Behold! I have read my way through the Pathfinder Bestiary 2 to bring back information which doubtless most of the rest of you knew about already.
I know absolutely nothing about Pathfinders world or fictive constructs, and I barely glanced past most of the very deep, very detailed stat blocks. The second is probably the bigger problem in fairly talking about the monsters since Pathfinder is very clearly heavily stat oriented and if I'm not reviewing the stats and how they would interact in play then in a very real sense I am not reviewing the monster as it would be in that game.
This will not prevent me from talking about them at length.
I experienced , reading this book, the most remarkable sense of cognitive whiplash. A big chunk of the book is what I feared it would be; D&D cruft. The kind of thing that teenage Patrick might be amazed by but middle aged Patrick is slightly despairing over. There were many points where my eyes glazed over and my head began to nod
Yet, amidst all this there were points where it seemed like the creative team had been allowed, even encouraged to go for a bit of a wander, and in these places, where they reach a little further for inspiration, and risk a little more, I found myself experiencing one of those strange and etherial emotions which is not pain.
To ensure that I may end on a pleasing note I shall begin with...
Few of these are necessarily bad monsters IN OF THEMSELVES. And if this is your first D&D book then explore away, but for aesthetes like ourselves, we have seen enough of these. We know them well. They are bread rolls. One does not request them and one certainly does not expect to find them on the bill.
Badger, Dire Badger Blink Dog, Crysmal, Dhampir, Emperor cobra (snake), Giant Queen bee, Goloath Stag Beetle, ifrit, Mud Elemental!!! Necrophidius - just top putting these in books. Huge number of other things in here under this concept. If I don't mention something consider it here;
Nereid, Tritons, Undines
These have never been good, they will never be good. Just stop!
DINOSAUR SECTIONS CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF
Sorry Dinosaurs are cool but if anyone has ever run a game of D&D where there have been multiple "kinds" of Dinosaur and PCs have interacted with them in an interesting way based specifically on the kind of Dinosaur they were like "ah ha this is an allosaurus" - then type in your comments below but it never happened bro. Sorry but dinosaurs in D&D are FILLER IM CALLING IT.
MEGAFAUNA - Slightly better than dinosaurs but what do you DO with them - same problem
DRAGONS - Brine Dragons, Cloud Dragons, Crystal Dragons, Magma Dragons, Umbral Dragons, more dragons just makes them more and more boring.
DRAKES - Same deal as dragons but worse, flame drake, forest drake, frost drake, sea drake, just let me die
ELEMENTALS - CRUFT CRUFT CRUFT!
GIANT ANIMALS - Giant Dragonflies, Dire Badgers. I genuinely can't go on so please don't make me.
LYCONTHOPES - werebear, wereboar, weretiger.
TITANS - Elysian, Thanatotic, ok there were only two, for some reason I feared there would be more
TROLLS - Ice Troll, Rock Troll.
VARIETY TO INTEREST GRAPH
So; the Dinosaur/Planar quality growth axis defined -
Here we have one type of monster, let us say a snake.
Now we shall add another of the same broad concept, but subtly different, and then another, and another and another; Gloom snake, ice snake, smoke snake, cake snake, snake snake, etc.
There are two broad kinds of curve;
The planar monster curve (we shall look at these laterr) which goes up, then down, then sharply up
And the dragon/drake/snake/giant/titan curve which goes up, then up a bit, then down down down down
BLURS OF IDEAS
Hellcat? Like what?
I mean maybe if a good sword and sorcery artist was painting one on the cover of a book..
A rare Pathfinder deep-dive that is actually rubbish. Like they are a combo of shadow and negative energy, one is a shark one a massive bat, they want to end the world, whatever.
A lot of things in here want to end the world.
Soul Eater - pffft
Soul Eater you are a blob with arms. Actually this image isn't bad but it can't rescue the concept. "What if X, but a mist" is rarely a fruitful line of enquiry.
Thoqqua lava worm thing?
For some reason lava and fire based creature seem to bring out the worst in the pathfinder crew. Its a snake but lava, its a pile of rocks, but lava, its lava, but angry.
Yrthak - ptranodron with a sonic scream? ehhhhhh
Maybe in a Marvel comic, but only for one issue.
JUST SHIT CONCEPTS
We've been through the Pathfinder Lava cruft issue, I will not repeat myself here.
Mist again, but now its basically called 'mist' but in a different way.
Ah you tried to come up with your own version of piercer and crossed it with the half-life tentacle things - I get nothing from this sorry.
Winterwight - amazingly bad image and boring concept
This almost defines the concept of D&D cruft, or 'Dungeon Cruft' if you want something more euphonically pleasing, "Its a skeleton, but cold." At least it wasn't a lava skeleton.
Alright. That was a brief gazetteer of "Bad", now we enter the strange interval space of;
OH GOD I DON'T KNOW
I genuinely cannot tell is this is a rubbish blur of ideas or actually so gonzo its good or what. Is it from myth. It doesn't seem to actually do anything interesting but the combo of having like a whole dragon for a tail and also it has living chains for some reason... This one will depend on my mood.
Own-brand Scorpion men I think? They make earthquakes by driving their tentacles into the ground. Could this be good? Is it bad? I do like the idea of monsters making earthquakes not through a spell but by literally penetrating the earth with magic tentacles, though it makes about as much sense. Could be some good moments in an encounter like "Look out they are going to do the tentacle thing" and "Cut off the tentacles!"
Enough! Let us move bravely on to...
WEIRD STUF I DON'T KNWO WHERE IT COMES FROM
Hairless blue alien lions. They are from another planet, not another plane or whatever, which is interesting, and they spread this alien zombie plague. Could be good.
HEY SURPRISINGLY GOOD JOB HERE DON'T KNOW WHY THO
I genuinely have no specific idea why I like this. Shadow-plane dwelling insect people who wear glowing magical tattoos and live in secret cities crafting shadows sounds pretty 5e cruft but this image and the concept just makes it hang together for me.
Good image, nice concept, this an old D&D thing?
Well its a Kaiju but also its an alien spore. Also the fact that its floating like a Zeppelin I like.
Brain monster. Gets smarter if it gets more brains, puts the brains in these special pods on its back. You can see the pods and work out what its up to right away. Good. Simple, self-explanatory. Wide variety of applications.
I KNOW THIS BOOKJabberwock
- I got this reference
(meaningless of these without the complex cultural ecologies which this system doesn't provide here but still nice to have them around)
This is kind of the worst presented of the cryptids. It does not have a lot of the weird mythic energy of the 'real' creature. More goat obsession would be good.
Absolutely lovely. Great powers. Lots of freaky illusion and madness stuff, plus telepathy, it doesn't speak, gaze sends you mental. Not planar, not an alien, no ecology, just an agent of fate? One of the cryptids that carries some of the weird x-files energy of the real thing.
Great image, great monster, would be a wonderful horror villain. Could be terrible as a DM fiat monster if used poorly but if used well...
Water Orm - the Loch ness monster except deliberately magically stealthy - it can turn *into* water, move without trace and can't be detected by most magic.
Its a giant predatory cryptic that leaves no evidence behind, actually a pretty good concept.
Cultural appropriation done, if not right, then *well* - a good image and the spooky semi-magical rules for this one are wonderful. its feet don't exist - bunt away by it running through the air, but it walks as of they do.
Drives a'l near mad, grabs you and carries you off into the wind by just running on the wind, can turn you into one in which case you go mad and run into the wind yourself, your own feet burning away.
PLANAR STUFF I DON'T KNOW WTF PATHFINDER IS UP TO HEREAeons
Faceless caretakers of reality. No idea how you use these (maybe have the PCs break some rule of reality and then they are chased by them until they can somehow even the scales?) but some wonderful designs.
(Do they know the Mothman??)
Beastly angels, neutral good, ascended furries. You want to bang and/or kill a furry, here you go.
Angels - these are still around I guess, bad really but whatever
Archons - Also angels or something?
Azatas - Chaotic Good fey angel types?
Not demons guys, "dAemons", which are slightly different and want to destroy reality for slightly more neutral reasons.
Astrademon, not that interesting in play it would seem but a lovely design.
I like that these boys compulsively carry bows. They are also 14 feet high and the skulls they use as heads can be any skull but they tend to seek out horse skulls for the purpose which suggests a lot of possible higjinks.
Cruft concept, but wonderful execution. Sometimes you can be a Daemon that's just really into death and that's ok. Its ok to be normal.
See something that summons an evil magical dagger made of raw shadow is a bit eh, but f you say it has four arms and summons exactly four daggers, one for each hand, somehow it gets better.
Inevitables - anti-chaos super-golems, kinda own-brand modrons
Positive energy plan xenophobic bird men? Would be boring but at least they are racist.
Raw chaos dudes, off-brand slaad - a good idea but that idea was basically slaad and someone already had it. Some good images but this was the best one.
No idea, like neutral evil cambrian explosion demon ghost prima things??? these are pretty good tbh. are these from the kabbalah? I feel like I read about these in Promethia.
Scaedvinar - like the opposites of those xenophobic positive energy bird-dudes, kind of rubbish except they hate those bird guys which makes them more interesting
PETITIONERS - planar ghost things? These guys are how you turn into one of the above,
LETS LOOK AT THE CURVE!!!!
These things would work really well if you could make them hang out in some kind of semi-civilised environment where they had to argue and scheme over the precise moral dialectics of why they each wanted to save/destroy/dominate reality. Encountering them one by one is not so great I think. need more Sigil.
CRUFT IDEA RESCUED BY GOOD IMAGE
Cruft concept, great image.
the other giants; rune giants, tagia giants, wood giants, suck.
Hee he hee
This is the first time I have seen a camel in a beastiary and thought "Fuck I really want to ride a camel."
This is the only time they have ever even looked interesting, they are still rubbish but this is a good picture
Not even that bad an idea but a great image
Not a bad idea in itself but a great image for the 'transparent flesh' gang
GREMLINS - hey Pathfinder wend deep on gremlins for some reason
Its the fact that their robe is actually back hair, the three blue glowing eyes and that they just really like knecapping people and beating them to death. They are just violent guys! Very strong monster.
LURKER IN LIGHT
Evil bright light fairies this is a surprisingly good idea.
Shining Child is another bright evil thing
Look its still a good idea. I won't say no to a Gug.
Hound of Tindalos
Great image. Classic monster.
These guys suck very slightly on their own (except for the 'Denizens' of Leng) but would be really good all hanging out in the same market,
Denizen of Leng
While these guys disguise themselves with just a robes situation.
Again I want all these guys hanging out in the same city or something
JUST A SURPRISINGLY GOOD IDEA?
It blasts you with moonlight I think? (this is actually pretty good)
Something like a lightning-stuck or post-forest-fire tree full of embers or something but its actually some magic spider monster thats also somehow a tree that shoots lightning and poisoned barbs and which also explodes when you kill it? And it has a stealth mode.
Hey its a sticky-backed tusked albino frog mount. Pops grease at you from its pustules. you can ride one but its so sticky back there you might not be able to get off. Good frog energy all round.
Long hollow claws that drain your life and then change shape to become you, literally eats your hopes and dreams with its bites, can permanently reshape your face like clay - pretty great! Nearly on a MothMan level.
If someone offers you a Pathfinder game where you investigate Cryptids or go to own-brand Sigil or whatever, say yes, but maybe don't as with stat blocks weighted this heavily then it seems to me it would be a nightmare not uantum-ogreing a lot of stuff, which makes investigations and city-adventures somewhat boring pseudo-choice adventures.
But I might be wrong! And even if I'm not maybe you are into that?
Everyone likes fucking about with Planar Bullshit and it often brings out the best in people.
You can just stop putting the old cruft monsters in things.
There may be treasure in the Cryptids if you do a deep dive on them.
Rip off Lovecraft
The thematic arrangement of mainstream monster manuals means they will inherently be a bit of an aesthetic and conceptual blur.
Only I and whakoes like me seem to care about this.
What happened to Pathfinder? Whats going on with those mighty-thewed arms and galaxy brains fit to lift and comprehend statblocks of biblical length like heroes of old?