Okay, as many of you know. I have grown increasingly apathetic towards 3rd Edition D&D. In a nutshell, I hate it. But thats a discussion for another time and place. So why the heck did you buy this book I hear you ask? Well, several reasons. I had a chance to peruse the first Pathfinder Bestiary back in August (while on holiday in London) and the art was gorgeous. I read some snippets that this book was even more lovely in the looks department, so that really piqued my interest. Also its always nice to keep an eye on the competition (not that I seriously consider myself in competition with Paizo, but you know what I mean). Plus I have always been a sucker for a good ol’ monster bestiary, so why not.
First Impressions: Gorgeous. Probably the best looking RPG book I have ever seen. Brilliant cover by Wayne Reynolds (one of my favourite artists) and the interior art is just absolutely stunning. I don’t know how they did it, but they have 36 different artists, yet you could be fooled into thinking the same artist did every interior piece…and they are all good, very good in fact. I have looked through the book several times and I don’t think I have spotted an illustration I didn’t think was great or better. Massive kudos to Sarah E. Robinson the Senior Art Director….amazing job.
- The Art: Although I waxed lyrical about it in first impressions, its worth repeating, no other book (I have read) looks this good. Its almost impossible to single out a few ‘stand-out’ illustrations because they are all fantastic.
- The Monsters: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Near-perfect mix of old and new monsters. I want to start somewhere and everywhere you look is another great entry, some with multiple monsters attached some as single entries. Its early days but some my favourites so far are: the Aeons (multiple entries); the Lhaksharut Inevitable; the Jabberwock; the Nightwalker Nightshade (yes they even made this look scary); Proteans (multiple entries); Qlippoth (also multiple entries); the Thrasfyr and Witchwyrd. They even have some old Epic Level Handbook favourites like the Mu-Spore, Winterwight and Worm That Walks (who looks even cooler than before).
- Inspirational: I couldn’t help but notice that in the Daemon section of the book, they overtly mention that the Daemons are ruled by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (no they aren’t detailed unfortunately) and subsequently that each of the Horsemen have their own personal type of lesser Daemon servant. Just to point out that I actually came up with this idea back in 2005 in my Epic Bestiary: Volume One. I then went on (a year or so later) to make a relatively lengthy post on Andy Collin’s personal forums about how the Horsemen would each have their own subservient daemons with descriptions and names (Astraloth, Dracoloth, Necroloth, Putriloth etc.)…Anyway, it gave me a chuckle reading over this entry in Paizo’s book. Someone at Paizo must be a fan. 🙂 Sadly, Andy Collin’s forums are now defunct, or rather, converted into his twitter feed. But the miracle that is the internet has a funny way of saving things…have a read here and draw your own conclusions – personally I’m flattered.
- The Art: Hold on a minute Krusty, you have been going on and on about this book’s art, now you say thats a negative, please explain yourself? Okay, I will and let me preface this criticism as nitpicking. Several things have griped me about the admittedly amazing art. Firstly, VERY few of the pieces have any backgrounds (about 1%). Secondly all the pieces are the same size (quarter page). Lastly, VERY few of the pieces have any sense of scale (about 3%). Call me crazy but even brilliance can do with variety.
- Low (Level) Ambitions: Another personal nitpick, the book tapers off into Challenge Rating 23 (The Jabberwock). This is an even smaller, and even more personal nitpick than the first negative point I raised. While on the face of it that might seem hypocritical as my own Vampire Bestiary only goes up to Level 15, its well documented that its the first of three volumes which top out at Level 45. With the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 its meant to cover all levels of the game, and in many ways it basically does. Paizo were never able to solve the problem with Epic Level 3rd Edition and given that such lofty levels are only 5% (or thereabouts) of (D&D) gamers why should they bother catering to such a small fraction of the audience…of course, I am writing this review and I happen to be a part of that small percentage so hence my raising the point. But I fully understand Paizo drawing the line where they did, makes sense for them.
- Treatment of Monsters: No, not a diatribe about monster’s rights. Simply that in a number of cases they really seem to have undervalued a number of monsters drawn from mythology: Charybdis (CR 13); Draugr (CR 2); Scylla (CR 16). Then again maybe I am biased. Either way its simply another nitpick I am struggling to come up with.
Conclusions: Possibly the best monster book ever in terms of overall execution. Makes Wizards of the Coast’s 4th Edition Monster Manuals look pedestrian by comparison. Though I still maintain mechanically 4E is infinitely superior to 3E/Pathfinder; there is no doubting that the choice of monsters here and the attention Paizo have lavished upon this book are worthy of the highest praise. If you are still DMing or playing 3rd Edition/Pathfinder then this book is a must purchase. If you, like me, just love monster books and great artwork, then give it a look.
Overall: 9 (out of 10) bordering on a 10 out of 10 if I was still interested in 3rd Edition/Pathfinder.