By Thilo Graf
This pdf by Sean K. Reynolds Games is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC and editorial, half a page SRD, 1 page biographies and 1 page back cover. That leaves 19.5 pages of content – not a bad ratio for the price, so let’s dive in!
The pdf kicks off with an Introduction and History (4 pages) on the origin of the mimic. While I have to admit I didn’t expect more than “magic gone haywire”, this chapter already made a good impression by crafting a cool and elaborate backstory and even providing a goody for Aboleths, the mimic-suit. The prose in this chapter is gripping and cool and made me want to read on immediately.
The next chapter deals with two kinds of mimic symbionts (6 pages!), living battle garments with a will and an agenda not wholly of their own – I’d use both immediately and one of them was enough to prompt me to spawn several adventure ideas on the fly.
After that, we get a evolved form of the mimic, the CR 8 lair tyrant. (4 pages) The lair tyrant is a scheming creature that might be the perfect grey eminence and is so utterly cool in both concept and execution, that I considered the two sidebars delivering both awesome adventure (or even campaign) hooks as well as a minor upgrade to the tyrant to be just…well extraordinary.
The next mimic variation is not a schemer, but the CR5-mimicking swarm (2 pages) succeeds in one very rare endeavour – it creeped me out. I’m a jaded guy, but I really read such a vivid description.
Finally, we get a chapter on conventional mimics (3.5 pages), presenting 17 new abilities for mimics as well as 4 ideas to use mimics as traps.
The artwork ranges from fair to a cartoonish “meh”, but the full-colour pdf per se, with its slime-splotched layout is a beauty to behold – Hugo Solis did an awesome job. Unfortunately, that means that there is no printer-friendly alternative. Editing and formatting is top-notch, the pdf is easy to read and I didn’t notice any typos or glitches.
I have to confess something: I have had this file for about a year now, resting in my pile, waiting to be read. I wish I had done so earlier. I’m usually hard to sell on monster books, but the ecology of these critters, the sheer astounding wealth of cool ideas blew my mind. I always considered the mimic to be a lame one-trick-pony, but this file actually manages to make an iconic, interesting and potentially complex creature out of them. “Darkness without Form” manages to breathe the spark of creativity and even the notion of fear into one of the blandest creatures with its captivating prose. I’d usually detract a star for the artwork and the lack of a printer-friendly version, but this file features something a reviewer doesn’t see too often – the spark of genius in a brilliant, captivating prose that is matched by cool mechanics and a well-spring of ideas. For $2.00! Not only do you get quality, but a LOT of it. Frankly, if all ecologies and critters were like this, I’d be reading monster books all day long.
What else can I say but: If you haven’t checked it out yet, buy this! I’m quite sure you won’t regret it, especially if you’re inclined towards the creepier aspects of fantasy or enjoy a scary critter.
My final verdict is 5 stars.
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