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Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG) $2.95
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2012 14:50:56

Weighing in at 16 pages (with Cover, PID/OGl, and an Ad taking up 3 of those pages) this collection of creatures is not the typical critter collection, in that there's nothing technically new here. And that, in the end is why a product of this nature is a good product. In attempting to introduce variations and alternative approaches to monsters both GM's and players alike know inside and out, this PDF attempts to give you a useful solution to the ago old problem of what to do when they all become to predictable.

Opening with a one page explanation of the purpose of this book, as well as the mindset behind it, including a few basic examples of what one can do very easily to change a standard monster into something your playgroup may not be expecting, the concept of variety becomes very apparent immediately. Amusingly, my favorite example of a variant creature comes from this intro, with no statblock write up, as it is only an example, a suggestion of what a GM can do at their table. Simply changing the name of goblins to razortooth, and turning them orange gives you a creature that your playgroup will approach more cautiously, as they wont know what to expect from this, when they would normally run right over troves of goblins as cannon fodder.

We are given 21 variant creature builds, all based on well known monsters, and all familiar enough at their core, but definitely something new as they are presented here. Of these there are a few great ideas, and a few not so great, I'll touch on a handful of each.

Goblin-O'-Wisp - Your standard Will-O'-Wisp with its electricity damage swapped out, and the visual representation changed to be that of a floating goblin skull wreathed in red and orange light. OK, sounds really basic doesn't? But that's the beauty of this, small changes that allow the creature to remain the same basic creature, but at the same time something entirely new. Trust me on this one, the illustration will sell you on this creature.

Mummy, Halfling - OK, first off, (LOL)....OK...I'm better now...I promise...No, no, I'm good. When I first saw this header all I could do was laugh, I mean, seriously, a halfling mummy??? But then I thought about this, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much the idea appealed to me. Players are notorious for taking small creatures for granted, especially when we're talking about something like a halfling. So, what we have here is a creature that's going to force your group to rethink how they view the harmless, even if it kills them.

Bearowl - OK, ignoring the obvious attempt to invoke the Owlbear with the name, this creature is a reverse melding, with the head of a bear on an owl's body. The designer notes point towards the griffon, but I gotta say it feels more like a peryton to me, and those things just never found a place in my game as I thought they were amongst some of the worst designed creatures ever added to the game.

Bigfoot - Am on the fence when it comes to this critter, as in the end all he really is is a temperate yeti, but, this creature build is exactly what this book is about. It is a variant of a creature presented within Pathfinder's rules that was previously not there, and is not outside of the realm of a logical variant.

Centipede, Hulking House - Taking the concept of big bugs to a new level, this ones cool enough, but I'm baffled by one of its abilities, as the description makes no sense to me. The distraction SA for this creature is based upon the hair on its legs causing nausea....I don't understand. Perhaps I am not enough of a bug guy to understand why seeing a giant hairy bug walk by would cause nausea.

Presented in a two column format, this PDF could have used another reread from an editor before being released. In fairness, I did receive an email letting me know that a pre-final copy had been released by accident, and that a more editorially sound version was available. I re-downloaded the PDF, and this review is based upon that copy, which seems to me to still have several grammatical missteps, odd wordings and sentence structures. I am hoping that what I have downloaded is in fact still the prerelease copy, and that there was a problem with updating to the better copy, as this is a good PDF in the context of its material, it would be a shame if poor editing were to be held against it.

Artwork wise we get three pieces, all black & white. There of course is the cover art and the ad, but neither really qualify as interior art. Of the three pieces of art, one is essentially a line drawing, another was fair, and the art for the Goblin-O'-Wisp I am seriously thinking of having inked into my back between my shoulder blades. Yeah, its that freaking cool.

Looking over the 21 variations for monster ideas here, there are four right off the bat that I know I'll be using within the next week at my table, with a few others I'm keeping on the back burner for later purposes. Where as there are a few that, for me, will probably never see usage, that is true of almost any collection of creatures, so I'm not going to hold that against this PDF to much, as that comes down to personal taste and preference. All in all, the PDF set out to give some simple variations on easily recognizable monsters, and gives an insight into the design process along the way with designer's notes sidebars. More artwork would of have gone a long way towards helping this product, as all creature books in the end rely heavily upon the visual to sell the creature. Final tally I'm giving this one a 3 star as I would of liked to see more artwork, and less editorial mistakes.

If this copy I have reviewed is in fact not the final release copy, I will be happy to raise this review by a full star if the editorial mishaps are addressed.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG)
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