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Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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Twisted Menagerie
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Twisted Menagerie
Publisher: Silverthorne Games
by Bo V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/11/2008 22:34:33

Twisted Menagerie Old school variety and style. If you like monsters, you'll like this book.

Silverthorn Games is well known for its template books. Like a chemistry set of strangeness, they have offered DMs a way to twist and modify standard monsters into something new and, more importantly, unexpected. But what if you don't want to mix the monsters yourself? What if you're sitting down to design or modify an adventure and you just want something imaginative, already written out? This is the focus of Twisted Menagerie. Monsters with full stats that you can drop into your games. The authors have allowed themselves a little time to apply their templates and show off the results. It means less work for the busy DM who wants something for right now. I like many of these monsters. They will find a way to my table – but more of that later.

Twisted Menagerie is 71 pages long with enough meat to get lost for a while. It has a fun, chaotic mix of offerings. I counted 36 'Monsters', including 11 unique creatures and 21 examples with level adjustments. A few of the 21 LA critters would be interesting PC races while others would be good NPCs. There is also a gang of 5 monstrous humanoids. For each entry there is line art, a short background followed by a statblock. The graphics are black and white. They are reminiscent of the old school monster manuals although I think the artwork here is better. The bookmarks throughout the work are decent. The index at the back, by challenge rating, is very helpful. I liked the monsters - this is a nice eclectic grab bag. Twenty-seven of the challenge ratings are between ½ and 7 and nine are 8 or above. If you're tired of Orcs and Goblins this book is a good choice. The selection hits a useful sweet spot for populating adventures. I think the monsters themselves stick out against other offerings for being a little different and interesting. Some books have done very well with situation or race centered categories – I feel that Twisted Menagerie is more flexible because the choices are so chaotic. I especially like the monstrous races: The Gnasher (GnomeBadger), The Gray Nymph (ElfNymph), The Pseudokin (SpellcasterPseudo Dragon), The Spheth (Fey Touched Lizardfolk), The Stone Children (GargoyleHumans), and the Valco (HumanGoats). These alone makes this PDF a welcome addition to my library. The Stone Children and the Pseudokin are arcane creations but I think they are suitably balanced to become a regular irregularity in my game world.

If I have a criticism of this work it is in a sense an unfair one - other monster books have set the bar so high for monster publications. Colour art, expanded backgrounds, longer entries and sheer numbers of offered monsters are widely available amongst the competition. But quantity is not quality. Reading this book suggested multiple plots and fun adventures – that is the measure of a publication.

If there was a way to give a 4.75 that would be my rating for this book. As there is not I have to give it a 4.

All in all, this is a really solid publication. Much more useful to me as a DM than many of the tiny 5 page or less pdfs out there. I wish there were more like it. I'll go back to this collection for some of the player races. The unique monsters will make for interesting encounters. You'll be happy to have some of these critters up your sleeve. Even the most jaded players wont expect these :).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Twisted Menagerie
Publisher: Silverthorne Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2008 11:31:09

Silverthorne Games, the company known for its variety of interesting and bizarre templates, has returned after a long absence with their latest product, Twisted Menagerie. But how well does this new product hold up compared to their previous works, particularly their magnum opus, The Book of Templates? Funny you should ask…

Twisted Menagerie is a book of monsters. It contains a grand total of forty-two monsters, with several being specific individuals. I hesitate to call them “new” monsters, however, because all of these creatures have one or more templates from The Book of Templates: Deluxe Edition 3.5. In essence, Twisted Menagerie is something of a companion piece to that book, though make no mistake, all of the monsters here work just fine if you don’t have the BoT – that said, there is a single brand new template here (“Servant of Olamet”), along with several new magic items, some new non-magic items, a few new deities, and some spells reprinted from the BoT:DE 3.5. Note that each creature also has, in their description, a listing for what the base creature is, along with (in several cases) full PC race information.

The zipped file that I received contained only a single PDF of the full version of the file. Presumably this has since been corrected and a printer-friendly version has also been added, but I can’t say for certain. The full version of the file is seventy-one pages long. It has full bookmarks as well as a table of contents. The art in the full version is quite plentiful. All of the pages are grey, with the edges being a darker color than the center; while I wouldn’t say the color scheme made the text any harder to read, it did seem to present a sort of muted tone when browsing the book. Almost every monster has a black and white illustration, nicely showing what they look like.

The book keeps a fairly orderly layout, with every monster occupying either one or two full pages. Each entry begins with some descriptive text, and moves right on to the creature’s special abilities. Their full stat block is listed at the bottom of the page, and the picture is off to the side. Listed by the picture is the name of the monster, and in parenthesis what the base creature and template is. This is a fairly compact system, and works well enough, but it leads me to my major complaint about the book: the text resolution is too small. While never truly hard to read, the text is just small enough that I found it to be slightly uncomfortable, and in a few cases confusing – the letter “e” and “c” were largely indistinguishable at that size, for example. It won’t be anything that ruins the book for anyone, but it’s slightly irking.

Twisted Menagerie is a very nice book, and a good return for Silverthorne Games, but while I liked it, it doesn’t quite live up to the book that it’s working from. Even with the scattering of new crunch, a book of existing monsters with templates applied doesn’t quite raise the same level of excitement as a book of new monsters/templates does. This book tries hard to compensate for that by giving us flavor text to try and integrate these as new, complete monsters, along with racial information for some of these as PC races, but it doesn’t quite pull it off. Add in the problems with the text size, and while I’d still say this book is a gem, it’s a flawed one. Nevertheless, it’s worth its cost, and if you want a book to nicely showcase what you can get from the Deluxe Edition of the Book of Templates, look no further than Twisted Menagerie.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Twisted Menagerie
Publisher: Silverthorne Games
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2008 13:58:35

Oh, Silverthrone, you had me at hello.

When I read the first book of templates you published, I thought it was pretty darn creative. When I read the deluxe version, which I still find myself pulling things from (I can’t say that about a lot of books), I was impressed by the level of thought and effort put into them.

It did not take much for me to want to get my hands on Twisted Menagerie. Whereas the Deluxe Book of Templates was like the Director’s Cut of Planet Terror, Twisted Menagerie is akin to a series of top notch extras that did not make it into he DVD. If you have the Deluxe Book of Templates, there is nothing in Twisted Menagerie that you can not create your self. All you need is a little creativity and the twisted psyche to combine certain templates that only a demented person would have thought of.

Seriously… A half gnome dire badger. Hive minded Kobolds. A demon undead dog the size of a city block.

If you had doubts about taking a purchase break until 4e arrives, this monster manual has enough twisted badies to make you rethink converting your campaign all together. This is 71 pages of proof that there is a decade’s more life in 3.5.

There are 38 creatures in the book. As with previous material from the publisher, you will not find too significant a balance issue with any of the creatures. What you will find is some really “different” things to throw at your PCs. The entries are formatted a tad differently than normal monster manuals that begin with the statbock. Instead you get the abilities and write up of the creature and on rectangle notepad at the bottom you receive the statblock. The bookmarking is precise, though the page numbering is slightly off. Everything looks very clean and the papyrus background makes me feel like I am reading about some things I was never meant to find. If I had to find issue with something, it would be the small type font, but is that really an issue when dealing with PDFs and the magical magnifying glass.

For the Dungeon Master There are lots of creatures to choose from which can fit into various environments. I am in an aberration set of adventures now, so plucking the aberrant ettercap was a no brainer. As much as my players hate these things they will especially despite the ones with confusing gaze and fast heal. As an surprising trap I really liked the Marble Guardian, a different kind of construct that has the powers of a medusa.

The Iron Word I feel I should recommend this product with a series disclaimer. Do not go through all of your currently written adventures and delete the creatures there and put in a bunch from the Twisted Menagerie. Because you will not stop. And then you will start trying to figure out ways to put in this creature and that creature, until whatever adventure you wrote is not even what you wrote and your players will be looking at you in the middle of game wondering why you have that devilish smirk on your face. If you can prevent yourself from getting carried away you might not find a better monster supplement this year better than Twisted Menagerie. .



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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