Monster Codex Arrives – Pathfinder

In the mail over the past two days I have received the following:

  1. The next module in the Iron Gods Adventure Path – Valley of the Brain Collectors;
  2. The new module subscription from Paizo – Plunder and Peril;
  3. A really cool Santa Suit and professional Santa hair and beard; and
  4. The Monster Codex for Pathfinder.

Now, a little sadly, I was most excited about number 3 in the above list but the rest were pretty good too!  I am going to comment on the Monster Codex today as it is a book that kind of slipped by me and appears to be something “new”, so to speak, in the Pathfinder line of products.

Monster Codex book held by Mark Knights
The Monster Codex is a new kind of Bestiary

First thing I want to say about this book is it got released and I completely missed it.  Did not hear a thing and was looking for something on the Pathfinder forums and a picture of it was in the right hand side of my screen.  I looked at it, asked my good mate Matt Guyder if he had it, found out he did and then investigated it.  The fact that this came out and I did not hear about it irks me somewhat.  I would not go as far to say that I am a Pathfinder groupie but I do like the game a lot.  Every other book in the core line of products I have known about prior to release and generally even known the release date for it.  I have not changed my methodology of finding out stuff from the web, so what happened?  I knew that the next book I was expecting was the Strategy Guide, so how did this slip into the line?

The answer is “I don’t know”.  That is what irks me.  Is it that Paizo are now not pushing their material as much and so I am not seeing the interviews with their developers any more?  Did they do this book on the quiet and released it as a surprise?  All of the things that I do not know about and I thought at least I know Pathfinder.  Perhaps not any more.  I hope it is something simple, it just makes me nervous to think that perhaps Paizo are not putting as much effort into getting news out about its product.  Believing that you no longer need to advertise is a dangerous road to travel.

But to the Monster Codex.  You will note that I received the Monster Codex in the past couple of days (it was Thursday) and think “Man Mark can read fast!”.  But in fact I have done little to no reading of the book as yet (I am too engrossed in reading Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary at the moment).  That said I have turned carefully from page to page and feel from these viewings that I can make a pretty good preliminary post on the book so far.  Plus, if after reading it I have a wildly different opinion then that will make for a great follow up post.  Looking at the Monster Codex you can consider it largely as a cross between a Bestiary and the NPC Codex, or a Bestiary and any book that has a base class in it.  The Monster Codex is a new kind of Bestiary in a lot of ways that offers you familiar foes in a more varied manner.

The overall brief on this book is that the developers of Pathfinder feel that facing intelligent, or sentient at least, foes should not feel like a same old same old situation.  They want your character when walking up to Oswald the Orc to be as tentative as walking up to Danny the Dwarf.  Let me explain.  Danny the Dwarf is sitting in the Inn and my character, Barry the Barbarian, needs to get the Sword of Slicing from Danny and I know that he is not going to want to give it up.  But that is pretty much all I know about Danny.  He is new in town, no rep yet but he is a grizzled Dwarf with many scars.  Instead of hitting the big shiny “Rage” button immediately Barry saunters up and tries some good old intimidation first because if I start a brawl and then find out that among the letters after Danny the Dwarfs name are the initials for 20th level fighter it is too late to do anything about it except lay down and die.

What I am trying to get at is that because Danny is a Dwarf tells me only the basic information about him.  He is a sentient being and thus has likely put effort into some kind of endeavour and thus his skills and abilities depend more on his class than they do his race.  And it should largely be that way for other sentient beings.  The developers of the Monster Codex have realised that few GM’s actually take the time to develop this though and when developing adventures they think of the Orcs, Goblins and so forth to be low level encounters or at least encounters that have some sort of set stereotype to them.  It is not often that Barry the Barbarian would stop and look at Oswald the Orc and say, I better negotiate over hitting that big red shiny “Rage” button.

That is what this Monster Codex is about.  It is takes the following iconic fantasy creatures:

  1. Boggards;
  2. Bugbears;
  3. Drow;
  4. Duergar;
  5. Fire Giants;
  6. Frost Giants;
  7. Ghouls;
  8. Gnolls;
  9. Goblins;
  10. Hobgoblins;
  11. Kobolds;
  12. Lizardfolk;
  13. Ogres;
  14. Orcs;
  15. Ratfolk;
  16. Sahuagin;
  17. Serpentfolk;
  18. Troglodytes;
  19. Trolls; and
  20. Vampires

What the Monster Codex does is gives these creatures a role, like the Frost Giant Raider and then applies some class levels to them as well (in that case Barbarian 2).  There are several roles per race, some new rules for each race/creature and even some new creatures that the community might make use of like the Svarthvrim for Frost Giants (making its appearance in the core books after the Reign of Winter AP).  They even go so far as to supply the GM some likely encounters for them to throw at the party.  That is what the book is, from the Introduction right through it just focusses on making these encounters unexpected and interesting.

Monster Codex image from Paizo store
The cover of this book is so cool

In my games I have always been likely to throw curve balls at my players and add class levels to standard sentient creatures and my players knew it.  It can, at times, be a time consuming and laborious process and so I am glad that I might be able to use this book to cover some of this work for me.  I will be honest also, I had never, ever, thought of adding class levels to ghouls and they appear to be really well done in this book!  The cover is fantastic too, all of the above listed creatures hanging about together like they are visiting a company BBQ or something similar.  I love the vampire hitting on the drow – too funny.

So, I really love this book at the moment.  Can’t wait to read it (I know, I am reviewing a book I have not read – but it is clear with its contents) and the reviews on the Paizo store suggest it is just as outstanding as it looks.  If you want to surprise your players or you just want a great book with some solid encounters already mapped out for you to slip in to your games I really think you should check out the Monster Codex.  I am going to let this review stand too.  Unless I radically change my mind after completely reading the book that is.  Keep rolling!

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