Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume IV
Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume IV Capsule Review by Charles Phipps on 25/11/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Well worth the money to buy for reading or use.
Product: Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume IV
Author: Jolly R. Blackburn
Page count: 128
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Capsule Review by Charles Phipps on 25/11/01
Genre tags: Fantasy
The Hacklopedia series is a supplement to the new/old RPG Hackmaster "4th edition" which is new in the fact that is a complete revamping of rules and the "flagship" of Kenzerco as a viable gaming company with it's own line and old in the fact that is effectively another revision of D&D as a rules system. Furthermore it's old because it is a harkening back to First Edition in all it's strange glory with 2nd and 3rd edition combat strategies for an overall superior product for battle.
However to be frank a hack'n'slash fest is only as good as it's hack'n'slashees (as opposed to hack'n'slashers). In effect the book like all the Monstrous Compendiums before we learned to take them for granted is about monsters to mess your players over with. The First thing I need to note about the Hacklopedias is whether they are worth the price (20.00 bucks) for what includes many standard AD&D monsters. This I will have to examine with each individual monstrous compendium.
The Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume four covers "Hoar Fox" to Medusa and is quite the interesting book. While the cover seems to show a group of adventurers (5 now in keeping with their tradition of killing one out of every member of the original party of 8 on the cover) battling what appear to be Gnolls. In truth these are the Kangarai who are one of the many interesting and often bizzare monsters inside the Hacklopedia.
The most frequent complaints I've observed about the Hacklopedias is people are afraid that they will either be too expensive as a supplement to the original Monstrous Manuals (containing redundant information) or that they will be "too silly" to be of any viable use in a campaign. This is happily not the case I've observed in my look over this book as it seems to be a perfect mix between humor and seriousness that makes it well worth the 20 dollars invested.
While quite a few "old staples" are present inside the book (Hook Horrors, Hobgoblins, Lycantropes, Medusae) their entries are usually changed. Either abridged so that they don't take up too much space, altered so that to read them is a fun excercise (including origins and variants on a theme), or frankly transformed into something similar but different. They are in my humble opinion not nearly the space waster that was originally predicted.
The new races also include quite a few interesting characters that are plenty serious to insert into a game to mess with your player's. Jungle Terrors, The Impalers, Luck Eaters, Insideous Ichor, and the Horned Rager are quite nasty and very little effort would be required to put them in even the "straightest" D&D game.
Humor monsters do exist and like the dreaded Flumph they are actually a half-way decent insert in a game when your getting bored. Groin leaches, Jackalopes (yes), Invisible Hecklers, and apparent Rocky Horror Picture show opener rejects in the rogue Magic mouths are just a few fun little creations that the folks at Kenzerco has come up with.
Some of the humor is actually so subtle that you may miss it the first time you read through it, the Vile Jabbervock takes a moment to remember Lewis Caroll's jabberwocky to realize the origins of the monstrous critter.
My personal favorite was the revision of the Lamia who are vastly different from their AD&D counterparts and who I intend to insert asap in my campaign. More creatures of Greek debauchery and slavery than standard cannibalistic monsters (though they are that too) it was a nice nod in the direction of First Edition their unabashed revelrys and sensuality.
Please note while the art is good and amusing the rumor that Kenzerco would follow the original D&D artistic standards including mild nudity are incorrect. Being a 'family' publication they are not ready to follow their pattern of gore with a nod towards the horrofying and occasionally quite lovely images of old. Still it isn't anything to sneaze at by any means.
All in all I highly recommend this book.