EZG reviews the Monsters of Sin-series

Hej everybody,

today I’ll take a look at Kobold Press’ series of mini-bestiaries of sin-themed critters!

 

 

Monsters of Sin I – Avarice

This mini-bestiary is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 6 pages content, so let’s take a look what Ryan A. Costello has created here!

After a short discussion on the nature of 7 deadly sins, we delve right into a CR+0 simple template to create avaricious creature that can once per day heal themselves via the consumption of valuables.

The first creature, at CR 12, is the hoard golem – born from the greed of dragons, this massive construct can not only steal items by becoming a whirlwind, it also detracts gazes from other threat – with potentially fatal consequences.

The CR 1 Map Mimic is another ingenious creature that can not only mislead adventurers and make for a great story-creature, it is also potentially very deadly if it can get in your face – one of the coolest CR 1 beasties out there.

Midasites, CR 4, locust-headed fey, can permanently turn their victims to gold via a touch. At CR 4 I’m not even I am particularly comfortable with a save-or-die ability, even with a HD_restriction per day imposed on the creatures.

The final creature is a joy to behold: The rodent-faced, facet-eyed, adamant-scythe wielding, 12-stories high CR 20 embodiment of avarice is simply awesome: Each of its eyes can spawn swarms of spidery rat things to steal, has an internal vault, its own outsider subtype and an aura that can potentially disable all opponents close. I love the thing – it is joyfully, beautifully corrupt and disturbing.

The pdf closes with a mini-section on avarice in the Midgard campaign setting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. The layout done by Marc Radle is in full-color, beautiful and adheres to a two-column standard. The pdf has no bookmarks and I hope that if/when there’ll be a compilation, we’ll get bookmarks. The creatures all come with awesome b/w-artworks by Aaron J. Riley – kudos to this talented artist’s vision of these beasts. This is one of the best mini-bestiaries I’ve seen for any game and would immediately go for 5 stars + endzeitgeist seal of approval, were it not for SGG’s Ravagers of Time – while the bang-for-buck-ratio of both publications is mostly equivalent and the artworks in this supplement are stellar and slightly superior to some in SGG’s offering, the latter has more supplemental material. And then there’s the midasites one-trick pony ability and its rather unpleasant consequence at this low level. Thus, while this is still an excellent pdf, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded still up to 5 stars.

 

Monsters of Sin II -Envy

This mini-bestiary is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD/advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Second in the series on sin-themed monsters, this pdf kicks off with a short introduction as well as the envious creature CR+2 simple template. After that, we’re off to the monsters:

-Bone Swarm: A CR11 undead swarm, this conglomerate of undead parts can not only deal painful distraction damage, it is essentially a mode-creature that can lose its swarm-traits when grappling a foe and instead move them at up to their speed – nice when paired with environmental hazards and generally a cool creature, though not one I’d get a particularly strong envy-themed vibe from.

-Emerald Eye: This CR 2 crystal is essentially a psicrystal of an envious nature and utilizes the Dreamscarred Press rules, but comes with all necessary information to run it even if you don’t feature psionics in your campaign. Trying to inspire jealousy in others, these twisted crystals can even mimic ioun stones and make for cunning foes indeed. Great to see some psionic love from Open Design.

-Echo Doppelganger: CR 14 brutish doppelgangers that can adapt to a specific fighting style, copying not only appearance, but also feats, proficiencies and even spells, making its mimicry almost flawless. Cool creature, though I think that the lack of sophistication on part of the Echo Doppelganger detracts slightly from its appeal.

-Embodiment of Envy: This CR 19 incorporeal immortal wisp of envious thoughts is the most brilliant adaption of the concept conceivable – lacking everything, even a body, this thing seeks to possess any that cross its path and combined with the power to create an aura that compels those subjected to it to attack it with their most formidable array of powers and attacks, this being is a rather deadly, cool predator and makes for the best of the creatures, at least in my opinion. The pdf closes with the embodiment of sin monster subtype as well as a sidebar on envy in the upcoming highly anticipated Midgard Campaign setting..

DriveThruRPG.com

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the original pieces of b/w-artwork rank among the best I’ve seen in any monster manual. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a minor bummer, but on the other hand, the length is not such as to warrant a downgrade in the final score.

After reading the first installment on Avarice, I knew that I would be enjoying this series and while the second had some technical difficulties (hence the late review), the content is top-notch indeed – the new creatures are all well-designed, have at least 2 signature abilities each and come with some awesome mechanical innovations and choices and especially the embodiment of envy is simply stunning. However, I also maintain that unlike the first pdf, most of the creatures herein have a rather tenuous connection to the deadly sin they’re supposed to be aligned with. While “envious” abilities are there, e.g. in the doppelganger’s case they feel rather like a survival strategy, not a malevolent intent on the powers/abilities/social status/identity of the person they’re replacing – the writing of the fluff could have done a better job of aligning theme and crunch of the book. Since that’s rather important for me and since the creatures herein, at least to me, felt slightly less iconic (Yet another undead conglomerate of bones? Yes, the crunch is awesome, but the critter-concept per se? Boring.) than in the predecessor, I’ll rate this slightly lower, at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

 

 

Monsters of Sin III – Gluttony

This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement/SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a total of 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

As has become a tradition in the series by now, the pdf kicks off with a short introduction and a simple template (this one clocking in at CR+1) for the respective sin before going into the details regarding the new monsters.

-Bottomless Pit (CR 5): A disgusting somewhat pig-like aberration of fat masses, this ugly creature comes with a swallowing ability that hastes it and a sectioned stomach that can contain multiple humanoids .

-Gnarljak (CR 6): An animated bear-trap-construct, this thing attacks anyone coming close, even its creators and are quite deadly – if it trips someone, the things chomps down hazard with multiple additional attacks. It also comes with 3 variants, from CR +0 to CR +2 and all information necessary to create the things yourself – and it’s a brilliant take on one of the concepts of gluttony – mindless, unnecessary and futile consumption that doesn’t nourish (a soul), but rather consumes for any kind of consumption’s sake.

-Trap Bush (CR 10): These bushes have goodberries and punish gluttonous – anyone who tries to pick too many of the berries are subjected to a fight with a porcupine-like, rather lethal thorn-dart flinging plant. Another winner indeed.

-Embodiment of Gluttony ( CR 18): A fleshy, unintelligent ooze that gobbles everything mindlessly up, growing larger and larger, this embodiment destroys food, potions etc., regenerates, staggers foes with its acid and comes with a dual aura. A terrifying blob-being with unique, cool signature abilities.

The pdf closes with the embodiment of sin- monster type and a side-bar on gluttony in the upcoming Midgard Campaign setting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a full-color two-column standard and the disturbing b/w-artworks are top tier quality. The pdf has no bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need one at this length. I’ll make my ramble short – the thematic focus is tight, the signature abilities rock hard and we even get variations on one critter. What’s more to want for? I have nothing to complain about apart from that I would have loved for the Bottomless Pit to have one more unique ability. Thus, my final verdict will be 5 stars.

 

 

Monsters of Sin IV – Lust

 

This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s check this mini-bestiary out!

Starting with a discussion of the Sin of Lust and its destructive potential as well as a short run-down of love/lust as well as a CR+1 mini-template, the Lust-slave. After that, we’re in the first monster-entry along a sidebar that explains the obvious: We are touchy when it comes to lust and sexuality and the matter should be handled with care in games – some of the subject matter may not be appropriate for younger gamers and making sure that everyone is comfortable with a given level of explicitness should be a given. That being said, in my opinion, this pdf is tame. *shrugs* Perhaps because I’m a perverted goth. ;P

All right, on to the monsters:
-Inbred Orcs: These creatures are stronger than regular orcs, but come with 1d12 beneficial and 1d12 detrimental mutations due to their inbreeding as well as health and mental issues – think mutated “The Hills have Eyes” with orcs. They come as a racial write up with a CR 2 sample statblock.

-Lovelorn: This CR 11 ghost of a being who died of a broken heart can cry blood and emit heart-wrenching moans – rather cool!

-The CR 3 Truffle is a rather weird fey – genderless, these completely innocent fey are fascinated by genders, sexual organs etc. – worse, they are not about using their dominating ability to make people show them their anatomy or do worse. I get a distinctly weird and disturbing vibe from these beings and I’m hard to put out of my comfort zone.

-Finally, we get the CR 21 Embodiment of Sin that can create whole orgies of wild men and women when manifesting and even enslave people to its euphoric touch, making them their obedient lustslaves – disturbing, sick, awesome – though the artwork is PG 13, which somewhat sucks.

The pdf closes with a tale on lust in Midgard and the embodiment of sin type.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a full-color 2-column artwork and the b/w-artworks are awesome. The pdf has no bookmarks, which, while not mandatory at this length, would have been nice to have.

Of all the deadly sins, the ones that hit closest to home for me personally are lust and pride and thus, I was really stoked to see this installment of the series. And then I remembered that the PFRPG-license is somewhat restrictive regarding mature content and in this instance, I feel as if that somewhat hurts the subject matter. I’m running a mature game and I would have loved appropriately mature content – and yes, the content here is mature, but I would have wanted these creatures to be slightly more explicit.

Since that’s not possible, though, I won’t hold that against the pdf. What somewhat irks me, though, is the fact the pdf creates a binary opposition between love in lust, all the while acknowledging how entwined they can be. The deviousness of lust, at least to me, is not the fact how powerful it can be, but rather its entwinement with one of the most driving, positive things we are capable to experience – love. That out of the way, the creatures herein deal primarily with the consequences of misplaced lust, rather than making it a weapon to wield against sinners. In the end, this mini-bestiary is a good addition to the series, but could use a slightly tighter focus on the theme rather than its consequences – thus, I’ll settle on a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

 

Monsters of Sin V – Pride

This mini-bestiary is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

Starting off with a short introduction on the concept of sin and the rules to quickly make a prideful creature, we delve into the monsters:

-Abominable Beauty: This CR 13 fey considers herself so beautiful that none are worthy to behold her and thus have to die. Her beauty blinds, her touch burns, her voice deafens – perfection that destroys all it comes in contact with, showcased by great signature abilities. Great!

-Emperor Kobold: This new type of kobold gets +2 Str, +2 Dex and Cha, an energy affinity and a rallying yelp to make for a born leader among koboldkind -inspired by megalomania and considering him/herself a descendant of the dragons, these beings make for similar roles as e.g. Lizardkings. Ok, I guess, but BLAND. How many times have we seen this type of pseudo-draconic kobold angle done? Too many times. Plus: This is not a real new creature and the abilities are not as interesting as to warrant this entry

-Mirror Hag: These deformed CR 8 hags punishes those who recoil from her appearance by cursing them with reconfigured features to teach them the superficiality of their ways and instill some humility – rather a creature that punishes vanity than pride in my book.

-The Embodiment of Pride: At CR 22, this embodiment rocks hard – a being of pure pride and superior ego, the embodiment comes with a mocking dance, an aura of superiority (linked to a summoning ability – quite cool) and two awesome signature abilities: The primary means of attack of this embodiment is an open-handed slap across the face that can deal sickening amounts of damage and the creature can ignore up to a full round of actions 1/day by completely disregarding it. AWESOME and my favorite embodiment so far.

The pdf closes with embodiment of sin traits as well as a short narrative on pride in the midgard campaign setting.

DriveThruRPG.com

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a nice full-color 2-column standard and the artworks for the creatures are awesome. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a pity – by now all but BP-length pdfs should have bookmarks.
Pride. If I’m guilty of one deadly sin much more often than any other one, it’s definitely pride. And why not? After from lust, it’s perhaps the one closest to being considered acceptable in society and is even positively connotated. Do a corpus search and you’ll e.g. get “justifiably proud” -which other deadly sin can claim ANY positive undertones apart from pride? None. That’s what makes this the most viscous of the deadly sins and if we take the Judeo-Christian mythology, it is pride (and envy) that cast down the devil from heaven. Pride is enticing. We want our parents to be proud of us. We yearn to feel pride and the lack of it can just as easily destroy a man as an overabundance of it. Pride. The “King of Sins”. How does this installment hold up?

Well, on the one hand, we get two of the best creatures in the whole line so far. On the other hand, two of the creatures fail hard: The Mirror Hag is one that punishes superficiality and vanity and is at best loosely connected to pride and the emperor kobold is just there for the sake of kobold fanboys and obviously unimaginative filler with a tired concept and no stellar mechanics to lift it out of the muck of “been there, done that”. While I personally abhor the high kobolds from SGG’s Kobold King-pdf, I consider them the vastly superior take on the concept of a high kobold. Which leaves us with the imho best 2 creatures in the line so far, but only half the content of the whole pdf. And that is not enough. With only 4 creatures per installment, I expect imaginativeness, novel ideas and cool signature abilities to justify the asking price when compared to SGG’s Mythic Menagerie-line. And this pdf, while it does deliver some stellar coolness, fails as hard as it succeeds. I guess Pride comes before the Fall, after all – my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform. I hope the upcoming installments will be of a more consistent quality.

 

 

Monsters of Sin VI – Sloth

This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement/SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Following the format of the monsters of sin-series, we start the issue with a short discussion on the nature of sloth as well as a quick template to create slothful creatures (reducing the CR, actually) before we delve into the new beasties herein.

The CR 4 Flab Giant is a disgusting, lumbering being that can’t run or take five foot steps, but it can actually sit down on you, crushing you with its inaction and pin you with one combat maneuver-check. Nice!

The CR 6 Scrap Drake is usually a sluggish, constantly sleeping drake that makes for an ideal guardian – woe to those disturbing it, though: Their bursts of speed make them temporarily VERY fast and agile and the creature also has a cool breath weapon that consists of shoving debris in its mouth and spewing the splinters/dirt/whatever at its foes. Cool!

At CR 15, the Slow Storm makes for a truly weird being: Surrounded by wisps of humid wind, these strange spiny balls can not only cast some lightning-based spells, they can also cause arthritic pains that make you regret every action, since you take damage for non-purely mental exertions. I would have loved a slowing aura or the like, though.

The final new creature herein, as with every Monsters of Sin-book, is the Embodiment of the respective sin – in the case of sloth, a CR 17 unmoving blob of flesh sans features. It’s vast telepathic range of over 2000 miles enables it to recruit powerful followers to fall prey to its aura of slothfulness, that can sustain its followers in their inactivity, but also adds the slothful creature template to them. It should be noted that the embodiment can exempt people from its dread aura to grant them a temporary motivation and respite from the languishing existence at the non-existent feet of this mound of inactivity. The embodiment is cool, though I feel it could have used some additional defenses against threats – as written, it’s quite proverbially a barn that behaves like a sitting duck – a DR or a sluggishness when hitting it as an additional form of defense would have been nice.

As always with the series, the installment closes with a section on tales of the deadly sin in the midgard campaign setting.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column standard with red highlights and the b/w-artworks are awesome. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bummer, even at the short length. Sloth – The Death of potential is perhaps my most hated of the deadly sins, representing one of the most devious sicknesses that can befall the human mind and spirit. It’s also probably rules-wise one of the most interesting ones, since being inactive usually is not THAT dangerous. I expected lost actions, slow foes etc. and the pdf delivered. While I still maintain that the embodiment is a tad bit weak and that the slow storm could have used a slight bit more variety regarding its spell-selection. Nevertheless, though, this is one of the installments of the series that nails the essence of the sin and thus, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

 

 

Monsters of Sin VII – Wrath

 

This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 7 pages of content, so let’s check out the final installment of the monsters of sin-series!

 

As is the tradition with the series by now, we kick off with an introduction to the sin at hand as well as the wrathful creature simple template (CR+3),which allows the creature to rage 1/day for 1d6+1 round as the spell and gain the diehard feat as well as reflexively rage when reduced to negative HP.

 

The new monsters are:

 

-Hulking Whelp (CR 5): A cute small fey somewhat resembling a small canine, cute humanoid, these neurotic fey grow to a dread huge size when their personal space is violated – per se a nice idea that may grant satisfaction to all those annoyed by  yelling small dogs…or crush them! the creature comes with stats for both forms.

 

-Savager (CR 9): Supremely creepy artwork for a porcupine-like quilled grizzly with saberteeth and scimitar-like claws and a cool armor of scabs.

 

-Spiteful Spirit: CR-2 template that makes for a temporary undead after a foe has been vanquished. Nice simple template to give an NPC killed by a lucky shot another chance to shine. Per se a nice idea, but honestly, nothing any DM can’t make him/herself.

 

-Embodiment of Wrath (CR 23): The final embodiment of sin-creature is a hulking, 4-armed apelike beast with an aura of anger, the power to detect those seeking to hide from them and a superbly cool ability: When damaged, it gains anger-points that it can use to deal bleed damage, grow an extra arm, haste, bonus feats etc., making the fight progressively harder and making the fight feel like it has phases. Very cool to make the boss fight work very well!

 

The pdf closes with a page on wrath-related fluff in the Midgard Setting.

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the series’ beautiful two-column standard and this issue’s b/w-artworks are all rather well-made and iconic. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a pity – apart from BP-length pdfs, all should have them by now.

The monsters of sin-series triumphs and falls with its brevity and unfortunately, this brevity also means that any creature that is not all killer, detracts from the issue’s appeal. And said thing unfortunately holds true for the Spiteful Spirit template, which at best is boring and something that most DMs probably pulled off without having the template. Furthermore, the template’s lack of any signature ability apart from its short-livedness is a wasted chance. The other creatures herein are stellar, though, with especially the embodiment’s increasing lethality something I’d wish more designers used for their boss beasties. Kudos for the neat design – though I wished the other embodiments had similar options. All in all, this issue is a fitting, albeit not perfect final installment of author Ryan Costello Jr.’s series  and will clock in at a final verdict of 4 stars from me.

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

 

 

More articles you may enjoy:

Facebook Comments

comments

About Endzeitgeist

Reviewer without a cause