Tabletop Review: Classic Monsters: The Manual (Castles & Crusades)

Castle& Crusades: Classic Monsters: The Manual
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
Page Count: 146
Release Date: 03/27/2012
Cost: $24.99 ($14.99 PDF)
Get it Here:

I love the Castles & Crusades system, but I tend to have to problems with it. The first is that their releases tend to be overpriced compared to competitive products, especially in the PDF realm. The second is that their published adventures tend to be…lacking. In the past few months I’ve reviewed Dwarven Glory and The Forsaken Mountain and found myself unimpressed with either. However the system an core campaign books are what I love and so I was quite pleased that Troll Lord Games added a Classis Monsters book to supplement the original Tome of Horrors and then converted from the OGL rules to the ones that Castles and Crusades uses. It may sound or feel a biz lazy when you realize that much of the book is lifted, but then, most of Tome of Horrors was lifted from the original; Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, so longtime ardent old school D&D fans won’t care; they’ll just be happy to have these monsters.

Speaking of the monsters, the phrase “Classic Monsters” might have you thinking of things like vampires, werewolves, zombies and the like. Well, you won’t actually find too much of that here actually. Again, Classic Monsters is about classic Dungeons & Dragons monsters – so that’s what you’ll see here. Oddly enough, you’ll notice the monster on the gorgeous cover, a chimera, is not actually in the book. That’s a bit odd isn’t it? You would think the cover would highlight monsters actually contained within.

I’m pretty happy with the collection on creatures in Classic Monsters. I loved seeing old favorites like the tarrasque, death knights, skeleton warriors, demiliches hook fiends and even flumphs make their Castle and Crusades debut. There were also some creatures I didn’t expect to see, like Yellow Musk based monsters or the Vargouille. In truth, all of these monsters are ones you’ll recognize if you’ve played a lot of Gygaxian inspired games over the years, but otherwise these things will be weird, obscure or nonsensical to you. This is especially true of newcomers to tabletop gaming but then, how many people choose Castles & Crusades as their first RPG?

It’s especially interesting to note that three types of monsters were really given focus here: lycanthropes (were-creatures), elementals and Mephits. The book contains ELEVEN “lesser elementals” and then four evil elemental princes. It has five lycanthropes (fox, shark, snake, spider, and hound) and then four particular mephit spec ies in addition to generic ones. That seems odd to me, especially with the lycanthropes. I would have pictures werebats or wereravens needing stat blocks before snakes, spiders or hounds. Some odd choices here, but at least they are interesting ones you can pull out to freak out your PCs. “Whoever heard of a weresnake???”

All, in all I’m pretty happy with the book. Sure, it’s only going to reach its maximum potential in the hands of a long time old school Dungeons & Dragons fans, but at least with everyone else they’ll now have over 200 new monsters to throw at their players. Classic Monsters really does give the gave more threats to face down and it sorely needed that. I am a bit bothered by the price. Compare Classic Monsters‘s price tag with that of Tome of Horrors. Classic Monsters is $14.99 for the e-version while Tome of Horrors is only $11.98 and twice the monsters and thus twice the page length. So a fraction of the monsters from the source material for roughly twenty-five percent more in cost? That’s not cool at all. Again we see that Castles & Crusades likes to overprice itself to its own peril. I guess they justify the cost increase as the “conversion process?”

For fans of Castles & Crusades, Classic Monsters: The Manual is almost a no-brainer. You get a ton of new enemies for a decent price and it saves you from having to do any conversion work to the system. Most of the monsters are pretty niche and you probably won’t use them more than once or twice, but the rest of them will see regular use, either as cannon fodder or a recurring big bad. I’m glad I picked this up and I’ll make use of it, but your mileage really will vary with this book. It all depends on how badly you need more monsters in your campaign and/or it Monsters & Treasure just isn’t cutting it for you anymore.



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