This compilation brings together the “best-of” creatures of Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics line and a few familiar beasties we’ve yet to see in the current edition from Wizards of the Coast. A smart layout and familiar format deliver GMs a plethora of adversaries to throw at their players ranging from level 1 right on up to level 30. Whether or not you’re a fan of the long-running adventure line from Goodman Games, you’ll find the variety and creativity offered by this volume to be a useful addition to your gaming shelf. Thanks to Dungeon Crawl Classics’ lean toward the old-school and some artwork that trends in the same direction, Blackdirge’s Dungeon Denziens (BDD) is a fascinatingly eclectic tome that opens a world of creative possibilities to those who pick it up.

Format & Layout
You’ll find this work to be smartly laid-out and easy to use. Stat blocks, monster tactics, and encounter groups follow the core book’s format, and the entire piece is well-indexed. BDD goes a step further, though, even than the core book, offering monsters categorized not only by level, but also by origin, type, and keyword. Further, where the core book’s background text is decidedly lacking, entries in BDD tend to be detailed and engaging. Drawing from their development in the Dungeon Crawl Classics line, many of these monsters are thoroughly and creatively described.

BDD is illustrated by a number of artists with a variety of styles. The cover-art is strong and catchy, as is much of the interior art. The blackline art within ranges from edgy to retro, simple to elaborate. Many of the sketches are reminiscent of the 1st edition monster tome, a fact which fans of Dungeon Crawl Classics’ throw-back style and other old-schoolers will appreciate. While not all of it is a home run, enough of it is done competently to solidify the work as a whole.

137 pages of this 140 page work are dedicated to useful material and content. Author Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel opens with a monologue on the transition from 3.x to 4E, giving readers the game designer’s perspective on the shift and some insight that fans, detractors, and fence-riders of the new edition alike will appreciate. (It’s worth a look!)

Monsters of every level from 1 to 30 are provided, and all are well-written and balanced to be integrated seamlessly into any campaign. While loaded on the low-level end, paragon- and epic-tier creatures are so well-developed and thoroughly detailed, as are their lower-level henchmen and minions, that an entire campaign could be built around them, providing a multitude of opportunities for play.

As is usual with Goodman Games products, you’re going to get a few bits of bonus material that are going to deliver. As a bonus, a handful of yet-unseen monsters you’ll recognize from earlier editions are re-envisioned in the 4E format. For new monster races, an appendix with racial trait information is provided. You’ll also get stats for a couple of new diseases as well.

Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel and Goodman Games have delivered a well-produced monster tome that packs creativity and substance where the core book is found lacking. They prove once again that they have the chops and can consistently deliver, especially when it comes to inspiration, design, and monster development (see the 4E Critter Cache line from the same author and publisher for more). Balance, creativity, and depth are the highlights of the work. Every entry seems to offer use, and is mechanically sound. Of particular note, readers will be pleased to find that, thanks to the use of most of these monsters in previous Goodman Games products, there is a certain amount of thought and development behind each one of them. And while the art is somewhat hit-or-miss, the bulk of it adds to the book as a whole, and the variety of styles presented means there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re just looking for something to supplement the core book, some inspiration, or the foundations of a whole campaign built around an epic-level foe and its army of minions, Blackdirge’s Dungeon Denizens is sure to be a resource you’ll value and tap often.