Hey again, folks, it’s time for a review of the first of the Template Troves series, some smaller template tomes from the creators of the Book of Templates Deluxe Edition 3.5. As its name implies, this particular trove focuses on snake-, spider-, and legend-related templates…sorta. What do I mean by that “sorta”? Well, let’s dig in and find out.
The Templates Rundown
Arnrach: This template is a rather poor one, being only applicable to monstrous spiders to create a half-aranea, half-monstrous spider hybrid. This is a very selective template, and as such it seems to be the opposite of my typical line of complaint; rather than being a monster that should probably be a template, this is a template that should probably be a monster! The example use of the template is a Large hunting spider with the template applied. Whoo.
Behirling: This template is applicable to any corporeal, living creature besides oozes, plants, and dragons, as long as the corporeal, living creature is of size Large or larger, and are supposedly the spawn of a singular cursed giant behir (although that’s obviously fluff for this book alone; you have no real need to keep it in your own games). This template is more or less half-dragon-lite, reflecting the behir’s status as a dragon-lite Magical Beast. The template grants the behir’s lightning breath attack, swallow whole, a special dragon-sensing scent ability, and a +4 bonus to Strength and Constitution, amongst other things here and there. This template is good for making a strong creature dragon-like without resorting to true dragons or even half-dragons. The examples of the template are the behirling ogre Belun, and the dragon-hunting ankhir (a behirling ankheg).
Chemdrake: Another one of the “serpents”, the Chemdrake template can be added to any non-dragon reptilian creature (now there’s a broad scope), and reflects alchemically-tampered with (or, if you wish, naturally evolved) reptilians with wings, acid breath, and general hardiness. The examples of the template are a monitor lizard chemdrake and the chemdrake kobolds known as chemodols; the latter is a very frightening prospect for anyone that already fears kobolds, as you are adding flight and acid gunk production on top of being small, crafty, and “ohgodmyface!”y.
Couatlan: Only slightly more applicable than the arnrach, couatlans are half-couatls that can be applied to Medium or Large snakes, as well as non-evil nagas. Wee? The sample creature is a Medium constrictor snake that used its couatlan intellect to take a level in Sorcerer. There is also a new spell here: lesser invisibility. Take a wild guess as to what it’s a weaker version of.
Devourer Survivor: This template reflects living creatures that have, you guessed it, somehow survived being “eaten” by the essence-nomming undead known as the devourer. As a result, they have gained the ability to sense the undead and an immunity to fear affects (as well as a few spell-like abilities), but suffer a nasty penalty against energy draining attacks. The example use of the template are the 6th-level dwarf Fighter Duramin and the dire bear Amurath. This is certainly a novel, if weird, template, but…what the hell does it have to do with serpents, spiders, or godlings?
Dragomongrels: Dragomongrels are half-true dragon true dragons. Erm…why not just apply half-dragon to a different dragon instead? I’m pretty sure WoTC ruled that was a legal usage of the template. The example creature is a red-copper dragon hybrid.
Fenririn: The first of our godlings, fenririn are the powerful spawn of Fenrir, a monstrous wolf that is one of the beastly sons of the Norse trickster god Loki. Fenririn is a template that can be applied to any canine creature, such as wolves or even werewolves (although the book is a bit generous with the definition, as it lists gnolls as being able to take the template, but gnolls are hyena-based, and hyenas are not canines. Rather, they are actually related to cats and mongooses, not dogs…but I digress). This is very much a standard “brute” template, with natural armor, Strength boosting, bonus feats related to fighting…you know the drill. So while it is certainly an interesting template if you want to bring some Norse flavor into your game, don’t expect it to magically make your party tremble in fear at a demigod-like terrorizing threat either. The example creature is Rivalf the dire wolf fenririn.
Flashbeast: Flashbeasts gain a bright light flashing attack (to hurt those critters with light sensitivity) and the Alertness feat. That’s…pretty much it, really. While it is a sensible template for hunters in the deep, considering how many creatures down there have light sensitivity, it suffers the same problem as the devourer survivor; that being that it has no perceivable connection to the theme of the trove. The sample creature is a Large monstrous centipede with the template applied, and there is also a new item called the “flashblister” that is like a carryable use of the template.
Gullinburstin: This template reflects pigs or pig-like creatures that have been touched by the blood of the dwarf-crafted Norse boar of legend, Gullin-Bursti. Gullinburstin gain fast healing and immunity to fear effects, as well as light-production and teleportation-based spell-like abilities, a +4 bonus to Strength, and the Endurance feat. The example creature is a dire boar with the template. This is interesting in that it can replicate lots of creatures, not just Gullin-Bursti, as the legend of giant, supernaturally tough boars is a surprisingly common trend in lore around Eurasia.
Hobart’s Grayman: I’m….not even sure what to say about this one. It’s a template applicable to humanoid-shaped zombies that turns them from Undead to Aberration in type, and gives them a brain ooze (a new CR 1 ooze) for a…well…brain. They secrete acid and have short swords replacing their forearms. Not only is this a weird template, what does it have to do with any of the three topics of the trove?
Jormundgandrin: Yet another Norse mythology-related template for the godlings, Jormungandrin is a template applicable to reptilian creatures that reflects the blood of Jomundgandr, the world serpent and another child of Loki. This is the most powerful of the Loki-spawned creature templates, granting not only the general toughness increase, but the ability to bite and spray venom and produce violent, venom-spewing death throes as well. The example templated creature is Sitk, a Jormundgandrin lizardfolk. This is one of the bigger gems of the trove, in my opinion.
Lenkag: A freaky naga-lillend-serpent thing that can only be applied to snakes size Medium or smaller. This template is limited both in its application and the fact that it is strongly tied to the fluff presented, so I’d say this might actually qualify as a bit lower than the arnrach on the ladder. The sample creature is, unsurprisingly, a Small viper.
Medusan: As the name implies, the Medusan template produces creatures that have medusa-like traits; particularly, the scales, the snake hair/fur, the poison, and the petrification. It’s an interesting template with an interesting premise: the idea that medusas are made, not born, which is amusingly an idea I had separately from this book. Minds thinking alike and all, I guess. In addition to the template itself, there’s a bonus feat for creatures with a petrification that grants them extra uses of said ability, a ritual to create medusans, and a medusan-head weapon for use a la Perseus. The sample creature is Scalefur, a medusan dire wolf.
Murmouth: Now here’s a baffling template. Not a spider, serpent, or a godling, the murmouth is a template added to a humanoid or monstrous to represent a gibbering mouther (for those not familiar with the mouther: think a lump of fat with lots of teeth and eyes haphazardly sprouting from it) squished into a humanoid shape. Recipients of the template gain the gibbering mouther’s titular gibbering mind-bending power, as well as acid spittle, spider climbing, amongst other things. While not a bad template, it’s simply…well, as I said, baffling. The example use of the template is Gulunulun, a murmouth bugbear.
Oxeph Host: A new creature presented in this title, oxephs are basically a non-product identity version of the mindflayers. Same pallid octopus-for-a-head, same focus on mind control powers, also an Aberration. Of course, since mindflayers aren’t Open Game Content, it never hurts to try for a replacement for them, and an A for effort by having them as a template to allow more than just humans to be infected by the oxeph to become their host. The template comes with stats for a non-attached oxeph and a new spell, Read Corpse Memories. It’s all good, but…again, what does the oxeph have to do with serpents, spiders, or godlings? The sample templated creature is a human sorcerer.
Poisonflow: A template that makes oozes and elementals venomous. Not very innovative, but I guess it has its uses, and I can excuse this one as being part of the theme since many serpents and spiders are venomous. The sample creature is a poison cloud-based air elemental.
Shulgspawn: Like with the Poisonflow template, Shulgspawn at least sort of fit with the spider theme, giving the base humanoid being a makeover into a chitinous, clawed, stinger-bearing, hermaphroditic creature that lives to spread its progeny. Two examples are given of shulgspawn: both shulgspawn elf lackeys and a shulgspawn elf ranger.
Skoth: And just when I thought we were on a roll… Yet another inexplicably present Aberration entry, the skoth are hybrids between skum (slimy fish-people that act as the thralls of ancient undersea eldritch abominations known as the aboleth) and humanoids. The resulting creature is a Lovecraftian amphibious being with powerful claws and the ability to boost the morale of both skum and other skoth. The example use of the template is a dwarven skoth monk, and there is also a new monster in tow: the “true skoth”, which is basically a skum that has manifested the morale powers and mighty rending claws of the skoth.
Sleipnirrin: Okay, we finally have another godling. This template replicates Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse whose mother was Loki, god of chaos, who had taken the form of a mare at the time…yeah, Loki was kind of the Norse equivalent of Zeus when it came to sex. In any case, the Sleipnirrin template, when applied to a horse or part-horse (centaur, hippocampus, etc.) creature, gives them greater speed and dexterity, feats to aid them in quick combat, and the ability to walk over ice and water as if it was mere normal ground. It’s a fun template, and actually…you know…fits with the title theme. The example creatures are a sleipnirrin warhorse and hipogriff.
Twilight Hagling: Half-night hag creature. Example is a half-night hag grimlock. Does what you’d expect of a half-breed template. Decent template, but has nothing to do with spiders, serpents, or godlings. Words. Woo.
While I love templates, love the Silverthorne Games company, and love a good mythological reference or reptilian creature…well, just look at what I said! There are too many templates that can only be applied to one or a tiny handful of creatures or have nothing to do with the topic at hand, and it would have been nice to have some non-Norse godlings for diversity on that front. Still, for being decently statted and capable of providing some interesting challenges, it’s still above average. 6/10.