Publisher: Gaming Frontiers
Review Dated: 24th, July 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Monsters is a PDF full of… right, monsters, from Gaming Frontiers. That’s an interesting idea. Gaming Frontiers is a d20 paper magazine. I’ve seen e-zines and I’ve seen paper magazines (duh) but I can’t think of any successful amalgamation of the two. You can buy Monsters from Gaming Frontiers, or, more correctly, from United Playtest as the people behind the magazine. You can get Monsters free by pre-ordering Gaming Frontiers #5.
So, on one level, Monsters is a freebie. Huh-uh. But wait. No. If you were ready to equate freebie with quick’n’dirty then Monsters is going to be a very pleasant surprised. It’s bookmarked and it has internal hyperlinked bookmarks. That’s more than some PDF specialist companies manage for their electronic products. Further more Monsters is a full colour product and boasts an illustration for every entry. Once again this is better than some PDF bestiary specialists manage. Every entry into Gaming Frontier’s Monsters is credited (top right hand corner of the page) with an illustrator and author pair. A lot of different people worked on this product and the result is predictably cosmopolitan. There’s also no telltale sign of burnout, no one became thoroughly fed up with inventing monsters after writing 40 sets of stats. Mind you, it did take them nine months to put the document together.
Monsters is split into four main sections. We have Beasts, Constructs, Fey and Undead. Each of these four sections has between 21 and 6 different monsters in it. Not too many and not too few. There’s a total of 44 monsters (67) pages and the Challenge Ratings range from ¼ to 19 and there are a couple of templates tossed in for good measure too. It was easy to track down the CR range there because there’s a handy appendix to show it. Nice.
The CR ¼ entry is the Camper’s Nightmare and it is a nightmare. The little bug has a stone like shell that’s extremely resistant to fire. Since it hides its legs away during the day you could even build your fire and include one in the stones without necessarily noticing. During the night, while the adventures are asleep, it peeks out of its shell and uses an anaesthetic stinger to ensure the victim won’t feel anything and then excretes a flesh dissolving poison so it can suck up the liquid flesh. Ick. The CR 19 creature is the Leviathan. This time round the Leviathan is neither a giant squid nor mighty whale; it seems to be both at once, a huge whale-like head with a mass of tentacles. There’s a near full page illustration for this one and some poor longboat is in serious trouble – but it doesn’t know it yet.
Other random samples I’ll mention are the Conductive Jelly, an ooze which looks like a puddle of ink but which soaks up energy from one source (an unguarded flame, say) so it can discharge it later on some hapless victim. There’s the paper golem too. Useless? Certainly not the strongest golem but they are easy to create, ideal for slowing people down and they can be used to throw spells at people. I actually think they’ve just become my favourite. To tell the truth there are more than 44 monster entries because a few of the monsters come in different power levels, there’s the Lesser, Greater or Anima Ancestral Guardians for example. As a Scot I’m well aware of scary legends about Black Dogs and so it’s nice to see this particular monster make an appearance in the Fey category. Myths and legends have certainly been an inspiration in many of the additions to Monsters. That’s no bad thing.
Monsters is a surprise hit. I think Gaming Frontiers would be wise to push it forward more and get it on established electronic shelves even if that doesn’t gel so well with the attempt to use it as bait for the paper magazine. It’s very good bait. Magazines like Gaming Frontiers are expensive but a free copy of Monsters with the purchase represents a serious discount.