Out of all the supplements in the Humble Bundle that I recently picked up, Fifth Edition Foes caught my eye the most. How could I, an old school role-player, resist this book's promise to update several monsters from sources such as the original Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II so that I can incorporate them into my fifth edition games? Let's take a closer look and see how Fifth Edition Foes delivers on this promise.
The first thing I want to say about this book is that it is absolutely packed with monsters. The PDF weighs in at 261 pages and includes, by my count, 253 monster entries. That's a lot of monsters! Not only are these monsters listed alphabetically in the Table of Contents, as one might expect, but Fifth Edition Foes also includes an invaluable “Monsters by CR” appendix, as well as a “Monsters by Type” appendix. There is a pretty good spread of Challenge Ratings represented in the book, but most of the monsters fall on the low end of the CR scale. In fact, just over half of the 253 entries are CR 2 or below, while only 22 entries are CR 8 and above. Personally, I'm fine with this. I prefer having more options on the low end of the CR scale, especially since you're able to get so much better mileage out of lower level threats in fifth edition than in earlier editions. There is also a good mix of creature types, including 27 undead and, surprisingly, 37 plants! I also appreciate the fact that aside from these appendices the PDF is well bookmarked, allowing you to easily pull up whatever entry you're looking for.
But what about these monsters already?!
Well, poring over the Table of Contents I was pleased to see that the book does indeed include quite a few Fiend Folio alumni. The Adherer, Doombat, Coffer Corpse, Crypt Thing, Yellow Musk Creeper, and many other favorites are here – way too many to list! And even though my favorite Fiend Folio denizen, The Eye of Fear and Flame, didn't make the cut, I have to say that overall I'm pleased with the selection. There are lots of entries from from the Monster Manual II, a few from the original Monster Manual, and some that originally appeared in other sources (like the Cave Crickets from Lost Caverns of Tsocanth). I know all of this because at the end of each monster entry there is a citation that notes where the monster first appeared, who the original creator was, and who is responsible for the updated version. I love this! I wish they would have taken this a step further and included an appendix that listed monsters by where they originally appeared, but maybe that's just me. I thought that all of the monsters that I looked at were faithful adaptations of the originals, and I feel like any of them would fit seamlessly into a fifth edition game. There are also several creatures that are, as best I can tell, original to this book which is also nice. Each entry is accompanied by black and white artwork, with stat blocks that look more like an updated version of what you would find in an old monster manual rather than a clone of the style currently found in the fifth edition Monster Manual. After the stat block each creature has a few paragraphs about habitat, combat tactics, and any other useful information about the creature. One unique thing about the entries that was a nice touch is that under the name of each monster there is a bit of descriptive text, suitable for reading to your players as you describe what the creature looks like. Here is an example of the layout:
Offense is of course listed below Defense, followed by a section showing ability scores and relevant skills, and a final section detailing special traits, talents, and abilities. I have absolutely no complaints with the layout, and in fact I think the entries look quite nice.
Lets just get down to it: I love this book! Reading the stats and descriptions for these old monsters makes me want to kill a party of adventurers right now! The hardback version of this book is out of stock at the time of this writing, but the PDF is available here. I would say if you love and miss your old friends from the Fiend Folio and older modules and monster manuals you should go and download this immediately. Or maybe you could care less about the Fiend Folio, but you'd love to throw some monsters at your party without having one of your players yawn as they tell everyone what its vulnerabilities are. If so, I'm certain you could do a whole lot worse than this book.
So that's it; that's my review. If you need me I'll be over here mapping out a dracolisk lair.