Animal Archives: DinoFiles I – Raptor Pack is short book on monsters for the d20 system. As the title suggests, this product in the Animal Archives line focuses on what are quite possibly the most famous of dinosaurs: the raptors.
The zipped file is almost seven megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF of the product. It’s a grand total of nineteen pages long, and includes full bookmarks for easy navigation. Perennial Blackdirge artist Hunter McFalls does all of the art here, illustrating each of the six monsters depicted herein and doing them all great justice. The cover is the only piece of color art, with all of the raptors being scarily detailed in black and white. Grey page borders (with information about the book) line the top and bottom of each page. No printer-friendly version is available, which may be a minor issue for some people.
The book opens with an introduction covering raptors as a whole (including how the velociraptors were misrepresented in Jurassic Park), a few notes on their d20 incarnations, and a quick overview of a few abilities most raptors have. Following this are six raptors, five of which are prehistorical, with the dracoraptor being the sole fictitious monster. As with other monsters in the Animal Archives series, each creature (save for the aforementioned dracoraptor) also has a section about how the PCs might find these creatures useful (animal companion, familiar, etc.), and about them in the real world. An appendix closes out the book, listing celestial and fiendish versions of the raptors that can be summoned via Summon Monster spells, as well as a table listing what can be summoned with Summon Nature’s Ally spells.
Reading Raptor Pack was like getting a fresh reminder about how the deinonychus and megaraptor in the SRD just don’t cut it. The inclusion of little things such as one or two new abilities, along with notes about how it’s slightly easier for these animals to be taught tricks (via Handle Animal) really make these raptors stand out as being the intelligent killing machines that we’ve come to think of them as. This book does for d20 raptors what Jurassic Park did for them on the big screen.
That said, Raptor Pack is not a book that I can honestly call perfect. While its not the fault of the authors, some may think that at least a few of the raptors here are perhaps a bit too similar. There’s very little difference between a pyroraptor and a troodon, for example. While much was obviously done to try and make each raptor sufficiently different, there’s only so much that can be done when the creatures in question are all of the same subspecies.
Another thing that longtime fans of Blackdirge Publishing will miss is the inclusion of advanced monsters. It’s become something of a staple for the company that when they gives us some new monsters, they’ll have at least a couple of examples where some have advanced hit dice and a template, or have class levels, etc and a quick but evocative description. Even considering that this book only had six new monsters, I was still surprised not to see any advanced beasties (the templated ones for the summoning spells notwithstanding). The idea of an awakened raptor, maybe with a few Fighter or Rogue levels, seemed so obvious that its exclusion was noticeable.
That said, while this product may not have quite hit the company’s usual high standards, this is still a great product. The raptors here are varied, which is an accomplishment unto itself, and the player information alongside the new stats guarantees that you’ll have something here that’s useful. I’m already having visions of a war-druid who rides into battle astride his utahraptor animal companion. I highly recommend unleashing Raptor Pack on your campaign immediately.