By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Demiurge Press is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 8 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
The latest in Nick Herold’s series of excellent monster books is focused on providing threats for first level parties and I personally think that we need more of them. Having recently ranted on the clichés of first level foes, I expect these critters to bring some fresh wind to the first steps, but what are the critters?
The Aquib (CR 1/2) are spiderlike, genderless creatures who sap magic from their foes in order to nourish their many-eyed, almost mineral-like bodies. Coming with an appropriately-creepy artwork, the creatures make for a rather weak combatant who might prove to be a bane of casters and a monster that can easily be defeated once the PCs figure out to deal with them. For maximum effect, start with one and then throw a swarm of them at your players.
The CR 1/2 Psittacosaurus comes with full information on how to use it as an animal companion and uses its quill-studded tail to combat foes. An ok low-level threat of the animal category, I guess, but none I’m too excited about.
At CR 1 we the issue’s first undead, the Nuppeppo. While the name sounds like some weird kind of breath-mints or a strange clown, the creature is anything but a laughing stock and actually my favorite in the pdf: A walking blob of flesh whose fat-slaps form a kind of face on the torso on whose head has fouled off, these undead are not only disgusting, they are also lazy and incapable of properly communicating their desires. Nevertheless, smart PCs make actually outwit the disgusting beings.
The next creature, the CR 1 Puuk unfortunately hits a pet-peeve of mine. It’s a dragon. At CR 1. Ok, it’s a tiny, shapechanging dragon. Nevertheless. Do we really need these? All right, the ability to turn into a ball of ember and smell treasure is great, but nevertheless – I can’t bring myself to liking the critter. The entry also comes with a short write-up of the advanced version of the Puuk, but sans stats, which is a missed opportunity.
The second undead, the CR 3 Rawhead, is a skeletal undead generated from the remains of an animal companion or awakened animal. The basic concept is brilliant – the skeletal being kills animals and absorbs the bones into its form, becoming stranger and stranger with each being slain. However, the absorption does not provide additional attacks or benefits. A table on additional attacks/customization options for rawheads could have easily made this critter stellar, providing e.g. spider-climb, faster speed etc. but as written, it just remains a good idea.
The final critter herein are the tundra-inhabiting nomadic Veytha-giants (CR 1) which also come with information on how to use them as characters, as they do have a slow metabolism and could be used as a PC-race. I’m not sure whether I like them, at this point. Mostly, because I would have loved more information on their distinct culture and habits. Perhaps I’m spoiled. Perhaps I’m thinking Tiste’Edur. I don’t know. I do know that they would have deserved a full ecology.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a full-color 2-column standard. The artworks are ok, though I preferred those from the other installments of the series. Somehow none of the pieces apart from the Aqib truly gripped me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a printer-friendly version. First level critters are not that easy to design and the ones herein provide a nice respite from the ogre/shadow/goblinoids/bandits-routine and all of them come with some kind of signature ability that makes them distinct from other beings. That being said, the other installments of the Creature-Codex-line have really spoiled me with stellar creatures and this installment somewhat felt less gripping. While still being a mechanically sound and actually well-written and presented monster-book, I cannot help but feel that with slightly more space or even customization options for the new monsters, this pdf could have been truly stellar. As written, it still is a great pdf for the low asking-price and thus my final verdict will be a good 4 stars.
You can buy Creature Codex Volume 4: First Level Foes at:
So what do you think?