Monster Focus: Skeletons (PFRPG) PDF

****½ (based on 7 ratings)

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Give Skeletons New Life!

Skeletons have always been a danger to young heroes venturing into lonely graveyards and ominous tombs, but these classic monsters are quickly replaced by their more powerful undead. Monster Focus: Skeletons is here to give Game Masters a wealth of options to give these clattering undead new "life".

Inside, you'll find a number of options for player characters facing off against skeletons. Options like the Bone Breaker feat, which allows a character to bypass damage reduction, or the new spell Maul of the Righteous, which can crush most skeletons with a single swing. In addition, there are a wide variety of new rules for Game Master to use in their game. There are 7 new magic items like the bone sword, a dreadful weapon that can turn any creature it kills into a skeleton under the wielders control. Game Masters will also find 3 new types of skeleton inside, including the skeletal lord that command the dead and create new minions to serve him.

Monster Focus is a series of short, easy to integrate PDFs, designed to make one classic monster the central theme for an adventure or even a small campaign. Each PDF in the series includes options for player characters and game masters, including new feats, spells, magic items, and more! Written by veteran game designer, Jason Bulmahn, you can be sure that these rules will fit seamlessly into your campaign.

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****½ (based on 7 ratings)

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Bone-fide

*****

Jason Bulmahn's "Monster Focus: Skeletons," the first release from Bulmahn's own Minotaur Games, is the kind of no nonsense crunch that any gamer should appreciate. The product itself is reminiscent of old school gaming supplements, which I am sure many of us can appreciate, while maintaining the ethos of the modern Pathfinder ruleset.

Bulmahn wastes no time getting right to the stats, providing a quick Knowledge table for skeleton lore followed by a number of options suitable for any adventurer's toolkit, including new feats, alchemical items, spells, magic weapons and a trio of new skeletal baddies to liven up your dusty bestiary and surprise your players. The quality of the supplement does not disappoint, and one can easily imagine these efforts as part of a larger (and much more expensive) sourcebook.

This title sets out to breathe some new life into these classic monsters and does so creatively, efficiently and economically. I'd recommend this text as a great addition to any gaming library.


A thematic collection of crunch about bony foes, but where's the heart?

****( )

Ah, the skeleton. One of the classic monsters, it occupies a sort of polar opposite to the mighty dragon or other monsters whose iconic status is (at least partially) concurrent with their great power. Indeed, skeletons are most notable for being the lowest-level undead most PCs will ever face, if not the weakest of any sort of threats. True, the skeleton template does allow for some upward scaling, but by and large these are lesser enemies, and little more.

That’s not nearly good enough for such an iconic monster, and so Minotaur Games brings us Monster Focus: Skeleton, to try and flesh out (not literally) not just skeletons themselves, but related materials to allow for greater command or destruction of these bony beings. Let’s take a look.

Monster Focus: Skeletons is a fairly short book, being a grand total of a half-dozen pages in length, including the cover. Several black and white illustrations liven up the presentation. These all seem to be hand-drawn; interestingly, these pictures are rough, but not quite so much that I’d call them of poor quality. Rather, their unpolished nature seems to capture the rough feeling of an undead skeleton, chipped and imperfect but still whole and functional. I’m not certain if Jason Bulmahn did that on purpose or not, but it works to surprisingly good effect.

As a supplement themed around a specific type of monster, the book basically presents a selection of new crunch related to that monster. The book opens with a set of escalating skill DCs for what knowledge checks reveal about skeletons; this is nice, if somewhat expected, since most PCs are likely to know pretty much everything your basic skeleton has. More helpful is the note that for stronger skeletons, the DCs should be increased on a 1:1 scale with the CR. This is good advice, though it should be noted that the information should be tailored slightly in that case, since it’s possible to make creatures of varying CRs using the basic skeleton template.

Three feats are next, two of which go towards damaging skeletons (though at their narrowest these feats still deal with undead made primarily of bones, e.g. liches, as well), and one towards commanding greater numbers of them. I have to say that I particularly enjoyed the Bone Breaker feat, as it allows for slashing weapons to beat DR X/bludgeoning, something that always seemed like a no-brainer to me.

A half-dozen alchemical items are next. Roughly half of these are essentially power components, in that they’re used with certain specific spells to enhance the spell’s effects. This is sensible, since Craft (alchemy) has long been the province of magic-users.

Five new spells follow. I wasn’t particularly impressed several of these, but some of the other spells here did, I must admit, wow me. Corpse Rebellion is a creative way to attack an undead creature – by allowing its departed spirit to reach back and try and confound, if not destroy, its defiled body. That does rub up against the whole “no unwilling resurrection” prohibition, but only slightly. It also calls up interesting questions for undead who are presumed to be still in possession of their warped souls, such as mummies, vampires, and liches, but that’s the sort of grey area that cunning GMs will love.

Seven magic items are present, each of which is a specific item rather than a magic weapon or armor quality. These weren’t bad, but as with the spells nothing seemed too innovative, something I suspect comes from most of them simply regurgitating specific spell effects. A few go beyond this, such as the Skull of Fangs, which can independently attack creatures on command.

The book ends with three new skeleton templates, getting back to the monsters that are at the heart of this book. The decrepit skeleton is one of the rare kinds of templates that makes a creature weaker, rather than more powerful. The monstrous skeleton template exists solely to allow creatures that had powerful abilities in life to retain them as skeletons. The skeletal lord is an enhanced version of the skeletal champion, being layered on top of that template. It was here that I wish a sample NPC had been included, not so much because it was necessary as because it would have been really cool to have had a pre-made skeletal lord NPC on hand. Three skeleton-based adventure ideas round out the book.

Overall, Monster Focus: Skeletons isn’t a bad book, but while it does have the occasional gem of an idea, there’s little here that reaches out and demands that you buy it. There’s no insightful ecology or game-changing idea found herein, nothing that makes you think that this is “Skeletons Revisited”-level inspiring. That’s a shame because such iconic monsters really need something on that level to do them justice. That said, what’s here is certainly viable for your game, and you likely won’t regret picking this book up. It is, ultimately, a bare bones product that needed some more meat on it to make it truly substantive.


Crunchy PDF

*****

This .pdf is 6 pages with one page taken by the cover and half of the sixth taken by the OGL. The remaining pages waste no time getting down to business with an introduction to skeletons followed by a lot of useful crunch. The layout is easy to read and packed with a lot of content to add new depth to skeletons for both players and GMs.

The price seems right and I don't regret picking this up, it reminds me very much of a tightly focused Monsters Revisited article.


The Price is Right...

*****

The Monster Focus is in the right price range for me. Add in the heaps of info plus items and you have a great product at an affordable price. I also liked the old school feel of the product. I look forward to the next installment!


Great Buy!

*****

This is a great buy! For the low price tag you get quite a lot of info. I really liked the skill check info. The skull lord feat is sure to be a favorite of mine. If you GM i would consider this a must buy.


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Now available (and welcome Minotaur Games)!

Contributor, RPG Superstar 2010 Top 4

Ah! This was the secret project that Jason Bulmahn was discussing on FaceBook. Very cool!


2 people marked this as a favorite.

My secret is out!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

WOOT!


This is pretty cool. The layout has a very old-school feel to it. I also like the idea of using alchemical items to augment spells. It'd be pretty cool to see items like that that could augment Channel Energy too.

One question though. Why add Lesser Animate Dead if there's already a spell that does that? The rules are different, but it's a bit weird to have two spells with the same name.


Thanks for the notice Cheapy, I forgot that spell existed and somehow missed it in my sweep to make sure I was not repeating rules. Hmm.. I will have to fix that asap. I will replace it tonight.

Edit: I have submitted the revised PDF with a new spell. It should go live tomorrow I would think.

Jason

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Nice support Mr J the Minotaur
:-)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber

Time to go to bed here in good old germany.
Reading for tonight on my ipad: Monster Focus

I´m curious


Dang you Jason...Bought!

Also...does it look like the skeleton hand on Page 2 is slightly giving everyone the finger?

Silver Crusade

Are these also options for Necromancer PCs?


There certainly are a number of options in the pdf for necromancer PCs.

Jason

The Exchange Contributor; Publisher, Kobold Press; RPG Superstar Judge

This is a neat first release (and I hope, the first of many!). Plus hey, skeletons needed a bit of a kick in the pants...

Nice work, Minotaur Games!


For those of you that picked up Monster Focus: Skeletons yesterday, a revised version of the file went up today. The only real change was an alteration to one of the spells to make sure that it does not overlap with an existing spell.

Thanks again for supporting Minotaur Games

Jason


Jason Bulmahn talking about Monster Focus: Skeletons on The Demiplane of Gaming .


I really enjoyed the podcast Steve, thanks!


*Didnt watch the podcast yet*

So Jason, why did you start MG? What else is in the pipeline?


Thanael wrote:

*Didnt watch the podcast yet*

So Jason, why did you start MG? What else is in the pipeline?

Well, I started Minotaur Games to give me an open outlet to play with some ideas rattling around my head. I also wanted to have some fun with the other parts of creating and managing a product, which is something I rarely get to do during my day job.

As for what else is in the pipeline, Monster Focus: Zombies just came out this past Wednesday and I am starting to do some of the work on Monster Focus: Ghouls which I am hoping to release in a few weeks. Beyond that, I am not quite ready to say, but Monster Focus is not going to be my only product line.

Jason Bulmahn
Master of the Maze
Minotaur Games


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Reviewed here and at RPGNow.


Alzrius wrote:
Reviewed here and at RPGNow.

Thank you for the critique. I will keep that in mind with future pdfs.


Hey there, a few questions on the Monstrous Skeleton. Let's say I'm using it on a juvenile black dragon.

Does the "If there are not enough matching abilities listed, select new abilities until the correct number is reached." apply to the abilities listed, or do they come from the creature's normal abilities?

For the black dragon, presumbly I'd choose Flight, swim, breath weapon, and natural armor. I then have 6 more abilities to choose. Can I then choose pounce, for example? Can I select Strength multiple times for the remaining six?

Thanks!


You should pick from the listed abilities until you have reached the correct total for the monster in question. The only limitation is that you can only select abilities with an asterisk (*) if the monster had them as a living creature. Otherwise you are free to choose from any of those listed in the template.

Jason Bulmahn
Minotaur Games


That's what I figured, thanks.

If you want a playtest report, the dragon with pounce and a breath weapon "wrecked face" against a group of do-gooders in Way of the Wicked.


Well, as part of a team, that is.

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