Welcome to Winter Ravagers, the first in Super Genius Games’ new Mythic Menagerie line of monster products. The plan is for every Mythic Menagerie to offer a set of monsters that match a theme, with full write-ups, simple index card style summaries for use at the game table, and printable standee figures for every monster. But while future versions will feature typical fantasy adventure themes—fiends and cultists, dark fey, creatures from the subterranean kingdoms—Winter Ravagers is focused on a less common trope.
Because we’re “Geniuses,” and because the spirit of the holiday season moved us, we decided to make this very first product a little different from the line that will eventually follow. (Which, I admit, is not How Things Are Normally Done.) Everything in this book grows out of and is linked to the winter holidays. The creatures are ideal for adventures tied to Yuletide, Saturnalia, the Great Hunt, or any cold-weather gift-giving celebration you use in your campaigns, but most can also be used in other adventures set in arctic or merely wintry climes.
This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD/editorial, 1 page statblock cards, 1 page neat cartoony artwork-cards, leaving 10 pages for the new critters, so let's check them out, shall we?
I really like tongue-in-cheek, jokey takes on material, thus I was looking forward to this pdf - after a short foreword, the CR 18 Autumn King, a jack-o-lantern-style fey-lord made for an appropriately epic introduction to this pdf - while a unique signature ability was absent from his statblock, I nevertheless enjoyed the rather complex statblock of this unusual fey lord.
Unfortunately, the rumor-mongering CR 8 Badalisc can't keep up with this quality - repackaging a Dark Naga, who is not the most exciting critter in itself and slapping a new name on it does not make for either a compelling monster, nor is it a business-practice I condone.
The CR 5 Cobbler Elf, though, again, rocks hard: A nice take on the unintentionally annoying Heinzelmännchen-style fey, they can be both blessing and bane and should be handled with care, lest their well-meant overenthusiastic "improvements" of existing items prove to be an adventurer's undoing.
The CR 7 Dire Flying Reindeer is a cool idea, deriving its flying from a rare combination of herbs fermented in their gullets - a good example of fluff making an otherwise boring statblock palpable.
Next up is the CR 7 Grinj, the take on the keen-hearing creature by Dr. Seuss. perhaps it's due to me being German, but even as a child I never got the appeal of any of Dr. Seuss' characters and considered them to be boring and/or stupid. Unfortunately the statblock does not feature a reason for me to remedy this opinion - while the keen hearing and crafting aptitude are ok, I was not wowed by this critter.
I was downright insulted by the take on The CR 4 Krampus, though: A slight modification of the Yeti, once again repackaged as a new creature and ignoring the mythology to boot, is something I was deeply disappointed by: When I was a child, I was afraid these guys accompanying St. Nicolas would drag me to hell, while this is essentially a horned yeti. Boo.
The dragging-to-hell is done by the one creature apart from the Autumn King I somewhat enjoyed, the whip father, a psychopath-come-holiday-terror who seeks to drag unfortunate fellows to the Abyss. An ok creature thanks to the enchanted signature whip.
The final creature, the Perchta, is a green hag with another name slapped onto her. LAME.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and each creature gets its own artwork. The pdf has no bookmarks. I did like two of the creatures and the stat-cards, but quite frankly, feel ripped off by this purchase - doing a paste-job on monsters is not something I'd personally do and while Cobbler Elf and Autumn King were mechanically cool and provided neat ideas, all the rest of the monsters are either boring or repackaged stuff, not giving enough credit to their mythology. They also don't feature any lore-section. Try as a I might, I can't bring myself to recommend this pdf in any way - if you want monsters, buy some other installment of Mythic Menagerie, they are all vastly superior to this one and any purchase of this pdf serves to support uncreative repackaging of content. Steer clear. My final verdict will be 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1.
In the interests of full disclosure, I did not purchase this product. I received it as a promotional item with the Super Genius Games November give-away. So, let's get to it, shall we?
Mythic Menagerie: Winter Ravagers is a jokey mini-Monster Manual focusing on holiday-themed creatures. This isn't inherently a poor idea, but the execution left much to be desired.
The Good: The art, by industry veteran Stan!, is cute in a cartoony sort of way. Which is exactly what the aim was, so kudos.
My favorite monster--in fact, the only monster I liked, was the grinj. Yes, the pun is obvious, but the stats are a clever way of taking into account Grinchy things (like phenomenal hearing and the ability to craft things quickly to aid in Christmas-stealing) and making them work in a D&D game. Change the name, and it would be wholly usable in a more serious venue.
There are tiny stat-cards and paper minis for each monster of the line. It's a nice feature, and one that I'm sorry wasn't continued in the rest of the line.
The Bad: Several of the monsters are creatures from the SRD with very slight changes made to them. The badalisc is a dark naga that's a magical beast rather than an aberration, the perchta is an unchanged-in-any-way green hag and the krampus, most insultingly, is a Medium yeti with a bite attack instead of a fear gaze. The krampus isn't like a yeti at all! Even the flavor-text yetifies the noble krampus, taking all of its interesting attributes (whipping, dragging children to Hell) and giving them to the Whip Father. Why bother statting up both?
Worse, these SRD cut-and-paste jobs don't even go through their changes all the way. The badalisc still has the HD, BAB and saves of an aberration, and the krampus bears a size penalty to its Armor Class!
The Nit-Picky: Although I appreciate the paper miniatures, perhaps it's not a good idea for them to be labeled. This is especially clear with the perchta, whose disguised human form is labeled as such. Spoilers!
Final Thoughts: I'm honestly a little insulted that a monster book with 8 monsters is in fact one with 5 original monsters and three that have been taken wholesale from another product with new flavor text. Just because a product is jokey doesn't mean it can't have some effort put into it.