Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Essentials Monster Vault

Holy cow there’s a lot here!  For $29.95 plus tax, you get all these tokens:

You also get the Monster Vault book, which clocks in at 318 pages and has an excellent balance between fluff and crunch.  There are plenty of ideas for how to use the different monsters in your adventures, and there is plenty of variety in powers, even among all the different orcs, gnolls, medusa, demons and devils, etc. The book is definitely heaviest on the Heroic end of campaigns, with well over a hundred individual monsters between levels 1 and 10, and then something in the range of 80 or so Paragon level threats, and only a handful of Epic level creatures.  I was happy to see they didn’t bother to include any of the gods

The adventure is decent, pretty much standard fare for WotC.  It’s a lot better than Keep on the Shadowfell, while still expanding upon the history of the Nentir Vale and surrounding areas.  It is easily adaptable to any homebrew campaign. 

There is a double-sided battlemap.  One side is a wintery village, and the other is part of the dungeon featured in the adventure.  The rest of the dungeon is easily assembled with basic Dungeon Tiles; they conveniently put the most complex part of the Dungeon on the included map.  Unfortunately, in play, you have to cover most of it once you place it down, lest the players gain too much metagame knowledge, as it comprises some 8 rooms, including the throne room where the boss is waiting. 

The tokens themselves are great.  One side is regular and the other is bloodied.  They are heavy enough to be easy to pick up and move around.  There are an awful lot of them, and I highly recommend finding a good way to keep them organized before popping them all out of the cardstock.  And don’t expect to be able to quickly find certain tokens in the middle of a game session, either.  They definitely require a DM to be prepared, tokens and all, ahead of time. 

This product is highly recommended, especially if you are a fledgling DM and don’t have minis to use in your game (especially now, since WotC is discontinuing official D&D Minis, but that’s a whole different post). The book itself is well worth the price, the tokens look great, and the map looks great.  I got this as a Christmas present from my in-laws, and of all the Essentials books, I have definitely spent the most time with the Monster Vault.  

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