Blackdirgeís Dungeon Denizens
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  1. #1
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    Blackdirgeís Dungeon Denizens

    As I read through Dungeon Denizens, Iím struck by how many more Ďclassicí or old school monsters Iím reading. Iím a sucker for these old beasties. Mind you, itís not just old school monsters. There are a lot of monsters from Goodman Games catalog as well. I recognize many of them from the Underdark Adventurer Guide. Some of them are from the 4e adventurers as well. If you havenít been collecting the new books but want the new monsters, theyíre here.

    In that, Iím a little disappointed. Itís not that seeing some of the stuff from the adventurers is bothersome. Adventurers are generally a smaller market than sourcebooks. Itís that a lot of the monsters from the recent Dragonborn handbook, the Dragonborn Atavist, show up here.

    The hardcover weighs in at 144 black and white pages but once you take out cover and rear cover, the author credit page, the regular credit page, and then two pages of introductions, one by Blackdirge, one by Goodman, and then the pages of advertisements, itís still a respectable 135 pages of goodness.

    Art is all over the place. Now let me say that the cover is awesome. The cover looks better than the official Monster Manual cover with Orcus doing whatever arm exercise heís needing. Wayneís a great artist but tends to do things similar in body positioning far too often. Here though, once you get past that awesome cover, there are way too many artists to list and a lot of it appears to be from previous products.

    Iím not crazy about this pattern when Wizards of the Coast does it in their core rules like the Monster Manual and not fond of it here. It gives the book a bit of a slapped together feel as there are so many art types that it doesnít have a cohesive feel, the exact opposite of their Forgotten Heroes book. It also includes some illustrations that are just plain out there like the Darksea Squid. It looks like a gangster squid asking about some money owed it. That wasnít a good picture the first time it popped up. Time hasnít done it any favors. On the other hand, there are some great illustrations like the dragonborn paladin homage to the old 1st Edition AD&D Playerís Handbook Paladin illustration of a Paladin in Hell (although this illustration too is from another book.)

    Monsters range in level from 1st all the way to 30th. Monsters start off with a brief description of the heading monster. For example, under monstrous frogs, it talks about monstrous frogs in general. Then thereís some lore with various DC checks to provide more information. Tactics follow the stat blocks. Each grouping of monsters ends with suggested encounter groups. The design style of 4e monster write ups tends to promote more white space. Easier on the eyes but a tree killer.

    Thereís a pretty good mix of types but the one thing thatís low here is minions. I know Iím always interested in what minions lurk but here we only have a few like the Klaklin Drone, a 4th level minion (probably from the old Underdark book if Iím not mistaken) or the 2nd level Zain-Kin, an ancient race of ape-men who made an appearance earlier this year in Goodmanís new style adventure modules.

    Monsters come with everything you need to run them. For example, Malotoch, an entity known as the Crow Witch, has leader solo stats at 27th level, an elite skirmisher aspect at 18th level, two types of cultists, and two new diseases.

    For players, thereís not a lot but there are racial traits for three races; aphyss (variant serpent folk), thornblood (plan like humanoids), and zain-kin (damn filthy apes!). These provide standard game information in terms of ability score modifiers and racial ability.

    In terms of what Iíd consider Ďold schoolí, we have the fey based barghast, several types of monstrous bats (slashwing, sonic, static, and swarms), beetles (brimstone, swarm, blister, Couatl, frogs (giant, dire, swarm), raven (giant, swarm), scorpions (dune, greater dune, enormous dune, flying swarm), spiders (bristleback, dungeonweb, trapdoor), and vargouille. Not every monster under these categories is a direct match for an older edition beastie, but I like having the Ďnormalí monsters available again. Damn shame a game with classics like Temple of the Frog has to have a third party come around for the old giant frogs eh?

    Throw in several 3.5 Ďclassicí monsters and youíve got a book thatíll help expand out the core Monsters .until WoTC decides to take another whack at their anemic monster collection.

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    Nice review. When will this be available as a PDF? I didn't even know it was released yet!

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    Good question. I'll check and report!

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    BTW, it looks like they expanded the Upcoming releases section of their site. Looks like lots of new stuff coming out from them.

  5. #5
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    IMO, Goodman Games is becoming the only player in the OGL games. Everyone else is too sporadic, or all PDF.

    On topic, I have Dungeon Denizens and it has proven its utility over the last few sessions. The Fiend Folio of 4E. I'm thinking of getting it in PDF, just so I can print out specific sections, but the monsters are great and not simply the usual mix of "oh I saw this 3 editions ago."

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