It was just yesterday, when we received a review copy from Rite Publishing about Steven D. Russel’s excellent work: 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates. As a Game Master who like to tamper with pre-defined creatures, I’m glad than I’m able to read and review this book.
As you may already guess, the book is filled with different monster templates, and I could say that the options presented are really varied both in theme, general feel, power and complexity. But before I’m going to speak about the book as a self-chosen rules-lawyer, lets take a look on the book itself.
The book is nicely edited in a easy to follow 2-column format. The statistic blocks are easy to read, and I think I only recognized one obvious error in the text. (the Blind Seer is not blind at all) The artwork in the book is varied both in style, and in quality from very good to tolerable, but I think because this is a book for Game Masters it’s not really the most important point.
The content of the book is really good, and as I said earlier very varied. We receive 101 different temlates, without feeling that it would become to repetitive, or without new ideas. We receive several types of undead, creatures created from smoke, constructs forged in the celestial realms and many-many more excellent additions to the game. The CR values ranging officially from -5 to +4, but i1m not sure if these numbers are always right.
I have only several minor problems with the book. There is only one template which I feel somewhat unplayable (the -5 CR one) but some of the templates could be unbalancing if added to the wrong creature. for example, several, even CR +1 templates offer +8 to some ability scores, and some bonuses (AC, saves etc.) based on the same score. With a creature already strong in that ability, it could get several very high bonuses, in which case I recommend adding an additional 1-2 CR to the difficulty. But again, this is GM material, and I guess most of us could figure out the proper XP and tresure rewards for their players.
But taking nit-picking aside, the book is really good, and has a lost of useful templates. Some of these are focused on narrow themes which you may only use once in a campaign (like the Walking Fortress Creature) with some more generic ones, to some which may be campaign defining in some cases. For example we receive several templates which focuses on chaos with connected dark and iconic abilities. (like an acidic touch or a brand new tentacle)
I consider this a big plus, that now we could create handicapped creatures and monstes with 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates : there are templates like Legless, Ill, Blind, Missing Arm and Broken Construct which offers us a lot of options to personalize our creations. I already have some favorites I want to use in my campaign as the Adaptable (the name speak for itself), the Divine Furnace (a construct powered by an internal furnace) or the Smoke creature (which is formed from the smoke of a funeral pyre). I think the options are diverse enough, that most Game Masters could find his own favorites.
I guess this is the definitive selling point for this book : everybody could find something useful in it. This, except if you are too lazy to use any templates to surprise your players. So as a final score, I give it a 4/5 for the content alone, but considering it’s affordable price I give it 5/5. It’s only about 30 pages of content, but it’s very densely packed with information.
If you are interested in 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates, it’s available at DriveThruRPG here.
I recommend you to take a look at the available preview there.
Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros
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