Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review - Fifth Edition Foes

A quick review of Fifth Edition Foes, a monster book for D&D 5th edition from Necromancer Games:

Hello, this is the RPG Crawler, and welcome to another product review. This time I’ll be taking a look at something that’s been on the market for a while, indeed to the point where I had to order it from the Frog God Games website: Fifth Edition Foes, from Necromancer Games. Published in 2015 by Necromancer Games, it is available in both hardback and pdf formats, and is compatible with the fifth edition of the world’s most popular roleplaying game.

So for those who don’t know, Necromancer games was a company that rose during the third edition era, and published a lot of 3rd party content for the d20 systems, many of which had an old school 1st edition feel. This included a series of monster books called the Tome of Horrors, which included a fairly large number of of monsters during its four volume run, with a pathfinder translation available later. Among those monsters were many which were culled from the earliest days of dungeons and dragons, 1st edition and original, which were made available to Necromancer games through a special agreement beyond the normal OGL. I believe it’s this same agreement which allowed them to be used in variations throughout the cycle of the Tome of Horrors series, through 3rd and 3.5, and into Pathfinder. Even the monsters that were written just for Tome of Horrors had the same sort of look and feel that you’d expect monsters from an early edition product to have.

Now what does Tome of Horrors have to do with Fifth Edition Foes? Well, everything, since Fifth Edition Foes uses a number of the monsters from Tome of Horror, as well as creatures from the original first edition material, all translated to the fifth edition system. There’s over two hundred fifty creature types (some of which are subtypes of the same creature) spanning a variety of themes, from conversions of first edition classics such as the adherer, cave fisher, and vegepygmies,to creatures designed just for the tome of horrors series, like the arcanoplasm, the fear guard, and two types of ‘grue’.

So now that we know what Fifth Edition Foes is, let’s take a look at the technical details. Physically, the book is a good quality hardback, it seems a bit thicker than the official D&D monster manual. The binding is fair for moderate use. Pages are done in black and white, without a gloss finish, in a style reminiscent of older game books.

In terms of contents, there is a short foreward from Steve Winter, who was with TSR back in the classic era that some of the included monsters would’ve been from. The majority of the book is indeed the monster descriptions, with a few pages at the end devoted to lists of the monsters by type and by challenge rating, and then the legal information.

It should be noted that this book was compiled and released before the 5th edition SRD was released, therefore it operates off of the old 3rd edition one. As a result, some of the concepts like advantage and disadvantage, etc, that were included with 5th edition were not part of the earlier SRD and are referred to by alternate terminology in this book. For instance: Tactical Advantage vs. just normal ‘advantage’. It’s not a deal breaker by any means. Also of note is that the monster stat blocks are arranged more like you’d expect a pathfinder or 3rd edition monster to look like, rather than the 5th edition list methods. Again, it’s something that can be worked around, since all of the information is still there.

Since the vast majority, if not all of the creatures were released in the tome of horrors line of product, it is perhaps not as surprising as it should be that a lot of the interior art was reused. Most monsters have black and white illustrations done in a manner similar to older edition artwork from the 80s and early 90s, of varying quality. It was mostly pulled over from the tome of horrors releases, and fit into the new format.

I’m not going to go over the monsters individually, since with over two hundred fifty of them we could be here all day. As of this review, it is available on rpgnow as a pdf as well, and the preview allows access to the table of contents, so if you need a quick look to see if any of the monsters jump out at you, you can check it out there. I will say that there’s no split between normal animals and monsters, and there are a few normal animals scattered amongst the pages, just blended in with the rest of the monsters. I should also point out that I believe a few of these monsters were released in core d&d products since, though that number is relatively small. There’s a really good mix of different monster challenge ratings, with monsters available up to CR 20, but the vast majority of them in the CR1-4 range, which is appropriate for the new power layout in 5th edition. Likewise there’s a really good mix among the various monster types, with a slight edge given to the monstrosity type, and only a few giants listed.

The quality of the monsters themselves is, in my opinion, great, but your mileage may vary. They are geared toward an older edition feel, and as a result may be quite challenging for the equivalent challenge rating. There’s a good mix of interesting abilities present among them, that can make for a surprise for people used to the stuff from the core monster manual. There’s more than a few entries that’ll make older players go on a nostalgia trip once they recognize the creature in question.

From a dungeon master perspective, I think it’s well worth the price, especially the cheaper pdf version, for the sheer quantity of monsters available. Another consideration, however, is those who want to reuse monsters in their product. A large number of these monsters are ordinary ‘open game content’, albeit content from an earlier version of the license, and can be reused under the normal licensing restrictions in your products. There are, however, a number of others, taken from the earlier versions of dungeons and dragons,  that follow special rules for reuse, including a reference to the original tome of horrors license. And you’ll have to include a special entry for each of those in your legal section. I haven’t really investigated mixing monsters from this ogl content with those from the 5th edition SRD, but it should be possible.

So my final thoughts: If you’re willing to accept that the majority of these are basically updates of monsters that were already printed, and keep an eye out for alternative wording due to the use of an older SRD, then this is a great addition to the library of a DM, especially one who likes older editions and games with a retro feel.The hardcover itself may be a bit iffy to track down, but I for one have already found it well worth the investment. Maybe we’ll see a new version using the modern SRD some day, or another volume with more similar creatures.

For now, I’ll leave it at that. This has been the rpg crawler with Necromancer Games’ Fifth Edition Foes. If you like what you’ve seen, remember to leave a like, comment if you have feedback, and subscribe for more RPG Content. Until next time, take care and good bye!

You can pick it up as a pdf from RPGNow [Affiliate Link]:

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