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.
[4 of 5 Stars!]