Game: Creatures of Freeport
Publisher: Green Ronin
Review Dated: 2nd, December 2004
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
I think my initial reaction to Freeport – one of YUS! – is as much to do with the way I’ve fallen out of love with the setting as the supplements which came out after it. I had my own concept of the city setting and couldn’t shift it. The supplements designed to support the city only seemed to dilute my initial view and opinions on the setting. If you’re a Freeport fan, still, especially if you’ve a few supplements then there’s every reason to be optimistic about Creatures of Freeport. It’s a good looking book, it’s typically Green Ronin in presentation and has Graeme Davis’ name on the front cover (and Keith Baker too (who may well have written the best bits in the book for all I know)).
I had an unjust uh-oh moment with Creatures of Freeport. Quickly skimming the blurb I thought I’d read that the RPG supplement had adventure ideas and NPC ideas too. That wouldn’t be good. I quite like monster books (I need help, I know) but I’m no fan of pre-written adventures, adventure ideas or other people’s NPCs. As it happens there are adventure ideas in Creatures of Freeport but not in the way I suspected and in a way that not only shushes my whining but actually quite winning. After we’re introduced to the monster and have the stat block and usual combat foo then we’re given adventure hooks specific to that creature. This seems to be more natural than slapping a chapter of random suggestions in at the back of the book. It seems more intellectual too. You’ve enough time to begin to mull over options for the monster, your own thoughts and ideas, when you start to read Davis’ and Barker’s suggestions. Often enough the duo has come up with something interesting, quirky and yet Freeport suitable. It’s enough to whet your appetite for the next creature.
I really wanted one thing from Creatures of Freeport. It might have been unrealistic of me but I wanted creatures suitable for Freeport. Hmm. Not quite. We have two main types of monsters; aquatic horrors and jungle terrors. This makes sense insofar as that the default Freeport is on the coast (pirates are (arr!) a key element of Freeport) and flanked by jungle. There’s always a silver lining and the one here is pretty good. Creatures of Freeport can work as a supplement for anyone d20 and it’s increasingly useful the more naval and jungle exploration your campaign becomes. Within the aquatic/jungle divide there are those creatures I can see maybe see being used in and around Freeport and those I cannot.
The very first monster, the Corpse Flower, is perhaps a good illustration of this. My first reaction was very much, “What on earth is a large, stinky, jungle flower got to do with Freeport?” I was only a little mollified when the concept and stats worked out well. I was won over in the adventure suggestion section where Davis and Barker offer some good ideas as to how the plant-monster could be used. Alternatively, I’m not won over by the suggestions on how to use the CR16 Ocean Wyrm. I don’t fancy what such a typical high fantasy encounter would do to my atmospheric pirate game.
In this way I can pretty much divide up the book; good for a Freeport scenario or not useful in a Freeport at all. This division is in favour of the “can use” but you’ll end up being the laughing stock if there’s yet another dangerous plant/tree imported from the nearby jungle which has started to cause trouble in the city. I do think you need to scenario each new monster from the book too as short or random encounters featuring them would just be too surreal.
There’s a lot of space for each monster in the book. Each entry has several pages in which to shine. There are 17 monsters in the 96-paged book. The text size is small (but readable; the usual first class balance we get from Green Ronin) and we’re not padded out will cheap illustrations either. The ratio of 17 monsters to 96 pages is a positive measure, one of quality rather than the suggestion we’re being short changed. There are two appendices too; one for animals and one for vermin. Even here we tend to find aquatic and jungle orientated creatures than city ones (though it’s easier to explain why there’s a parrot in Freeport than a whole new race of Mongoose men that’s never been seen or mentioned before and which now seem surprisingly common).
Right near the back of the book you’ll find a list of monsters by challenge rating. I need this now. There are so many books chock full of d20 creature stats that I have very little time for products which can’t supply me with a solution when I need a creature encounter and need it quickly.
There’s no reason to exclude Creatures of Freeport from your Freeport collection. If you are planning on a game with lots of ocean and jungles (and so many explorer campaign ideas come to mind) then Creatures of Freeport will be handy but the adventure ideas will be limited. If you’re using Freeport as the hub of a campaign, someplace where the characters come back to after sallies out to the Serpent’s Teeth and the jungles then you’re just the GM the authors had in mind. I think, for most people, Creatures of Freeport sits in the middle and remains a useful but not thrilling supplement.