Hello viewers! Remember when on Monday I said that the review of the Book of Templates Deluxe Edition 3.5 by Silverthorne Games was a review for another day? Bet you didn’t expect that day would come so soon. 😛 Now then, I’ll be doing things a bit different this review… I’ll be looking over each of the templates in brief succession to judge them on their own accord in order to attain the final verdict on this title. So, let’s get right into it!
Well…we’ll have to wait for template gazing. The first chapter provides a gaze into the mind of a monster template creator. We first get a review of the template format. While this may seem trivial, it is good for those that don’t always remember what goes where. It also goes into a rehash of details on how to create a monster itself, as well as suggestions on what increases and decreases Challenge Rating and Level Adjustment (although it does, quite fairly I might add, warn that you should judge for yourself on those two items). Overall a solid reintroduction to d20 monsters as a start. Oh, and there are rules for Miniscule and Titanic creature sizes. I prefer the core size ranks, but I guess you can use these if you want to.
Chapter 2 is called “Aberrations”, and with sound reason. The templates here change the creature applied to into the aberration type. Who would’ve ever guessed? 😛
Aberrant: Our very first template deals with magically mutated creatures. Roll two dice, give the creature two freaky abilities (such as an extra arm…not two, just a single one…slimy skin, vampiric tendencies, another eye, etc). It’s nice and easy to use. I feel it was a good choice to open with this template, because it gives you a good idea out of a simplistic template.
Wretched: The other simplistic template of the Aberrations chapter is the result of creatures becoming aberrations as the result of eldritch experimentation to try and create a “perfect creature”. Instead, what you get is an aberration-type creature that has some ooze-like qualities, is slow but supernaturally well-reflexed (able to take extra actions in a turn), and loses any abilities that rely on having a skeletal structure. This is a nice “mad wizard’s lab encounter” creature template, as well as a way of making a creature different without altering its Challenge Rating upwards.
“Animals, Magical Beasts, and Vermin” is the title of this chapter..no large task to guess what these templates concern.
Elder Beast: These are Lord of the Rings-style “before the Age of Men” creatures. Supernaturally intelligent animals that can speak Sylvan and have command over their lesser kin. This is a great template if you have a heavily fey-oriented campaign or want some elder magics to hold sway in the deep recesses of your world.
Nettlecloud Vermin: Another simplistic template. What does a creature get? A +2 to Strength, -2 to Dexterity, and the ability to fling stinging hairs. This template has an awesome use in that it is based in the reality of tarantulas and their ability to perform this act.
If you thought the two templates-a-chapter formula was slow, fear not! The Augmenting chapter is HUGE, and has templates applying to many different things.
Arcane Servitor: This template infuses creatures with natural magic, granting them extra uses of any supernatural and spell-like abilities they have as well as spells to utilize on the fly. This is template is alright, but it gets grating due to overlay later (you’ll see what I mean).
Blind Oracle: This is an interesting template if you want to have an unexpected NPC or you want to replicate Tiresias of Thebes from Greek mythology. In exchange for being blinded to the mortal world, the Blind Oracle grants sight to the spiritual world in the form of being able to cast divinations, speak with plants and the dead, and a phenomenal Wisdom score increase. While this won’t get that much use as an enemy (usually), as an ally or quest-giver it’s pretty damn neat.
Blood Pawn: This is essentially the necromantic version of a drug addict. By drinking fleshbound vampire (we’ll see them later on) blood, these mortals become stronger, faster, harder to kill, speedily healing, and overall more physically good. That comes at a terrible price, however, as the addiction requires the blood pawn to continue drinking that precious black blood. Such a person, known as a “blood pawn” to the vampires themselves, either stays in servitude in order to attain a regular fix, or becomes a hunter of vampires to increase his power. I can see this spawning stories that involve vampiric blood drug dealers in the undertowns and things of that nature.
Chirurgic Horror: These are the results of less-than-pleasant hack-job grafting experiments. These creatures are immune to fear and insanity, have spell resistance, and have some of their limbs replaced with vicious manmade weapons. In essence, this template is the hook horror as a template instead of a singular monster. A variant called the razorbone horror (in which the creature’s very bones are chipped and sharpened into the weaponry) is also presented. As you could already guess, I like “crazy wizard templates”, so this one gets a thumbs up from me.
Deep One: These Lovecraft homages are creatures cursed for their evil deeds, forsaken to the deepest seas where they become ravenous monsters. They drain energy and blood, are eternally hungry no matter how much they drain, and are weak against sunlight. This is a creepy template, and a good one for a horror adventure around a nocturnal water zone. If you don’t know how to use this template in a campaign, go read H.P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth….or maybe not, since Innsmouth does touch some of Lovecraft’s more unsavory ideals.
Dreadnaught: Spell resistance, energy resistance, damage reduction…this template is an example of the Tank fantasy archetype taken to its climax. This template is essentially what’s called a Meatgrinder Punisher. A meatgrinder punisher is a creature or hazard designed to brutalize those who rush blindly into combat at all opportunities and reward those that strategize and use ranged weaponry. The more you know!
Enchanted: Remember what I said about the Arcane Servitor starting to get grating later due to overlay? Well, here’s where it starts. Spell-like abilities, spell resistance, immunity to certain spells…this is essentially a beefed-up fey-flavored Arcane Servitor.
Fey-Kissed: Another fey-flavored template, the fey-kissed gains an increase to Charisma, spell-like abilities, and age slower than their kin. In an interesting flavor mechanic, fey-kissed are prone to melancholy if they leave the planes of the feykind. I like this a bit better than the Arcane Servitor and Enchanted, but it’s still not in my favorites box of templates.
Flying Creature: It gives the creature the gift of flight. If you didn’t guess that, you are silly. Instead of changing animals into magical beasts like the Savage Species template of the same name, this template instead allows you to pick natural or supernatural flight. I like this idea better, to be honest. Doesn’t hurt that this book is entirely OGC. 😛
Gigantic: This template is self-explanatory, and fairly nicely built as well.
Hiveling: These gathered creatures have a hive mind, allowing them to all use a shared sense of sight, smell, and hearing in their vicinity as well as an inability to be flanked unless all of the members of the hive are flanked. This is somewhat of a niche template, but it could be put to really interesting use with a creative GM.
Hypermitotic: Hypermitotic creatures can split themselves in two, but sacrifice time and effort eating (they need to consume 10 times as much food as a normal creature of their kind) in order to do so. There’s…not much more I can really say about this template. It’s average to me.
Legion: Legion creatures are walking monster factories, spawning creatures on a daily basis or in large broods. Don’t worry, though, it doesn’t get insane…there’s a failsafe in that most Legions can only produce 24 spawn before they start losing control of them, so that’s pretty much the cap limit. It’s another template that has variant notes, such as extraordinary spawning (like that of the back-baby-spawning Surinam toad in real life) and Legions that don’t increase their size with the template (which I’ll most likely use a lot with the template). I like the dedication to variety in some of these templates…thumbs up on this one, it’s in the favorites box.
Many-Headed Creature: Another similar-to-Savage-Species-templates type of template, and again one that surpasses its SS version. This many-headed creature template has logical “double mind agenda” notes for spells and psionics, improved reflexes from two heads, optional all-around vision due to having multiple vantage points, and a hydra-like many-headed variant. It’s all I could ask for!
Metallivore: Like rust monsters for any challenge level, the metallivore turns a creature into one that can has corrosive breath and body, metal-eating capabilities, and can smell metal. I love this one, but I’m kinda sadistic that way.
Moon Wildling: These are essentially good werewolves that hunt and slay bad werewolves. There’s…not much more I can say than that, really. Average template.
Necrovore: Nature’s answer to cleaning up overpopulation of undead, necrovores are powerful creatures with damage reduction, the ability to send positive energy bursts to disrupt undead, and extra hit point gain with each undead they consume. If the players have a necromancer, his tools are done for. If the players are ghosts, the necrovore’s ability to bypass incorporeality makes them done for. If the players are hunting the undead themselves, the necrovore will attempt to attack the “competition”. It’s an all-around situation creature.
Psionic Creature: Self-explanatory. It’s essentially a better though-out version of the phrenic creature template.
Quickened: A faster and more dextrous version of the creature the template it is applied to. It’s a simple but effective template. Good, but not noteworthy.
Relentless: Essentially an epic-level encounter template, a Relentless creature is an unstoppable force that has very few things that can damage it. I’m almost tempted to relegate this to the “not many uses bin”…on the other hand, I can’t. Thinking ahead, the writers handily gave a non-epic variant of the template called the Resilient creature.
Savage: In exchange for an Intelligence score penalty, a Savage creature gets an increase to Wisdom and all three physical ability modifiers, as well as low-light vision and scent, as well as bonuses to Climb, Jump, Survival, and Swim and Alertness as a bonus feat. This is another simple but very malleable and useful template. This one goes in the favorites box.
Scryling: This template essentially turns anything into a familiar. A scryling has a link with its spellcaster master, able to relay spells as well as act as a spy. This is compounded upon because the scryling causes divinations on it to fail to register anything unusual. This is another “wizard template”, so again I like this idea.
Siphon: These creatures absorb magic and energy, then store them to shoot back at their aggressors. Say it with me folks…simple but effective!
Spellpowered: Yet another spell-like ability-granting template. This one is at least unique…instead of having normal spell-like ability granting, there’s a point buy system for how long and how many spell-like abilities the creature can have. This one gets a thumb half up…it’s more interesting than the Arcane Servitor, at least.
Vampiric Creature: No, these aren’t part vampire. This template reflects things like leeches, ticks, and mosquitos on other creatures. I like this one since it is more natural than supernatural, so you can think of it as arising naturally rather than magically.
Phew, we finally made it out of the Augmenting chapter. We’re now in the Constructs chapter, which means a lot of stone and steel being thrown around.
Ablative Construct: A weaker construct made of jury-rigged materials. This is good for flavor or if you want your players to fight a certain construct type earlier than they would normally be able to.
Automaton: This template essentially makes constructs in the form of something living (as its image of a wooden four-armed humanoid shows), like a human-shaped metal construct or a lion door guardian of stone or whatever. This is a very intuitive one…there are a bunch of materials you are given to work with, from stone and metal to wood to even strange substances for constructs such as tar. You then get to build your construct from that base. This one is definitely in the favorites box for its usefulness.
Phantasmal: Phantasmal creatures are essentially semi-living illusion constructs, born out of spells made to craft them. Phantasmal creatures can only harm you if you believe they are real…a Will save to disbelieve essentially puts them out of commission fast. That doesn’t mean that it’s not neat to play around with them (they’re another mad wizard template, did you expect me not to like them? 😛 ). There are also the shadow and shade phantasmals, stronger phantasmal creatures with a stronger grip on reality.
Skinrug: It’s an animal-skin rug animated as a clumsier type of golem. Not much more I can say without trying to giggle or give away devious schemes.
The Other Stuff: Not truly templates but interesting nonetheless, the book gives suggestions on variants of constructs, including awakened golems, spiked constructs, magic-immune constructs, and self-repairing constructs. A+ for the extra effort, Silverthorne Games.
Diminishing is the name of this chapter…it provides options to downplay monsters rather than power them up.
Blighted Thrall: These individuals are the results of failing fickle and less than pleasant gods. They are stripped of all magical power and most of their will, but gain the ability to rage against unbelievers in a fanatical devotion. This is a strange but interesting concept, albeit one with the potential of being driven overboard.
Degenerate: Another “roll a dice, get a template” creature, Degenerates are inbred genetic deficiencies with drawbacks that range from incurable insanity to blindness to hemophilia. Simple. But. Effective.
Miniature: I love this template. It can be used at multiple intervals of size and has multiple uses. It can create a younger-than-adult version of a creature or it can be a dwarf specimen of the creature. Heck, if you’re really creative you could use it as part of a spell for a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-type adventure.
Chapter 7 is another brief chapter, this one dealing with dragons.
Breath Weapon: It’s a template that…gives a creature a breath weapon. If there ever was an epitome of the Simple But Effective Template (S-BET) philosophy, this would be it.
Dragon-Blooded Creature: Essentially the draconic version of the tiefling and aasimar. It’s another template that’s solid but doesn’t really catch my eye.
There’s also some variant rules on making half-dragons closer to their draconic originators’ spells and special qualities, but I think that’s self-explanatory enough that we can go on to the next chapter.
It’s a chapter about elementals!
Elemental Template: This template is another really useful one, since it applies air-, earth-, fire-, or water elemental-like traits to non-elemental creatures. This is where you get your Medieval bestiary-type salamanders or your Medieval earthen-type gnomes from. Favorite box for this one for sheer useability.
Variant Elementals: Another “not quite a template” set, the Icy and Thermic Elemental variants make elementals that are imbued with sheer cold or heat despite not being ice or fire elementals. The thermic variant on an earth elemental could make a volcanic elemental, for instance.
This chapter introduces the Half Metatemplate. Essentially, this is a huge set of guidelines on how to create those ever so popular “half something” templates. If you were looking for ready-made templates in the chapter, though, don’t worry! There are some present.
Demigorgon: Half-gorgons (the D&D beastly kind, not the Medusa-related kind). The demigorgon grants a creature a hard shelled body, petrification breath, scent, horns, and a penalty to Intelligence and Charisma in exchange for physical prowess. I’m not sure how the metal bull that is the D&D gorgon breeds with anything, so I’m just chalking this one up to magical experimentation.
Dhampire: Half-vampires with (surprise, surprise) weakened versions of vampire powers, as well as a natural knack for necromancy. This one has a spell to explain it and has roots in actual real world mythology, but still….creepy for a hero to be part-vampire.
Half-Troll: Strong but dim-witted brutes with regeneration, half-trolls are self-explanatory. Again, not my favorite template in the world by any measure.
Nymph Child: A half-nymph…at this point, I stopped caring about describing these average half-templates because they are self-explanatory.
Padrafyte: A half-medusa. Wee. Move on, please…
This chapter is on oozes!
Amorphous: A partially ooze-like creature. It doesn’t turn into an ooze, but gains the ability to squeeze and slide through tiny spaces.
Puppeteer Ooze and Host: This nasty type of ooze can drain Strength. If it completely drains all the Strength out of its victim, it can enter them and puppeteer their bodies, effectively killing the host and making them a construction drone. This is a creepy idea that would be really good for a horror campaign.
We’re getting there, 124 pages in means we only have 70 more… This chapter deals with outsiders.
Apocalyptic: A gigantic nigh-unstoppable creature that can produce an utterance that levels buildings and shatters the landscape. Definitely kept only for an epic-level hazard or a campaign-changer.
Argent Servitor: A servant of good that has ascended into becoming an outsider. Such a creature essentially gains the Paladin’s array of abilities, as well as the ability to sacrifice some of its own hit points to heal others. It’s okay, but not earth-shattering.
Beast Lord: Another epic-level template, the Beast Lord (not to be confused with the Tome of Horrors human-looking outsiders of the same name) is an elder beast (remember that template from earlier?) that has ascended to becoming a demigod of its species. Scrying ability on all of its “children” and command over creatures of its type are just icing on a cake of epic-level damage reduction and the ability to shapeshift into any creature of its chosen domain. I can’t see this being used much in any campaign except for flavor or if you have killed enough animals of one kind on your journey to epic-levels that you have angered that breed’s beast lord.
Ebon Servitor: Take Argent Servitor, flip-flip good to evil in the text, and you essentially have the Ebon Servitor. Moving on…
Ethereal: This individual has become attached to the Ethereal Plane and can willingly flip in and out of it without the use of incantations and spells. This, like many outsider templates in this book, is a niche that depends on how much focus on one plane you are looking at.
Fallen: A celestial that has fallen from its post of duty. While it might be simpler to just paste a different alignment/allegiance on the outsider, a fallen does get at least one new special ability: that of an aura of emotions (either despair, fear, lust, or rage).
Half-Genie: The spawn of either a djinn, efreet, or jann, who gains spell-like abilities based on which of those three is the parent as well as some other little abilities here and there. Nothing too special, but I can see it coming into use in a campaign that has a lot of genies (such as one taking place in the City of Brass).
Immortal: A gifted individual who is unable to die by aging (but has not passed on, and is thus still killable by unnatural means), has fast healing, and has various other perks granted. Again, this is something that probably will only come up in an epic-level campaign, so I can’t really give it too high a thumbs up.
Mindbender: A creature made of non-Euclidean geometry, the Mindbender is an unnatural concept that causes confusion effects in those that fail their Will saves against it. This is another send-up to H.P. Lovecraft, who absolutely adored the idea of non-Euclidean geometry that breaks down sanity for his aberrant beings from the stars.
Redeemed: A flip-flopped Fallen applied to a redeemed fiend, with an aura of emotions that can produce friendship, happiness, and hope.
Shadowborne: A creature naturally attuned to the Plane of Shadow that can teleport back to its home plane via any shadowy or dark area as well as scarily high Hide bonuses. Again, unless you are focusing on the Plane of Shadow, this template may be underutilized.
Spirit: Incorporeal but living manifestations of places or things, spirits provide a way to have a higher-powered incorporeal being in your campaign without having to resort to the undead yet again.
Voidspawn: Take the sphere of annihilation and apply it to a creature. There, you have successfully created a Voidspawn. I hope you’re happy with yourself.
War Aspect: Part of a deity’s army, this template gives an outsider a stronger chance of surviving combat, a flame strike power, and the ability to rally troops. It’s, yet again, something that will probably only come up in a planar campaign.
A one template chapter, this plant chapter has the Plantform template. A creature transforms into the plant type and gains some abilities based on the roll of the dice, including thorns, vines, or pollen. Nothing too special, but it’s good enough to warrant inclusion in the tome.
This chapter is another larger one, this time on undead.
Corpse Vampire: These upper-decayed vampires have few powers beyond cold resistance, damage reduction, and fast healing, and are tormented by their past life. This is essentially the vampire for adventurers who are too weak to handle typical vampires.
Desiccated: Undead formed in the dried portions of the desert. They can suction Constitution out of the living, are not impeded by desert terrain, and have control of skeletons as their allies. I like this template, since it isn’t the typical mummy you’d expect to face in the desert. It has its own flavor that makes it a unique threat.
Fleshbound Vampire: Another vampire without the fancy supernatural abilities (and even less fancy than the corpse vampire due to a slow regeneration). The only special notes are that they can breed with mortals to create dhampires and have addictive blood that creates blood pawns (remember them? Waaaay back near the early parts of the book?).
Paleoskeleton: Ancient fossils given life, paleoskeletons have a few special tricks that normal skeletons don’t have. These include a petrification attack, a fearsome primal roar, and a strong turn resistance. This is good if you want something special for a party expecting normal skeletons.
Skinhusks: Essentially the undead version of skinrugs. These flayed animated skins can be filled with brown or yellow mold, flammable substances, poisons, or contagions that disperse when the adventurers hack into the skinhusk. This is essentially another creature that is little more than a flavor enhancer and meatgrinder-punisher.
Terror Vampire: These undead have only a few of the typical vampire traits; namely damage reduction and fast healing, energy drain, some other drain, and a form of transformation. In this case, the other drain is fear rather than blood, and the transformation is into a shadow-form rather than mist. Yes, these vampires eat fear.
True Mummy: These are the greater mummy kings, who have phenomenal damage reduction, a fear gaze attack, immunity to cold, electricity, and transformations, fast healing, and above-par Strength and mental scores. These are the royal mummy types that would rather sit on their thrones and command their empires than do any fighting of their own and could make a really interesting final boss-type encounter.
Undead-Blooded: Necromancy resistance and the ability to sense the undead are the key facets in this template, a watered-down geneological descendant of beings such as dhampires. I’m not too enthused by it, but it’s okay.
The Other Stuff: Like with constructs, some pseudo-templates are provided for stronger skeletons and zombies, as well as suggestions on manipulating the vampire template for different creatures. I like it.
The appendices include new feats and skill uses such as Craft (Taxidermy) and some other heres and theres. The thing that makes this chapter are the new spells. With such spells as form of life (which temporarily allows the undead to take living form), dead eyes (which allows a Cleric to possess an undead’s body for a short period), shadow path (allows teleportation via shadows), and block commands (which blocks the controls from a spellcaster to their golem), the spells really shine in showing how a niche such as “I must take out this undead/construct” can be used to their fullest.
Even the rotten eggs in this book’s basket aren’t that smelly. The art is clean and evocative, the writing is just as evocative as the art, the templates are (for the most part) useful, and the new spells are great for creature-heavy campaigns or even normal campaigns. I give this book a hearty 10/10.