And now for something completely different.
Dungeons & Dragons has had a long history. Longer than even I’m aware (what with my copy of Dave Arneson’s Black Moor for 4e calling itself “The First Campaign Setting” and all. That might be getting a review, really.). See, I’ve never really seen some of the weirder stuff, like the 1e Fiend Folio, so I only know of the “misfits” of the early days of D&D through reputation. Hell, it was years before I even knew what a Flumph was (as Dungeon Magazine was once constantly making jokes about them but never explained what they were).
So, why am I buying a book like this? Pretty much the same reason Paizo made it, really.
This is all in the introduction to the book, but it all started when Paizo’s writers, freelancer or otherwise, started updating the classic monsters of D&D: Dragons, goblins, rust monsters and whatever else came to hand. No real stats were changed, just a lot of sexing up the fluff, making what was once rote and boring into something new and fascinating again.
Before I go on, Pathfinder has been in fierce competition with Dungeons & Dragons in terms of sales, perhaps showing that Paizo’s true strength lies in its writing.
So yes, the Revisited series was a success. So much so that they were wondering if there was anything they couldn’t make new, fresh and useful. Thus bringing us to one of Paizo’s main obsessions in D&D esoterica: The really, really, really obscure and bizarre stuff that is often forgotten. Make no mistake, Paizo is staffed by fans of the older editions, mostly because they were also players of said editions. They remember this stuff because they were there, similar to my remembering the setting bloat of 2e because I was there.
So these guys remember the stupidest monsters, and have had kind of a love affair with them. I remember mention of many of these, between the Paizo-captained Dragon Magazine and the time I was on the message boards (and if anyone from Paizo is wondering, yes, I left due to the rampant Edition Wars ballyhoo, finding myself disenchanted with message boards anyway. Damn blue camels…), so I really needed this book.
Yes, ten of the single most dumbest monsters ever to exist in D&D: Adherer, Devler, Dire Corby, Disenchanter, Flail Snail, Flumph, Lava Child, Lurking Ray, Tojanida and Wolf-In-Sheep’s-Clothing, all right here in this book. The key here is, you’re probably not familiar with these beasts. You probably have never heard of anyone using them. And the reason for that is really quite simple:
Nobody used them. Ever.
It’s not simply that they’re stupid, as some people consider the Beholder or Rust Monster stupid, but both of those monsters suggest utility, and a reason for them to be around. Not so with the “misfits” in this book, as they were goofy, dumb, and not at all useful.
And Paizo fixed that… By doing what I’m used to them doing to “update” fluff. Yes, they made these beasts scary. Well, not the Flumph. He just warns creatures of things scarier than it…
So, for example, the Dire Corby isn’t merely a crow man that screeches “Doom! Doom!” incessantly, but a race of utterly insane beings who live underground and have no fear of death, or even the slightest concept of self-preservation, hurling themselves en masse at invaders, or even other tribes of Corbies, heedless of victory or defeat. Delvers are no longer tunnel slugs, but implacable servants of some ancient race, now acting in either reverence or defiance of their once-masters, digging tunnels in the rock and trying to turn the underground into a vast cathedral to the Old Ones. The Tojanida, who itself has only been in the game for about ten years, is no longer a dis interesting hodgepodge of aquatic life, but a horrifying cross of a turtle and a crab, forced into their current forms during an ancient war in the Plane of Water, and now seek to regain their original forms and their former glories.
As I said, it’s weird. … Wait, I didn’t say that. Well, it’s still weird.
But as I tend to say, weird is good. See, more than making these creatures scary, Misfit Monsters Redeened makes them useful, not only granting the usual insights into their ecology and society, but also granting two other sections: Their role on Golarion (the setting of Pathfinder) and their role in your campaign. They almost need not have bothered; The updates do much to grant these things new life and purpose. I’m idly considering updating some of them to 4e, and using them in my games.
Hell, on the strength of this book, I’m actually considering buying the Pathfinder core books. Though I still won’t like the existance of giant robots in the setting…
Overall, this is a highly solid book, and if you’re running Pathfinder, or just are a D&D fan with a love of monsters, you really can’t go wrong.
Also, if anyone could tell me why my Green Races review got 200 hits in a single day, I’d be happy to hear it…