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Thursday, 20th September, 2012, 05:00 AM #1
Defender (Lvl 8)
Review Triple-Play: Monsters of Sin: Avarice, Envy, and Lust by Open Design
In the 14th century, a poet named Dante penned these words, which have shaped the perception of Hell for generations of Christians, past and present:Through me you enter into the city of woesDante Alighieri distilled the concepts of theologians into the seven deadly sins, and formed each into a specific location in the Inferno where transgressors were punished in a manner befitting their crimes. All of this created an image of Hell which influences art and literature to this day – and including (not surprisingly) a certain well-known fantasy role-playing game series!
Through me you enter into eternal pain,
Through me you enter the population of loss.
Abandon all hope, you who enter here.
From a D&D players’ point of view, the allegory of Dante’s Inferno is all too often made into a very real locality. Over the years since AD&D, Hell has been a strange realm which can be visited by heroes, and its inhabitants are the toughest foes an adventurer can face. From as far back as the old Dragon Magazine series on the Nine Hells, D&D players have made Hell part of the multiverse of adventure, basing much of the lore and locales on the imagination of Dante Alligheri. And for every edition of D&D and Pathfinder, demons and devils, the Abyss and the Hells, all are real threat to the mundane world which must be opposed by stalwart heroes wielding swords and sorcery and divine magic.
For Pathfinder players, Open Design has recently completed a whole series of “mini-monster manuals” featuring malign entities which serve as avatars of one of the seven deadly sins. Now Pathfinder Gamemasters can bring monsters powered by Avarice, Envy, and Lust to challenge heroes for their lives – and even their souls!
Monsters of Sin (Avarice, Envy, & Lust)
- Design: Ryan Costello, Jr.
- Illustrators: Cory Trego-Erdner (covers), Aaron J Riley (interiors)
- Publisher: Open Design
- Year: 2012
- Media: PDF (10 pages)
- Retail Price: $2.99 from RPGNow.com – Avarice; Envy; Lust
Monsters of Sin (Avarice, Envy, and Lust) are three of a series of seven supplements from Open Design, featuring creatures that have strong thematic ties to each of the “seven deadly sins”. Each short booklet contains four new monsters, complete with stat block and descriptions, as well as information on how they might fit in a campaign. Each featured “sin” also is given a template which can be used on existing monsters to transform them into a creature enslaved by a particular vice. As with many Open Design releases, these books include information on how to use the monsters in conjunction with the Midgard Campaign Setting, and how each of the deadly sins found its way into that world.
The production quality is quite good for the three Monsters of Sin (MOS) supplements I had for my review, and the writing is sharp and imaginative. The monster stat blocks are in formats which any Pathfinder or OGL gamemaster will find instantly familiar, and the material is presented in an easy to read and utilize way.
While there are no bookmarks in the PDFs I reviewed, there is a decent table of contents, and each book is short enough that lack of bookmarks is not too big of a deal. However, from an organizational point of view, as a DM, I would have liked to see the CR value of each monster listed in the ToC or in a separate short appendix for easy reference.
The artwork in MOS Avarice, MOS Envy, and MOS Lust is quite striking, particularly the cover art on Envy and Lust which is very evocative. The interior art is also stunningly rendered, and although merely in black-and-white ink style, creates powerful images of the creatures being encountered. I think that having the same artists working on the cover and interior art was a very wise move with this series, and I think it does a great job in tying the products tightly together visually and thematically.
The Monsters of Sin
As previously mentioned, MOS Avarice, MOS Envy, and MOS Lust are just three of a total seven product series, each one bringing certain types of monsters together for Pathfinder/OGL/d20 GMs to use in their campaigns. The monsters range in challenge from CR 1 to CR 21, although the books seem to follow a pattern of a couple low level monsters, an early “teens” monster, and a high level (19-21) “embodiment” of a particular sin.
The embodiment creatures are literally a sin made flesh, or at least quasi-flesh since were dealing with strange outsiders here, and have powers which can invoke sinful acts in other creatures. These creatures seem more like strange conceptual avatars or minor demi-gods, rather than diabolic or demonic monsters, although they might easily be conceived as the latter, given their evil natures.
The monster templates for making a typical creature into one that is “enhanced” by a particular sin are fairly basic, letting GMs create things like Avaricious Bugbears who ingest gold, or Envious Elves stealing everything they desire, or even Lust Slave Ogres who are really infatuated by their “leader” (I was thinking Shrek 3 here). But the MOS Lust supplement also had a bonus feature – the Inbred Orc – which was both a monster, but was also designed for use as a character race, for those players who want a challenge of rp’ing an orc with some disturbing random genetic mutations, both good and bad!
As for the rest of the monsters in MOS Avarice, Envy, and Lust, most of them are some really cool and fun creature concepts here for the most part, although some seemed a bit of a stretch to fit the sin-theme. From MOS Avarice, I really liked the idea of a Hoard Golem, being a construct made literally of a pile of treasure given a giant man-like form and nifty powers. On the other hand, MOS Envy seemed to struggle with concepts of the sin itself, and produced one rather lackluster envy-themed monster (Bone Swarm). But the Re-Echo Doppelganger made up for it, providing a unique new shape-shifter which slowly takes over the powers of its victim. But for me, the clear winner of the trio was MOS Lust, with not only a kick-arse new monster/character race (Inbred Orc), but the hideous and ghostly Lovelorn, and the disturbingly creepy Truffle – a child-like fey creature who forces humanoids to perform intimate acts for “educational” purposes. The Truffle would be a very dangerous creature to wander into the midst of a battle where heroes are pitted against orcs or goblins! (High squick factor here!!!)
Overall Score: 3.7 out of 5.0
Overall, I enjoyed reviewing the three Monsters of Sin supplements, and they definitely made me wonder about the other four in the series. The writing was good, the monsters were inventive, and the artwork was nicely rendered for each critter – and the cover art was downright stunning! I would have liked to see more monster tactics and ecology text, but what was there was certainly sufficient to use and enjoy the Monsters of Sin in almost any Pathfinder or OGL campaign.
And you get some decent critters here, although I would have liked to have seen more in each supplement for the price asked. But still it’s only a few bucks per supplement, and worth at least some consideration for any Pathfinder gamemaster.
So until next review… I wish you happy gaming!
Reviewer’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the PDFs from which the review was written.
Grade Card (Ratings 1 to 5)
- Presentation: 4.0
- - Design: 4.0 (Good writing and creative monster ideas; solid layout OGL friendly)
- - Illustrations: 4.0 (Awesome cover art and interior illustrations)
- Content: 3.5
- - Crunch: 4.0 (Crunch heavy; good power concepts for monsters)
- - Fluff: 3.0 (Adequate fluff; would have appreciated more monster descriptions/ecology)
- Value: 3.5 (Four monsters and a template is ok for the price asked.)
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Thursday, 20th September, 2012, 08:12 AM #2
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
An an Italian, it is my duty to correct the spelling of Dante's surname...
'Can a magician kill a man by magic?' Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. 'I suppose a magician might,' he admitted, 'but a gentleman never could.'
Thursday, 20th September, 2012, 04:12 PM #3
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
And as a medievalist, a slight correction on the characterization of Hell. Dante divided up Purgatory, not Hell, by the Seven Capital Sins. Hell was divided more by the distinction between Sins of Weakness/Incontinence, Sins of Violence, and Sins of Fraud. Hell punishes the acts or final fruits of sin; Purgatory gets at the roots. (These sins are called 'capital' from the Latin caput, "head", because they're the headwaters or sources from which all sinful acts spring.)
Last edited by Matthew L. Martin; Saturday, 22nd September, 2012 at 03:33 PM. Reason: Forgot the third category of sins punished in Hell.
Friday, 21st September, 2012, 01:20 AM #4
Guide (Lvl 11)
As a gamer, medievalist, and literary major I'm annoyed that I was teased with the famous quote by Dante, but instead of getting a review of some sort of adventure or supplement that deals with Dante's concept of Hell, I'm seeing just three more monster manuals with yet even more templates. That's been done many, many, many times over.
Talk about bait and switch.
"Farewell, Friend. I was a thousand times more evil than thou!"--Stormbringer
Saturday, 22nd September, 2012, 12:41 AM #5
Myrmidon (Lvl 10)
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As a... well, that's not really the point, and I don't have a source on this, but I'm not sure that Dante was the one who devised the concept of the seven deadly sins. I don't know when the first description of them was, but I don't believe he first "coined the phrase" or defined the terms.
If I'm wrong I'd greatly appreciate a source on this. Partly because I studied essentially Christian History in University as a major, and I am stumped about the above answer.
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Saturday, 22nd September, 2012, 03:08 PM #6
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Ph.D. student in Historical Theology, and the list goes back to at least Pope St. Gregory the Great. There were two schools of thought on the place of pride in the list. Some place it as one of the seven, others, including Gregory and St. Thomas Aquinas, IIRC, place it above them as the super-head of sins and put Vainglory among the seven. The latter is the one I adopted when mapping the sins to DRAGONLANCE's Evil pantheon in the (now-retconned) Appendix to Dragons of a Vanished Moon.
Now, what's the precedent in D&D for using these sins? They (and the Seven Christian Virtues) show up in the Incarnates in DRAGON #193 and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix. Ironically, I had a Forum letter printed in the same issue. Not one I'm particularly proud of, but I was 13 when I wrote it.