having just completed my final review of Super Genius Games mini-monster-manuals, I thought it would be time to present you with my personal top 3! Without further ado...
This installment of SGG's mini-monster-manuals is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 12 pages of content for the new monsters, so what do we get?
The introduction tells us that we get unusual golems and it should prove to be right:
The very first creature is a CR 7 cactus golem, complete with needles and desiccating attacks. It should be noted that the creature is called both cactus golem and cactus crawler - a minor inconsistency.
On the upper hand, we get construction requirements for all golems in this pdf. All golems are resistant to magic and can be influenced by spells in unusual ways and these are no different - knowledge and fight smarting will help your PCs prevail when they lose in the brute-force department - an approach I really enjoy, as it encourages smart fighting and research. It#s unfortunate that no lore-sections are provided for the respective golems.
The iconic, mass-produced CR 1 Ceramic Soldiers make for nice low-level construct threats, complete with speed bursts and shatter-vulnerability - well done.
The CR 10 Gearwork Golem makes for a grinding clockwork nightmare, sundering weapons and disarming foes while rending anything it comes into contact with - the terrible golem makes for a foe the PCs will truly hate for its signature abilities - fighting these will be a baneful experience for any group.
The next creature is again, a rather low CR (5) golem, and a disturbing one at that, the enveloping hide golem - while not the most ingenious of creatures, it makes for a cool critter.
Two golem-variants are next on the list and both are pure narrative gold - the steed (CR +1) and vault guardian (CR +3) golem variant mini-templates that can be applied to any created creature make for some nice modifications - what about the insane alchemist with a flesh-golem-horse-creature, for example? Very cool!
The CR 12-Prism Golem has some rainbow-associated abilities and anyone who has played any incarnation of D&D knows that this prismatic attacks generally are bad news for those on the receiving end. While I usually like the illustrations of Marc Radle, this particular one is rather ridiculous and not one of his best.
The next golem is just what I want to see - imaginative in design and prose, cool mechanics and somewhat disturbing - the CR 8 Reefstalker is a primitive golem made from the jaws of sharks and its serrated defense and bleeding abilities will ensure a messy, bloody encounter your PCs will remember.
The CR 5 Rustmote Swarm on the other hand is the bane of items and metal golems and making it a swarm is mechanically interesting.
Even cooler golems are up next, though: The CR 6 Still Golem who can intoxicate foes via his scalding, alcoholic steam - that's exactly what I'm looking for in a creature: An original concept married to nice mechanics. Come on, how can you say no to an animated Still?
Finally, the last golem, the Void Golem is another prime example of a cool creature: The CR 18 intelligent being is a sentient rift in space, conjured as a proxy and servitor of its dark masters from the void to assist the apocalyptic cults serving their unknowable ends. Slightly cthulhoid, armed with a deadly array of abilities and malevolent sentience, this golem is another winner.
Editing and formatting could have been better, I noticed inconsistencies and minor typos and glitches, which, while not impeding my ability to use the golems, could have been avoided. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are ok, but didn't make me yell with excitement. The pdf has no bookmarks. Author Sam Hing provides us with a truly excellent array of golems and while some of the golems are not as awesome as others (Cactus and Prsimatic felt a bit bland to me), my only true gripe with this pdf remain the formal glitches I mentioned - for the very low price, we get a stellar offering of cool, imaginative and unique golems that are only marred by the minor glitches and lack of lore sections. My final verdict due to these minor issues will be 4.5 Rudii.
Silver: Kith of the Harpy Queen
This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 11 pages of content, so let's take a look at the new winged creatures, shall we?
After one page of introduction, we get the first harpy variant, which at first seemed like one of those "Slap environment X" on a creature-variants. The CR 6 Cave Harpy gets a cool sonar-like scream and blood drain, though, making her sufficiently unique.
The second new harpy is the Glory Harpy at CR 2, resplendent and actually quite civilized humanoids far from their ugly common brethren, but devious nevertheless. The multi-hued wings and captivating display make for cute, yet deadly foes that are essentially made cool via their fluff more than via their crunch.
Father of harpies, Pazuzu, sometimes seems to father especially deadly, demonic harpies, his chosen. (CR 10) Their song is not only enthralling, but also lethal to any listeners and their polearm mastery along their poisonous stinger make them a viable threat.
The CR 8 Pestilence Harpy, a vulture-like harbinger of disease via claws, dust, song and even presence is just plain awesome - with a deadly aura, cool abilities like the cloud of diseased dust they constantly create and a neat write-up, they are a prime example of author Sam Hing's good monster design.
Subtlety is not the name of the game for the CR 14 giant Piasa, whose call can flatten and even kill her foes - once again, the fluff about interacting at head-level with them makes what otherwise would be a good creature a very interesting one. Nice job!
The small CR 7 Storm Harpy glides among the clouds and can call dread storms as well as sleep while gliding in great heights. Again, it's the sparse fluff that lends color to an otherwise well-written, but not too exciting critter - the cooperation with pirates and influence on naval trade are interesting plot points to consider and make them valuable assets and allies for scrupulous foes.
Harpies being civilized foes, that's not where this Mythic Menagerie ends: We get 5 new magic items specially designed for or from harpies: From Feathered Daggers carrying diseases to shields made from quivers, they are neat additions to the female furies' arsenal.
Furthermore, 6 feats are introduced, three of which belong to a feat tree that grants additional wing buffet attacks to flatten foes. Even cooler, Pluck-feats are introduced, offering FINALLY the option for aerial combat I've been looking for: Attacks to temporarily decrease fly-skills with the final result of having plucked foes crash to the ground as well as the 2 cool feats to improve song qualities. The Pluck-feats alone are pure GENIUS and I'd recommend the pdf for them alone.
Finally, 5 new spells (APG-classes included in the spell-lists) are introduced, offering a nice plethora of evocative, flavorful battle-spells: From quasi-real ravens that try to pluck your eyeballs out to a ball of wyvern stingers you can control like a flaming sphere, the new spells are iconic, neat and well-written.
Editing and formatting are ok - while the glitches that plagued the line are once again present in relics etc., there have been installments with more of them. Layout adheres to the two-column standard and the b/w-artworks are neat. The pdf has no bookmarks and the creatures feature no lore-sections.
This installment of the Mythic Menagerie-line is literally all killer, no filler - each creature had something going for it and the additional items and spells are top quality. The feats are downright brilliant. Were it not for the editing glitches, this would be a 5 Rudii+ Endzeitgeist seal of approval-pdf. Due to the editing glitches, my final verdict will be 4.5 Rudii.
Gold: Demonic Harlots
This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover (gorgeous, by the way), 1 page SRD/editorial, leaving 14 pages of content, so let' check out the neat demonic femme fatales!
After a foreword, we are introduced to the first creature, but prior to getting into the crunch, I feel the need to address something - this review is based on the original version, prior to the minor redesign. If the title "Demonic Harlots" and the succubus in the throes of ecstasy on the cover were no indicator enough, I'll spell it out: This pdf is not necessarily safe for work. Although in my work climate there would be no problem with this imagery (some of my colleagues sporting more suggestive desktop backgrounds), I gather that in America people tend to be more sensitive with regards to even vaguely sexual content. This pdf, while featuring mature topics, does so in a mature manner and at least to me, felt not explicit in any way. Point being: I can't really imagine anyone being offended by this pdf, but I have been proven wrong before. Discretion is advised.
That out of the way, let's check out the sultry seductresses who will drag your PC's drooling souls to the deepest pit of the Abyss!
In contrast to the other installments of the Mythic Menagerie-line, we start off with a primer mentioning a succubus-demon lord and the topic of incubi, the male counterparts of succubi. Special mention deserve e.g. the short discussion of preferred demonic genders and how e.g. a matriarchal society would be haunted by more incubi to better subvert the power-structure. It's just one page, but it felt like a nice read nevertheless.
The first variant creature, the CR 10 Agitator has one of the coolest signature abilities I've seen in quite a while - emotional flare enables them to escalate latent emotions into potentially lethal proportions and make any crowd beholden to their chaotic whims.
The CR 14 Cursed of Epithumia is a deadly Succubus cursed by aforementioned Queen of Succubi. Punished for their ambitions, these disfigured creatures can split old scars and ooze molten lead from their ever-festering wounds to make armors for themselves, cover their foes in it etc. A plethora of cool signature abilities is provided, but for the Cursed, these blessings taste like ash - after all, they can only temporarily maintain a facade of beauty and most of the time have to spend their existences as disfigured, tortured creatures.
The next creature is a well-known entity on the Paizo-boards, our favorite reviewer-succubus Dark Mistress, or to be more precise, a race of beings named after her. These fiendish creatures are a blending of shadow demon and succubus, resulting in a new kind of critter with deadly shadow-based attacks - again, sporting not one, but several unique abilities. I bet the original Dark Mistress approves of this fine take. :)
Some creatures are the quintessential shadow entity behind guilds and plans, hiding behind legions of associates. The CR 8 Pupeteer Succubus is perhaps one of the coolest creatures I've seen in quite a while, drawing strength from her enchanted slaves and being able to use their senses. The PCs will have to act smart to catch these wily schemers off guard.
The CR 6 savage Thyiades, a kind of primal succubus focused on consorting with (and twisting) fey with her infernal taint. To make matters worse, they can unhallow whole stretches of land... Neat!
For rather kinky sinners, the tormentors (CR 11) are essentially BDSM-succubi that can have a neat signature curse which makes their victims yearn for damage. Add spiky body piercings and some hex-related abilities and you get a cool foe indeed. Although the tendency to portray BDSM as an evil or destructive act (which it is not - Safe, sane and consensual) in media in general tends to annoy me, this take on the trope of sadistic temptress is mechanically interesting enough for me to enjoy it.
That's not where the pdf stops, though: 5 new feats for Succubi are introduced that range from improved shapechanging to glyph-studded, arcane wings and even an additional stinger attack, which might act as an elixir of love - neat and offers a lot of story-telling potential.
We also get 5 new magic items, which contain a flail made from vargouilles, a retreiver-crown and ENCHANTED lingerie! Yes! (I know the thought of chainmail bikinis is not popular with some folks. For succubi, though? Come on - of course you tend to miss her when the shifting links of chains draw your eyes to semi-concealed places!)
The final section of the pdf provides us with 5 new spells, containing the sheer genius aspect transformation, which lets the succubus bypass some wards and a spell which is storytelling GOLD. Sculpt the Dead lets a caster make a dead being look like specific beings. I can spontaneously come up with about 6 complex investigation plots featuring this spell. Gold!
Editing and formatting are top-notch, this time I noticed no editing or formatting errors - if the increased price comes with an increase in quality, I'm all for it. Especially when the price is still a fair $4.99. That being said, the b/w-artworks are nice and the layout adheres to the 2-column standard. Author Sam Hing has done it - this is the very best installment of Mythic Menageries to date - plenty of content and signature abilities, cool supplemental material, neat prose, no gripes. This is how mini monster manuals should be. My final verdict will be 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - well done!
All right, that's it for now!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,