Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale

Yes, I got this shrinkwrapped package set on Free RPG Day. No, I did not get it for free, though I did get it for half-off as part of my FLGS's sale that day. No, I'm not giving it away as part of my Free RPG Day Review Giveaway. Sorry, but I like it too much!

Contents first. There is a 127-page book, which is the full size of a regular 4E book, but soft cover. In the shrinkwrap are eight sheets of heavy cardstock with the monster tokens we've all come to know and love, and also a double-sided battlemat with four different maps to do battle on. Honestly, I like the poster-maps, but I really can do without the tokens. I'm sure a lot of people use them, but I like my miniatures. I would have preferred a hard-cover book, but that's really just niggling details. Let's get to the meat of things.

I've already given a glowing review of the Essentials Monster Vault. This book, honestly, is even better. This is probably because all the fluff is specific to locations and history in the Nentir Vale, the default 4E heroic-tier "Points of Light" setting that is described in the Dungeon Master's Guide. This book is so good, in fact, that it is the main reason I have decided to use the Nentir Vale as the setting for my 4E campaign with my kids that just got started. This book provides you with all manner of villainous groups to harry your PCs with, from dragons and barbarians to fell creatures and twisted monstrosities from the far realm.

Some of my favorite monsters from the book:

Blackfang Gnolls: what's scarier than pirate gnolls riding dinosaurs? Gnolls with giant bat wings that eat your face on their way to sacrifice you to Yeenoghu, that's what.

Cadaver Collector: A golem that collects cadavers for its necromancer master. When left along for too long with no bodies to collect, will go searching for some. If it can't find any, it will make some.

Calastryx the three-headed red dragon. Nuff said.

Harken's Heart: a group of cursed druids? Return of the Heirophant druid? Yes please, I'll have some more of that please.

The Hunter Spiders: a cave-in has left a group of drow stranded on the surface. They're up to no good, obviously.

Hurly-Burly Brothers: Troll brothers who hate each other and can only be killed when they are close to each other, and often cause all kinds of havoc beating the shit out of each other.

Mooncalf: This one kind of came out of left field for me, but it's a giant octopus with bat wings that flies around causing all manner of destruction and death. From the Far Realm, naturally.

The Wandering Tower: an ancient, gigantic mimic that disguises itself as a building and eats you after you go inside. This one single entry is probably the best read in the whole book.

The majority of the monsters presented in the book are in the heroic tier, and a good chunk are paragon-level threats. There are a lot of unique, named NPCs/monsters in the book, with enough history and personality to give any halfway-decent DM plenty to work with in-game.

Overall, the Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Go pick it up. It was officially released today.

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