Minions: Fearsome Foes
Minions: Fearsome Foes Playtest Review by Andrew Hind on 11/04/02
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
More creatures to haunt your heroes; the pretty package belies the fiendish nature of these beasts.
Product: Minions: Fearsome Foes
Author: Greg Dent (Lead Designer)
Company/Publisher: Bastion Press
Line: d20 sourcebooks
Page count: 96 Pages
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: no
Playtest Review by Andrew Hind on 11/04/02
Genre tags: Fantasy
One of the great joys of the d20 revolution is the sheer amount of options available to the consumer today. In the specific case of D&D, we are no longer limited to those creatures offered in the Monster Manual and its companions. This is a real blessing, especially if your gamers are veterans of even a few years of the game, by which time they have probably become familiar with the typical D&D monsters.
Sure, the coming of Third Edition added a bit of spice back these creatures by virtue of the new rule system, but the fact remains that they remain fundamentally the same as they were prior to the d20. My group has been playing together for almost 20 years, and we so intimately familiar with the monsters offered up in the MM that they offer little real impact any more.
This is where books such as Minions, a collection of new monsters, comes in. There are 92 foes presented within this nicely crafted tome, all "world neutral" (in other words they can be used in any campaign without any effort on the part of the GM) and lavishly illustrated in full colour.
Indeed, the attractive production values makes for a great first impression. The cover is simple but effective, while the paper is glossy and obviously of high quality. Seeing full-colour through-out was very impressive, but the quality of artwork is only average. Lead artist Todd Morasch clearly provided most pieces, and he has a singular style, but I find it kind of cartoony and many creatures somehow end up looking similar. Layout is beautiful, editing and writing crisp, and the attractive borders adds a touch of class to the books look.
As another nice touch, all entries have a few paragraphs in a section called "Campaign" that provide ideas on how to effectively incorporate these creatures in your own game. They go well beyond trivial observations and actually discuss things such as how a creature will affect its ecosystem, the way certain creatures can be used to illustrate themes of ideas, adventure tone, possible twists, and so on. The end result is that numerous adventure ideas jump to mind for every monster.
But what of the monsters themselves? They are as bizarre a group as you're likely to find, which actually goes a long way to creating the feel of an alien world. Entries range from the undead to new dragon types, humanoid races to variant fey, and everything in between. My favorite has to be the Quickener, a magical equivalent to a black hole that absorbs all magic it encounters. Watch your players squirm when they learn that this creature likes to chomp on Holy Avengers and Robe of the Magi for breakfast.
Because of the alien nature of these creatures, GMs may wish to use them in moderation lest the players became immune to their strangeness. Conversley, as a result of this strangeness, I found they could be used in other games easier than many standard monsters. While using a minotaur in my Star Trek campaign would shatter the illusion of reality that I have so painstakingly crafted, an Urgoda would not have the same adverse effect. Indeed, the PCs in several disparate campaigns have already come to rue the day I received this book. The Polar, and predator that can actually polarize the brainwaves of its victims, now populates the wastes of Ord Mantell in my Star Wars game; The Seeder, a humanoid creature that reproduces by impregnating human hosts, scared the heck out of a Starfleet crew on shoreleave; and the Vogel are a lost race of avian humanoids inhabiting the south-seas island of Bougainville in a Pulp setting. These creatures have such wonderful utility for gamers with initiative; I love it!
The book is rounded out with templates to create Half-Trolls, Inner Planar creatures, or the Fallen (angels who have fallen from grace, or devils who have seen the light). These seem well-balanced and certainly will have immense appeal to gamers.
Minions: Fearsome Foes is a sound monster compendium with a great array of strange beasts. Strange is the optimum word here: A strength to be sure, if used in moderation in a fantasy campaign; but too much of a good thing will rapidly create an alien environment out of whack with D&D's high fantasy roots. A great resource for any game, and nicely packaged, though in the future I would like some diversity in artists to keep the entries feeling and looking unique.