Friday, February 4, 2011

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 Review

I mean, come on! The name of this blog is "Send More Monsters!" How could I look at myself in the mirror if I didn't review the latest monster book from my favorite RPG product?

My Expectations: I'll admit, I wasn't that excited about this book when it popped up in my Amazon suggestions list. I believe my firs thoughts were "Oh gee, just what I need, a Pathfinder version of the Umpleby." My experience with Wizards of the Coast's  Monster Manuals was uh not impressive, to say the least. In general, most monster collections are sub-par; either the monster CRs were too high, the concept was stupid, or too similar to existing creatures elsewhere. There may be one or two monsters from each of Monster Manuals I through V that I would consider using, but the balance of the creatures presented were unusable.

Sigh... I'm being unduly kind. For the Fiend Folio and MM II thru V, 95% of the content was F-----G GARBAGE. Yes, I just used profanity, and no it wasn't gratuitous.

So how does Bestiary 2 rate? Let's see...

The Reality: First off, the quality of presentation is what I've come to expect from Paizo; an overall high quality of artwork, a nice overall look and layout. The quantity (300 monsters packed into 320 pages) is also just about right. If I have a criticism of the presentation, I would say that maybe some of the art isn't quite up to the standard set by the Core Rulebook, but IMO that is a minor "miss" indeed.

What about the nuts and bolts? Monsters! As mentioned earlier, this book contains 300 monster entries. Of these, I'd say about a third of the material is recycled 3.5 content updated to the new rules. As is usual for books of this sort, I have to wonder what the compilers of this material were thinking. I really could have gotten by without Gricks and Mongrelmen for the rest of my life, thank you very much.

Some reruns, like ye olde Leucrotta and its unhappy cousin the Peryton, brought a nostalgic tear to my eye, though in some cases I was non-plussed by the course the conversion took. Using the Leucrotta as an example, the only reason this monster was frightening back in the day was because a) its bite did 3d6, which was a lot for a dumb monster, and it could kick you twice and run away at 180' when it started to lose the fight (an unattainable speed unless you were on a horse or flying). Even then it was more of an "I-can't-believe-you-just-used-that-stupid-monster" monster than a bona fide threat. I feel like the developers missed the mark a bit here.

I was also happy to see the return of Daemons. I've always felt that daemons were underused. I was further pleased to see some of the old MM2 (Monster Manual 2 from FIRST Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) toughies: derghodaemons and piscodaemons. Unfortunately the mezzodaemon and nycadaemon were missing from this book. Restricted Intellectual Property, or are they saving these two up for yet another book?

Speaking of Outsiders, there are a LOT of them in B2. Not only do we have the old stand-bys (Archons, Devils, Demons, Inevitables) there are a whole host of new ones here. Some of them are clearly based on existing material from WotC which Paizo probably doesn't have rights to use. Some examples are the Qlippoth (which are pretty obviously themed after the Obyrith demonic race from the Fiendish Codex: Abyss sourcebook), the Proteans (Limbo-based, chaotic neutral entities that take the place of Slaadi), and the Aeons, incomprehensible, fate-guiding entities (known to DMs worldwide as "random damage generators").

Another thing I like is the inclusion of more fey creatures. This book bears a healthy sprinkling of evil fey. All of a sudden, Faerieland isn't looking so hospitable anymore, and this is good. I may have to adapt some of Castle Whiterock to include these creatures in the Far Garden...

Now to the bad. I don't like to come off as a frood, but Scylla and Charybdis were unique mythological beings punished by the gods, and I think they should stay that way. Using them as repeatable monsters kind of breaks the fourth wall for me. Same with Jabberwocks. I don't ever want to see a jabberwock outside of "Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" or Gilliam's Jabberwocky (though kudos are owed to the art designer who kept the jabberwock appearance close to the goofy Gilliam version).

Oh yes, before I forget! Too. Many. Dragons. Seriously, Paizo, just cut it out before you jump the shark, like TSR did in D&D 2.0 and WotC did in 3.0. Ten varieties is plenty. You're at thirty now, including a smattering of also-rans like drakes and linnorms. Just stop.

Overall, Bestiary 2 is on the upper end of the quality curve; there are a number of creatures I would use in it, new or old. There are also - as is to be expected - a lot of creatures I wouldn't use. Overall I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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