Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

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. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Godzilla Night

Godzilla vs. Hedorah
I do love getting a few Godzilla or Kaiju movies in. I thought why not three different versions of the King of Monsters, Godzilla.

Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

Also known as Godzilla vs the Smog Monster this movie is what you get when the writers of Godzilla start to worry about pollution. Now Godzilla has always been social commentary, but this one seems a bet heavy-handed, and the monster...well Hedorah is just silly.  Still, I had good memories of this one as a kid and the battles for the most part hold up.

The teens in this one seem like some sort of nihilist hippies. Thinking the world will end due to pollution (we will burn ourselves up first!) and deciding to have one last party on Mt. Fuji. Plus we get a rare spotting of Godzilla's ability to telepathically communicate with children. 

No, it is not good, even by cheesy late 1960s, early 1970s Toho standards. But it is still fun.

I still can't get that "Save the Earth" song out of my head from the English dubbed version. I watched the subbed version and it has the equally ear-wormy original version, "Return the Sun."

Shin Godzilla (2016)

This is the 3rd reboot of the Godzilla franchise. This one reminded me a lot of the original Gojira from 1954. Godzilla in this one looks really freaky, going through three different forms is really cool. I am not 100% sure about him firing lasers out of his tail.  Speaking of tails, I am also not sure about the budding of other monsters of his tail. I do like how weird and creepy it is. I rather enjoyed it to be honest.

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)

The American Godzilla, but at least this series is better than the old Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich version from 1998. This one pits the King of Monsters against the...King of Monsters. This is the 4th movie in Legendary Films Monsterverse and was inspired by the 1962 King Kong vs. Godzilla. This one deals with using Kong to find an opening to the Hollow Earth. Kong and Godzilla are natural enemies and once Kong is off of Skull Island Godzill hunts him down. 

While this is going on an evil corporation is taking what is left of Ghidorah to build a Mecha-Godzilla. This is good, because now we don't have to figure out who would win between Kong and Godzilla. 

All three have been great all for different reasons.

Shin Godzilla (2016) Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 36
First Time Views: 26

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Monster Manual Minis, Set A-C

I am on record on how much of an effect the first AD&D Monster Manual had on me.  I can recall playing AD&D and wishing I had (or could even afford) minis just like what was in the Monster Manual.

Well. Now I can.

Monster Manual Minis

This is the first set of minis for D&D (and of course AD&D) based on the art from the original Monster Manual. I have to say I am loving them.

Anhkheg

Basilisk

Beholder

Bulette

Bulette and Carrion Crawler

Chimera, Cockatrices, and Coutal

Cockatrice and Coutal

Obviously not every monster A to C, but it has the stars. I always wanted a Carrion Crawler mini, not sure why, I think they were cool to me back then (still are!).  I have a few now, but this one is the best.

I am thinking that the next set will just be "D" to be honest. Dragons, Demons, Devils. All are perfect for this. 

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis


 Can't wait for the others!


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 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, 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.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Twilight Fables Goes OSR

So this was posted earlier this week.

Twilight Fables OSR

So I guess that makes it official. You can get Twilight Fables in 5e AND OSE/OSR flavors.

There are new OSR tiers to choose from. I just updated mine to include both the OSE and 5e versions of the book.

--

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables OSR

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/twilight-fables?ref=theotherside

Really looking forward to this one. It is for 5e and it looks AMAZING.  Rod was the mastermind behind Chromatic Dungeons, so you know the quality is good, but he has upped his game to the next level on this one. In addition to a Print on Demand version, there will be the ubiquitous PDF and Print-friendly PDF, and there will also be an accessible RTF file.  There is also an option for a glossy offset print if the stretch goal is made.

Additionally, you get a zip file containing tokens and markdown files of every creature, as well as dozens of printable images of the monsters. To be used at your table or virtual table. 

The book has a ton of monsters from myth and legend and more to the point the book is already done. That's correct, there might be some minor edits here and there, but the book is done, art is in place, and you will get your digital rewards (PDF, RTF, tokens) as soon as the funding is done.

That's the way to do it honestly.

And NOW an OSR option too!

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

Friday, July 15, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: MONSTERS!

It's a monstrous weekend for Kickstarters! So let's get to it.

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/twilight-fables?ref=theotherside

Really looking forward to this one. It is for 5e and it looks AMAZING.  Rod was the mastermind behind Chromatic Dungeons, so you know the quality is good, but he has upped his game to the next level on this one. In addition to a Print on Demand version, there will be the ubiquitous PDF and Print friendly PDF, there will also be an accessible RTF file.  There is also an option a glossy offset print if the stretch goal is made.

Additionally you get a zip file containing tokens and markdown files of every creature, as well as dozens of printable images of the monsters. To be used at your table or virtual table. 

The book has a ton of monsters from myth and legend and more to the point the book is already done. That's correct, there might be some minor edits here and there, but the book is done, art is in place, and you will get your digital rewards (PDF, RTF, tokens) as soon as the funding is done.

That's the way to do it honestly.

It's not live just yet, but that link will get you there. 

A Folklore Bestiary for 5E and OSE

A Folklore Bestiary for 5E and OSE

This one also looks great and I love I can get it for my two current favorite systems. We are getting some folklore monsters but I am expecting them to be different than what I have seen so far. In any case, more monsters are always better. 

The value add here for me of course is getting a 5e and an OSE version of each book. One for me, one for my kids to use. Everyone is happy.


FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS

Fright Night Classics

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1866071445/fright-night-classics?ref=theotherside

And adventure module for "Percentile-based horror RPGs" or CryptWorld and Chill.  This one really captures the feel of old horror comics and Tales from the Crypt in particular. 

It looks like an absolute ton of fun and I hope it gets the backing it needs.


Exclusive Vampirella Giant 4” Enamel Pin

Exclusive Vampirella Giant 4” Enamel Pin
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hollyg/exclusive-vampirella-giant-4-enamel-pin?ref=theotherside

Holly G and husband Jim Balent are good friends of The Other Side and I love sharing their Kickstarters.  Today is Holly's turn with her take on her all-time favorite character, Vampirella.  

The vampy pin is fun and would look great on my gamer bag, but I am here for the add-ons and the stretch goals. If you get a chance to check out her comic VampFire then please do.  She was doing vampire slayers long before any chick named Buffy came around.


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