Game: Book of Templates
Publisher: Silverthorne Games
Review Dated: 5th, October 2002
Reviewer’s Rating: 6/10 [ On the ball ]
Total Score: 6
Average Score: 6.00
The Book of Templates is the latest PDF product from Silverthorne Games and I’m sure you’ll be amazed to discover that it’s a book of creature templates. New templates seem to have lagged behind new creatures in terms of new supplements from publishers and perhaps that’s an indication of wider roleplaying tastes. A brand new hardback of new monsters will arithmetically increase the number of nasties the GM can torment the players with and it’ll probably cost a fair bit too. A new book of templates will geometrically increase the number of nasties the GM has at his beck and call since one template can be applied to a whole range of monsters. This isn’t lost on Silverthorne Games and right up front you’re given a similar pitch – but you’ve already bought the supplement by that point.
There are 30 templates in the electronic book and no illustrations. The 69 pages of text are presented without a sidebar graphic and in two columns. Each new template begins on a new page and this helps to break up the sea of text that an electronic document without illustrations can become. The lack of illustrations is noticeable and it does impact on the quality of the supplement but it’s not a fatal flaw. The benefit of the choice of layout is that the book is easy to print off and this printer friendly copy is the only copy you have to download. The lack of illustrations may also help keep the costs down and score more points for templates as being especially good value for money.
It’s easy to find the template you want. The bookmarks (nicely coloured) all work correctly and allow you jump straight to the template you want to use. The design of the templates themselves makes life easy for the busy GM as well. They’re straight forward to apply and each have an example that includes both mechanics and explanation of the modified creature.
I was pleased to see that the templates begin with a quick note of how the physical appearance of the creature might change. I just can’t ever imagine wanting to apply a template without begin able to adapt my mental image of what the modified creature might now look like. If the GM isn’t sure what the new creature looks like then what are the chances of it leaving an impression on the players at all? There’s also text on why and how such a template might be applied; creatures are most likely to become Amorphous through ritual, they’ll be elevated to the ranks of Argent Servitor by the forces of Good but they’ll become a Ebon Servitor by striking a pact with dark powers. The mechanics of the creature and the appropriate changes come next, modifications to Size, Speed, Hit Dice and similar attributes. That’s good and expected the bonus, though, is that these attributes are included even when the template doesn’t change it. “Size: Same as base creature” is a common example of this. This inclusion simply washes away any doubt or uncertainties as to just what changes when the template’s applied. A primary feature of the templates in the Book of Templates is a long list of new special abilities, special attacks and special qualities. You certainly pick up that the author wanted to design templates that’ll put the thrill of an encounter with the core creature back into the game for jaded gamers and this is primarily done through the supernatural and spell like twists and changes that the templates bring about. Inevitably the creatures that benefit from the templates are a tougher than the original creature and some templates bring significant boosts of power and so each of the templates suggests a Challenge Rating modifier.
The templates themselves are mixed collection. Some of the templates are applicable to almost any creature whereas others demand a presence (at least in part) of at least one race. All the “half-something” templates, for example, have a requirement of one race being present in your game. I’ve mixed feelings on the “half-something” templates; it’s great to get away from the assumption that any half-breed is something human but I’m not sure which of the templates here have priority if two overlap. If I want to create a half-nymph with a human father and nymph mother then do I use the half-nymph template or the half-human template? Not both surely? Although I could add a second template if I wanted to have a “feral half-nymph” or what about a third template if I wanted to have an “Elemental feral half-nymph”?
Here’s the list of available templates – and I think there quite a few combinations that aren’t mutually exclusive but perhaps that’s not a bad thing.
Denizen of the Deep
The Book of Templates achieves what it sets out to do. The Book of Templates achieves its goal professionally despite the rather basic appearance of the product. There’s just a slight lack of cohesion in the book though, there’s no common theme linking the templates together other than the fact they’re all templates. That said the number of “Half-something” templates is fairly significant. I also think the book would have benefited greatly if it was possible to index the templates by some other means than just alphabetic. An ordered list of Challenge Rating modifiers or a list of suitable environments with the appropriate templates indicated would have been handy. It would also have been nice to tell at a glance those templates that change the creature’s type or size. A single summary page probably could have squeezed all this in.