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[PFRPG] Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium $3.99 $2.00
Average Rating:4.6 / 5
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[PFRPG] Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium
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[PFRPG] Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium
Publisher: Headless Hydra Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2012 14:31:58
New monster books are always fun, as they add more critters that you can throw at your PCs without worrying that they’ll have its abilities memorized. Weighed against that, however, is the question of whether these monsters – even when CR appropriate – will fall into that careful middle ground between “cakewalk” and “TPK-maker.”

The Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium seems to manage that balancing act, though it wobbles slightly along the way.

Thirty-five pages long and presenting twenty new monsters, the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium presents itself fairly well. It allows for copy-and-paste, but has no bookmarks, something which was frown-worthy. The book comes as a single PDF, having no files for Mac-compatibility or e-readers.

The book’s artistic presentation eschews ostentation, having no page borders or fancy backgrounds, instead focusing solely on the artwork. In this, it does quite well, having a single black-and-white image for each creature it presents. This was very wisely done, as monster books virtually require each new creature to receive a visual depiction. It helps that the illustrators uniformly did a good job, presenting each monster with a grim seriousness that undergirds their presentation.

Like monster monster books, the majority of the monsters fall into the single-digit Challenge Ratings. While there are a fairly diverse range of creature types presented, from plants to fey to humanoids, there is an underlying theme to most of these monsters – a large number of them are based around a swamp/marsh environment. This isn’t coincidental; as the title suggests, the book’s writing is specific to the Mor Aldenn campaign setting, and the flavor text for the monsters often discusses them in the context of where they are found in the game world. As the Night Hag who dwells in a certain swamp appears to be a major antagonist, a large number of the monsters are based around that environment.

In regards to the monsters themselves, most seemed to be at least somewhat creative in their powers and abilities. The marsh dragon, for example, has several powers based around creating and controlling shambling mounds. The portune is a “classical” fairy that can be rebuked if you say its name (and can be an improved familiar). The most interesting monster in this regard is the manifest child of the ether, which has a number of powers based around its strange connections to magic and being from beyond known reality.

There were a few issues that came up with some monsters, however. A few had an armor class that was far too low for a creature of its CR. The arachnus, for example is a CR 11 creature with an AC of…16. No damage reduction, either. It’s the sort of monster that, due to that quite literally fatal flaw, won’t last long in melee combat. The hag spider has the same CR, and has AC 18. It’s little things like this that can undermine otherwise-great monsters. I’d recommend looking these creatures over with a critical eye before using them.

Having said that, these are creatures that should be used in your game. The level of innovation here is a cut above the norm, and this is reflected in the monsters descriptions and abilities. Even if you don’t play in Mor Aldenn, there are a lot of interesting creatures here that can help to liven up your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium
Publisher: Headless Hydra Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/11/2012 18:35:00
Creature Compendium for the Mor Aldenn campaign setting from Headless Hydra Games is a 35 page PDF, introducing us to 21 creatures of varying CR's. PDF follows the dual column format and standardized statblock layout for the Pathfinder compatible products. Interior artwork is B&W, and we do get a piece of art for almost every creature entry.

Opening with the Arachnus (a Tauric creature formed of a Giant upper torso and head and the body of a Spider) this creature tome comes out the doors swinging. Following this nightmare up with the Black Glass Undead (variant Wight) and Blacktalon Lizardfolk (variant Lizardfolk) however, kind of a letdown after the initial creature. We are given a template for the Black Glass Undead as well as the creature write up though. The Marsh Dragon, who gets a standard statblock as well as 3 for various age progressions, is an excellent addition to the draconic family. Being more akin to the plants of the marshes and swamps it lives among, it can raise and control Shamblers, and attacks with spores for a breath weapon (nasty side effect from this one, brilliant). The Gaiant (a fey giant race resembling humanoid trees, and presented here with stats for a druid) and the Bog Giants give us two new entries into the family of Giants.

The odd looking Gold Caps ( a mushroom cap and stalk with four leglike appendages) deal in the market of information as humanoids deal in precious stones and metals. The Hag Spider (our cover monster) is an amalgamation of phase spider and hag that preys upon the sleeping by trapping its foes in ethereal webs and plaguing them with nightmares. Leyspinners are another addition to the fey, these being closely bound to the ley lines that crisscross their homes. Leyspinners have the ability to manipulate these ley lines to affect the world around them in a few varied ways. Mahr could quite easily stand in for those dark and scary things we all used to tell our younger siblings were under the bed. A bestial sharp clawed fey with the capacity to teleport through shadows with a grappled foe, the mahr feed off of fear,and spread panic and paranoia throughout communities.

The Manifest Children of the Ether I'm going to have to say are amongst the oddest entry for the book. A race of outsiders who's very presence offends reality causing damage to all within a radius of their presence, these creatures are presented as having no desire to communicate with any beings other than themselves, and any attempts to sway them from their desired goal is to invite combat with a rather hefty foe. Up next we have the Marshlings, a twisted nightmare version of vegetation gone bad. These things are wicked, in every sense of the word and a design win in my opinion, their rot ability makes them insanely dangerous to attack, their method of mobility (they retract a leg into their body, and expel a new one out of the front) is just visually cool, they're just a really cool creature. The Mirejack (a fey appearing as a small humanoid built of sludge and vegetation) offers up yet another fey addition, this one of a CE nature and being bound to the foul marshes of the world.

The Mythraven appears to be a huge raven at first glance, until you catch site of the embedded magical gemstones in its beak, oh, and it opens it mouth and says hi, that's usually a dead give away that's there's more going on than just really big bird. Sought after for their crystal eggs by mages these large avians can either be a valued friend, or fierce enemy. Plaguecrawlers are a giant centipede creature that attacks from ambush spraying whatever it can bite into with a disease ridden liquid, than retreats to tail its target, waiting for it to weaken. Appearing as a tiny winged humanoid with a portly build, the Portune is another addition to the fey numbers, although this handy little fey is a tad more friendly than most towards others, and can in fact be taken as a familiar by those with the improved familiar feat. Puppet Imps are literally bipedal constructs of debris given animation by the projections of will from malign forces. The cool thing about Puppet Imps, if given the chance in combat, they will scrounge the ground for material to rebuild damage, effectively healing themselves (for a penalty).

The Spell Pike is an altered fish, given spell like abilities depending upon which of the eight schools the fish is associated with. The scales of the Spell Pike bear runes that react much as a scroll, in that one can copy down the runes to learn the spell like ability. Unfortunately, this entry is the one that I have the most problems with out of the entire book. There's no artwork for this creature (the rune work would have been cool to see), and either the CR or the XP is way off. The Spell Pike is listed as having a CR of 4, with 400XP. Now, according to Table 12-2: Experience Point Awards (pg 398 CRB) a CR of 4 should have an XP of 1,200. To get an XP of 400, we would need a CR of 1. I know it's a small thing, but between the lack of art, and the botch job on the CR, this creature doesn't live up to the others.

The Stiltskin appears as a wizened of man, but in fact is very much fey. They collect and cherish secrets, and will trade and barter for them with secrets they know, or the gold they spin. The Tuskbeast looks very much like a large boar with a ridge of bony spines running down its back. A blind animal, they are still a widely feared hunter. The book closes with the Veraxer, a great brown tiger with stripes of green, and an intelligence far beyond animal. 10 feet in length and weighing in at 750 lbs., these large cats act as mounts and allies within the elite cavalry for the elven nations.

OK, a few things about this book that drove me nuts, first and foremost, the previously touched upon issues with the Spell Pike. Sorry, can't let that go, making sure things like the XP to CR ratios are accurate are important. Secondly, how many times one entry ran into another. There are numerous entries “sharing” a page, and that makes the book look very busy and cluttered in my opinion. Third, design wise, quite a few of these creature's feel like they are all bite, having massive attack, but not much in the way of defense. There is also no ToC or bookmarks, which is a huge negative for me, If a PDF is going to be more than a few pages long, I fee at the very least a ToC is required, bookmarks always preferred.

Final tally, pros far outweigh the cons on this collection of creatures, but it does have a handful of flaws. Giving it a 3.5, rounded to a 4 star rating.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium
Publisher: Headless Hydra Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 07:03:09
Originally Published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2011/07/22/tabletop-review-mor-ald-
enn-creature-compendium/

There are a pretty wide variety of RPG books out there. There are core books and modules, setting guides and splatbooks. My favorite, though, has always been the monster catalog. The Monster Manual, the Fiend Folio, these are the books that I covet. I will even horde monster catalogs for games I have no intention of ever playing.

A well constructed monster catalog has a variety of creature types, descriptions with plenty of adventure hooks, and challenging encounters for a spectrum of player levels. There are only so many mindless animals and filth covered goblinoids a party can face before a party gets bored. The creatures included are: Arachnus, Black Glass Undead, Blacktalon Lizardfolk, Marsh Dragon, Gaiant, Bog Giant, Gold Cap, Hag Spider, Leyspinner, Mahr, Manifest Child of the Ether, Marshling, Mirejack, Mythraven, Plaguecrawler, Portune, Puppet Imp, Spell Pike, Stiltskin, Tuskbeast, and Veraxar.

The Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium is intended for use with the Mor Aldenn: City of Mages Pathfinder setting, but all 21 of the included monsters are suitable for Golarian campaigns. The implied setting is a swamp, so the monsters tend to be more swamp appropriate than anything else. Certain creatures, like the Portune, could have an impact on an entire campaign and not just an encounter.

For example, the Bog Giant could be a central figure in multiple adventures as a party advances in level. The Bog Giant is described as looking like a ‘walking boulder’ but is Neutral Good and prone to assisting lost travellers in the marsh. A low-level party encountering the kindly Bog Giant could be startled and inclined to violence, but ultimately helped by the large stranger. Perhaps they could stumble upon a wounded or trapped Bog Giant and earn a favor by helping him. A higher levelled party could be called upon by a Bog Giant to help fight an even larger monster, even a dragon. A sample scenario could go something like this:

A merchant hires the party to enter the marshes to recover items from a caravan that has been lost. The party hears the sounds of battle, but they arrive to find the caravan smashed to bits, most of the guards dead, and a giant, filthy man charging into the brush. The lone survivor of the caravan ambush is delirious and only recalls the attack coming out of nowhere, being knocked unconscious, and awaking to see a giant standing over him. The party could track the Bog Giant and find him battling any number of foes, even a party of humans. Maybe one of his opponents is using a weapon or equipment from the caravan. There could be a superhero team-up comic misunderstanding, with the party taking the wrong side and chasing off the kind Giant and helping the bandits or the party might be able to deduce that the Giant is a good guy. If you are using the Mor Aldenn setting, the enemy in question could even be a disciple of the Hag Witch. This could lead to an alliance with the lone Bog Giant or even with a small tribe or to an enduring friendship with the few good creatures of the marshes. Since the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium has such a large number of swamp creatures, the whole campaign could lean towards cleaning the swamp of the evil presence within.

The cover art is a good indicator of what to expect inside – first party quality from a third party publisher. Each creature, except the pretty self-explanatory Spell Pike, gets a black and white piece of artwork. These pieces are universally high quality, with the style varying from 1st Edition D&D to the more modern Paizo style.

One thread that is woven throughout the book, and I suspect the entire Mor Aldenn setting, is the relationship between the supernatural and the common man. There are references to fairy tales and folklore, which help people remember the rules of conduct when it comes to dealing with the fae and supernatural. The use of rumors and hearsay in the descriptions makes it much easier to think of reasons for your players to use their Knowledge skills and get to know their creature biology.

At 35 pages for $4.99, the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium packs a high usefulness to cost ratio. Even for Pathfinder GMs not intending to use the Mor Aldenn setting, there is much to love in this bestiary. The breadth and depth of certain monsters in this compendium justify the purchase on their own. Even the more esoteric creatures have a purpose. Yes, that does mean I am planning an adventure centered around the Spell Pike. Anyone have a Fishing Rod +2?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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