This bestiary clocks in at 43 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All righty, so the pdf starts with lists of monsters by CR (they range from CR ½ to CR 19), by terrain and by type/subtype, making the book pretty comfortable to use. It should be noted that the critters herein come with pretty damn amazing b/w-artworks. It should also be noted that fans of Run Amok Games with be familiar with quite a few of the critters within. The bestiary also features quite a bunch of adventure seeds to jumpstart your imagination on how to use these critters.
The first critter within would be the CR 9 Aralazar, a good canine outsider that guards mortals and helps them – they can raise dead once per day and basically are a regal, outsider version of the concept of a really *good* dog. We also have no less than 3 enormous bark beetles – the darting one at CR 11 is poisonous and has a powerful bite, and these beetles get an additional move action and evasion as well as good Reflex saves. Shiny bark beetles (CR 14) are also poisonous, but have a carapace that automatically reflects ray spells. Finally, foaming bark beetles also are poisonous and get a poisonous ranged spit attack. These also come with a nice adventure seed.
At CR 10, the Belgar would be a fey reminiscent of a 10-ft.-tall pregnant crone, who can steal infants and replace them with her own offspring as well as shadow jump – frightening, for sure, but I would have enjoyed it if the write-up did a better job describing what types of infants qualify. Do unborn ones, for example, work? Or just those already born. The flavor-text makes that clear, mind you, but it’d have been nice to read that in the proper rules. These fey are often accompanied by CR 7 Duskmongrels. These advanced fey shadow mastiffs can teleport up to 60 ft. with a 1d4 rounds cooldown, has a panic-inducing bay and get shadow blend. The kids of the Belgar are known as Paoternosh (first featured in “A Flirtation with Fey) – they come as a CR 1 critter, and with a sample CR 6 bard (daredevil).
On the side opposite of fey, we have, for example, the CR 8 Clockwork Archivist, who will be familiar to folks who own the “Kingdom of Toads” module. It comes with proper construction notes and adventure hooks, and with winding keys, eidetic memory, a focus on lore and elongated limbs that can cause bleeding wounds, they are an interesting take on the concept. (As an aside: If you run RotRL, this one makes for a great insertion into adventure #4.) At CR 4, the Clockwork Training Dummy (originally featured in “A Flirtation with Fey”) also features the swift reactions (Which net Improved Initiative and Lightning Reflexes and +2 dodge bonus to AC) – but the unique component would be the heart target ability, and it allows for the discharge of the winding up. Cool! Particularly since they come with 3 variants and a detailed adventure seed. Speaking of “A Flirtation with Fey”, the book also contains the stats for the CR 3 Junk Mephit was first featured in that module. These folks get a bludgeoning breath and clutter an area in sharp debris. The entry also features two junk traps and adventure seeds.
From “Perils of the Broken Road”, we draw the Giant Mountain Skink (CR 5), who can slough their skins and come with proper companion stats, and finally, there would be a template, the failed lich (Cr 1 + HD) template, which also comes with a sample CR 4 statblock. There also are two different templates that are new and direct opposites: Gangly creatures use an owlbear as sample critters, while Gnarled creatures also use the owlbear – they are basically opposites at CR -1 and CR +1. Gangly makes you bigger, but not tougher, while gnarled makes you tough, but not bigger. These serve a very tangible niche and are really useful. They also include proper rebuild rules. The pdf also features the spider-bred template that comes with a delightfully-illustrated sample spider-pony critter. Cool simple template!
As far as new creatures are concerned, we have, for example, Pumice Warriors – Tiny CR ½ constructs that come as pistol-wielders, pikemen and postillions, including construction notes. On the more potent construct side of things, we have chimney golems, which, at CR 4, get a blinding, burning fire damage breath weapon, making for a low-level, but more threatening golem perfectly suitable for more industrial environments.
On the humanoid side of things, the pdf contains the Ulqar, a race of cannibalistic dwarves (CR ½ sample NPC provided), and they come with racial stats: +2 Constitution and Intelligence, slow and steady, darkvision, +2 racial bonus to saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities, stability. They also get a +4 bonus to saves vs. poisons and diseases (bonus type should be racial) and when they eat at least a pound of humanoid meat, they gain their “level” (probably character level) in temporary hit points that don’t stack with other sources. Still, should be controlled in evil campaigns. They also get a scent variant that helps them track meat, corpses and badly wounded targets. The second humanoid race within would be the Gyerfolk, who come with two statblocks (CR 1 (PC-style) and 6 (monstrous humanoid)) and get +2 Strength and Wisdom, -2 Charisma, a base speed of 30 feet, 40 feet fly speed at 1st level (problematic) with poor maneuverability, darkvision and proficiency with shields. They also increase shield bonus to AC by 1 when wearing medium or lighter armor. They get deathwatch at-will and +4 to saves vs. disease and poisons. Once more, bonus type not stated, should be racial.
The pdf also features a new giant, the CR 15 magma giant, who can imbue a rock held with fantastic heat, making it basically a lava-generator. Cool one! At CR 2, the Gizzit is easily the weirdest critter within – a Small aberration that looks like a winged brain with a stinger tail, these critters cause extremely painful stings and quickly fast heal. Jumblethorns would be CR 7 plant swarms that can use hallucinatory terrain, ghost sound and fire thorn volleys. Spiky and capable of causing bleeding wounds, they are deadly adversaries. The CR 6 Leng Ettercap is an interesting twist on the etetrcap trope that comes with an aura that may make you think that insects are crawling all over you. Their write-up also features three sample traps at CR 5, 6 and 7 include for use in conjunction with them. Nice bit of internal mythweaving – their stance towards Leng Spiders is noted.
We also are introduced to the CR 5 Haunting Elemental, who can change shape and get a Strength drain attack, but interestingly don’t have a direct damage-dealing attack mode, which somewhat contrasts the flavor text mentioning them brutally killing targets. I guess they use what’s available. The pdf would also feature the Dashnavar at CR 12, a pallid undead with quickened dominate animal, a bite that carries a curse of lethargy, slowing strikes…and an uncanny command over rabbits, which they excel at dominating and calling forth. A CR 2 rabbit swarm, quite raving, I might add, is included. And sorry for the bad pun – couldn’t help myself. Finally, there would be the CR 19 Mountain Wyrm, a 100 feet long serpent (yep, not a dragon!) with truly devastating grappling capabilities and resistances. Nice one!
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard. The pdf comes with quite a lot of really nice original high-quality b/w-artworks, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version, since I do not own it.
Ron Lundeen’s little bestiary here is a well-wrought collection of critters. I can see uses for every monster within, and they offer sufficient flavor, seeds, supplemental notes, etc. to make inclusion of this book’s material in your game smooth and worthwhile. At the same time, the overlap may irk some Run Amok Games fans, and I wasn’t exactly impressed by the basic playable race material within. That being said, the pdf comes at a very fair price point, considering the quality of the monsters and artworks. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.
You can get this neat, inexpensive pdf here on OBS!