, Caryatid Column, Dark Creeper and Stalker, Death Dog, Disenchanter, Flame/Fire Snake, Fossergrim, Huecuva (now a template), Iron Cobra, Kelpie, Necrophidius, Skulk, Slaad, Yellow Musk Creeper, and Zombie.

No flumphs though. 

There are also plenty of new monsters too, like the Bacchae and Feytouched which are fun. All in all 167 monsters for D&D 3.0 (3.5 is still a couple of months off).  We are a point in the 3.x development cycle where the monsters still run from one to the next, like the original Fiend Folio. 

This book also includes some Prestige Classes, some Grafts and Symbionts, 

There was a free "Web Enhancement" back when this was new called Fiendish Fun which extended some of the ideas in the Fiend Folio. It is still out there thanks to Archive.org.

This is one of the books I consider central for a D&D 3.x horror campaign. The rest, well that is what the rest of this month is for. 

Monday, September 26, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Twilight Fables (5e & OSR)

Taking a break from Pathfinder for a bit on this first Monstrous Monday of Fall 2022 to do something a little darker.  There is a chill in the air here in Chicago. I have a flannel shirt on and my mood ever shifts more and more to Halloween.  A Halloween bestiary would be nice and thankfully Izegrim Creations has just the thing I need.

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables

I swear the Kickstarter for this had just ended and I got my DriveThruRPG notification that the hardcovers were available. 

So for this I Monstrous Monday, I want to talk about both the 5e and OSR versions of this book, the Print on Demand and PDF versions, plus all the other material that makes up this line. 

OSR and 5e

Overview

Both books are huge volumes at 336 pages (5e) and 326 pages (OSR) each. The covers are full color as is all the interior art.  And the art is fantastic.  

Twilight Fables books

Twilight Fables books

Both books have a solid 5e aesthetic to them; colorful art and backgrounds, text describing the creature and its place in the environment/land/myths, and followed by a stat block.

art

The 5e book features a standard-looking 5e stat block, the OSR one is largely a modified Basic-era stat block. It includes everything you would expect along with descending and ascending AC, an entry for THAC0, and XP. The art for both books is the same.  There is a good reason for this, the OSR version was added on a little bit later in the Kickstarter.  The 5e version, with art, was done before the kickstart began (minus some edits I am told) so adding on the OSR version was a matter of adding the new stat blocks.  One nitpick there are listings for "DCs" in the OSR version for magic item creation (more on that later). I would have preferred something that felt a little more pre-2000.

Now in most situations, I would fear translation errors, but the author Roderic Waibel had already developed that very successful Chromatic Dungeons RPG (reviewed here) which is solid OSR.  So I know he knows OSR.  My only gripe is kinda wanted the OSR stat blocks to look as nice as the 5e ones!  But that is only a gripe for people that own both.

Like many of Waibel's publications we get nice sidebar discussions from the intelligent and rather civilized Gnoll "Fleabag." It is a very nice touch (I have done something similar with my 'From the Journal of Larina Nix') and it gives these (and his other books) character. 

Regardless of which one you get (get both!) you are in for a treat.

I grabbed both and will be using the OSR version in my Old-School Essentials game. My oldest grabbed the 5e version and is using it in his weekly 5e game. So far he says it is great and he loves all the different sorts of monsters it offers.

The Fables

The name of the book is Twilight Fables.  So you can expect that these are monsters from various myths, legends, and tales. And you would be 100% correct. Waibel has done his reading and there are a lot of great creatures here.  Even ones that might be familiar get new life and feel "new."  

For example, I mentioned one of my favorites, the Basajaun who appears in three different monster books. 

statblocks

Each one is a little different and yet each one 'feels' right. Perfect for DMs that want a familiar, yet different creature.

The creatures largely come from the myths, legends, and folklore of Europe. This is also what is advertised and leads to the logical assumption of Twilight Fables of other lands for future volumes. One for Africa, one for Asia, one for the Americas, all are possible.

In addition to the monsters, there are various legendary NPCs like Baba Yaga, Beowulf, Cailleach Beira, Cú Chulainn, Guy of Warwick, King Arthur, Little Red Riding Hood, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Robin Hood, Scáthach, Queen Úna of Faerie, and Väinämöinen. So yeah. Lots.

Cú Chulainn

There is a section on Mythological Treasures and Magic items. This includes some rules on how to make magic items as well. It is a very nice value add.  You saw this sort of thing with the old Mayfair "Fantastic Treasures" and something you see Troll Lord Games do with their Monster and Treasure books.

Both books also have rules for new character species (wanna play a Pech? You can!) and for 5e there are class options such as Warlock patrons and cleric domains.

There is even a small adventure (20 pages) to introduce these new monsters. 

The Monsters

All that is gravy.  The real meat here are the monsters.

In both cases, the monsters take up full pages. This includes the background and descriptions, the stat blocks, and whatever else is involved with this particular creature such as "Lore & Rumors", any special treasures, habitat, behaviors, and more.  In some cases, the material bleeds over to another entry, but not so much as to be an issue. 

There are, by my count, nearly 220 monsters here ranging in HD from 1-1 to 30+ (OSR) and CR 1/8 to 30 (5e).  So plenty of creatures to challenge any level of characters.

I have to say these are great books and well worth grabbing for your games, 5e or OSR, or both.  There is a lot of material here and plenty to keep many groups engaged for some time.

Extras

When you get the digital copy from DriveThruRPG you also get a bunch of tokens that can be printed and used in f2f table games or digitally online. It is another value add this game offers. There is also an RTF version of the book, a printer-friendly/no background version, and maps for the included adventure.

If you love monsters like I do then this is a must-buy.

Twilight Fables 5eTwilight Fables OSR


Monday, September 19, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Pathfinder Bestiary 4

Still working my way through a bunch of different monster books. Been spending the month of September on Pathfinder, but today is something a little different.  Let's get to it!

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 and Box

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 and Box

Today I am going to cover the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 and the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box.  We grabbed these back in 2015 or so I believe.  My oldest was running his D&D 5e game and wanted to add more Mythos monsters to it.  We grabbed the Bestiary 4, which has quite a lot of them, and then got the box of monster pawns to go with it.  By then we had also discovered the Cthulhu Wars game at GenCon and bought a bunch of those minis for him to use. So the box has been sorely underused.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4
Pathfinder Bestiary 4

PDF and Hardcover book. 320 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering the hardcover I bought in 2014 and the PDF I got from Paizo's webstore.

We grabbed this book for the mythos monsters. There are over 250 monsters in this book, so there were plenty of reasons to grab it.

This Bestiary gives us Kaiju. This book introduces them and there are more in the Pathfinder Mythic Realms books. There are 11 kaiju mentioned and three are detailed here.  They are all mostly Chaotic Neutral, with some suspected at Chaotic Evil. All are CR 26 and higher. 

Among the Mythos creatures, which are known as Elder Mythos here, are the bhole, colour out of space, elder thing, flying polyp, mi-go, nightgaunt, ratling, Spawn of Yog-Sothoth, Star-spawn of Cthulhu, and an whole collection of "Great Old Ones" that include Bokrug, Cthulhu, Hastur, and even Dagon as a Demon prince.

I can finally do my big "Godzilla vs. Cthulhu" idea!

There are even some old favorites here like the Leanan Sidhe, Nosferatu and Swan Maidens. Even really old ones like the Lurker Above and the Trapper (Monster Manual 1 AD&D) favorites get an update here. Spoiler: They are from the same family of creatures, no shock there. 

So yeah, for a "4" in the series, this one still has great monsters to give us.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box

The Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box is filled with cardboard cut-outs of *most* of the monsters listed in the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 book.  

They are study and work fine in places where you don't have a dedicated mini.  Also, the price of the box is much more economical than getting all of these minis. 

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box
Pawns and mini comparison.

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box


Pathfinder Bestiary 4 Box

There are no minis for the Kaiju or Great Old Ones. Which is one of the reasons we grabbed it.

Should have checked the back of the box I guess.

Bestiary Box contents

Still, this is great to have to fill out the places where I don't have the right mini.

Demons. Undead. Kaiju and Old Ones? Yeah, no wonder my oldest loves this one.

Monday, September 12, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Pathfinder Bestiaries 2 and 3

Continuing my overviews/reviews of the various D&D-related monster books, I am coming up on a few I bought in PDF form only.  I'll talk about that and what these books have to offer that is different from other, similar, books.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2
Pathfinder Bestiary 2 

PDF. 336 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 285 monsters.

This book is also available in a Letter hardcover version (first published) and a smaller softcover Pocket-Edition (6.4" x 8.3").

This is the second of the Pathfinder Bestiaries and it was published first in December 2010, just a little over a year after the first Bestiary in October of 2009. My expectation here was to get all the monsters "left over" from Bestiary 1, or at the very least, monsters from various Paizo products published in the last year.  We did get a little of each, but not as much as I expected and instead got a lot of new and even many original monsters. A few that I had not seen in print before. 

There were quite a few monsters here I was a little surprised and happy to see. Among them were the Chupacabra, Dhampir, the Jabberwock (our cover model), Neh-thalggu (more on that one in a bit), and the Wendigo.  I wanted it most for the wendigo, but the others were a nice touch. The big surprise was the Neh-thalggu or the Brain Collector that originally appeared in module X2 Castle Amber. I used this as my base to convert to 5e when I ran Castle Amber and of course, my players never encountered it. 

There are a few other "mythos" monsters here too. Denizen of Leng, Gug, Hound of Tindalos, and Leng spiders. We will see even more in future Bestiaries.

The nice innovations that Pathfinder brought to these monster entries are the nice single page, or most often 2-page spread for every monster. Stat blocks are better organized to find what you need when you need them.

Pathfinder Jabberwock

I can print out a bunch of monsters for an adventure and stick them into my folder with the adventure and notes and not need to cart around a bunch of different books; just the material I need.


Pathfinder Bestiary 3
Pathfinder Bestiary 3 

PDF. 320 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 268 monsters.

This book is also available in a Letter hardcover version (first published) and a smaller softcover Pocket-Edition (6.4" x 8.3").

This one was released a year after the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 in December of 2011. Like the previous book this one surprised me with the new of new to print creatures it has.

We do get some classics like the Axe beak and Lammasu from the original Monster Manual. The Adherer, Dire Corby, and Huecuva from the Fiend Folio. The Bandersnatch and Jubjub bird to go along with our Jabberwock. And one of my favorites, the Dimetrodon (always have a soft spot for these guys).

We get another new Cat Lord (originally from Monster Manual II).

Cat Lord

So this one certainly feels like an expansion to the first two. One could make a good argument that all three are really part on one whole given the mix of new and classic monsters.

Like the first two this book also has monsters 1 to a page or across 2 pages. Making printing easy (well, not so much on your printer) but allows you to mix and match monsters as you need. Doing a "Lewis Carol" themed adventure? Print out the Jabberwock from Pathfinder Bestiary 2 and the Bandersnatch and Jubjub bird from Pathfinder Bestiary 3 along with whatever else you might need. 

Both books make good use of the OGL and have some previously published OGC here. They also release all but a tiny bit of IP as Open to the OGL for any and all to remix and reuse. 

They are quite a treasure trove of creatures.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Pathfinder Bestiary 1

Pathfinder Bestiary
Last week I talked about the last of the D&D 3.x monster books to be published, but that was not the end of the d20 "3rd Ed era" monster books by a long shot.  When Wizards of the Coast moved on to D&D 4th Edition, Paizo (who had been publishing d20 material this whole time) came back with Pathfinder. 

The Pathfinder core combined the Player's and Game Master's material into one place and there was a rumor that the book would also have monsters. That was not to be and that was good in retrospect since it would have given us a 900+ page book.

Pathfinder Bestiary

Print and PDF. 328 pages. Color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering the hardcover I bought in 2010 and the PDF I got from Paizo's webstore.

At this point, people were calling Paizo's Pathfinder "D&D 3.75."  It was an update, via the OGL, of the D&D 3.5 rules with many of their own rules added on. Not sure if it was a coincidence or choice but both Pathfinder and D&D 4 featured cover art from Wayne Reynolds. This helped what came to be known as the "Dungeon Punk" style and gave us Pathfinder's unique-looking goblins, kobolds, and trolls.  

Wayne Reynolds Monster Books

This bestiary features 309 monsters. Like their godfather, D&D 3.x all the monsters feature robust stat blocks and full-color art.  Like 2nd Ed AD&D before and 4th ed D&D currently, each monster is present on a single page. Again the value add for me is the ability to print the PDFs and place them in the order I like along 3rd party Pathfinder monsters.

The stat block of the Pathfinder monsters is easy enough to read for native D&D 3,x players.  There is some reorganization and added details that greatly improve both the readability and playability of these monsters. 

Nearly all of the "classics" and "usual suspects" monsters are here. What makes this book so much fun is seeing how a familiar creature changes between the D&D 3.x worlds to the Pathfinder ones.

I would argue that anyone playing D&D 3.x can get a lot of value out of the Pathfinder Bestiary books.  The rules are not so dissimilar as to have problems. And unless I am misreading here, it really does appear that ideas in this book would later manifest in D&D 5e.

Monster books

The value of the Pathfinder Bestiaries comes not in so much how they are alike the other "Monster Manuals" or even monster books derived from the SRD, but how they are different. At some level, these differences are cosmetic or even campaign world specific. It will be interesting to read the future ones and see what they have to offer outside of this core set of monsters.