Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume III
Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume III Capsule Review by Spencer M. Lease on 04/10/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
With Volume III (covering a couple hundred monsters from Elementals to Hippopotami), Kenzer & Co has hit another home run.
Product: Hacklopedia of Beasts - Volume III
Author: Jolly R. Blackburn, et al
Company/Publisher: Kenzer & Company
Page count: 128 pp.
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by Spencer M. Lease on 04/10/01
Genre tags: Fantasy Comedy
Note: I have done some work on the HackMaster line; specifically, I wrote several of the magic item descriptions featured in the Game Master's Guide, scheduled for release in October 2001. This is the extent of my present affiliation with HackMaster, and I am striving to remain unbiased while reviewing this and other books in that line.
Most of the pros and cons I mentioned in my review of Hacklopedia Vol. II apply here - on the plus side, the Yield section remains intact; but unfortunately, the psionics and HackFactor systems remain undefined.
Once again, we have a nice variety of monsters, and some of the more interesting ones can be found where you'd least expect them. Take the elephant - an elephant is an elephant, right? They're perfectly nice, as large mammals go, but they seem pretty ordinary to most of us. Nothing could be further from the truth in HackMaster, for here the sabre-toothed and club-trunked elephants - both formidable beasts - stand alongside their mundane cousins.
There are also more than a few moments of whimsy, in the form of such beasts as the Greater Periodic Elemental (no - really), the Dire Elk, and the Enigma Lice. These last disrupt the synaptic functions of their host, causing him to speak gibberish - thus, even the sillier monsters can cause a great deal of trouble, in their own way. (This is also true of the Gummy Fiend, which is featured on the back cover - can you guess what that is? If gummy worms came to mind, you're pretty much right on target.
As in the last volume, there are several old AD&D monsters present. Strangely, though KenzerCo licensed the engine (and presumably related properties, such as creature names) from Wizards of the Coast, at least one monster's name was changed. The aboleth is here known as the "Enslaver of the Deep". Now, I checked my AD&D 1st Edition books, and aboleths are aboleths there - I can't find any apparent reason for the change. This isn't really a complaint; I just thought it was strange.
In an intriguing crossover with their Fairy Meat miniatures game, KenzerCo has thrown in HackMaster stats for several of the "carnivorous fairies" found in that game's setting. I must confess that I don't have much experience with Fairy Meat, but the creatures in question certainly seem...ah...interesting.
Equally interesting are the sections on giants and golems. Like dragons, they get an introduction followed by a number of entries on various species; said sections are significantly shorter, but no less interesting. I was particularly enamored of the blood golem, which could easily be used to build fear and tension during an adventure. (Small and fast - leaves bloody footprints - what's not to love? Heh heh heh.)
As for the book's style - I remain unimpressed by the cover illustration (it's a bit...childish for my taste), but the interior art is very nice, and once again, the layout is clear and crisp.
All in all, Kenzer & Company has produced another worthy collection of monsters. Well worth the price.