Disclaimer: The reviewer was given a complimentary copy for review. Furthermore, this is not a play test review.
Monsters of Verdune, by Rite Publishing, is a monster supplement for Monte Cookís Arcana Evolved variant rule system. Detailed within the 28 pages are 9 monsters and 2 templates to use with not only the 3.0/3.5 rule set but other gaming systems that handle such things as hero points, insanity loss, and DR for Armor to name but a few. The book does not require you to have the Arcana Evolved as it is perfectly useable for a D20 3.x gaming system but one can see where access to the book can aid in a few sections for skills or abilities that may not be explained in each monsters section.
The monsters in each book are broken down into the following sections:
*Stat blocks pertaining the creatures abilities, attacks, save, etc
* Tactics of how a monster acts in each combat
* Description of what said monster looks like as an excerpt from a book, someone reading from a battle description, or even from the monsterís standpoint of how it views itself vs. how everyone else sees it
*Special abilities: What makes the creature special in how it will kill your PCs
*Lore which gives a DC knowledge roll to help explain what the monster is and perhaps how to kill it.
*Designer notes explain how the author came up with the monster and a brief history on where it plays out in the food chain
*Variant rule set that gives alternate rules for playing with different systems going from Honor points to Wounds and Vitality and back over to Sanity Loss.
What I liked
The background section for each monster is full of well thought out ideas and descriptions that gives you a feel for how to place the monster, where it came from, and how to use it. The tactics give a nice simple round by round on how best to utilize the monsters strengths against your party. The lore answers the question when your PCís ask ďWhat do I know about this thingĒ and the DM is fumbling flipping through pages. The designer notes are a nice touch to see where the monsterís creator came up with the idea and how to go about utilizing it devilishly in your game. The overall art is very nice for certain monsters.
What I didnít like
Iím of the opinion that a published for sale product needs to have any and all typos, misprints, grammatical errors checked backwards and forwards. There were numerous places where extra characters were added, punctuation was misplaced, and abilities were not complete (10 ft by X without any clarification for X). Also some of the stat blocks, ability scores, and special powers are either overpowered or flat out wrong. An example would be the Kavilljor ur-rathi with their hp of 20d8+1211d12+99 thatís almost 7000hp! Also farther on youíll see that this monster has flavor text for a Short Spear but the picture is holding a trident and the feats are all about spears not tridents. The feats for Talinet Ur-rathi are missing a feat and the Earth possessed variant has the type set to be Air and not Earth. Furthermore, some of the pictures are not very well drawn, look very out of focus, or just plain scribbly. The helmets for the Kavilljor ur-rathi are just plain bad with a full 8 pictures that just donít look good at all. The two templates are horribly unbalanced with very low ECLs that would not work at all for PCs and monsters would greatly overpower at the Challenge Rating that they are prescribed at.
Overall this is a decent product; it is neither very bad nor very good. The artwork can be overlooked as the descriptions do a good enough job to give you a feel for what the monster looks like. The typos and errors can easily be redone by a DM who is willing to go over and change a few things here and there. One more time through the editor and person in charge of monster stats would make this a better quality of work. If you are looking for a product to work with Monte Cookís Arcana Evolved system this would be a decent purchase for the price point.
Monsters of Verdune
Date Added: 06/25/2009 by Jonathan Weismann