Welcome to Threats From Beyond, the twelfth in our line of Mythic Menagerie monster books. Each volume in this line presents a small set of monsters tied to a single theme, but spread over a range of CRs. For the Threats From Beyond, that theme is outsiders. Rather than just present another set of pitchfork-toting fiends, author Sam Hing has put together an awesome set of outsider oddities to fill the corners and crevices of your extraplanar encounters.
The idea of Threats From Beyond is to expand a campaign’s option for outsider encounters, since anything as vast as other planes of existence should have vast and varied creatures dwelling within them. In many cases these threats can be easily added to traditional plotlines centered on devils or demons, but a few other plots can also be presented using these outsider entities. When dealing with creatures as alien as natives to another plane not all the threats come from a desire to do evil (through a prismatic couatl can certainly make life difficult for the agents of a kingdom that prides itself on law-and-order), nor are they all things players are most likely to encounters in combat (though a shax’s presence in a village may result in more casualties than an open fight).
Your players may have a handle on brigands, dragons, and other foes they can understand, but things just took a turn for the cosmic. The black chargers are lining up for a cavalry charge, the karkinides have begun to swarm, and there’s very little time left to cut a deal with a traveler to make good your escape. It’s time to deal with the Threats From Beyond!
The latest installment of the Mythic Menagerie-series is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 11 pages for the new monsters, so let's check out this collection of outsiders!
-Black Dog (CR 8): This take on the Black Dog can enlarge themselves (included in the stats in brackets) and have cursed fangs. Ok, but honestly, I've seen the concept done better, e.g. in RiP's Pathways e-zine.
-Couatl, Prismatic (CR 8): Couatls that can shower foes with confusion/glitterdust-inducing scales. Okay, but not too exciting.
-Demon, Shax (CR 4): Sadistic little demons that have a suicide gaze that forces its victims to coup-de-grace themselves.
-Demon, Karkinide (CR 6): Aquatic, crab-like soldier demons that fight well in hordes. Seriously, felt more like devils, especially with the teamwork-aspect. Why not give them solo tactics?
-Devil, Black Charger (CR 14): Centaur-like Devils with scorpion stinger, locking claws and a deadly gore attack. Deadly infernal cavalry.
-Hate Spirit (CR 10): The first creature with a really cool signature ability: The Hate Spirit's attacks have 6 different effects of the dread attacks.
-Hound of Abaddon (CR 5): Headless dogs with skeletal jaws that exude an aura of hopelessness and come with unholy blight-howls? YES! Awesome!
-Traveller (CR 12): Sounds boring, but isn't - this outsider is a many-eyed, razor thin, deadly creatures that ferry others throughout the planes. Great critter to drive planar weirdness home.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks for the creatures. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bummer - any pdf beyond BP-range should have them by now.
Sam Hing's last Mythic Menagerie was sheer, utter, plain GENIUS and this installment falls short of that, with the first creatures I read rather disappointing me. However, the last couple of critters are simply stellar, cool and iconic. That being said, some of the beings herein could have come with more unique signature abilities or evoke more creative concepts. The Hounds of Abaddon would be a good example for what can be considered brilliant, while the Black Dog just felt yawnworthy to me. In the end, I'll settle for a final verdict of a solid 4 stars for this, as it has some gems that outweigh the less interesting critters.
Threats From Beyond, the latest addition to the Mythic Menagerie series from Super Genius Games brings us 8 new threats for the outsider classification. Very good artwork for each creature is always a plus, although I really wish a few more of them had been done in color as opposed to grayscale. Formatting follows the 2 column layout, with a few editing glitches here and there (spell lists not lining up in one of the statblocks, an errant letter left behind from a deleted sentence, and the word bite not having its “e” in the special abilities for Black Dog).
First creature up is the Black Dog, a creature a great deal of us should be familiar with, and I have to say I like the treatment of it here. It's simple, straight forward and true to what the legends of this creature are at their core. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the art conveys the ferocity and overall odd darkness of this particular creature.
The Prismatic Couatl offers up a more chaotic variant to the stricter standard Couatl, and earns my knock for wishing to have seen a color piece of art. The art is fantastic, I just really would have loved to have seen this beast in its full glory. A very cool special ability in the shedding of scales to form a cloud that brings on confusion and glitterdust. The Prismatic Couatl also caused me a moment of confusion in that it covers a page and a half, but following the 2 column layout of reading it is not entirely apparent at first where the entry ends and the next begins. Once you realize how the layout handles this, it ceases to be a problem.
Next up is the Daemon Shax, visually answering that age old question of just what would the child of a goblin and a chimp look like? Lol. The Shax Daemon gets its jollies leading folks to ruin and death at their own hands, helped along by the wickedly cool Suicide gaze special ability that causes those who fail Will save after meeting its gaze to attempt to end their lives. Followed by the Demon, Karkinide, or Crab Demon. A monstrous crablike nightmare of four legs, two humanoid arms and a giant set of pincers, averaging around 7 feet in height, 5 foot in width...and continuing to grow as they age. Very efficient in combat when it comes to utilizing the numbers game against their foes, these demons stack bonuses with each other the more they can get involved in a conflict. Do not get yourself cornered by these things.
The Black Charger can best be described as what a centaur would have been if born in hell. Sadistic and aggressive, these creatures relish the opportunity to challenge new foes, and are at home on the battlefield. Hate Spirits offer up possibly the coolest origin story out of the collection, as they are formed when a powerful being of worship is destroyed while feeling hatred. The immense emotional survives the death of the being, forming into a Hate Spirit, who has an interesting attack form. Its claws and bite do no physical damage, but rather inflict a random curse (small random list supplied).
Hounds of Abaddon are one disturbing looking creature, with the body of a powerful dog roughly the size of a bear, missing its head. In place of a head floats a skeletal powerful jaw. They hunt like wolves, utilizing the pack mentality to formulate attacks upon stronger foes, or drawing out the fear and hopelessness in weaker targets.
We end with the Traveler...an odd creature that I am not sure is properly represented by the artwork depicting it. I can't lie here, I took one look at the artwork and thought tapeworm, instantly. After reading through its entry my thoughts changed, somewhat. The Traveler is a Huge outsider that is basically a long super thin ribbon shaped life form with tiny (in proportion to its main body) hands and eye stalks covering it. It has the capacity to do exactly what you are thinking from its name, travel. Between planes specifically, unerringly, and yes, it can take passengers, if they are willing to pay the cost.
So, wrapping up, some really cool designs, with the occasional editing mishap. Art for every creature, some better than others. Am thinking along the lines of a 4 star for this collection, as there were a few cool creatures here, but also a few not so thrilling (I'm looking at you Black Charger and Traveler)..add to that the occasional editing hiccup and yeah, I'm settling at 4 stars. If Outsiders are your cup of tea however, this just might be a 5 star for you folks, so pick it up and check it out.