Saturday, July 21, 2007

Monster Manual V (3.5E)

As any 2E adherent playing with current minis knows, you need to pick up the current materials and convert the stats from 3.5E to 2E.

I picked up the new MM5 today and as always, there are some good things, some bad things, and some brain explodingly frustrating things.

One of the good things is that WOTC seems to have finally started doing a pretty good job of timing monster stat books to mini releases. There are several minis in the Night Below and the upcoming Desert of Desolation sets that are represented in this volume. I was relieved to see Arcadian Avenger, Carnage Demon, Magmacore Golem, Greenspawn Zealot, and Verdant Reaver in this book. I hate having minis on my shelf that I have no idea what they are...and invariably after I make up stats for them they appear in an "official" tome.

Another good thing is that the WOTC folks are starting to include more of the information 2E provided that the earlier 3E books didn't--like ecologies. The bad thing, however, is that this book drops the Organization description, and as a result there isn't a single "number appearing" citation for any of the monsters. You can't even really figure it out from the "sample encounters" desctiption. Don't even get me started about how much I miss the frequency ratings.

This is really frustrating because it shows just how focused on warband creation they are at WOTC and how little the RPG customers count for anything anymore. Number appearing is useless informtion to a warband skirmisher who won't have any more appearing than his point limit will allow, but it is really essential information for any DM setting up RPG encounters. I was rug-biting mad about it all the way home. Dropping $35 for a book that you know you're going to have to convert most of the information from one format to another is bad enough, but finding out that you have to just "make up" some of the most important information makes you feel pretty stupid about dropping that many bones at the bookstore.

It is also mind explodingly frustrating when you stop to think that more than half of the monsters in the book don't and probably won't have miniatures for skirmishing anyway. Why don't they just stop putting out monster manuals for anything but monsters they plan to do minis of? Because nobody would pay $35 for a book with 5 monsters in it, I suppose.

There are a few interesting monsters that I'd llike to see them do figures of. (And yes, whippersnappers, the Old Guard still call them figures.)

The Adaru is a nice looking demonic centepide. I"m always looking to expand my denizens of the Abyss. For the same reason I'd love to get a few Gadcros (though how many is a mystery...grumble grumble.) I can't remember if they are doing a Solamith or not, but if they do I'm likely to want at least two so that I can repaint it into something else. Maybe I could use some creenstuff to stitch its mouth shut and make it a Nupperibo.

Stitched anythings are really stupid. Stitched Devils are more stupid that that, even. This is the kind of monster they make up that I pray and pray they don't make a figure of because if they do I have to find some way to use it in my campaign because it has to go on my shelf with the resto of the collection...can anyone say Wrackspawn? Yeesh. What a waste of overpriced plastic and shelf space.

Now, I have to say that one really innovative thing in the book is the section on Dragons of the Great Game. This device is nicely explained in the "Behind the Curtain" section--a section they should do for more of their entries! Basically WOTC wanted a way to make dragons seem more like dragons and less like super powerful wizards who happen to be dragons, so they invented this game that dragons play in which they swap their spell casting abilities for the ability to control large numbers of minions. It was almost enough for me to consider seriously taking away the spell casting abilities of dragons in my world. I don't have time to consider it right now and it will be decades before my players face any kind of dragon that the question is a bit moot, but interesting none the less.

The Frostwind Virago is so beautiful that I really want a mini of her...though I'd be more likely to use her as Auril the Frost Maiden than this particular monster. If WOTC ever made an Avatar (aspect, sorry) of Auril, then I'd use this mini as her priestesses. I have a real crush on Auril, for some reason. She was a major player in my previous campaign. As a result, I collected lots and lots of frosty monsters.

I liked the section on God-Blooded creatures, because it gives me a way to explain when WOTC makes a monster mini that is closer to 30mm scale than 28mm.

I'm really over the whole "Spawn of Tiamat" thing. They ought to just make a campaign setting called "Dragonworld" and be done with it. Greenspawn Zealot...yawn.

Why do we need so many sub-classes of monsters? What is the point of having all these specific specializations for hobgoblins and Kuotoa? Oh, right, to pad the pages and justify cover price. Yawn. Also, these kids today don't have time to be creative and come up with this stuff on their own, they need to hurry up and lay down their tiles and roll their dice, skirmishes go faster when you don't have to think about anything but point values.

I also have no desire to find out why on Earth anyone thinks I'd be intersted in Thoon and its variant rules/monsters.

Ruin Elemental. God, who'd have thought they could come up with something dumber than a stitched demon? How is an animated ruin in any way an elemental? Now, if you're going to argue that ruin itself is an invisible element at work causing decay, fine, that's interesting, but a ruin is a broken building. It is an animated construct, not a denizen of the Elemental Plane of Ruins. Fer crying out loud. Makes me want to spill coffee on this page.

I like the Serpentir, though. Nice critter. Give me a mini. Though, I have to say, I'd rather see it done in metal by Reaper. WOTC skeletal creatures never look like the skeleton could fit inside the flesh it used to inhabit.

Bladerager Trolls seem cool at first, but then you realize they are pretty stupid. Why bother riviting metal plates to a creature that regenerates? Just dumb.

Red Widow, Female Vampire Ninja. Just make the mini and let me use her for something else. Just give me vampire stats and let me figure out the unique ones if a vampre version of Elektra is all you can come up with.

The Verdant Reaver is an interesting concept, too bad the mini looks like a tiki doll that's been living on Skid Row for the last decade.

I could make, with my very limited sculpting skills, a mini of the Vinespawn...but why would I want to?

I hope they don't make a Master of the Wild Hunt mini, because I really like using my one from Ral Partha. I suppose that if they do I could use it for an avatar of Silvanus.

All in all, probably a waste of my time and money...but now that I have it I can stop thinking I want it, and that is a victory of sorts. Or at least it seems so to the addict.

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