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Creature Codex Volume 4: First Level Foes (PFRPG) PDF

****½ (based on 4 ratings)

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Dire rats got you down? Sick of skeletons? Do your first-level games all feel the same? You may be suffering from a condition known as Limited Monster Palette Syndrome, or LIMPS. Common symptoms of LIMPS include ennui, upset stomach and listlessness. LIMPS can affect any GM, but it is most common in people running low-level games. Fortunately, Demiurge Press is here to help. We proudly present Creature Codex Volume 4: First Level Foes, a collection of monsters clinically proven to relieve symptoms of LIMPS. This volume contains the following creatures:

  • The aquib, an insectoid magic-eating aberration (CR 1/2)
  • The nuppeppo, the bloated remains of the slothful dead (CR 1)
  • The psittacosaurus, a dinosaur with a unique defense mechanism (CR 1/2)
  • The puuk, a thieving, shape-changing dragon (CR 1)
  • The rawhead, a patchwork skeletal horror (CR 3)
  • The veytha, stalking giants of the tundra (CR 1)

Author: Nicholas Herold
Illustrator: Heather Frazier

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Product Reviews (4)

Average product rating:

****½ (based on 4 ratings)

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Good selection of low-level threats that could have been great

****( )

This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 8 pages of content, so let's check this out!

The latest in Nick Herold's series of excellent monster books is focused on providing threats for first level parties and I personally think that we need more of them. Having recently ranted on the clichés of first level foes, I expect these critters to bring some fresh wind to the first steps, but what are the critters?

The Aquib (CR 1/2) are spiderlike, genderless creatures who sap magic from their foes in order to nourish their many-eyed, almost mineral-like bodies. Coming with an appropriately-creepy artwork, the creatures make for a rather weak combatant who might prove to be a bane of casters and a monster that can easily be defeated once the PCs figure out to deal with them. For maximum effect, start with one and then throw a swarm of them at your players.

The CR 1/2 Psittacosaurus comes with full information on how to use it as an animal companion and uses its quill-studded tail to combat foes. An ok low-level threat of the animal category, I guess, but none I'm too excited about.

At CR 1 we the issue's first undead, the Nuppeppo. While the name sounds like some weird kind of breath-mints or a strange clown, the creature is anything but a laughing stock and actually my favorite in the pdf: A walking blob of flesh whose fat-slaps form a kind of face on the torso on whose head has fouled off, these undead are not only disgusting, they are also lazy and incapable of properly communicating their desires. Nevertheless, smart PCs make actually outwit the disgusting beings.

The next creature, the CR 1 Puuk unfortunately hits a pet-peeve of mine. It's a dragon. At CR 1. Ok, it's a tiny, shapechanging dragon. Nevertheless. Do we really need these? All right, the ability to turn into a ball of ember and smell treasure is great, but nevertheless - I can't bring myself to liking the critter. The entry also comes with a short write-up of the advanced version of the Puuk, but sans stats, which is a missed opportunity.

The second undead, the CR 3 Rawhead, is a skeletal undead generated from the remains of an animal companion or awakened animal. The basic concept is brilliant - the skeletal being kills animals and absorbs the bones into its form, becoming stranger and stranger with each being slain. However, the absorption does not provide additional attacks or benefits. A table on additional attacks/customization options for rawheads could have easily made this critter stellar, providing e.g. spider-climb, faster speed etc. but as written, it just remains a good idea.

The final critter herein are the tundra-inhabiting nomadic Veytha-giants (CR 1) which also come with information on how to use them as characters, as they do have a slow metabolism and could be used as a PC-race. I'm not sure whether I like them, at this point. Mostly, because I would have loved more information on their distinct culture and habits. Perhaps I'm spoiled. Perhaps I'm thinking Tiste'Edur. I don't know. I do know that they would have deserved a full ecology.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a full-color 2-column standard. The artworks are ok, though I preferred those from the other installments of the series. Somehow none of the pieces apart from the Aqib truly gripped me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and with a printer-friendly version. First level critters are not that easy to design and the ones herein provide a nice respite from the ogre/shadow/goblinoids/bandits-routine and all of them come with some kind of signature ability that makes them distinct from other beings. That being said, the other installments of the Creature-Codex-line have really spoiled me with stellar creatures and this installment somewhat felt less gripping. While still being a mechanically sound and actually well-written and presented monster-book, I cannot help but feel that with slightly more space or even customization options for the new monsters, this pdf could have been truly stellar. As written, it still is a great pdf for the low asking-price and thus my final verdict will be a good 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.


Not the sorts of creatures you'd expect to face on your first adventure

*****

There’s a fine line between a classic and a cliché. That’s the case made in the opening of the Creature Codex Volume 4: First Level Foes, which presents six new monsters to spice things up for your fresh-out-of-the-gate adventurers. Rather than send them up against skeletons, big bugs, and short goblinoids, pit them against the half-dozen new freaks on display here.

The book’s technical presentation is fairly strong. There are no bookmarks, but as the file is less than a dozen pages long, I can’t really hold that against it, especially since there is a table of contents. I also appreciate that a printer-friendly file was included; this one removes all of the illustrations, page borders, and cover completely, so there’s nothing to strain your printer even slightly.

Speaking of which, the book’s artistic presentation is quite strong. In addition to page borders on both sides, which flow down along the bottom of the pages as well, each monster has a full-color illustration. This is important, as being able to visualize a monster is a necessary part of their presentation. Heather Frazier did a very impressive job here, as each monster looks as though it was done in a sort of “portrait” style.

So what are these monsters like? Let’s go over them one-by-one in further detail.

The first creature is the aquib, and it probably deserves the award for the lowest-CR monster that has spell resistance. This is thematically appropriate, as it actually devours magic, and is empowered by the spells that fail to get through its SR. I also have to note that this is likely the lowest-level aberration that your PCs will run into. While I can understand being somewhat leery of introducing spell resistance while spellcasting PCs are at their weakest, that’s such a change from what most players expect that that alone makes this monster worthwhile.

The psittacosaurus is the second monster, a real-world dinosaur most noteworthy for its tail quills. As with the aquib, this is a case of introducing a certain sort of monster before your players are expecting it – who would think that their character’s first adventure involved fighting a dinosaur. Very cogently, the monster’s description includes rules for having it as an animal companion.

Also based on the real world, albeit from its mythology, is our third monster, the nuppeppo. I was initially surprised that there was an undead here, as part of the author’s rebuke of typical first-level enemies included skeletons and zombies. That said, this undead is sufficiently different that I feel comfortable giving him a pass on this one. Little more than an ambulatory mass of rotting flesh, the nuppeppo is of a singularly interesting “theme” for its undead nature – sloth. These are the undead formed by people so lazy that their souls couldn’t be bothered to leave their bodies even after death. And you thought not getting out of bed in the morning was lazy! If only for how much fun the concept is, I like this.

The puuk exists as something akin to the evil counterpart of faerie dragons and pseudodragons, which is a nice bit of balance for that particular creature type. I get the distinct impression that these creatures are from some mythology – especially as we’re given a short section on a sort of advanced puuk, called a kaukas – but I’m not certain. Puuks are greedy creatures that can change not only into an animal form, but into a fiery form as well, and can be taken as improved familiars.

The rawhead is the most powerful monster in the book, obviously meant to be something of a “boss monster” for a first-level party, weighing in at CR 3. It’s also an undead, and is fairly similar to other low-level undead in appearance, being a bloody skeleton. Formed from the ugly death of an intelligent animal, rawheads prey on animals, meaning that they’ll likely target characters with companion creatures. Again I’m pleasantly surprised at the focus with which the monster’s niche is crafted, as this once again seems designed to exploit an area where NPCs don’t often direct their attention – this is the first “kill the companion animal” monster I’ve seen. I do wish it had been more than a collection of bones, but I can sympathize with the fact that, when it comes to the walking dead, there are only so many ways of visualizing them.

Finally, the veytha end the book, a race of tall nomads. While there’s little that makes them distinctive in regards to their own mechanics, having only a single special ability unto themselves, it’s their use in a creature type that makes them different. These are the only monstrous humanoid race with no natural Hit Dice; they rely solely on class levels (though their stats are advanced enough that they’re still a bit stronger than your average PC race) to advance. While this, and their appearance, do help to make them unique, I wish they had a little more to make their mechanics stand out – I doubt many PCs will ever notice that they need less food and water (short of being allowed to play a veytha PC – which you could do, as PC racial stats are included), for example.

Overall, I found First Level Foes to be a good method of widening the variety of enemies that your PCs can face as they begin their adventuring career. The book’s raison d’etre is somewhere between presenting certain types of monsters at a low enough level that they can be thrown against a group of starting heroes, and having monsters focus on a niche that isn’t something first-level PCs would expect. In this regard, the book does quite well for itself; so long as you keep focus of what each monster is trying to achieve, there’s a lot of merit here.

The only real complaint I have with the book is that some monsters pull off both sorts of innovation at once (e.g. the aquib), while others don’t quite manage to. It’s great to have your new heroes unexpectedly facing a tiny dragon that can turn into fire; it’s another thing to have what’s killing your pets be another skeletal creature. Still, these creatures aren’t “misses” so much as they’re less-than-solid hits. I’d give the book 4.5 stars if I were able to, but if I have to round, I’ll round up in appreciation for the fact that some GMs might not care about a monster needing to be innovative in every aspect. First Level Foes is a book that will give you some unexpected sorts of monsters to sick on your new adventuring party…and not a goblin in sight.


Fine collection of low-level monsters

****( )

First off I do need to say, I was given this for free. That said, it is a fine collection of new low-level monsters for a Pathfinder game if you're tired of the poor overworked goblins, dire rats, and skeletons and zombies.

There are six individual creatures, and they are:

1) Aquib (CR 1/2), an aberration that can detect and eat magic. Oh yes, they hate spellcasters too. A swarm of these things could be deadly at low levels if used in conjunction with non-magical enemies.

2) Dinosaur, Psittacosaurus (CR 1/2), a little dinosaur you can take as an animal companion, provided you don't mind the snapping beak and tail full of quills that can weaken and sicken opponents. Nice for some scenery or for use by, say, goblins or kobolds in a trap.

3) Nuppeppo (CR 1), a fat, foul-smelling, undead lazy slob. Literally. The stench aside this thing can soak up damage like no one's business. It also has a bit of an in-setting legend involved that says its flesh can grant immortality, which gives a reason for why you might go after this revolting thing.

4) Puuk (CR 1), a shapeshifting and thieving little dragon. It also has a burning touch and the ability to turn into an ember of fire. Nice partner for some low-level robber or thief.

5) Rawhead (CR 3), Probably the best of the lot, an undead amalgamation of animal bones that's out for revenge on other animals, especially animal companions and familiars. It's a nice change of pace; how often does your druid or ranger have to worry about someone targeting, not them, but their furry pal?

6) Veytha (CR 1 and variable), a new race. The other really great idea here, in that we finally get a size large creature that relies on character class to become more dangerous. Also, they're non-evil, so tey can be allies or enemies depending on how PCs approach them. They're different and yet well-balanced enough that I'd allow them to adventure alongside other low-level characters.

So, this PDF promises some new low-level villains and it delivers handily. If you can get it and need some new monsters for heroes just starting out, do so. You won't be sorry.


****( )

(Discloser, I was given a free PDF to review this product)
First level foes is the forth book in a series of themed monsters, this one, as the title says, is new foes for first level PCs. The creatures cover a range of CR, from ½ to 3 (Two ½, three 1, and two 3). As in my review of book three, I will go creature by creature.
First is the Aquib, a CR ½ small aberration that is a magic eating spider-like opponent. It doesn’t seem too tough, and I think that most of the signature characters at first level would take this as a solid opponent. I wonder if an optimized spell caster will have any issue with the SR it possesses though. I threw a large group of them at some level 3 PCs, and they didn’t manage to land many attacks. They did draw a lot of resources though, be it spells or rounds of rage. The players never figured out how they were feeding into the creatures magic eating, so I plan on throwing them at the group again.
Second is the Psittacosaurus, a CR ½ small dinosaur. The creature right up is solid and flavorful, and I will use them when the story is right. They may be my favorite entry in the book. At the end of the stat block and info, there are rules to use them as Animal Companions. A lot of the Animal Companions just don’t stack up, and this is one of them. This is not an issue specific to this PDF, but one Paizo is more guilty of than anyone, and they set the standard. I may be wrong on that, and in the right story (Kobold hunting especially) these would be amazing. Maybe it’s the type of stories I run. Either way, I like ‘em.
Third is the Nuppeppo, a CR 1 undead monstrosity. I’m not a huge fan of the art, but I used it the same session I used the Aquib, and with a good description, it creeped the players out just like a good undead should. When a player is yelling, “Don’t let it touch me,” you have a winner.

Fourth is the Puuk, a CR 1 tiny dragon, and it’s Advanced and Giant evolution the Kaukas. This is my other potential favorite monster in the book, and I can see a lot of used for it. A LOT. I already have plans to make one the arch nemesis of a pseudo dragon PC, and their ability to infiltrate society makes them a great option for a reoccurring villain, scalable with growth and class levels. Great monster.

The fifth entry is the Rawhead, a CR 3 undead that could be amazing or just OK. This is the animated, assimilating corpse of an animal. The set up is key on this one, because its creation requires an awakened animal or an animal companion. To really get good use out of this you need to use a PCs dead pet.

Lastly, the sixth foe is the Veytha, a CR 1 large humanoid that is like an entry level giant. Good write up, cool flavor, and a tundra dweller, so you can use them on the way to the giants. This race also has a write up for character use, something I complained about in the last PDF with the Mole people, who did not have it. However, this is a large, Dex boosted, clawed, bow proficient race with Point Blank shot for free and a stealth boost to balance out their size. They also don’t eat or drink more than a medium character, so the only penalties for size are the -1 to hit and AC, and the potential to be unable to use items and cover a medium character could use. Not sure how I feel about this one as a PC, but solid as a monster.





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