Creature Collection Playtest Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 22/12/01
Style: 5 (Excellent!)
Substance: 5 (Excellent!)
The first Sword & Sorcery Studios product still has a whole lot of moxie.
Product: Creature Collection
Author: Clark Peterson, Bill Webb, and Company
Company/Publisher: Sword & Sorcery Studios
Line: Scarred Lands
Cost: $24.95 U.S.
Page count: 220
Year published: 2000
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Jeff Klingbeil on 22/12/01
Genre tags: Fantasy
I realize that this book has been out a while, which is why I was surprised that no review was to be found on this book here. So, I thought I would remedy that by taking a look back.
Flashback to Fall, 2000. I had driven an hour to my “local store”, Pegasus Games in Madison to get the Monster Manual only to be told by the store attendant that it would be a couple more days yet. He told me quickly with a smile, however, that something else had just come in. I stood there a bit intrigued as he presented me with a book titled “Creature Collection”. It was a shiny hardcover with what appeared to be white wolf fur covering it. I turned it over to check the back and found that it was a manual of monsters indeed, with such monsters as Brewer Gnomes (very popular in the Miller Valley area - heh), a Mithril Golem, and Bottle Imps (which reminded me of a story I had to read in literature class years ago). If you know what it’s like to drive an hour to your “local game store”, then you know how you just hate to leave that said store empty handed, so I thought, “What the heck”, and promptly laid down the $24.95 plus sales tax for it. To this day, I’m very glad that I did.
On the drive home, it hit me that it was truly amazing that a d20 company could come out with a manual of monsters before Wizards of the Coast could. I wondered about what new frontiers of “monsterdom” I would encounter within the pages of that book.
When I got home I read the introduction, about how this would be a campaign setting called the Scarred Lands. It having a God vs. Titan war recently intrigued me. This sounded good. I then checked out the monsters.
Asaatth was where I stopped first. This is most likely because, since the U series, I’ve always have had a soft spot for lizardmen types. Sometimes, when I’m overcome with nostalgia, I surf the Internet looking for information on when Dave J. Browne and Don Turnbull will come out with U4, but I digress. This ancient race of reptilian warrior-wizards with keen senses and a poison bite can really freak out people who are used to lizardmen.
I then quickly turned to the monsters that sold me enough to buy the book, the Bottle Imp and the Brewer Gnome. The Bottle-Imp is a great monster for those wimpy necromancers who could use a bit of a boost. It definitely looks cool. The Brewer Gnomes are pure genius. I would have rather seen a full page with more magical brews than a third of a page left blank, though. Hopefully, the Vigil Watch series shall have a Brewer Gnome sourcebook someday.
Turning onwards brought me to Coal Goblins. These goblins are even more diabolical than regular goblins, crazed servants of Belsameth, the evil goddess of the Scarred Lands world.
More page turnings brought me to Dread Ravens. These birds are nasty since they can cast magic. What I like most about that is how they can be tailored for certain scenarios to provide the unexpected. I’ve used them in adventures and have had loads of fun role-playing them.
Forsaken Elves are also a great race to add to a campaign – a race that tries to keep themselves from dying out by any means necessary. This shows how much more mature gamers are when they have to deal with events such as rape and other such moral issues within the game.
The Fleshcrawler is a great undead monster that has long-range capability. This shows that this book was made to break the mold of the standard monsters and to provide us with monsters that fill in the gaps that were there thus far.
The many Golems are splendid. Those sick of the same old ones from the Monster Manual will find in this book Bone Golems, Copper Golems, Lead Golems, the Mithril Golem, Silver Golems, and Wood Golems.
The book also beefs up the Hags by having entries for Brine Hags, Cavern Hags, Ice Hags, Moon Hags, Storm Hags, and Swamp Hags as well as providing a whole page to explaining what Hags are and how they are produced. Very enjoyable indeed.
The Keffiz are awesome hound servants of Chardun, an evil god of the Scarred Lands, which can charm other canines into becoming pack members. This “leader of the pack” can really make some cool scenarios happen with its presence, no doubt.
The Murdersprites remind me of Fairy Meat, a miniatures game by Scott Leaton. These fairies are actually bloodthirsty creatures now. This will definitely kill the idea that forests are full of happy creatures that frolic in the moonlight. Heh.
The Ratmen are probably the best monster entry in the book and that’s saying a lot considering its competition. I truly wonder why they were never thought of before. Also, with the story that each evil titan is responsible for the different Ratmen breed characteristics, one can easily make them a staple monster that can hold its own with orcs while being twice as entertaining. Also, the way a DM can use this as an idea for other campaign worlds by making them like each evil deity in those worlds make this the greatest monster I’ve ever seen. Included along with the basic Ratman is the Brown Gorger Ratman, the Diseased Ratman, the Foamer Ratman, and the Red Witch Ratman.
The Spider-eye Goblins are also very memorable monsters with their spider mounts, poisoned bite, and improved peripheral vision. Both these and the Coal Goblins make the goblin, an otherwise standard monster, much more enjoyable to encounter as well as run.
The Trogodon, buddies for the Asaatthi, are great shock troops and can really add spice to an already cool encounter. Also, given the large number of authors for this book, it’s truly amazing at how all the monsters given mesh into the world especially when you are aware that this was the first book written. People, who had no idea what Scarred Lands were going to look like could already get a feel of what creatures were where.
The Undead Ooze is a terrific monster which combines the love us old timers have for oozes and undead. I’ve seen this monster run many times and, even though it was never run very well, it always got plenty of respect from the adventurers. I can still remember when I encountered one and how I ran away while screaming like a little g…. I mean how I strategically retreated. Yeah, that’s it.
The Vengaurak is a large vermin with 5 attacks in one round. I remember running this one. The group was spread out with the paladin way out in front, so I had to use all five on it. Almost took him down, but the paladin’s heart was strong and true and was able to wound it enough to make it run away and find something a bit easier to kill. And that was a 5 hit dice one. They go up to 11. This is definitely a monster for the veterans.
The Appendix then has the first glimpse people got of the Gods as well as some of the Titans. While only a bit over two pages, until Relics & Rituals had come out, it was all we had and I’d have to say that the DMs and players were able to do a lot with what was given. That being said, I’m sure those who get just this book will be able to as well.
Since I ran many monsters from this book I felt I qualified to call this a playtest review. Now, if you have read other reviews I’m sure you have heard about the Challenge Ratings and, hopefully, you know that the new ones can be seen on the SSS website, so that problem is now moot. Therefore, I have to say that this book is an excellent manual of monsters which can really add a fresh look to an otherwise old game.