Creature Codex 3 – It came from the Silver Screen!
By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Demiurge Press is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC and 1 page SRD, leaving 8 pages for the new monsters.
I’ve been reviewing a lot of monster books recently and subsequently admit to a certain kind of fatigue with them. I’m looking for monsters that are iconic, that have signature abilities, that I want to use. Demiurge Press have until now presented us with rather well-crafted beasties and interesting concepts, thus I was astonished when I read about “It came from the Silver Screen”. Having just recently reviewed Purple Duck Games’ “Horrors of the GOW”, I was all in the mood for some nice, nostalgic creature-feature goodness. So, do the creatures herein hold up to their iconicity on the screen?
The first creature is the alchemical mutant, the sample dire bear clocks in at CR 9 and the template to create more of these alchemical monstrosities is included in the entry as well, being a CR+2 template that grants vast ability-bonuses and improves will-saves via ferocity. I really like how the template has been included here – in the Mythic Menageries-line by SGG, the lack of templates was one of my major gripes.
The second creature, though, is already one of my favourites – the CR 6 Beach Horror is a conglomerate of animal parts, corals and algae held together by a malign force. The creature comes with a neat vulnerability the PCs can exploit and thus awards smart fighting, something I try to do in my home game – the weakness makes the monster very compelling and its disturbing, cool artwork should definitely be mentioned – it my favourite one in the pdf.
The Gurbortls (or Crawling Terrors) clock in at CR 13 and are another definite winner – harking back to Lovecraftian ideas, these disturbing alien conquerors come not with 1 or 2, but 3 signature abilities: Living in the coldest reaches of the world, plotting their conquests, they can force vanquished people to do their bidding and transform them into their frozen servants. (Which works cool – when they deal enough damage to almost kill you, you’ll get dominated.)The entry also comes with 3 signature magic items ranging from an agony-inducing sceptre to a rime-armour creating salve. These terrible aberrations might well become as popular as Aboleths – the far-out signature abilities and possibilities for horror adventures are there.
In contrast to these rather dread creatures, the light-hearted next critter is a welcome diversion: The CR 1 dire rabbit comes with full stats for usage as a animal companion/mount for small folk like Halflings. While that’s cool, the rabbit gets no bite attack and the artwork does not feature the bone-spurs we usually associate with dire animals -somehow, this creature feels like it fell short of the potential we know from classics like Attack of the Lepus. (Why is there no optional vorpal bunny quality? Come on, how can one resist the obvious Monty Python joke?)
I consider shrews to be among the cutest critters out there, that’s why I was rather pleasantly surprised to read the entry of the CR 2 Dire Shrew. They also come with animal companion information, but there’s a special ability I don’t get – the little critters get poison saliva. While I know that experiments have used the saliva of the little gnawers to treat ailments and I know a certain b-horror flick that explains it, I still think that some other ability would have worked better.
The CR 2 Molekin are another iconic creature well-known from the age of silver screens and come with interesting information on their society, though I’d have loved to see some kind of magic item/crafted piece as a bonus to somewhat alleviate the rather bland, hardness-ignoring claws as signature abilities to go along the cool background.
The final creature of the pdf is another template (CR 1) that has been used to create a CR 7 sample foe – the undying head. An undead head separated from the deceased foe with several nice signature abilities like frightful moans, telekinesis and evil eye. The artwork of this one, though, is my least favourite of the bunch – the head just looks whacky, not disturbing or frightening.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and is beautiful and the pdf also comes with a printer-friendly b/w-version. However, the silver/grayish background also features in the b/w-version, draining a bit more ink/toner than necessary. The artworks by Heather Frazier are mostly cool, with the dire shrew and undying head falling a bit behind the others – At this price-point, though, the artwork rocks. The pdfs both don’t come with bookmarks, but at this length, that’s ok. On to the content: Continuing the tradition of interesting abilities and solid monsters, this third instalment of the Creature Codex line dares to be different. Similar to the Phantasm-stats in Purple Duck Games’ Horrors of the GOW , we get a lot of cool stats for beloved creatures from horror classics of old. Of course, remembering these creature-features, the duality of wackiness and creepiness becomes readily apparent and this pdf is exactly that – Half of the creatures are truly creepy and make for great additions to a horror game, while the others can be considered tongue-in-cheek, funny additions to a group. I really think that we need tongue-in-cheek, funny products out there and the duality of horror/comedy works surprisingly well here. While not all artworks are very cool, most are and the dire shrew (the one creature I felt was rather bland) is not enough reason to rate down this pdf. Seeing I have no true gripes and adored most of the creatures and consider beach horrors and Gurbortls to be among the coolest I’ve read in a while, my final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Creature Codex 3 – It came from the Silver Screen! is available from: