It might be hard to remember now (or, if you’re one of the younger gamers, you might not be able to remember at all), but back before Jurassic Park made raptors into the most fearsome dinosaurs, the T-Rex was the image that everyone had when the terrible thunder lizards were discussed. The second entry into the DinoFiles series brings these deposed kings of the dinosaurs back into the spotlight. Strictly speaking, theropods comprise a wide variety of dinosaurs that were bipedal carnivores, including raptors. As they were covered before, however, this product covers similar non-raptor dinosaurs; the T-Rex itself isn’t here (as it’s in the SRD) but its cousins are the main thrust of this book.
Animal Archives: DinoFiles II – Theropods comes in a zipped file that’s just under six megabytes in size. The PDF is a full twenty-four pages long, including the front cover and the OGL. Full bookmarks make for convenient zooming through the book. The artwork here is what you’d expect from a Blackdirge product; the cover has color pieces around a central black and white piece of art, with the rest of the art being black and white interior pieces. Of course, borders with information of the book line the top and bottom of each page.
I just want to take a moment to talk about the book’s art here. Usually I mention the art only in passing before moving on to the contents, but I have to say more this time. Anyone familiar with Blackdirge’s products will be familiar with illustrations by Hunter McFalls, who’s black and white illustrations are very clean and crisp in their design. Here, however, McFalls has truly outdone himself, presenting several pictures of each of the dinosaurs detailed herein that are spectacular. From a cloud giant riding a gigantosaurus (and chasing some very, very unlucky human) to a piece of two knights jousting (one on a horse, and one on a ceratosaurus, and holy crap that guy on the horse is either really brave or really stupid to be jousting a guy on a dinosaur!), this is incredibly evocative art, and really lends itself to what kind of niches dinosaurs would occupy in a magical fantasy world. Bravo Hunter!
The book itself presents five new dinosaurs. Cousins of the T-Rex, most of them are smaller than the so-called king of the dinosaurs, one is the same size, and one in particular (the gigantosaurus) is actually larger. The introduction details special attacks that most of these dinosaurs have, and in addition to that, each has a section detailing how player characters can use them (whether as animal companions, or as summoned monsters), and what ecological niche these dinosaurs occupied when they lived in the real world.
Two of these dinosaurs also have fantasy variants presented by adding templates to them; in one case (the crested spitter), this rather amusingly recreates the base dinosaur as it was misrepresented in the Jurassic Park movie. Both templates are reprinted in their entirely at the end of the book, right after listings for celestial and fiendish versions of each new dinosaur, and a table listing what dinosaurs are summoned by what spells.
That this product presents a wealth of great new ideas for the dinosaurs it covers should be self-evident if you’ve read this far. While there were no individual advanced dinosaurs the way there are creatures in most other Blackdirge products, the templated creatures largely fill that niche. The new options for all of the dinosaurs here make this product almost a necessity if dinosaurs are at all a large part of your game.
[5 of 5 Stars!]