This past year's Christmas haul of gaming goodness was certainly smaller than previous years. Sadly, there simply isn't much new product these days that catches my fancy. However, it wasn't a total loss as I scored two books of monsters, the Pathfinder Bestiary 3 and Monsters of Legend. Although the two books are of a similar theme, they couldn't be more different in design. Paizo's third monster book is typical of all the Pathfinder hardcovers, high-gloss, lavishly-illustrated and weighty. Production values are first-rate and the price (around $40) is reasonable. Perhaps more so than in previous bestiaries, B3 has a theme, or more accurately, a couple of themes that govern its content. One of these is Asian influence, particularly East and South Asian. There are new races of outsiders, such as Asuras and Divs which clearly exhibit a strong South Asian flavour, not to mention a variety of new Rakshasas. Likewise, representing East Asian cultures, there are Foo creatures, a whole slew of new Onis, and the introduction of Imperial Dragons. The second theme is that of misfit monsters. Many of the despised and forgotten beasts from editions past have been given a new coat of paint. In most cases, these atrocities should have been left dead and buried. I am no more enamoured with the Wolf-in-Sheep's-Clothing, Flumph and Flail Snail now than I was way back when.
Now, I'm not much for the Asian stuff and there is a fair bit of silliness in B3, but there's enough cool stuff in there to satisfy me. Clockworks are awesome and I hope to see more in future releases. I also like how they have expanded the Kyton with a bunch of new variants. They are serious nightmare fuel now. The Cthulhu Mythos gets some more love with the inclusion of the Moon-Beast, Zoog and Yithian (aka Great Race of Yith), and best of all, the Demilich rises again.
Monsters of Legend is a digest-sized, softcover costing about half as much as B3. Not every monster is illustrated and what illustrations do exist are black and white. Anyone who owns MRQII Monster Coliseum has seen it all before, including the artwork. Though much less impressive than the Bestiary 3, MoL is a handy little tome. All the Glorantha-specific entries have been removed and what's left are the standard beasties every fantasy world demands, elves, dwarves, trolls, orcs, ogres, giants, dragons, etc. The entries are brief and focused. Even the entry on dragons is a single page. I consider this ideal for a generic fantasy game because it leaves lots of room for the DM to decide things like ecology and social structure. For a mere $20, you get over a hundred pages of monsters. Good deal.
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