Pathfinder Bestiary Review
Well, Here it is February and it’s time for another review. This time is the Pathfinder Bestiary up for review. This book is largely a remake of the D&D 3.5 monster manual that has been brought up to date with the newer stats and abilities that are found within the Pathfinder system.
This review will be fairly short as I will not be describing every monster in the book.
Starting right off the bat on page 5 is a short chart of monster icons. These are small symbols denoting the type of each monster that you may encounter ranging from Aberrations to vermin. There are also icons denoting terrain types that each monster is likely to be found in as well as climate (cold, temperate, tropical). These icons are handy but will take some time to memorize so you will need to reference page 5 often.
The basic layout of the Monster stats is nearly identical with a couple of additions. Mainly the addition of XP in bold at the top of the description as well as the addition of CMB / CMD stats on the same line as BAB. The stats are broken down into sections. These sections are Defense, Offense, Statistics, Ecology & Special Abilities. The layout is very organized, neat and easy to read.
List of Monsters
Aasimar did not change. The rules for playing one are listed. There is technically no Level adjustment required nor any XP penalties in order to play one, but it is recommended within the council of thieves player’s guide although they primarily mention Tieflings in that issue.
Angel – the 3 main types are described here. Astral Deva, Planetar & Solar. They seem to be pretty close to the versions in 3.5. I like the artwork.
Animated Object – This has some cool construction rules for extra speed, attacks, trample, etc.
Ankhegs, Ants & Apes
Archons – There are 3 listed types, Hound, Lantern, Trumpet. These seem to be pretty much the same as they were in 3.5
Azata – These are Eladrin renamed. There are 3 listed, Bralani, Ghaele & Lillend. The Lillend is pretty cool. It is a picture of a creature with a torso of a woman with wings and the lower torso and legs are snake-like. The lillend has bard powers and can play musical instruments. There are a couple of minor changes for the Bralani & Ghaele but nothing worth mentioning.
Basidirond – a new plant monster with the power to throw a hallucination cloud at you.
Basilisk, Bats, Bears - (the Dire Bear looks stupid like it has some sort of fungal disease.
Bebilith - The Bebilith is no longer considered a demon but is still a hunter of demons. It retains it’s arachnid type.
Beetles, Behir, Black pudding, Boars
Boggard - The boggard is an anthropomorphic toad with a sticky tongue, holds it’s breath underwater for nearly six minutes and can move through swamp terrain with no penalties. It also has a terrifying croak that can make become “shaken”.
Bugbear, Bulette, Cats (cheetah & leopard), Cave Fisher, Centaur, Centipede, Chimera, Choker , Chuul, Cloaker, Cockatrice, Couatl – I love the picture of the Couatl.
Crab (Giant), Crab(Swarm), Crocodile, Dire Crocodile, Cyclops, Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker,
Demons – The demons did not change a lot but they did add a little bit to the Balor. There is a paragraph that denotes the Balor Lord which has a higher CR rating and more powers such as lifedrinker (ability to heal when it kills something), more spell-casting (automatic spell-like abilities in spells from the sorc/wizard list) and soul swallow (fort save or die and you come back as a babau or succubus or a shadow demon under the control of the Balor Lord. The Balor Lord is ultra-powerful.
Devils –The Devils got a similar treatment just like the Demons. I loved the artwork for the Erinyes. The Pit fiends also got a couple of paragraphs that dealt with the Dukes of hell and their abilities are similar to the Balor Lords. Although the Dukes of Hell frequently get a Hellfire Breath weapon (Unholy damage & Fire Damage), plus more spell like abilities and the ability to create ghosts from slain enemies.
Dinosaurs - I’m not a big fan of Dinosaurs but there are several here.
Dogs, Dolphins & Orca, Doppleganger
Dragons - Paizo apparently decided to do a much more standardized template progression system than 3.5 did. Essentially, other than a few special powers, spell-like abilities and possible immunities and/or vulnerabilities, all dragons are essentially the same regarding (HD, BAB, physical stats, mental stats, natural amor, fly speed, spell resistance & levels of spellcasting (all dragons can now get up to 19th level sorcerer). In some ways I like it because it’s quicker to generate but it feels more canned. You’ll have to decide for yourself if you like the changes or not.
One thing I didn’t like was that I don’t feel that dragons got enough hitpoints. They get 4D12 at wyrmling and then increase by 2D12 every age category instead of 3D12 that 3.5 gave them. They essentially end up with 11D12 less hit points than 3.5. I think this is a mistake. This makes them easier to kill and harder to create a longer drawn out combat.
I also think that they should have been allowed to substitute their spellcasting for other types of spellcasting. Yes, technically, you could give them levels in cleric or whatever but I was thinking maybe substituting the Sorcerer levels for Bard levels since their both spontaneous arcane casters. Granted, their offense would suffer but it would offer additional role playing opportunities and some cool defensive possibilities.
Dragon Turtle, Drider
Drow – There are 2 Drow templates that you could use to play a character. The regular drow & noble drow. The regular drow get +2 dex, +2 cha, -3 con, darkvision 60, SR = 6 + character level, spell-like abilities (faerie fire, darkness & dancing lights). They also suffer light blindness. They have poison use and weapon familiarity (rapier, crossbow (hand), short sword). The nobles have all of the normal drow powers plus an extra +2 dex, +2 intelligence & +2 wisdom. They also have more SR. SR 11 + character level and additional spell-like abilities (deeper darkness, feather fall, levitate, detect magic,
Divine favor, dispel magic & suggestion. The regular drow are pretty tought but the nobles are even more so. These can be played as characters but some penalty should be imposed since they are much more powerful than the regular races.
Eagle & Giant Eagle, Eel & Electric Eel
Elementals – The Elementals do not appear to have changed too much.
Elephant & Mastodon Elephant, Ettercap & Ettin
Familiars – There is a fairly extensive section on familiars ranging from bats to weasel’s.’
Giant Flytrap, Frogs & Poison Frogs, Frogemoth , Gargoyles, Gelatinous Cube
Genies – There is some revamping done here for the Genies. There is 1 genie per elemental type that was not present in the original D20 srd. The Marid is the new Water Genie and the Shaitan is the new Earth Genie. In addition there are also “Noble” versions for each type including the lesser Genie… the Janni. These noble versions each have 2 – 3 extra hit dice and have extra spell-like abilities and in at least one case… increased wish magic. I really like the new genies and the upgrades.
Ghosts, Ghouls & Giants - They stayed roughly the same. I hate the artwork for the Giants.
Gibbering Mouther, Girallon, Gnoll, Goblin
Goblin Dog – This is new from Paizo. They really only get along with goblins especially once you find out that they have allergic dander to anyone that isn’t a goblinoid.
Golems (Clay, Flesh, Ice, Iron, Stone & Wood) – I like the new additions plus the rules for creating them and Shield Guardians.
Gorgon – The new Gorgon breath attack does not turn you to stone permanently. It is only temporary and you get to make a new save every round. However, if the Gorgon breathes on you a second and you fail a second save then you are turned to stone permanently.
Gray ooze, Green Hag , Griffon
Half-Celestial, Half-Dragon, Half-Fiend -These all got simplified, more flexible and potentially cheaper to play. If I use the Half-Celestial as an example, It has a CR rating of CR + 3 if you have 11 HD or more. If were to translate that to a level adjustment. I would say that a level adjustment of +3 would seem to be fair and it would put it at the same cost that it used to be in 3.0 because in 3.5, WOTC upped the cost to +4 which made it too expensive for most people to play and it made the character too weak. For both the Half-Celestial & Half-Fiend, 3 of your stats (your choice) go up by +4 and the other 3 stats go up by +2. This is great if you like to customize your character which is something that 3.5 lacked. The Half-dragon puts out fixed stat increases. Overall, I like the new Half-templates. They are easier to use and more customizable and in the hands of a fair DM… potentially cheaper.
Harpy, Hell Hound
Nessian Hell Hound – This is a large version of the Hell hound with a lot more hit points, Armor Class & a huge breath weapon attack.
Herd animals, Hobgoblin, Homunculus, Horses, Hydras, Hyenas, Intellect Devourer
, Invisible Stalker, Iron Cobra
Kobold – The stats to play a kobold are listed but as expected they are very weak.
Kraken, Kyton (love the artwork), Lamia, Leeches, Lich
Linnorm – These are basically primeval dragons. There are 3 types presented. Crag, Ice & Tarn. They can fly and have breath attacks but they are quite a bit weaker than your standard dragons.
Lion & Dire Lion, Lizard & Monitor Lizard, Lizardfolk
Lycanthrope – There are some pretty good rules for creating and potentially playing a Lycanthrope but Paizo rightfully recommends that you do not allow players to play a lycanthrope since it makes their character much more powerful and when you switch forms, your character frequently ends up doings that are potentially opposite of their alignment.
Manticore, Giant Mantis, Medusa
Mephits – There are 10 types of mephits listed here. All with different powers. They are really cool and they can wreak havoc against a party if there is a mob of them.
Merfolk, Mimic (cool pic), Minotaur
Mite – this is a weak small evil fey creature with only prestidigitation & doom for powers.
Morlock – They are degenerate humanoids that evolved into monstrous humanoids by dwelling in subterranean depths. They have darkvision 120 ft and are immune to poison & disease.
Mummy, Nagas (Dark, Guardian, Spirit)
Neothelid – A Gargantuan Aberration that looks like a worm with 4 tongue attacks, a huge 14d10 Acid breath attack (50ft cone), mind thrust & psychic crush attacks as well as swallow whole. It has DR 10/cold iron and SR 26. Very Nasty.
Night Hag, Nightmare & Nightmare Cauchemar, Nymph, Ochre Jelly, Octopus & Giant Octopus, Ogre & Ogre Mage (Oni), Orc, Oytugh, Owlbear, Pegasus, Phase Spider, Phoenix, Pixie, Pseudodragon, Purple Worm, Rakshasa, Dire Rat, Rat swarm, Remorhaz,
Retriever – This is a huge extraplanar construct that looks like a spider. It has a bite attack plus 4 claw attacks. It also has the ability to fire one of 4 different type of eye (ray) attacks that deals fire, cold, electricity or petrification. It has a land speed of 50ft and has a constant spider climb & water walk powers.
Rhinocerous & Wooly version, Roc, Roper, Rust Monster, Sahuagin, Salamander, Satyr,
Giant Scorpion, Sea Hag, Sea Serpent, Shadow (Greater), Shambling Mound, Shark (Dire), Shocker Lizard, Shoggoth, Skeleton, Skeletal Champion, Skum, Giant Slug, Snake (Constrictor & Venomous), Spectre, Sphinx, Spider (Giant & Swarm), Squid (Giant & normal), Stirge, Svirfneblin, Tarrasque
Tengu – The tengu are a race of avian humanoids that resemble either a crow or a raven. There are playable stats if you want to play one as a character (+2 dex, -2 con, +2 wisdom). Low-light vision, +2 perception & stealth. They are sword trained and are gifted linguists. These are really cool and are a welcome addition for those that are looking to play something different.
Tiefling, Tiger (regular & dire versions), Treant, Troglodyte, Troll, Unicorn, Vampire (excellent creation rules), Vargouille
Vegepygmys –They are a race born from russet mold fungus that only grows in dark wet caverns. If anyone is infected with the mold spores, they have to make a DC 15 fort save or they are infected and have to make continuous saves or take 2 points of con damage. If you go to zero, you die and 1D6 vegepygmys burst from the dead body. They are small and use the remnants of the dead body to make a weapons or jewelry.
Violet Fungus – Another plant that deals a rot attack that is actually poison based. It deals strength & Constitution damage.
Wasp (Giant & Swarm), Wight, Will-o-Wisp, Wolf (Normal & Dire), Wolverine (Normal & Dire), Worg (normal & Winter), Wraith (Normal & Dread), Wyvern, Xill, Xorn, Yellow Musk Creeper & Zombie, Yeth Hound, Yeti, Zombie
I like most of the artwork and the adult feel.
The layout is more organized and easier to read.
I love the new symbols that denote the type of monster it is, as well as the descriptions of each type at the end of the book.
I love the fact that they stick to whole pages for monsters and they don’t start a new monster in the middle of a page.
Most monsters are fully described in 1 or 2 pages with only a few exceptions like Dragons.
I love the XP system. You do not need to cross check CR tables to get XP. It’s already listed as part of the Monster.
I won’t be reviewing the Bonus Bestiary but would like say thanks to Paizo for offering up some
extra monsters for free and it partially makes up for the missing monsters in the bestiary.
There are not as many monsters in this bestiary as compared to the original 3.5 Monster Manual.
Dragons seem weaker.
Final Score – 9.5 out of 10 :second: (Silver Award) This book is very near-perfect., one of Paizo’s best books to date. I consider this a must have if you are into Pathfinder. You won’t be disappointed. I will be waiting with bated breath for Bestiary 2 which promises to release most of the monsters that were not in the first bestiary and a whole bunch of new ones.
10 – Gold Award - You would be a fool not to get this. As close to perfect as you’ll ever see.
9 to 9.5 - Silver Award - This is an excellent and important addition to your collection. This product only has maybe 1 or 2 minor issues that are easily overlooked.
8 to 8.5 - Bronze Award – This is also an excellent and important addition to your collection but has several issues that may need to be dealt with thru errata or house-rules.
7 to 7.5 – Honorable mention – This is probably worthy of consideration. It is a nice product but has several major issues or only offers a couple of new ideas.
6 – 6.5 - Fair - This product is ok but should only be bought if you are bored and have extra cash. This score shows that the product doesn’t deliver as promised or delves into other material that is separate from what was supposed to be discussed. The info presented in this product may also break your game either in too good a way or in a horrible way. This product may also offer little in the way of new rules or ideas.
5 to 5.5 – Poor - This product is really bad and should not be bought. This might have horrible artwork and/or poor organization and/or poor spellchecking. This product may also offer nothing new in the way of rules or crunch and may just be an incoherent rambling of thoughts.
4.5 or less - Use this product for kindling… `nuff said.
Reviews for the Future (in no particular order):
Dark Markets of Katapesh
Gnomes of Golarion
Guide to the River Kingdoms