Classic Monsters: The Manual
MSRP: $24.99. hardbound and 144 pages. Also available on Kindle for $9.99.
Written by Kim Hartsfield.
Edited by Tim Burns.
Cover by Sarah Walker.
Interior art by Peter Bradly, Sarah Walker, and Jason Walton.
The Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters Manual has over 200 monsters, all of them with C&C statistics. About half of the monsters come from the Tome of Horrors by Necromancer Games, and contains a many monsters that had only shown up previously in modules (Vegepygmies, for example). This book is not a reprint of the Tome of Horrors, rather it aims at supplementing the Monsters & Treasure book to make every monster from the original AD&D Monster Manual (with the noticable absence of the Devils and Demons which will be dealt with in a forthcoming volume). Of course, the utility of this book is pretty much restricted to people who use Castles and Crusades.
I ordered this book as part of a Kickstarter package to get my hands on an advanced copy along with some very cool Swag. There have been significant delays in the physical product getting into the hands of those eager to get it. I still have not received my dead-tree versions of the books. However, Troll Lord Games did release the PDF to those who pre-ordered it. This review is based on the PDF.
In the beginning of the book is a very short article on running monsters with their own motivations and it succeeds rather well in a fairly short amount of space. This primer is very much the heart and soul of the work. The monsters are meant to be a little different, and most certainly meant to be generally intelligent opposition. There’s a repeat of the “how to read the monster stat blocks” section in the Monsters and Treasure book, and then the monsters. The monsters take up about 100 pages, the introductions take 4 and the index is about 31 pages.
“Classic Monsters: The Manual” is a step in the right direction. It adds the monsters from the original Monster Manual I and II books and Fiend Folio that weren’t in the Monsters & Treasure book. Kim Hartsfield takes a look and updates these classic creatures for use in C&C. One of the neatest features of the new book is the ‘index’. It is a complete summary listing of all creatures along with their stats from the ‘Classic Monsters’ book as well as the original ‘Monsters & Treasures’ and the ‘Monsters & Treasures of Aihrde’. This easily makes the index one of the best aspects of this new book.
The book is certainly convenient. Combined with Monsters & Treasure, it adds the rest of the monsters from classic AD&D. However, C&C is aimed squarely at the gamer who liked 1e AD&D, in general these grognards also have access to a variety of other published work which can be just as easily converted and used for their games.
Many Castle Keepers run 1st edition modules and use the stat blocks pretty much as-is. Most AD&D or D20 material would only require the minimum of tweaks to use it in personal C&C campaigns. Having the monsters readily available and in print is a nice touch. No need to convert old material, just add plot and stir well. Additionally, there are those that don’t have or no longer have all these other books. This book covers a variety of needs.
As for the presentation of the book itself, it is reminiscient of the original Monster Manual for AD&D. The art is black & white – some of it compares favorably with the Dave Trampier art from the original Monster Manual and some not so much. In places the art is more ‘sketch-like’ than that of the original Monster Manual.
Art is a very subjective thing but it’s consistent enough that there isn’t any one piece that draws my dislike. If there is one aspect of the layout that really bugs me it’s that there are instances where the stat block (as opposed to the description) is ‘cut’ and split at the bottom of one column to resume at the top of the next. Worse yet, at least a couple of instances has this across two pages! This issue is not a deal killer but they have avoided this in the past. Hopefully this will get fixed in the print version.
Like every other TLG products, this product has its quirks. For example, the new book includes the Cloaker, which is also in Monsters & Treasure. We probably didn’t need two entries for this monster and even more amusing; they are also both listed in the Index.
Overall, I like the PDF and am looking forward to seeing the the ‘real’ finished product. If you are a C&C fan and run a game and want some more 1e goodness, then you should you buy the book. The cover price of $25 is reasonable for a hardcover RPG book (the original Monster Manual hardcover had an MSRP of $11.99).
When I do finally get my physical copy, I’ll post about it and see if there are any substantial differences between the PDF and the version that ended up going to printers. I’ll see if I can include a couple of pics as well. I just wouldn’t expect them anytime this month!