4/17/2015

Frugal GM Review: Creature Compendium

Frugal GM Review: Creature Compendium
I haven't been shy about admitting that I tend to have a lot of 4 and 5 stars reviews because I tend to pick up things I really like, or at least think I'll like. This inevitably leads to most of my reviews being "good reviews", which might lead some to think I over-inflate things.

I don't think I do this and (obviously) attribute this to the aforementioned tendency to pick up "good" stuff to begin with...especially when it is on sale for only $2!

Case in point is this weeks review of New Big Dragon's Creature Compendium. I've picked up several items from NBD and have loved every one of them. I'm pretty sure their website was an inaugural entry on my "+12 Links of Helpfulness". I expect that when Richard puts out a new product I'll like it.....and that also means I'll have a high standard of expectations.

So basically going in to this I'm expecting something pretty awesome and I'm happy to say that even with high hopes I've been blown away. There are three things I didn't like about the Creature Compendium and I know that one of them is in the process of being fixed so I'll give Richard a pass on that one:

  1. The PDF isn't bookmarked. In order to take advantage of a Lulu sale for customers, Richard rushed this PDF out. He was up-front about it and while the bookmarked version should have been put up already it hasn't. Meh...it happens and this still gets a pass.
  2. I don't care for the black cover at all. The graphic I've used is me inverting the cover and then replacing the art with the original. For a Lulu print this isn't a big deal, but if I wanted to print this at home.....very big deal, which lead me to....
  3. Overly protected/secured PDF? I really wanted to print this up as a booklet at home. Actually I have and it didn't come out as well as I wanted, so I'm not sharing a picture until I get this squared away. Normally I'd print to a PDF booklet 1st so I can make sure I square the cover away, but with the security got in the way. I was able to print things out as I wanted, it just took some effort and wasn't as optimal. For more "normal" home printing and regular PDF use, the security isn't an issue. I have to think I'm the difficult one on this item...
Even if I was to give a half-star off for items #2 and #3, which I think is unfair, the Creature Compendium would just earn them right back with it's innate awesomeness. The cover says there are "over 200 Monsters", but I counted a hundred and sixty-something in the Table of Contents. I know some entries have more than one version and if you double-count everything because there are 1st Edition and BX stat-blocks, "over 200 Monsters" would be a bit of an understatement. I'm not thumbing through every entry to get to that level of nitpickiness (just counting the TOC was a pain), so I'll take Richard at his word.

The Table of Contents isn't really needed, but it does give you an overview of the what you might find and shows that there is at least one new monster for every letter of the alphabet, although "U" and "X" only get one monster....I'm not feeling sorry for U & X. The backside of the TOC is a great breakdown of the two stat-blocks. Every monster has a great write-up and some custom art. What I really like is that even though all the art is done by one artist (Richard) the styles vary wildly, giving a great look to the overall book.

Included are two great appendices for treasure types and experience point values. I love how experience is broken down for six (6!) different OSR-type games, which means you can probably figure out how to incorporate these monsters into any FRPG! This little touch is greatly appreciated by me because it shows an awareness of who might be using this. That appendix also serves as a great index because he went through the extra effort of including page numbers for each entry.
Frugal GM 5 Star Review: Creature Compendium
I starting to wish I had taken advantage of that Lulu deal when I couldn't gotten the extra 30% off, but if I fix my home printed copy I'll probably be more likely to use the Creature Compendium at the table and at cons where my space is limited. Most of my books are stored as PDFs on my iPad, but I think I'll be using the print version because it'll be worth it.

TL;DR: If you play any OSR game you need to get this product!