Saturday, February 21, 2009

Monsters &Treasure of the Wilderlands Updated

Back in September, I wrote a review of Adventure Games Publishing's Monsters & Treasure of the Wilderlands I, giving it a perfect score of 5 out of 5 polearms. Well, the indefatigable James Mishler has been hard at work, expanding the product by adding eleven new monsters (27 as opposed to 16), artwork by Peter Bradley (including a full-color cover), and more information on how to integrate these creatures into the Wilderlands of High Adventure campaign setting. The PDF version of the expanded product sells for $8.00, twice the cost of the original version, presumably because of the cost of art and cartography. A print version will retail for $10.95 and should be available soon.

The new monsters are as good as those in the original release and it's nice to see illustrations of these beasties, even if Bradley's art isn't quite my cup of tea. If you didn't pick up a copy of the original release, I have no hesitation about recommending the expanded version, as it's well worth the price. Mishler's products are extremely good at providing a lot of useful flavor in addition to game mechanics. That is, there's no "fluff" here. Instead, what you get are nice little details that in themselves suggest adventures or that make an encounter more memorable. There's no gilding the lily here, just good old-fashioned creativity in the service of great gaming. And Mishler's magical treasures continue to be some of the best written in many a moon. They're weird and mysterious and, best of all, dangerous. They're perfect for swords-and-sorcery style games and I absolutely adore them.

This expanded version is another milestone along Adventure Games Publishing's journey to restore the Wilderlands to its former glory as one of the pre-eminent settings of fantasy gaming. Between the little touches in the monster and treasure descriptions and the maps that provide a wider context to it all, you can see just how much Mishler loves adding gameable details to this setting. That love is infectious and, while I still worry that AGP's Wilderlands offerings could result in too much detail, we're clearly not at that point just yet. Instead, we have another excellent bit of work that testifies to the lasting power of Judges Guild's products and ideas.

6 comments:

  1. Found your site thanks to the Chatty DM. I have just recently taken up playing 2e D&D again after a 20+ year hiatus.

    I GM games for kids using the Savage Worlds mechanics. This monster manual looks interesting. What setting is it written for? How portable are the monsters?

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  2. If other Castles and Crusades products I've read are anything to go by, it'll be very setting neutral (though as James said, the Wilderlands are somewhat implicit. I don't know anything about Savage World, but in my experience the C&C rules transfer readily to AD&D 1e, BECMI, and 2e, and only slightly less readily to OD&D (Which is really the beautiful thing about it. Matter of fact, my rules Cyclopedia is missing several pages and I've been able to fill in the gaps just fine with C&C).

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  3. The new edition is worth the price of admission for the dungeon chicken alone, which has earned an immediate place in my heart and in most future dungeons I design. A perfect example of Gygaxian naturalism and fun gamability! :)

    I'll also add that if one bought the first edition through DriveThruRPG/RPGNow, one can simply download the new edition as an "update" free of charge.

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  4. Cover picture looks awesome. I am not too thrilled if a furry giant centipede is their idea of a new monster. The big question is, does it contain creatures not previously mentioned in MM, MM2 or FF? You give kudos to writing style. Any new humanoids or any fresh takes on the old ones. I looked at the 2E MM, horrible, illkustrations are awful. My monster books are the original 1e books.

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  5. The monsters in Monsters & Treasures of the Wilderlands are designed with two purposes in mind: first, to create something new and unusual to challenge players, and second, to provide stats for monsters from classical games for the C&C Judge. As such, the monster list can be divided in two:

    New and Unusual:
    Angrasinamru (CE 15 HD Large Extraplanar)
    Cait Feall (CE 2 HD Small Magical Beast)
    Chicken, Dungeon (N 1 or 2 HD Small Animal)
    Glashtyn (NE 7 HD Medium Elemental (Water))
    Gorgosphinx (CE 12 HD Large Magical Beast)
    Gràdhcronaím (CE 6 HD Medium Undead (Extraordinary))
    Imp, Chasm (CE 2 HD Small Elemental (Earth))
    Karcajou (N 1 HD Humanoid)
    Malicorn (NE 2 HD Medium Magical Beast)
    Moppet, Witch’s (NE 3 HD Medium Construct)
    Nomgoblin (NE 1 HD Monstrous Humanoid)
    Sloughree (NE 10 HD Large Giant)
    Sprite, Cràigeanetlagh (N 1 HD Small Fey)
    Sprite, Gobling (CE 1 HD Monstrous Humanoid)
    Szaltys (NG 1 HD Small Magical Beast)
    Teknatzou (CE 5 HD Medium Fey)
    Tlahtocelotl (N 1 HD Humanoid)

    Classic Alternatives:
    Bat, Giant Vampire (CE 2 HD Medium Magical Beast)
    Beetle, Giant: Burster, Fire, and Razor (N 1 to 3 HD Small Vermin)
    Cat, Saber-Toothed Tiger (N 7 HD Large Animal)
    Centipede, Giant Wooly (N 6 HD Large Animal)
    Gourandrouni (CE 4 HD Medium Shapechanger)
    Grue (NE 9 HD Medium Extraplanar (Shadowlands))
    Hound of Hades (CE 6 HD Large Extraplanar (Netherworld))
    Sprite, Brownie (N 1 HD Fey)

    As you can see, it is weighted toward the “new and unusual.”

    There are two new humanoid races, the Karcajou (humanoid wolverines) and Tlahtocelotl (humanoid jaguars), each of which fits in a particular region of the Wilderlands.

    Though plenty of information is provided for these monsters in the Wilderlands, including a map indicating where they are most commonly found, any of these monsters can readily be used in any campaign setting, and even easily adapted from C&C to 1E, 2E, OD&D, B/X, or BECMI.

    I should also note that I forgot to include a "Thank You" in the credits to Jeff Rients, who loosely inspired the inclusion of the Dungeon Chicken...

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  6. Dungeon chicken? Would that be a veiled "Dungeon Keeper" reference there?

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