The first installment of Rusted Iron Games’ fearsome foes-series clocks in at 5 pages, 1 page front cover, 1/2 page SRD, leaving us with .5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This pdf’s premise is pretty straight-forward – to deliver monster codex-style statblocks of creatures – this time featuring two ogres from the eponymous, roving horde of straightforward ogre-marauders. The first of these creatures would be the ogre depicted on the cover, one Kurhn Bonecrusher – a CR 13 brute that has, built-wise, had his HD increased and the barbarian creature template applied.
The second ogre would be Urusk the Iron turtle, named thus for the preference of heavy armor – and his discipline, for the ogre has 5 fighter levels.
Supplementing these two characters would be two magic items, the first being the merciless maiden, a magical greatclub made from a marble statue of a woman (COOL!) and a truly nasty rattle – this one can change cure spells in the proximity into inflict spells 3/day. I really love this concept, but in practice, this is kind of problematic – while powered as an immediate action and action-wise, the item is pretty solid, it opens an issue with sequence: Usually, targets of cure spells don’t want to avoid them. So can the change be noticed? Is there a chance for the touch to miss the target? Essentially, the item would need to specify whether its effects apply before or after the touching of the target creature.
In a slightly unfortunate layout-choice, the text from page 1 begins again on page 3 after the respective statblock entries. On the plus-side, beyond these solid hooks, the pdf also sports 5 different sample encounters that utilize creatures from the Monster Codex alongside statblocks provided herein.
Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no relevant glitches. Layout adheres to a pretty printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports a cool, original b/w-artwork of Kurhn -especially nice in such an inexpensive pdf. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. I’m not a fan of the intro-fluff being separated by the statblocks – it is a clunky choice of presentation.
Russ Brown’s first fearsome foes provide decent builds – personally, I think class-levels would have suited Kurhn a tad bit better, but that may just be me. It should be noted that the statblock does contain the base stats, assuming raging as default. Personally, I would have preferred a slightly higher degree of optimization, but that’s just me being a prick. I do like the supplemental items, though the skull rattle’s issues require clarification. The insertion of the statblocks, which cuts the adventure hook-section in two, also felt jarring to me.
All in all, this is a good pdf for the low asking price – but it also feels significantly less refined that the first Deadly Gardens-pdf I’ve read by Rusted Iron Games. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the cool artwork and more than fair, low price-point.