Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume I
Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume I Capsule Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 18/07/01
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
The first in an eight book encyclopedia of monsters for the HackMaster RPG by the creators of Knights of the Dinner Table and Kingdoms of Kalamar.
Product: Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume I
Author: The HackMaster Development Team
Company/Publisher: Kenzer and Company
Page count: 112
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 18/07/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Comedy
This is the first book in a line of HackMaster RPG products. It is a perfect bound book of 112 pages of monsters. Some are easily recognized from D&D while some are being introduced for the first time. This book is the first of eight volumes of the series and covers monsters Aa to Ca. Those who want to sample the monsters for this game may want to wait for Volume Two which is sure to have Demons, Devils and Dragons.
Thankfully, unlike the Player’s Handbook which constantly bombards you with humor until you are rolling on the floor, Kenzer and Company takes a more professional approach this time around and creates an excellent start for what could be a grand journey into a game company’s desire to create a selection of monsters which will be fun to encounter. The art is top notch all the way, thanks to Bob Burke, Brendon and Brian Fraim and the rest.
The forward consists of a fictional letter. In it, a boss is chewing out one of his employees. If people find that funny, then they can all come with me on a tour to visit some of the places I used to work at. It would have been better to see another monster than this.
The introduction explains what all the terms in the stat boxes mean and is a very pleasant read for gamers who miss the old 1E Monster Manual. One addition I admired was the titles for every Morale Rating. Other additions which are noteworthy are the return of the Ecology section and a new section called “Yield”, which tells the Game Master of any value a monster may have in medicinal purposes, spell components, and trophies as well as treasure. This attention to detail is grand indeed. I also enjoy the AKA section which has some humorous names for many of the monsters in the book.
While one would think that there is no need to buy a book of monsters that are already contained in the Monster Manuals of D&D, there happen to be fewer than I thought there would be, and those which I recognize have their descriptions expanded upon in order to be easier to understand. A GM should have little difficulty coming up with an adventure scenario after reading a monster entry.
The book starts off by talking about monsters that adventurers would encounter underground. One can easily take the Aarakians (a sort of super ant), Dire Aardvarks, and Aardvarkians (aardvark men) and create an above average adventure.
The Aarnz Hound is a guard dog for apes. Apes are more intelligent in the world of HackMaster evidently and even have their own Gawd which is conveniently named “The Ape Gawd”. I like the idea of sending a pack of these things at a group of adventurers – bounding from tree to tree.
The Adapter is one of those “mind game” monsters that have Special in almost every stat which states in its description that it will annoy the party members. It will also annoy the players more than likely.
The Adarupikus is a little spider which takes control of the being it’s attached to. This is an excellent monster which doesn’t mess with a group’s head as much as the Adapter does. The Memory Loss table is a great addition to the Adarupikus.
The Aerial Servant and Giant Alligator appear to be the same as the D&D versions, but with different stats.
The Giant Amoebae is great if you have any fans of biological research in your gaming group, otherwise avoid.
The Angel entry is an excellent “tell it like it is” entry of what AD&D called Devas.
The Ankou (a personification of Death) is very good for fans of horror and philosophy. His four Horses of Doom have the entry after.
The Giant Ants, Ant Hunter, Giant Ant Lion, and Ant Men take you back to the subterranean theme that was at the beginning of the book. Odds are good that any new games that start up will be underground.
The next monster, the Anthraxian, is the rabbit from the movie, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, and is a great encounter for fans of the movie.
The next monster is even better – the Anti-Elementals – and opens up a whole bunch of new planes of existence in the Fantasy RPG universe – the Anti-verse. There is even a way that the two universes of HackMaster can be obliterated if something happens regarding this monster. It doesn’t get more over-the-top than this.
We now get to a little jungle section and the Aarnz Hound has some monsters to join it such as the Carnivorous Ape, Gorilla, Shadow Ape (an ape with a touch of dark magic), and Ape Shamans. Can you sing “Welcome to the Jungle”? I know Guns and Roses can. Seriously, if GMs don’t take their group underground for their campaign start, they will take them to the jungle most likely to recreate the misadventures that the Knights of the Dinner Table have been on over the years.
Next monster is the Apparition. Standard undead.
The Arcane Merchant is a greatly enhanced version of the Arcanes, an old Spelljammer monster. Here, GMs can get money from his players for what the Arcane Merchant has to offer. Another old but good Spelljammer monster, the Argos follows.
Next is the Dire Armadillo. It’s what’s for dinner….not.
If you like killer plants, then you will love the Armored Foliage Creeper.
The Arvanger (huge insects) are like something out of a monster movie – a good monster movie (if there is such a thing).
The Ashen Prowler is an elemental creature of fire which is refreshing compared to the same old fire elemental.
The Astral Searcher, a psionic monster) is pretty complicated but worth the effort.
The Attention Getter is hilarious. It’s a little guy who distracts a party while something dangerous can sneak up on them and eat them. A great idea.
The Augerlisk is a tougher basilisk.
The Avenging Servant is a more interesting take on the Aerial Servant and gives the GM an excellent plot device since they may appear when an innocent is killed by an Aerial Servant – no doubt summoned by a demented mage in the party.
Avianderthals are fleshed out and more interesting versions of the Aarakockras, but also more violent.
Next comes the Babblers – monsters whose babbling causes all sorts of mischief for the adventurers.
The Baboon and the Baboon-Men take you back to the jungle for more fun.
Next are Badgers. One entry, the Giant Badger, is written by a fictional character named Timmy Jackson, a little boy. Even people who aren’t fans of the comic will laugh at this one, though I am grateful the whole book isn’t like this. Even in this simplistic form, the monster is better covered than the Giant Badger has ever been.
The Giant Bandy Tailed Fighting Cock is described as an impressive creature. I don’t know about impressive, but it’s definitely funny looking. It reminds me of that giant chicken episode on Hercules.
Next is the Bane Lord, a great leader of an undead horde. Banshee and Banshee Lord also keeps with the theme.
Now for some actual people! Barbarians are covered next. The Urban Barbarian is guaranteed to spice up any city adventure.
Barracuda is next. Standard.
Basilisks are covered and there are several kinds. Well done.
Bats are next and are even more plentiful than Basilisks, which will spice up any haunted house, no doubt.
Next are a couple big birds – the Beaked Horror and Beaked Terror. It doesn’t say, but I bet they taste like chicken.
The Bears are next and are plentiful. I especially like the table which tells the GM what non-aggressive act will set the Cave Bear into a rage.
Next are Beasts of Burden. The Pack Ape mentioned in the HackMaster Player’s Handbook wasn’t here or in the Ape section. I hope that when P comes around, it will be included.
Go back to the jungle for the Beast Shaman. Readers of the comic are familiar with an encounter with this type of person. To sum up, the group went on a safari and killed many trophy monsters. On their way out, the Beast Shaman raised them all from the dead and the group got killed. Heh.
The next entries are left to the Beavers. Awesome artwork here.
Insect lovers will enjoy the Bees and Beetles of which there are many.
Next is a hungry, hungry hippo called a Behemoth.
The classic Beholders rule the next section of the book. I was very thankful to see that every variant creature on this monster was also included here and makes this the high point of the book. Again, wondrous art.
You will feel like you are in an aerie with the Bird section. Again there are many, and as in all the other sections of this book – when I say there are many kinds of a monster, that is a very good thing. All are well done and aren’t just a bunch of stat boxes put together with a generic description – all have their own description as is the just and proper thing to do. Kudos to Kenzer and Company for this.
The next monster made me laugh heartily – the Bison’vyders (Buffalo men), a grand take on minotaurs. The art is the best minotaur like piece I’ve ever seen.
The Black Annis is next. Good to see the hags are representing in this RPG.
It’s back to killer plants with the Black Poppy.
Next is the Blind Wretched Pursuer, a cool take on the undead.
The Blink Dawgs are let out next and the art is of elite quality.
The Blood Guzzler is definitely a monster for mature groups only and is over-the-top.
Next is the Blood Hawk. Nice art.
Blue Throttle next. Killer fly. Again, nice art.
The Boar Men are next. This race is intriguing since they hate orcs, yet could be mistaken as orcs.
Boars follow. Many listed.
Bog Lurkers and Boggelmen and Trow Bogles are next and seem to connect on a horror theme. Nice art times three.
The Bolter (a creature that looks and acts like a mule which will take off when it’s loaded with stuff and the master’s not around). A great joke for the GM when it all comes together.
Bone Scavengers take you back underground. A lot like Mites from D&D.
Boobrie, the big bird, is next. Standard.
Boot Mauler is a monster which eats toes. A good reason to not buy the cheap clothing.
Boring Barnacles will chew up that new boat that the PCs just got. Doh!
Bovinians, another take on the Minotaurs, are next. The mention a monster called Taurians which we probably won’t see for a while. It’s good to have more than one kind of Minotaur – to have three with their own entries. People with eyes for detail will be happy.
A Bowler is a living rock that likes to roll.
Like the Boot Mauler, the Carnivorous Brain Mite is another good reason to not buy the cheap clothing.
The Brain Moles are back and psionic lovers were much rejoicing. Yay.
The Brownies are good to see, especially since D&D 3E decided to keep them out of the Monster Manual. The regular Brownies are joined by Greater Brownies, Quicklings (evil, fast brownies), and Barbarian Brownies. Huzzah!
Buffalo follow. Standard.
Bugbears are next and are still standard fare for adventuring adversaries. They are number one with a Bulette – both Common and Hammerhead.
The Bull Angler is an awesome creature related to the mimic which is like a living trap for adventurers. The picture is of superior quality and easily worth a thousand words.
It’s back to the jungle with the Bullboon, a cross between a bull and a baboon. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
A slight detour to the swamps is next with Bullfrogs and Bullywugs, another monster which was sadly left out of the 3E Monster Manual.
The Butterfly Steed is a great companion for the Pixie Fairy in your group.
Camels follow. The Carrion Camel will be a good laugh to the unwary.
Camp Moths are interesting monsters which can really ruin an adventuring party’s day. They cover a light source and attract carnivores by their scent.
The Carcass Seether is another killer plant. The picture again says it all. Coo Coo Achoo!
People who see Jurassic Park III can reenact the film with the Carnagesaur.
The Carnivorous Coral is pretty wacky and seems over-the-top.
It’s back underground with the Carrion Crawler and the Carrion Walker – something to throw at folks after they get bored with the Crawler, and the Carrion Grub, an excellent monster for fans of the Alien trilogy who can’t get enough of monsters popping out of someone’s rib cage.
The Carrion Pecker, a little bird with an appetite for flesh follows.
Last, but not least, are Great Cats.
For an increasingly competitive fantasy RPG market, Kenzer and Company are off to a fantastic start, creating a monster book which beats even the 3E Monster Manual in both content and artwork. I look forward to Volume Two.