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Thursday, 7th July, 2011, 01:46 AM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
Review of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale by WotC
There seems to be one publishing axiom which holds true to all editions of Dungeons & Dragons: you can never have too many monsters! Monster supplement books seem to proliferate in each edition, renewing the monster statistics for the rules of each edition so that no one’s favorite fiend is left out in the cold. In AD&D and 3rd edition, we had Monster Manuals and the Fiend Folio, and in 2nd Edition it was reams of Monstrous Compendiums. Now in D&D 4E, we have gotten the old Monster Manuals back, a Creature Compendium (thank you, Dark Sun), and a new creation with the advent of Essentials – the Monster Vaults.
This week, I got my copy of the second installment of the Monster Vault line of products, called Threats to the Nentir Vale, which is full of new monsters, villains, factions, clans, and mercenary companies, and seems to offer a completely different product experience than the other 4E Monster Manuals.
Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale
- Design: Sterling Hershey, Brian R. James, Matt James, Steve Townsend
- Cover Illustratorsr: Steve Prescott (front), Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai (back)
- Interior Illustrators: Dave Allsop, Peter Bergting, Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai, Eric Deschamps, Matt Dixon, Wane England, Adam Gillespie, Ralph Horsley, Howard Lyon, Jim Nelson, Steve Prescott, Vincent Proce, Wayne Reynolds, Anne Stokes, Matias Tapia, Ben Wootten, Kieran Yanner
- Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
- Year: 2011
- Media: Booklet (128 pages) with Accessories
- Retail Cost: $34.99 ($23.09 from Amazon)
Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is a new monster supplement and game accessory for Dungeons & Dragons 4E and Essentials. The supplement includes a 128-page booklet containing nearly 200 new monsters, eight sheets of monster pogs, and a double-sided poster map of four adventure sites.
The production quality of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is superb, with some exceptional writing, beautiful illustrations, and well-designed accessories to make for a completely “wow-factor” gaming experience. The layout and presentation of the monster entries is easily recognizable to any 4E Dungeon Master, and the book is lavishly illustrated to allow a DM to know what sort of creature he will be presenting to his adventuring heroes.
I really liked the illustrations in this book, and many are unique pieces specifically made for a particular new NPC villain or singular monster. The illustrations translated very well to the monster pogs, which look excellent – but let’s face it, WotC’s Creative Art Director, Jon Schindehette, has always done a great job at vetting the fantasy artists to make sure illustrations fire the imagination of DMs and Players alike.
There are plenty of monster pogs for DMs to use with this supplement, and they have a nice light finish on them. They are somewhere between a matte and a glossy finish, and have a fairly slick feel and are smooth enough to scoot around a table top map. The bloodied side of the pogs have the name of the creature printed on it, which I am aware some gamers find a bit disappointing, but personally I rather like having that feature.
The poster sized map is of four distinct areas: three outdoor and one dungeon/cavern setting. The poster can easily be cut into two pieces to make the four maps separate - and personally, I plan to cut them in half, flatten the fold lines, and laminate them for ease of use at the gaming table.
The heart of the Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is the 128-page booklet containing around 200 new monsters for D&D 4E. The book is presented with a table of content and explanation of monster stat block terms at the beginning, and ends with a glossary and monster-by-level appendix in the back. There are also four pages of glossography, as the late-great-Gygax used to call it, describing various areas of the Nentir Vale.
Between the preface and appendix pages lies a vast collection of monsters, ranging from Level 1 to Level 20, with the main bulk of the “threats” falling in the Heroic Tier. There are few monsters that I recognized from preceding editions, as well as the new creatures from the recent multi-campaign world spanning novel series - the abyssal plague demons.
Monsters which many veteran D&D gamers will recognize include such notables as the boggle, felldrakes, the hound of ill omen, mooncalfs, the penangglan, peryton, and vampiric mist. But that is about all the monsters which I managed to recognize – and really, that was rather an exciting thing!
The vast majority of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is a massive collection of 4E monsters and villains specific to 4E Core/Nentir Vale campaign setting. Most noted were several named dragons, such as Bitterstrike (white), Vestapalk (green), and one of which is a spectacular three headed red dragon named Calastryx. In addition, there are an assortment of large, multi-monster entries which detail various mercenary companies, political factions, and monster tribes, with anywhere from five to eight monster stat blocks in each entry. Those familiar with the Nentir Vale setting might recognize groups such as the orcs of Clan Bloodspear, the tieflings’ Fell Court, the Iron Circle, the Ravenroost Bandits, and the Tigerclaw Barbarians.
These entries are almost like little adventure settings, providing lore and descriptive text to accompany the stat blocks. There are also a large number of named NPCs and villains amongst each of the large group entries, complete with stat blocks, some notes on their history, and their motivations and goals.
In many respects, the Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale has some of the most comprehensive information on the D&D 4E Core Setting which has been penned so far. Each entry contains copious amounts of background information regarding the monsters and groups, and how they fit into the world at large, such as where they are likely to be encountered, their long term plans, and who their enemies are. Many of the entries are detailed enough for a Dungeon Master to plan several adventures or even a mini-campaign around encounters with these factional groups.
The only chagrin some gamers might feel is that many of these monster groups/factions are very specific to the 4e Core World of the Nentir Vale. Of course, enterprising DMs can always change a few names here and there, and easily drop these monster groups into a Forgotten Realms, Eberron, or even a home brew campaign, and offer their players some very challenging and well-developed villains to face.
I should mention that the accessories are really quite nice here as well, with plenty of pogs to use, and the map collection being first rate. The map collection contains one urban setting with a central temple-like building interior; two wilderness maps, with one showing a cabin interior; and one cave complex leading to a large ruined temple – a perfect dragon’s lair!
Overall Score: 4.75 out of 5.0
It is really hard to find much fault with a gaming package as complete as you’ll find in Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale. There is some great new content presented here, and even if it is set for the Core 4E world which not everyone plays, it is readily adaptable to other settings with a little effort. As A Dungeon Master, I was excited to see so much new material for the Core 4E setting used so well with these monster entries, and loads of adventure ideas were presenting themselves with every turn of the page. The price for all this content and accessories is quite competitive, and this product is well worth consideration for any D&D 4E gamer.
So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 5.0
- - Design: 5.0
- - Illustrations: 5.0
- Content: 4.75
- - Crunch: 4.75
- - Fluff: 4.75
- Value: 4.5
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