A good monster or NPC book can really whet one's appetite for adventure, gaming, and tabletop battle. There's something quite surreal about the excitement one can feel when reading a cleverly crafter monster description, or delving into the background of a cunning and crafty NPC. As such, when it comes to monster or NPC books, I always hope to find some tantalizing new ideas, monsters or NPC concepts that can spark my imagination and really get my gaming juices flowing. 3.5 NPCs and Monsters is a short 13 page pdf from Black Death Publishing, that features a large number of monsters and NPCs from the demi-plane of Hanan Pachal, the land of their campaign setting. Eagerly anticipating some good monster and NPC fodder for the imagination from this product, I was unfortunately somewhat disappointed by this offering.
The product comes with both a full colour screen copy of the pdf, as well as an easier to print black and white copy. The pdf sports a small but neat cover, and some of the interior art is fairly pleasing as well. To be honest, though, the organisation of the product lost me after the second page, despite some of the other appealing aspect of the pdf presentation such as the art. Monsters and NPCs appear to be thrown together into pdf with no rhyme or reason, with no explanation as to what these stat blocks, monsters and NPCs are or how they fit into Black Death Publishing's game world.
On top of that, the use of the OGL and the general OGL mechanics are just wrong and poor, and the product includes references to old 3e material (DR 15/+1, for example), and even uses material that's not OGL in the product. I'm not even sure the correct OGL licence was used - Section 15, for example, is completely missing. At times the mechanics were so strange I wasn't even sure which system this product was really for (using the old T or Thief abbreviation for a Rogue), and there are a lot of things in there not contained within the OGL SRD without any descriptions either. While I've generally been pleased by Black Death Publishing's adventures and other products, this product could use a lot of work to bring it up to standard.
I have to admit that I found it really hard to extract good ideas and concepts from the pdf given the lacklustre organisation, but to be fair the product isn't a complete loss. The product comes with a whole plethora of stat blocks of NPCs, creatures and monsters, and while most of the will require mechanical fixes, it shouldn't take long to do just that. The sheer quantity of material means there is always something useful inside its pages. Stat blocks include, for example, armies of orcs, orc shamans, ogre mages, various barbarian, lycanthropes, vampires, succubi and even a gold dragon. In almost all cases the monsters are described by there stat blocks only (or text taken straight from the OGL SRD), but here and there are some useful bits of information on the creatures, motivations and tactics. One of the few really useful bits of the product is the horriad, a new monster that's the offspring of the union of two demons. In general, if you want to sift through pages of information for good bits, then you'll find something interesting, but skin deep this product is fairly disappointing.
I think this product fall shorts in several areas, but at the same time contains at least a handful of useful parts and features that you can use. I have to admit that apart from the horriad, I wasn't particularly inspired by any imaginative material, mainly because most of the material was largely stat blocks. And, given the amount of errors in those, it would almost be worth creating your own rather than using these. Organisation is poor - in the current pdf market you can surely structure material with additional descriptive text, motivation text or just campaign setting fluff, rather than just crowding stat blocks into a pdf and using the pdf ad blurb to give some hints as to what's going on in the product. I'm sorry to say that I'm disappointed - it has good art, the horriad is interesting, and some useful stat blocks, but for the most part a lot more effort could've gone into the product to make it more presentable and useful.