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Rappy’s Bestiary Review: E.N. Critters Volume 2-Beyond the Campfire

16 Sep

Okay, this time, I’m (slightly) more prepared, and thus have a more coherent strategy for giving my opinion on these creatures. The new format is as follows:

What it is: Kinda self-explanatory heading.

What it does: The powers and prowesses you’ll see the creature possess.

Usefulness: A rating system based on how likely you are to use it. The ranks are:

  • 1- Unlikely to see use except in certain circumstances, uber-niched.
  • 2- Niche creature; likely to see use in certain play styles or individual campaigns, but not an everyday monster.
  • 3- Average all in all.
  • 4- Somewhat inclined to a certain manner of play or setting, but still valuable.
  • 5- Versatile, likelyhood of finding a use high.

Use in d20 Modern: A little bit just for me, on how useful they’d be in a modern setting. Hey…someone is bound to find it useful (even if that person is just myself).

So…let’s get right down to it.

The Basics

Total number of creatures: 21 (26 counting substats within a single header)

Breakup of creature types: 3 aberrations, 2 constructs, 1 fey, 1 humanoid, 4 magical beasts, 2 monstrous humanoids, 1 ooze, 1 outsider, 2 plants, 7 undead

CR range: 1/2 to 15

The Creatures

Bereft (CR 4 Undead)
What it is: Essentially a zombified dryad, spawned from a feykind that was tortured as its forest was burned and destroyed before its very eyes. Something in its dying mind snapped, and it’s clawed its way back from the beyond to wreak horrible vengeance.
What it does: It’s a spoooky undead, which is always fun. Unlike your standard issue zombie, however, a dryad has brains (Int score of 14!) instead of brawn (a mild Str score of 10).  Fast healing, turn resistance, and buffing spells, however, mean it can still take a beating and keep coming. Add to that some nasty druid spells and the ability to disguise itself as a dead tree, and the bereft makes itself a perfect zombie mimic/creature in the shadows undead.
Usefulness: 4-If you like undead, this creature could really be an interesting turn. And we all know that forests aren’t in short supply in DnD.
Use in d20 Modern: In the urban wasteland of the modern era, a dryad without its forest is likely to be very, very common. And where there’s suffering dryads, there are the bereft. This creature is absolutely perfect for modern integration.

Blighter (CR 6 Undead)
What it is: Essentially druid Grim Reapers, complete with scythes. Albeit not very strong Grim Reapers.
What it does: A poison breath weapon, negative energy bolts, frightful presence, and 3 SLAs (blight 3/day, fog cloud 1/day, and longstrider 2/day). It’s not a particularly strong creature, but it has enough nasty abilities to put fear in a low-level party that has no Paladin or Cleric. Hehe…no Paladin or Cleric, like that’ll happen.
Usefulness: 3- The blighter isn’t particularly special or unique (I’ve seen plenty of Reaper expies, many much stronger than these fellows), but I could see it getting some use.
Use in d20 Modern: See all those burial mounds? See Stonehenge and Woodhenge and etc. henges? Imagine blighters in them, resting until disturbed. Let your mind go from there.

Buridai (CR 1/2 Humanoid)
What it is: Lawful Evil badgermen that take slaves and enjoy being generally evil.
What it does: Beyond natural proficiency with nets and a bonus to saves against illusions…nothing, really.
Usefulness: 3- They’re nocturnal, burrowing, forest-dwelling gnoll and orc replacements, and little more.
Use in d20 Modern: If you don’t want to use grimlocks or aberrants, buridai can fit in as another “moleman” race in the deep shadows.

Burrowing Mouther (CR 7 Aberration)
What it is: Resembles the unholy love-child of the sandworms from Dune and an ankheg.
What it does: Thick damage reduction protects it in battle, but its burrowing, paralytic bite, Move Silently proficiency, and tremorsense relegate it to the role of “that thing that grabs you from underground”.
Usefulness: 1- This creature is a one-trick pony, and the authors even admit it.
Use in d20 Modern: “Scary thing in the ground” is a fairly standard horror trope. Use it.

Coldsnake (CR 7 Magical Beast)
What it is: A snake that is cold. Yes, it’s that simple.
What it does: The coldsnake deals cold damage when it constricts and has a weak paralytic glare attack, as well as the ability to be healed by cold damage. Otherwise…not much that differentiates it from a standard constrictor.
Usefulness: 2- Use as a novelty encounter for those not expecting a magical snake in the middle of the wintery forest, not much else.

Creeping Moss (CR 2 Plant)
What it is: A 15 x 15 blanket of moss…or is it?!
What it does: The creeping moss can put heroes to sleep and deal acid damage. In essence, it’s the Plant that thinks it’s an Ooze.
Usefulness: 2- While not too terribly use-ridden (especially with its low CR), this one is fairly fun, and I can’t bring myself to give it a 1 for that very reason.
Use in d20 Modern: There are some strange tales about the deepest jungles and forests of the world, and the creeping moss fits right in with some of those stories (especially the ones pondering the possibility of man-eating plants). A campaign in the deepest reaches of the Congo or Amazon could have an interesting twist with a few of these hanging around (sometimes literally).

Despicable Host (CR 8 Aberration)
What it is: A giant evil forest-dwelling octopus. Yes, I am serious. Yes, I do repeat myself a lot when it comes to “yes, I ams” and “but seriously”. Moving along…
What it does: Its ability to catch players flat-footed nearly every time with its ambush and camouflage strategies as well as its mass of tentacles are its major strength.
Usefulness: 1- It’s good for a scare for your players, but one time is enough times for them to catch on and expect it in case you ever want to use it again.
Use in d20 Modern: It’s the Pacific Northwest tree octopus’s feral giant sibling (in other words, I have no better use for something that weird).

Ettintaur (CR 15 Monstrous Humanoid)
What it is: A centaur-like creature forged out of an ettin and huge horse instead of a human and horse.
What it does: It’s more or less a giant centaur.
Usefulness: 1- See above.
Use in d20 Modern: Umm….yeah. I’ve got nothing for this one.

Fiend Cat (CR 1 Magical Beast)
What it is: A larger than average black cat with magical powers and rudimentary sapience.
What it does: Paralytic purring and a calming aura lull those around it into a false sense of security, before it uses its coup-de-grace ability.
Usefulness: 3- This one is thankfully more useful than most of the creatures we’ve recently looked at, and even has precedents as the “witch’s evil black cat” in lore. It’s not necessarily tied down to forest encounters or nighttime assaults by things in the dark.
Use in d20 Modern: This creature could feasibly be found in the company of a dark spellcaster or a hag if you want to go straight forward with the “fantasy” half of urban fantasy. It could also weasel its way into human society as a “new breed of exotic cat” finding its way into the market.

Flashpoint Ooze (CR 4 Ooze)
What it is: A clear liquid ooze with an oily sheen.
What it does: It catches on fire and in turn catches other things on fire.
Usefulness: 2- Although the chaos of a creature that can set everything ablaze just by sitting near your campfire is insanely fun,
Use in d20 Modern: Perhaps it’s a strange experiment. Perhaps it’s a natural fire control agent. Perhaps it’s magical. Any way you put it, the flashpoint ooze has its potential modern uses.

Ignixie (CR 2 Fey)
What it is: A tiny fey made out of fire.
What it does: It magically spawns fire.
Usefulness: 2- It’s a smaller, weaker fey version of the flashpoint ooze.
Use in d20 Modern: It could be useful in fey-related games as part of the Unseelie Court or something.

Insectus Overmind (CR 7 Aberration)
What it is: A brain with insect legs and psionic powers.
What it does: Can summon insects and use the cloud mind power. It’s also poisonous.
Usefulness: 3- While there’s only so many ways you can use a giant insect brain, there are plenty of different places and strategies you can try out on the basic premise.
Use in d20 Modern: Being a psionic monster, the insectus overmind fits in a bit better in the more “mundane FX” style of modern play, and could probably be a good villain in the Agents of PSI campaign setting (why didn’t that ever get its own book?); in urban fantasy, it’s not that hard to replace its insect-summoning psionics with the crawling carpet spell and have a magical monster.

Nightshades (Nightflyer, Nightguard, Nighthound, and Nightstalker) (CR 3 to CR 12 Undead)
What it is: The nightflyer resembles a giant shadowy owl, the nightguard a shadowy stone giant, the nighthound a shadowy hound (duh), and the nightstalker a gigantic shadowy wolf.
What it does: With the ability to summon shadows and wraiths, desecration and disease, wounds that cannot be healed by nonmagical means, and induction of despair, the CR 10 nightflyer is a creature that is built to cause as much damage to the entire field of battle as possible. The CR 8 nightguard is the melee brute of the clan as well as able to produce frightful presence and a cold touch to give it an upper hand in physical combat. The CR 3 nighthound is like a hyena or war dog with the ability to induce fear and desecrate lands (both traits that all of these nightshades have in common), and is most likely to be used as a pack of dogs would. Finally, there’s the CR 12 nightstalker. This bruiser has the powers of the nighthound, plus brutal levels of spell resistance and damage reduction, immunity to cold damage, summoning like the nightflyer, and high physical and mental scores. It’s essentially the mastermind and BBEG of these ‘shades.
Usefulness: 3- These are some of the better nightshades in my opinion, but they are still saddled with the burden being a breed of nightshade entails.
Use in d20 Modern: The same way any nightshade is: as that shadow in the darkness that happens to be deadly, that thing supposedly just a legend that’s actually real, the childhood terror…that thing.

Owl Howler (CR 1 Undead)
What it is: A zombified owl.
What it does: Other than damage reduction and a weak sonic “breath” weapon, the owl howler has little favoring it over any other weak undead.
Usefulness: 2- The only thing saving it from utter mediocrity is its ability to be used as a familiar, leading to some potentially interesting and quirky NPC wizards.
Use in d20 Modern: Perhaps a bokor in New Orleans or Haiti decided to craft one as a familiar, and the craze caught on in the underground magic community. They might even be as popular a familiar in your particular setting as normal owls are in Harry Potter.

Owllion (CR 5)
What it is: It’s a weaker griffon.
What it does: I reiterate the above…it’s a weaker griffon.
Usefulness: 3- Do I even need to say it again?
Use in d20 Modern: Use it however you’d use a griffon, just in a nocturnal light.

Pooter Bush (CR 2 Plant)
What it is: This….thing…resembles a blackberry bush that has some basic ambulatory capability.
What it does: Not only can it lob berries as if they were weak bullets, they can allow other creatures to feed on them. What happens when you feed on a pooter bush’s berries? Well, you…I can’t believe I’m about to type this in seriousness…you’ll produce flammable flatulence, dealing 1d6 points of damage to anyone behind you.
Usefulness: 1- How does this thing even exist? I cannot fathom why you’d want a mobile toilet humor joke in any book that pretends to be serious. I can understand if it was a joke book or something (although I’d still find it idiotic).
Use in d20 Modern: I’m sure there’s some college student-cum-magibotanist stupid enough to breed one.

Qual Aanan Qualo (CR 3 Monstrous Humanoid)
What it is: Panther people that stage hunts of orcs, half-orcs, and goblinoids.
What it does: They have high Dexterity and several evasion-based abilities, so they are creatures that are meant to fight  ferociously while avoiding attempts to fight back.
Usefulness: 4- I could see these creatures becoming an important species in certain campaigns. Similarly, if you have a party that consists of any of their prey species, these “Neutral Goods” can look positively evil in the eyes of the players.
Use in d20 Modern: Replace catfolk with these fellows, or maybe have them as a close relative of the catfolk.

Unseen (CR 9 Outsider)
What it is: Incorporeal, invisible outsiders that are sort of like ghosts, only not undead.
What it does: It can read minds, hypnosis, has a babble ability like an allip, and can drain away Intelligence. It’s the unseen terror that literally shred away the minds of those that attempt to get close to it. On the other hand, it can be helpful in a way…anyone with a high enough Gather Knowledge skill can glean information from within the blatherings of madness.
Usefulness: 3- A good replacement for ghosts and the typical outsiders, as well as a potential hazardous quest for Wizards and other knowledge seekers.
Use in d20 Modern: Perhaps the unseen are a psionic memory or some sort of arcane knowledge construct gone horribly wrong.

Witchcat (CR 4 Magical Beast)
What it is: Another black cat creature.
What it does: The witchcat can change size from that of a house cat to anything from bobcat to tiger-sized, charm people, and create magical darkness.
Usefulness: 3- On the same page as the fiend cat.
Use in d20 Modern: See the fiend cat.

Woodland Defender (CR 7 Construct)
What it is: A golem made out of rotting plant matter and logs.
What it does: Woodland defenders have a constant aura of plant growth stimulation, can quench fires, and has the typical golem boon of immunity to all but certain spells. In essence, it’s a Druid’s handy helper.
Usefulness: 2- Unless your campaign heavily involves druids, this one’s a bit of an odd ball.
Use in d20 Modern: Conservationist spellcasters and ecoterrorists alike could find use in a hulking mass of mulch such as this.

The Verdict

This title has less variety, less CR range, less creature types, and less holding of my interest. While it has enough decent ideas and  some real gems, it’s certainly not better than its predecessor. 5/10.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 16, 2009 in RPG Reviews

 

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One response to “Rappy’s Bestiary Review: E.N. Critters Volume 2-Beyond the Campfire

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