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

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.


Monday, August 29, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Manual V (3.5)

Monster Manual V (3.5)
We are getting to the end of the D&D 3.x Monster Manuals now. There are more 3.x monsters to be found; not just official D&D ones, but thousand through the d20 explosion.  Today though I want to spend some time with the Monster Manual V.

Monster Manual V (3.5)

PDF. 223 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 

For this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hardcover I had a number of years ago.

Published in 2007 this was one of the last hardcovers published for the D&D 3.5 game prior to the announcement of the D&D 4e.  

I picked this one up cheap at the local RPG auction and I think I sold it back at next year's auction. Not a ringing endorsement I know, but in mine (and this book's) defense I was reducing my 3.x collection to make room for more OSR books and the upcoming 4e.  I am glad I picked up the PDF though.

There are just over 110 monsters in this book (ranging from CR 1/2 to 22), the least amount for any of the "Monster Manuals" for 3.x. There are 11 templates, and many companion and summonable creatures. There are even new feats and spells.  So at least this late in the game there is (or was) new material that could be shared.

The monster entries are again limited to whole pages. To make up the space there are "Lore" entries on some monsters. Others even have a Sample Encounter, Typical Treasure and/or how the monster appears in various campaign worlds.  I admit these do not feel like padding and instead feel like a value-added feature.

Alignments are also prefaced with "Always" or "Usually" in some cases, giving more variety to alignments. 

Among my favorite creatures here are" the Arcadian Avenger, the various new demons, the unique Dragons of the Great Game, Frostwind Virago, the God-Blooded creatures, Kuo-toa (finally!), Mindflayers of Thoon, Skull Lord, Spawn of Juiblex, the unique vampires, and the Wild Hunt.

While I was expecting a lot of "also-rans" and some diminishing returns on monsters this one actually is pretty good.  The details are greater for each monster entry, so this explains the low monster-to-page ratio here.  

Still, you have to be playing D&D 3.5 to really get the most out of these monsters.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Manual IV (3.5)

Monster Manual IV (3.5)
While I have a lot of goals I pursue in my various Monstrous Mondays, be it the creation of a new monster, adaptation of a monster from another source, or a review, my goal with the various Monster Manuals is to see if there is growth or even refinement of the monster entries.

This can easily be seen in the AD&D 1st Edition monster books as each, Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II, builds on the other adding refinements to the stat block.  The same can be said for the 4th Edition books.

I would like to be able to say the same for the 3rd Edition books. Certainly, we saw improvements from MM1 to MM3, but those were largely due to the change in the rule system; that is 3 to 3.5.  

I am particularly interested in these sorts of changes now that we are on the verge of One D&D from 5e.  One sec, need to sip my Kool-Aid.  Ok.  Better now.

All is well and good, but what does that mean for the 3.5 Edition Monster Manual IV?  Let us find out.

Monster Manual IV (3.5)

For this review, I am only going to consider the PDF from DriveThruRPG. I had owned this in hardcover largely due to the Blue Dragon on the cover (my oldest loves blue dragons) but it was auctioned off when I downsized my 3e collection.

PDF. 226 pages. Full-color cover and interior art.

This book does show some refinements and evolution. There are about 140 some odd monsters with a bit greater detail than previous ones. Often the monsters come with other details like a lair or use as characters. 

Among the monsters here the ones I found most useful were the Avatars of Elemental Evil, the Balhannoth, some new demons, a few new drow types, some more lizard folk (I can't help it, I love those guys), some more orcs, the Spawns of Tiamat is rather fun too, and some new Tuan-ti.

There is not a lot of undead here, only 6 new monsters. 

The biggest feature though is that all monsters are now on a "1 monster per page" layout, or span multiple whole pages like 2nd Ed and 4th Ed.  This increases the value of the PDF in my mind and now I am not that sad I sold off my hard copy.  Yes, today is the first time I have looked at this since then.

In many ways this book is superior to the Monster Manual III, layout just being one of them.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Manual III (3.5)

Monster Manual III (3.5)
Moving through the 3.x Monster Manuals this month.  Getting to the third named Monster Manual for 3.x and the first time we get a "3" in our Monster Manual.  Yes AD&D had three monster books and AD&D2 had...well a lot, I was curious to see if we were hitting a point of diminishing returns on our books yet.

But in any case, the cover is rather cool.

Monster Manual III (3.5)

For this review, I am considering the PDF version of this book from DriveThruRPG. I did have the hardcover of this book but I downsized my 3.x collection a few years back. 

PDF. Color cover and interior art. 244 pages.

This book is the first monster supplement for the new "updated" 3.5 version of the D&D rules.  Honestly, I used 3.0 and 3.5 interchangeably, so for me, it was another monster book.  

This one gives us roughly 170+ new monsters. We get some new demons, and more old favorites from the Yugoloths return (one of the reasons why I wanted this one).  This book gives us the Warforged outside of their origin world of Eberron.  There is a creature called a "Witchknife" that caught my attention as well as a "wood woad" but both of them disappointed me. I rather liked the new undead in the Bone Claw, Bone Drinker, Charnel Hounds, and Necronaut.  The Eldritch Giant is also rather cool.

Some of these monsters I did not meet in this book first. Many I ended up getting in packages of mini from Wizards of the Coast before I even knew what they were.  The Chraal and Blackscale Lizardfolk are two perfect examples. I thought the Chraal was a sort of demon at first. I did not play the minis game, so I rarely looked at the cards in detail.

For me, the monsters I liked made it worth the price to buy the book. But it was not enough to have me keep it when I downsized my 3.x collection. 

The art is still all quite good and what I expect from WotC at this stage.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The D&D 3rd Edition Monster Manual

It is the year 2000. We don't have flying cars, but I have a brand new baby, and Wizards of the Coast, the brand new owners of Dungeons &  Dragons are putting out their new 3rd Edition material.  The Monster Manual was the last of the three core rule books.

Monster Manuals for D&D 3.x

For today I am going to consider the 3.0 and the 3.5 versions of the Monster Manuals.  I am also considering the Print and PDF versions from DriveThruRPG.

Monster Manual 3.5
Monster Manual 3rd Edition

3.0 220 pages. 3.5 324 pages. 425 monsters.

More so than the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums or Manual this book felt like the Monster Manual of old.

It was the start of the new millennium (almost) and we all survived Y2K.  I had been moving away from D&D for some time by this point and this was the edition that brought me back.  I do sometimes still get the urge to play 3.x and this book is one of those reasons.

The art budget for D&D (no more "Advanced") was heavily increased. Art that would have been chosen for cover art for products in the 1990s now joins several more just like for interior art. Every monster in illustrated in full color now and the book itself is a work of art.

Inside are all the favorites and many new ones to boot.  Demons and Devils are back AS Demons and Devils, although they also retain their bowdlerized names of Tanar'ri and Baatezu respectively. This works out to Wizards of the Coast's advantage since now those names can be considered Product Identity under the newly formed OGL. Sure other publishers can, and do (and boy do they!), talk about demons, but Tanar'i are off-limits.

What is special about this book, and 3.x in general, is now monsters are built using the same rules as characters. They have the same abilities, a great wyrm blue dragon has a strength of 39, and built like characters are with the same skills and the new feat system.  So that same ancient blue dragon can have a fly-by attack feat.  I can't say everything is perfect, but it is certainly better than the catch as catch can abilities of AD&D where a Will-O-the-wisp can has ridiculous stats. 

The implication is here is that some monsters could even be characters. For a crazy example take the Skum (p.229). It has 2d8+2 HD. At the bottom of the stat block is a "Level Adjustment" of +3. Skum start out at 3rd level but still 0 XP. Once they gain enough to get to 4th level they can advance. Usually, there is a preferred class listed, but almost everything can advance as a fighter. 

Creatures also get a different hit die based on their type. Faeries get a d6 while undead gets a d12. Type is very important here. 

There are also templates which is a great idea. Have a 14th-level fighter who is changed into a vampire? Well in older forms of D&D he would have gone down to the HD of a vampire.  In 3.x he is now 14th level (yeah level drain is gone, more or less) and you add vampire abilities on top. It was something hinted at with Ravenloft, now it is part of the rules.

I mentioned the art, it is great though there are some changes between the 3.0 and 3.5 versions.

Nymphs

In fact, there are some monsters not illustrated in the 3.0 version that do get illustrations in the 3.5.

It is really a great resource.  My one complaint is that the one monster per page layout is gone.  This does conserve space and makes the book smaller, I just had gotten used to the format with 2nd Ed.  4th Ed would bring it back.

I have very fond memories of this book. My oldest son as a small child would spend hours flipping through it, just like I had done with the original Monster Manual. 

I should also point out that because of this book and the Open Gaming License I was able to get my first ever professional RPG writing gig working on Eden Studios' Liber Bestarius.

Liber Bestarius

Monday, July 25, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: New & Old School Monster Books; Where the Basajaun lives

Basajaun
Basajaun
Today I want to talk about a few monster books coming up and their intersections and why that is all great.

I recently featured two new Kickstarters on my Kickstart Your Weekend post.  They are Twilight Fables and A Folklore Bestiary for 5E and OSE (less than 72 hours to go on this one!).  Both are for 5e with the Folklore Bestiary also for OSE.

Both of these books look fantastic and you should back them both.  

But you may ask, will there be overlap? Will I end up buying the same monster twice? And the answer to this is "Yes. Yes, you will."  This is not a bad thing.  Going through the two publicly available lists of the monsters both have the Bukavac and the Basajaun.  I'll even go a step further and point out that my own Basic Bestiary also has a Basajaun

That is three different versions of the same monster. I have seen the one from Twilight Fables and you have all seen mine.  They are very different from each other. While obviously the same creature, they do slightly different things. In truth, it is very much like how old bestiaries would describe animals. Even known animals would get slightly different treatments depending on the observer.  And these are not even the only ones. AAW Games has a monster card for the Basajaun for both 5e and Pathfinder. There very well could be a lot more.

The Basajaun here is a good example. This is a monster that exists in folklore and by all rights has a home somewhere in a fantasy game but has little coverage to date. That will change and he will get more exposure. If each monster book is like a medieval bestiary (and that is my starting point for the Basic Bestiary) then it makes sense there are differing views.  

To take it a step further, Twilight Fables uses the conceit of Rod Waibel's point of view character the sophisticated Gnoll Fleabag as the chronicler of these creatures. Likewise, I use my iconic witch Larina as viewed from notes from her Journal.  These two would obviously have different points of view on the same creature.

I have pretty much purchased every monster book I can for all versions of D&D and many for other games.  I always find more room on my shelves for more monster books.

Some monsters appear so often that I have no choice but to compare them. The Orc is a great example. Others also appear rather frequently. The Type I to VI demons from the original Monster Manual appear so often in demon books (thanks to the OGL) that I have been calling them "The Usual Suspects" as a nod to their frequency and to the 1995 film. 

For me, there is always room for more monsters and more monster books.

Monday, July 18, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The D&D 4e Monster Vaults

When 2010 rolled around it was becoming obvious that 4e was not going to sell as well as previous versions of D&D. It still sold well, but it was not hitting the number that WotC and Hasbro wanted.  Since the old adage was "Core Books sell better" the 4e team reintroduced the D&D 4th edition game with the 4e Essentials line.  While no a new edition really, it was designed to make the 4e game a bit easier to play and run and make it more like old editions of the game.  

It was not quite successful but it did re-interest me in the game after playing 4e for a bit and then drifting off to Pathfinder.  

One of the "interesting" changes in 4e Essentials was the shift of the "Monster Manual" to the "Monster Vault."

D&D 4e Essentials Monster Vaults

They were called these since the first Essentials Monster book was a boxed set with the digest-sized book and monster tokens for all the creatures in the book.  Nice touch for a mini-focused game.

So for today's Monstrous Mondays I am going to look at the two Monster Vault books, both PDF and physical, and talk about what they added to the game and the depiction of monsters.

Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault (4e)
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault (4e)

PDF (and softcover). 320 pages, full color. No PoD option on DriveThruRPG at this time. $8.99 for PDF.

Released in the later part of 2010 this book was part of the Essentials transition line to help "save" D&D 4e. 

The monster book of the D&D 4e Essentials line covered a number of monsters already present in the D&D 4e Monster Manuals.  I'll get to that part in a bit.

The product came in a box, much like the Essentials DM's kit. Along with the digest-sized book, there were a bunch of tokens for all the creatures, a fold-out map of a dungeon/wilderness area (for the  "Cairn of the Winter King" included adventure), and even some NPC/PC tokens.  The tokens also featured rings to make a monster go up a size. So a large creature could be upgraded to huge for example. The PDF of this book includes the maps and tokens to print out.

The book format largely followed that of the previous monster books but presented in the Essentials style.  Of course, you could use 4e and Essentials material interchangeably and the monster books are the best example of this.  An effort was made not just to repeat monsters and stat blocks from the previous books. For example, the Monster Manual has an Orc entry and features the Orc Drudge (L4), Orc Warrior (L9), Orc Raider (L3), Orc Berserker (L4), Orc Eye of Gruumsh (L5), Orc Bloodrager (L7) and Orc Chieftan (L8). The Monster Vault has Battletest Orc (L3), Orc Savage (L4), Orc Archer (L4), Orc Reaver (L5), Orc Rampager (L6), Orc Pummeler (L6) and Orc Storm Shaman (L6).  The art in the book is replicated on the tokens. Each token is also used as an "icon" in each entry.

There are 64 major monster entries, including Animals, here with anywhere from 1 or 2 to as many as 8 sub entries under each. Orcs have 7, demons have 7 and even displacer beasts have 3.  This gives us just over 300 monsters.

I don't personally feel that the Monster Vault was designed to replace the Monster Manuals. After all the "named" demons like Orcus, Demogorgon and Lolth never appear in the Essentials Monster books. Though there is naturally some overlap, but it is nowhere near what you saw in the Monster Manuals for 3.0 to 3.5 or even the Monstrous Compendiums of 2e to the Monstrous Manual.  I felt they were designed to be more complimentary. 

Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale
Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale

PDF (and softcover). 128 pages, full color. $14.99 for PDF, $32.99 for PoD or $47.98 for both.

If the first Monster Vault was designed to replace or complement the D&D 4 Monster Manuals then a case could be made that Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale could be considered the D&D 4e Monster Manual 4.  Indeed, with the updated MV monsters in the fist book, combined with this book a hard cover Monster Manual 4 could have been created. While the cover features a cool looking black dragon, the hard cover could have been Graz'zt to continue with the demon-focused covers.

This originally came as a softcover book in a shrink-wrapped paper slip-case with card-stock tokens like that of the Monster Vault. These included all the monsters for this book.  The book though in this case is not digest-sized but letter sized. 

There are 40 grouping of monsters here, with some named unique creatures and threats to the Nentir Vale. So the book feels like a campaign-setting monster book. There are about 200 monsters here in total. Since there are unique creatures and Nentir Vale-focused ones, there are monsters here that have never appeared in any D&D monster book before or since. Some are old favorites with new ideas. For example, there are Gnolls, but they are the Black Fang Gnolls here and are a little more vicious.  There are new creatures, like the Frost Witches, that have not reappeared anywhere else as far as I know.  Others of course are new and have appeared in other books after this.

Personally, I would love to see all of these creatures, along with the rest of the Nentir Vale, translated into D&D 5th edition.

The Essentials Line

Back when it was new in 2010 I spent some time talking about the D&D Essentials line and how it was what 4e should have been from the start. 

I talked about the start of the essentials line here and here. I also discussed using the Essentials Monster Vault to make adjustments to various D&D 5e monsters

I feel there is still a good game in here. I might need to delve a bit deeper and even get an Essentials game going sometime.  There is still a lot of fun to be had here I think.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Basic Bestiary Movement (& updates)

Basic Bestiary
It has not only been a while (nearly a year) since I last talked about the Basic Bestiary, it has been a while since I have actually worked on it.  That is too bad really because while I have been sitting on my thumbs and doing whatever the hell else I have been doing others (at least three I can think of) have gotten their monster books out or into Kickstarter. And there is a lot of overlap in monsters here.  

Frankly, I could not be happier!

I love monster books. I have said this here a thousand times. And more monster books are always welcome. I'll spend some time with these other books later this week.

But I still want to get my own book out.

I am NOT going to do a Kickstarter for it. Nothing against it, but I don't want want to go there yet. So that means the art will be what I can buy when I can buy it with money from my other books. So that means it will be a bit longer.

I also believe that my monster book will be a value add to all the other monster books out there.  There are a lot of great monsters and monster books out there. Mine will be influenced by what I have read and played over the last decades. 

Also, instead of saying mine is "Labyrinth Lord" or "Swords & Wizardry" compatible or even the very popular "Old-School Essentials" compatible, I am sticking with my own "Basic-Era Compatible."  That might end up costing me some sales or promotions, but my stat block here is not something that is pure for any one system. In truth, I could very well put "Advanced-Era Compatible" on these books as well since I am designing the stat block to cover both systems, even if the style esthetic is going to be Basic-era.  I talked a bit about this in my "Detailing a 'Universal' Stat-block" post and that is where I want to go today.  All based on the question "how many miles per hour is that?"

Movement

One of the things that always tripped me up moving from Holmes Basic to Moldvay Basic and then to AD&D was movement rates.  Let's go back to my universal stat block breakdown and look at the movement rates for the Orc.

Holmes: 90 feet
Moldvay: 120' (40')
Mentzer/BECMI/RC: 120' (40')
AD&D 1st ed: 9"
AD&D 2nd ed: 9 (12)
D&D 3: 30 feet (6 squares)
D&D 4: 6 (8 while charging)
D&D 5: 30 feet

These speeds all are "per round" though what a round is can differ.  Holmes' speed is more in line with AD&D. D&D 3 to 5 are all the same despite different notation.

In my Basic Bestiary I note it like this:

Movement: 120' (40') [12"]  

With "AD&D" notation in the brackets. Note that my orcs then look faster. Rounds in Basic are 10 seconds and rounds in AD&D/D&D3-5 are all 6 seconds.  This means that my 120' movement rate orc in Basic has a different "Real-time" speed in AD&D.  My converted orc moves at 12" and not the 9" listed.  Is this a problem?  Actually, no. I don't feel that it is.

According to the Labyrinth Lord RPG book, 120' is the exploring speed per turn and 40' is the combat speed per round and 120' is the full running speed per round. So my question. How fast is this in MPH?

120' per round is 120 feet per 10 seconds or 720 per minute or 43,200 per hour or 8.18 repeating.  I opt to make the miles an easier 5400* feet to get 8 miles per hour.  So an orc can run full-on at 8 miles per hour. 
(*5400 is divisible by 2 and 3 so it gives me better numbers to work with.)

This brings up an interesting notion.  How fast can a particular monster move?

I looked at my entry for Archangel and see they fly at 360', which translates into 24 MPH. Not very fast from our point of view, but fast when compared to a mundane horse.  Maybe they have a Haste at-will spell and can fly at 48 MPH?  If it is a "Greater Haste" say at x3 then 72 MPH feels a little more respectable. Fantasy creatures don't always translate well into the real world.

Ideas like this have been helping drive my design philosophy.  When working on a monster I often ask "how do they relate to the PCs?" or "what sort of situations will this monster be in with the PCs?" since the Player Characters are the focus of all adventures.  Now I do also ask "How does this monster relate to Normal Humans?" and this has shifted my view on many creatures, in particular the undead.  There are consequences to both of these.

On the PC-centric side, we get the Succubus/Whispering Demon issue I mentioned a while back when I covered the BECMI Immortal Rules.  To quote:

A Succubus in AD&D is a 6+6 HD creature (average hp 33), her physical attacks are not great, but her kiss drains 2 life energy levels. In BECMI a Whispering Demon has 15* HD and 70 hp! Oh and her AC is -6.

A 6 HD creature is more than enough of a challenge for normal humans, it is also a pretty good (and scary) challenge for low-level characters. But a 15 HD succubus? That is a challenge for many!  But I do notice that in nearly every movie or tale about a succubus the demon is defeated in the end.

6 HD is what you get when you aim for Normal Humans.  15 HD is what you get when you aim for PCs.

The Basic Bestiaries will take on the point of view of Normal Humans for the most part. So my succubi (I have a couple) will be more along the lines of 6 HD.  My Archangels however will likely be flying at 72 MPH.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The D&D 4th Ed Monster Manual (Overview & Review)

A few months back I went through a number of the AD&D 2nd ed Monstrous Compendiums and talked about the advantages and disadvantages it had over the 1st ed Monster Manual. Also at the time, I mentioned the design choices made that also separated them from their 1st edition counterparts. 

Since today is the 4th of the month, I figure it is a good time to talk about the Fourth Edition Monster Manuals and what also made them special.  

Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manuals

To begin with, I was and am a fan of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. I know it was not everyone's favorite edition, to put it mildly, but there are some really great things about it.  For starters, I applaud the design team for daring to try something new and different with the D&D game. Of course, most fans don't want new. They want the same thing, but even for the open-minded D&D 4 was a bridge too far.  Secondly, D&D 4 was a masterwork of modular design. You could take out and move around sections of it as you needed.  Yes, everything worked together, but many of the pieces could be swapped out for other pieces.  This design notion extended to the layout of the books. Nowhere is this better seen than with the Monster Manuals.

To me it seemed that 4th edition took the design elements that had made the Monstrous Compendiums successful; namely one monster per page, and all sorts of information on the monster's habitat, environment, and variations.  It is also one of the main reasons I still keep my 4th edition monster books. There is so much information here that I have been using them to inform details in my 5th edition game. 

In all cases here, I am considering my hardcover books and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

Monster Manual for D&D 4e
Monster Manual for D&D 4e

Hardcover and PDF. Color covers, full-color interior art. 288 pages.

This was the third book published for D&D 4th edition, though that is a mere technicality since all books were published at the same time in June of 2008. I picked mine up as a boxed set at the midnight release.

Much like AD&D second edition, the monsters for D&D 4th edition are presented as one page per monster. More or less. Sometimes the monster runs two or four pages, but always a complete page.  Where 3e had monsters built exactly like characters, 4e monsters have their own rules, much like how 1st and 2nd Ed built them. 

Fourth Edition was most certainly a "miniatures" game or, as it was hoped, to have a lot of online support and content. That did not materialize in the way Wizards of the Coast wanted and strong sales of Paizo's rival "Pathfinder RPG" kept D&D sales low for the first in the history of RPGS.  Make no mistake, D&D still sold well, it just wasn't out selling everything else.  

That was too bad really.  D&D 4 had a lot about it I liked and still like.

Monster Manual 4e


The 4e Monster Manual is 288 pages with over 170 monster entries. Many entries have multiple monsters. For example, there are three different types of Aboleth, six types of kobolds, and seven types of orcs. Along with the stat blocks, we get an idea of the role each monster plays in combat, like Controller, Brutes, Skirmishers, or Leaders, and what tactics they can employ. All the monsters have Lore with appropriate DCs for learning more about them or what a particular die roll will bring up.  The monsters also include plot hooks and ideas for using them in adventures.  

Some interesting changes happened in 4e.  For starters, some major demons, like our cover guy Orcus here, got their own entry outside of the demons category.  He also had major henchmen listed with him. 

Orcus

Also, a conscious effort was made to redesign the cosmology of D&D. The effect here was to have Succubi now listed as "Devils" and not "Demons." 

not your typical devils

This caused some interesting in-game fluff with books like Erin M. Evans' "Brimstone Angels" trying to explain this "in-universe" from the perspective of the Forgotten Realms.  This lives on in 5e with succubi as now independent evil outsiders. Other changes were made to various monsters, Daemons/Yugoloths we moved over to the demons, including making them Chaotic Evil.  This might have messed with ideas of the Blood War, but there is no reason why there needs to be continuity between editions, it is just nice.

One of the things that irritated some people was not the monsters it had, but the ones it did not have.  It particular Demogorgon is nowhere to be found and many of the named devils are also not here. 

Monster Manual 2 for D&D 4e

Hardcover and PDF. Color covers, full-color interior art. 224 pages.

This book was published about a year later in May of 2009. This book also has over 170 monster entries. Some are expanded, like Giants (and I love what they did for giants in this edition) and more demons. This book also gives the impression that many monsters were held back for a second book.  Unlike previous books with the same name, Monster Manual 2, this one doesn't feel like added-on monsters. This feels more like the Vol 2 of the AD&D Monstrous Compendium.  In addition to some that are expected, there are some new monsters too.

Our cover guy this time is Demogorgon. He and all his minions get 9 pages. 

Monster Manual 3 for D&D 4e

Hardcover and PDF. Color covers, full-color interior art. 224 pages.  This is also the only book of the three that you can also buy as a Print on Demand softcover. 

This book was released in June 2010, another year after the MM2. Lolth is our cover girl this time. It would have been interesting to see Graz'zt, but Lolth makes sense too. Eclavdra also shows up in Lolth's entry.

Page for page, this one has a lot more new monsters. Not just new to D&D 4, but new to D&D.  These include the new Catastrophic Dragons which I had been looking forward to. There are a lot of new monsters and some additions to MM1 & MM2 ones, like new Fire Giants.  That is one of the features of this edition, each variation of a monster needs a new stat-block.  To be fair, D&D 3 and D&D 5 also did this a fair bit. 

Monster Manual 2 for D&D 4eMonster Manual 3 for D&D 4e

The layout is such, that like the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums, the D&D 4th Edition Monster Manuals PDFs can be printed out with just the monsters you want and organized in a binder.  The modularity of the design is so well planned out that it really makes me want to print out these PDFs and just make my own Monstrous Compendium style binder for it. Sure the page numbering will be wonky, but that would not matter, everything will be perfectly alphabetized.  I could even re-integrate demons like Orcus and Lolth back to where they belong under demons. 

The art is amazing really. The visual style of the monsters flows from the 3rd Edition monster books to provide a sense of continuity even if the worlds do feel different. 

I am not currently playing D&D 4th Edition, but I find these monster books still so incredibly useful even in my D&D 5th Edition and Basic/Expert edition games.  They are also just great-looking books.  

If you are curious, there is a list of all the 4th Edition monsters

Monday, June 27, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Mystical Companions (Castles & Crusades)

All month long I have been talking about D&D and mostly near-D&D FRPGs.  While last week was all Pathfinder, the one-time heir-apparent to D&D, this week I want to talk about a game that really does capture that feel of early, 1st Ed AD&D, with a more modern point of view.  

Of course, that game is Castles & Crusades.

I have never hidden my love of Castles & Crusades and I would play a lot more of it if I could. It really does capture the feel of older D&D, maybe something of a Basic-era mixed with Advanced, through the lens of 3rd Edition.  One really could consider it the evolution of AD&D2 into the new millennia. 

This week I want to do more with Castles & Crusades, but I am going to do it from the point of view of some of my regular blog features.  Today is Monday and that means Monstrous Mondays. So I am going to review and discuss the Castles & Crusades Mystical Companions book. 


I can't believe that it has been three years (almost to the day) since I reviewed the 5th Edition version of this book.  I had meant to do much sooner than this.

The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars.   It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version.   I have both in digital and PDF formats, today I am going to focus solely on the Castles & Crusades version.  Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.

I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or OSE) or (now) D&D 5th Edition.  I think that highly of it.  Now it is something I am using as part of my War of the Witch Queens campaign where every character has an animal companion, pet, or familiar.  My oldest kid has taken my 5th edition version and made it his own.

Mystical Companions for Castles & Crusades
Mystical Companions for Castles & Crusades

For this review, I am considering both the PDF version from DriveThruRPG and the hardcover version I purchased from Troll Lord Games. 

Hardcover book and PDF. 192 pages, full-color art by Jason Walton and Peter Bradley.  PDF is bookmarked.  This book is divided up into 12 chapters and 5 appendcies. Largely focusing on the various Castles & Crusades classes and their respective animal companions.

Chapter 1: Familiars and Companions

This gives us our basic overview of the book and the concepts of an animal companion in the Castles & Crusades game.  Pro-tip. Even a casual read of the chapter titles should clue you in that if you wanted to use this with AD&D 1st ed you very easily could. There is also the notion that Animal Companions and Familiars, while similar and can perform similar roles and tasks are very different from each other. 

On Animal Companion vs. Familiar.  While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend.  A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC.  Animal Companions are free-willed, familiars are not.

For ease, I am going to use"animal companion" for all cases unless a distinction needs to be made. 

There is the concept here of Advantages, this allows the character to summon an animal companion. In truth, I think this works better in 5e than it does here, but I will explore this a bit more.  Additionally, there are various Powers and Tricks animal companions can have or impart to their player characters.

Animal companions are all treated as other creatures from the beginning. They have HD, hp, AC and more scores. 

Advantages are a new mechanic for C&C to allow them to take on various "powers" or "features."  It was introduced in the Castle Keepers Guide as an optional rule, here it is required.  It is, very simply put, a "Feat" system for C&C.  That does not really describe it well enough, but it is close.

Different classes get new Advantages at different levels.  Various abilities and powers of the animal companions are detailed here. Including what sort of special powers you can get by taking another animal companion/familar at higher levels. 

If you are playing AD&D 1st Ed and really want to do familiars correctly then I highly recommend this book. 

The following chapters each deal with the various C&C classes (and their AD&D counterparts in my readings) and their respective animal companions.

Chapter 2: Barbarian Familiars & Special Mounts

I don't recall Conan having a pet, but Cú Chulainn is known to have had some pet dogs. Since Barbarians feel closer to nature they have totem animals; an animal or creatures revered by their culture. This chapter covered these, and all the expected animals are here, but there are also totems for mammoths, displacer beasts, dire creatures of all sorts, and even small dragons. 

Chapter 3: The Bard’s Familiar

Bards typically have familiars that aid in their singing or musical magics. Providing a number of powers to aid their abilities. 

Chapter 4: The Cleric’s Familiar

These are not so much as animals and more attendant spirits. The least of the messengers of the cleric's god(s).  Often they are here to provide the cleric guidance or omens. These creatures can, and often do, take on animal shapes. What that shape is depends largely on the cleric's domain. 

Chapter 5:The Druid’s Familiar

Similar to both the Barbarian's and the Cleric's familiar.  Here the deciding factor is the terrain/environment the druid is native to.  There is a large sidebar/section on Druid Familiars vs Druid Animal Companions.

Chapter 6: The Fighter’s Familiar

This one seems a bit odd, but they do make a case for it. A good historical example might be the Mongolian fighters and their horses, or the hunting dogs of Celtic cultures. 

Chapter 7: Monk Familiars

Again not one you normally think about. These seem to follow the same logic of the barbarian, but in stead of totem spirits they are manifestations of ancestor spirits. Think Mu-Shu from the animated Mulan.

Chapter 8: Paladin Special Mounts & Familiars

Paladins already get mounts. This extends that logic a bit more. 

Chapter 9: The Ranger’s Familiar

Honestly, all Rangers should have an animal companion of some sort. This codifies it. 

Ranger Familiars

Every ranger needs a red panda familiar.

Chapter 10: The Rogue’s Familiar

Like the fighter, one does not normally associate Rogues/Thieves with animals, but honestly, it would be good. Think of Laurence Fishburne's character "The Bowery King" and his pigeons or D&D's own history of associating thieves with cats (the Grey Mouser from Lankhmar or Gord the Rogue).

Chapter 11: The Illusionist’s Familiar and Chapter 12: The Wizard’s Familiar

Putting these two together since they follow similar ideas.  This is as close as we can get to the classic idea of a familiar.  The natures of their familiars are different, which is great, it provides more distance between these two classes. 

Appendix A: Animals

"Monster stats" for various (51) mundane animals.

Appendix B: New Monsters

Likewise, these are new monsters (36). Many are either familiars or creatures that feed on familiars. 

Appendix C: New Spells

A bunch of new familiar summoning and related spells for all spell casting classes.

Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts

Magic items to summon, control, or aid familiars and animal companions. 

Appendix E: Dragon Riders

This last section covers a new class/path, the Dragon Riders, and how these rules are used for that class. While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional. 

This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

Dragon Rider

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others.  If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional".  And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game.  If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use.

If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

Index 

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

Final Thoughts

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my Old-school games. My son uses it in the 5e games he has run so much that I have not seen my 5e version of this book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book?  I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions, or all the way up to Dragon Riders.

Use in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

I am going to limit my thoughts here to AD&D 1st Ed. The only reason I am not considering 2nd Ed is that 2nd Edition has a skill system that should be incorporated with these rules a little more explicitly.  For 1st Ed, I can see a craft DM using this book more or less as-is. 

I know Troll Lords does not sell this book as an AD&D book. But anyone who is a fan of C&C is likely a fan of AD&D.  (Although I should point out I talked to a couple of real hardcore C&C fans at Gary Con who had never played AD&D First Edition.) But in any case, this is a fantastic reference for the 1st edition all the same.