Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard.  While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise.  Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front.  We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters.  This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in.  So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor.  Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day.  Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself.  Maybe I'll see if I can do that here.  The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment.  Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules.  Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt.  Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text.  Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later).  The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries.  Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines.  This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages.  I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900.  Anyway it's a lot.  I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were.  Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those.  There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes.  This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book.  Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark.  Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes.  If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes.  If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book.  It is also the best book in his line. Kudos to +Joseph Bloch .


Nick Liner said...

I received my copy yesterday and I've only skimmed through it so far. You highlighted the things that stood out to me the most; I love the separation of waterborne, prehistoric and extraplanar monsters from the rest. One of those features I didn't know I wanted until Joseph was smart enough to do it for me.

Good review.

mbeacom said...

Great review. I just got mine in my hot little hands today. You make great mention of it but it can't be stressed enough that this guy doesn't just meet deadlines, he beats them. And I see no signs that it's due to a rushed product. I've caught a few small typos in my cursory look but otherwise, these books look top notch. This one monster book, might just be the only monster book I ever need. This is coming from a guy who absolutely loves the new S&W Monstrosities btw. Certainly between the two of them, I've got every monster I could ever think of needing and then some.

Jasper Polane said...

The Bestiary is awesome. Without a doubt the best monster book currently available, probably the best monster book for D&D ever.

I didn't like the way Morale and XP Values are handled, and the lay-out and design doesn't really work for me, but the content is beyond awesome.

Brutorz Bill said...

You've convinced me to add this to my wish list! Thanks for the info.

Pulp Herb said...

The importance of that 6 months early on the KS shouldn't be underestimated.

His was the last KS I've signed up for or close too (was it before or after Domains of War?).

He is one of three people I trust on one any more. Domains of War has really hurt the credibility of KS from Autarch. Supposedly the early issues were solved but we're on track for a minimum of three months late which will be a record close to projected delivery but is still late. However, I'm doubtful we'll get the books before January which would be four.