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

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

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. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary
Spend any time here and you know there is one thing that is always true. I LOVE monster books. I can fairly say that monster books, bestiaries, and the like are not just my first love of RPGs but are largely why I am into RPGs, to begin with.

So I knew that even if I never bought anything else for the Pathfinder Second Edition game I was going to buy the Bestiary.  And much like it's Great-Grandfather AD&D, I picked up the Bestiary first. I grabbed the Core Rules (that I discussed yesterday) based entirely off of what I read in this book.

I guess I really should have done this one on Monday instead of a monster, but I wanted to do the core rules first.

So what does this book have and why did I like it so much?  Well, it has a lot going for it.

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover version I purchased at my FLGS.  For Pathfinder 2e I have been going with the Special Edition covers. My oldest gets the Special Ed covers of the D&D 5 books and I get the regular ones since D&D 5 is "His" game.  I normally like to get the Special Ed covers since I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon in it.  Plus he has no plans to play PF2e and we even combined our PF1e books into one collection and sold off the rest (which is how I can buy these!)

The book is 360 pages with full-color art. You know when you walk into the floor of the Gen Con trader hall and the smell of new books hits you?  That's how this book smells. Like Gen Con, but in a good way.

This book contains about 415 different monster stat blocks.  Before I get into those blocks I want to speak about the layout.  The PF1e Bestiary worked hard to get monsters down to one page per monster. Sometimes there were variations, but it was obvious the Paizo crew (and many others of the d20 boom) liked the presentation of one monster per page as in the AD&D 2nd days.  PF2e takes this design strategy and extends it to the next level.  Sometimes we get one monster per page. Many times we get a monster type (for example the Alghollthu) that extends across 2-, 4- or more pages (always an even number) that are facing each other. So in this case the Skum and Faceless Stalker.

Alghollthu

This continues throughout the book. The practical implications here are 1.) finding something is easy IF you know the group it might be under. 2.) you can lay your book flat and have access to everything you need for the monster.  There is of course one other.  While I love my special editions, if I went to the Paizo website and got all of these as PDFs I could do the exact same thing I have done with the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums and the various S&W Monster books, I can print them all out and organize them all into one large folder.  Note you can do the same things with the D&D 4e Monster books too.  Maybe this is something I should consider when doing my Basic Bestiary. 

Continuing on.  The stat blocks are easy to read and honestly understand if you have played any form of D&D form the last 20 years.  There is the Name, it's level (which replaces HD and CR).  Under that there are the descriptor tags, this includes Alignment, Size, and Traits.  So our faceless stalker is a Chaotic Evil medium-sized aberration and it is level 4.  There are some basic "monster stats" such as skills, perception and abilities mods, and what items if any it has. It's Defence block is next with AC, saves, HP and resistances, immunities, or vulnerabilities.  It's attack block follows.  The feel is very much like that of D&D 5e.

The block is smaller than that of PF1e (thank goodness!) and all the important bits are readily visible,

Like the Core Book this features sidebars with more details. This often includes rumors, mentions of other types, and more.

About the Monsters

Most monster books take a LOT of cues from the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual. Many feature the same set of monsters. Enough that I often refer to the Demons Type I to VI and the Succubus as "The Usual Suspects."   Does this Bestiary follow suit? Almost, the Hezrou (Type II) and Nalfeshnee (Type IV) are missing but the others are here.  

Either due to space or to make the the stat blocks come out right there are a lot of creatures here that you do not normally see in a "core" monster book and some that I expected are missing. Nothing game-breaking mind you.  In fact it gives a great flavor to the book. There are many you expect, all the dragons for example, and some I didn't, like the gug and lillend. 

One of the neatest things about this book is reading over what are classical monsters too many of us and seeing how they are different not just through the lens of PF2e, but from different creators and a different world.  I have already talked about how much I enjoy Pathfinder's goblins, but they really do feel different here. This change is then reflected in other creatures like the barghest. Some are quite different, like the kobolds, and others are largely still the same, like orcs.

Speaking of orcs. A while back I did a post discussing what should be part of a universal stat-block and I used orcs as my example. The reasoning was that orcs are one creature that has appeared in all versions of D&D (yes there are others, but they are ubiquitous) and they are a good typical foe for 1st level adventurers.  How do the Pathfinder (PF1e and PF2e) orcs stack up?

More Orcs!

Orcs in D&D 3.x were (are) CR ½.  This meant they were a good, but not necessarily deadly, challenge to a party of 1st-level characters. In Pathfinder 1e they are now CR ⅓, so even easier really.   Pathfinder has the Orc Brute at Creature 0 and Orc Warrior at Creature 1 with 15 and 23 hp respectively.  Still something a group of first levels could take on, but maybe slightly harder. 

How does this book stack up to my Monster Manual test?

My Monster Manual Test is how I feel when I first open a game book. While this book can't reasonably live up to the hype of when I first picked up the AD&D Monster Manual it does do the exact same thing; It made me want to buy the system so I could know more about it.  Like PF2e Core this book is gorgeous and just wonderful to read through. The designers have made me invested in their world and I want to know more.

 Enough that I have more books to cover!

Monday, May 2, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Nice meeting of topics here today.  It is May which this year will be the start of my Sci-Fi month.  We have the normal May the Fourth celebrations, and Mayday for Traveller was yesterday.  Plus we get Star Trek Strange New World premiering this week.  AND there is a new D&D Spelljamer on the horizon. So there are a lot of great reasons to celebrate SciFi. 

I also just got finished with my A to Z Challenge for April where I did Conspiracy Theories.  I leaned heavily on a lot of UFO-based ones.  So my appetite has been whetted for more.  And today is Monstrous Monday!  So I thought I would bring all of these ideas together today into a special Monstrous Monday!

Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Grey Aliens

Of all the alien species that have purportedly visited the Earth few are as popular as the Greys.  These creatures are also known as Zeta Reticulians since they supposedly come from the Zeta Reticuli star system, approximately 40 ly from Earth.  This is based on a drawing from one of the most famous alien abductees ever, Betty Hill.  

Greys are called such due to their skin color. The skin seems to be a uniform grey.  While some are depicted as not wearing clothes, others have suggested that they are wearing skin-tight suits of the same color as their skin to protect them from Earth's atmosphere.  They typically stand 4 to 5ft in height (1.2 to 1.5 meters), are hairless, with large black eyes.  They have no ears nor a nose, save for small slits or holes where such external sense organs would be.  Their bodies are small, thin, and somewhat elongated. Their heads however are large with large foreheads giving the impression of large brains inside. Their hands are long with long delicate fingers. They typically only have four fingers (three fingers and a thumb) per hand, though there are reports of "hybrids" that appear to be greys with human eyes and five fingers per hand.

They do not speak but instead communicate via a form of telepathy. 

Their purpose with humanity is still unknown.  They may not even know themselves just yet since all evidence seems to point to them observing and experimenting on humans. Their experiments in removing eggs and sperm as reported by abductees, and the existence of hybrid forms at least point to an interest in our reproductive abilities.  It is postulated that they are using humans to help deplete their own lessening numbers.

Grey (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)

Grey for 5e

Grey (NIGHT SHIFT)

No. Appearing: 3-12 (3d4)
AC: 6
Move: 30 ft.
Hit Dice: 2-4
Special: Cause fear, psychic abilities (chosen at random), telekinesis, telepathy, Can't use magic
XP Value: Varies

Greys are aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system. They have enhanced psychic abilities, but are vulnerable to all forms of magic.  They never speak but communicate via telepathy.  A group of Greys are typically a scouting party with various scientists onboard their spaceship. They will abduct humans or cattle, do experiments on them, erase their memories and return them to where they found them.

Grey (OSR)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4+3 (1d10+2)
Alignment: Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7-5 [12-14]
Hit Dice: 
   Scientist: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
   Monitor: 3d8+3** (17 hp)
   Leader: 4d8+8** (26 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 18, 16, 15  (+1, +3, +4)
Attacks: 0 or 1
Damage: None, stun 
Special: Cause fear, paralysis, mind blank, telepathy, vulnerable to magic
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP:
   Scientist: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)
   Monitor: 100 (OSE) 135 (LL)
   Leader: 275 (OSE) 290 (LL)

Str: 7,9, 11 (-1, 0, 0) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 14, 14, 16 (+1, +1, +2) Int: 22, 18, 18 (+5, +3, +3) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 14 (+1)

Greys come in three castes; Scientists, Monitors, and Leaders.  Scientists perform the experiments, leaders lead the missions, and are the fighters of the group.  Monitors are a blend of the two, acting as leaders amongst the scientists.  The castes are not hierarchical, they are designed so that each role is filled by the most capable individual.  A group of greys encountered outside of the ships will all be scientists with at least one member a monitor or leader. 

Greys have psionic abilities to cause fear, paralysis by touch (save vs. Paralysis or be frozen for one minute), and to erase the memories of their victims.   Scientists do not attack. They leave this to the Leaders and if needed the monitors. 

Additionally, greys have no concept of magic, they save at -2 against all spells and take an additional +1 point damage from magical attacks. 

--

I might tweak these a bit more, but so far they look great to me.

Monday, April 4, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: C is for Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories C
The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: C is for Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis

(and a Special Monstrous Monday!)

The Cryptoterrestrial Hypothesis is the "hypothesis" (really just an idea, it's not a good hypothesis in the scientific sense) put forward by Mac Tonnies and based on, among other things, the writings of Richard Shaver.  

The idea is that all the so-called "extraterrestrials" on Earth are all really natives.  Not cryptids per se, but whole other species. They have existed, in theory since the dawn of time.

Exploring the Shaver aspect, we have the "Deros" or his "detrimental robots" as a possible Cryptoterrestrial species. If we use the D&D versions, the Derro, then we have more to work with.   I think I would also like to take another page from Shaver's book magazine and have the language the Derro use be Mantong

Another species that fits this idea for me is the Ophidians.  This is a species that I have used in the past and really enjoy them.   

What separates cryptoterrestrials from extraterrestrials are their origins. While both can seem "alien" to humans, cryptoterrestrials are Earthlings.  They evolved from the same processes that gave us trees, lobsters, and humans.  Generally speaking, the same things that affect us, will affect them. They need to eat, breathe, and even sleep. They can be affected by poisons, just different ones, and bullets still hurt them. 

For NIGHT SHIFT

Since today is also a Monstrous Monday I think I should have some monster stats here.

Derro
No. Appearing: 8-80 (8d10)
AC: 4
Move: 20 ft.
Hit Dice: 3
Special: Pack tactics, Can fight in complete darkness, vulnerable to sunlight, madness.
XP Value: 60

Derros are a race of subterranean human-like creatures.  Their skin is a dull gray, their hair is typically a few shades lighter, and their eyes are a uniform white.  They speak an unknown, guttural language, but a few (1 in 10) can speak any surface language that is common nearby.  

Common Derro Abilities

  • Pack tactics. Derro are ambush attackers and will set traps and snares to incapacitate interlopers into their realms.  The derro will kill any they suspect is a threat, usually the largest, and keep the rest as slaves. 
  • Fight in Complete Darkness/Vulnerable to Sunlight.  Derro fight in complete darkness as if it were dim light. They take no penalty in attacks.  In any light greater than torchlight/flashlight they take a penalty of -1 (-5%).  In anything brighter, the penalty is -3 (-15%).  In full sunlight they cannot attack at all.
  • Madness. A full 25% of all derro suffer from a form of racial madness.  This usually manifests as a form of delusional behavior where they feel they are the superior species of the planet.  Their layers are fill with giant machines they refer to as "The Death Ray", "The Sun Destroyer", or "The Gravity Enhancer" that are designed to end the world, but never work.  Derro spend decades building these, or more to the point forcing slaves to do it, only to have them end in their own destruction.

Derro are cruel and delight in torture for torture's sake. 


Ophidian
No. Appearing:
 4-24 (4d6)
AC: 6
Move: 30 ft.
Hit Dice: 1 to 4
Special: Cold-blooded, enhanced senses (sight, smell), poison, magicly impaired.
XP Value: Varies

Ophidians are snake-like humanoids that have existed on Earth since the time of the dinosaurs.  They remember the great age of reptiles.  They hate humans, and really all mammals, and seek to destroy them so they can reclaim the Earth as their own.  If they hate anything more than humans it is the Extraterrestrial Reptoids. They feel the reptoids caused the great blast 65 million years ago that destroyed the dinosaurs (they didn't but the ophidians are not convinced) and they fight them for control of the Earth.

Common Ophidian Abilities

  • Cold-blooded. Ophidians live in deep rain forests, inhospitable deserts, and even underground near magma pockets or anywhere that is warm.  They prefer temperatures that are 75 °F / 24 °C or warmer with places of variable temperatures.
  • Enhanced Senses. Ophidians have superior senses of sight and smell.  Their sight extends into the infrared spectrum.  They are only surprised on a roll of 1-2 on a d10. 
  • Poison. The bite of some ophidians (1 in 6) can paralyze or (2 in 6) painful death (take 4d8 points of damage).  A Constitution-based saving throw can reduce this to 2d8 hp of damage. 
  • Magicly Impaired. Whether due to their reptilian brains or the fact they evolved from different progenitors than humans ophidians are incapable of magic.  They can, and many do, have psychic powers, but never magic.

Ophidians and Derro hate each other, often encountering each other and fighting great underground battles below the feet of unknowing humans.   It is possible that the only keeping these species from taking over is their hatred for everything and everyone that is not themselves.

Union of the Snake

--

Both Derros and Ophidians have a nice long history in my games.

I have to admit they did grow out of a lot of fringe theories and weird fiction from the 80s.  But I will admit that the Snake People were really sold to me from the Duran Duran video "Union of the Snake."

It was the 80s, I took my ideas from where they came.


The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).