Let's Read of the Fiend Folio (2003)

Dweller in Darkness

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#1
I don't think there's been one of these recently, at least. It's a dog's breakfast of a bestiary, in my opinion, with far more good ideas than good mechanics, but it doesn't get much love. It looks like most of the pictures are available online. If a couple of people express interest, I'll start with the abrian, a monster that looks like an ostrich but, get this, is secretly ... an ostrich.
 

Zeea

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#2
I'd be moderately interested. It's my least favorite of the 3e monster books for reasons I could never quite remember, but it had some cool ideas in it. Mixed with stuff like the abrian.
 

Dweller in Darkness

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#3
It published with the 3.0 ruleset, two months before 3.5, and it showed. There are some truly busted mechanics in here.

Oh, so, each monster's going to get a rating from 1-10. I'll give a breakdown of the rating when I can, but the basics are that monsters start at 10 and get minuses from there, for things that include:
1. Being a retread of an existing idea.
2. Broken mechanics.
3. Being a revisit of a previously published monster, only more boring than the last time.
4. Other, petty reasons.
 

Dweller in Darkness

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#6
Well, let's get started, with the

Abrian

As promised, this an ostrich, but it's extraplanar, which means that it's also ... an ostrich. Well, it has some bells and whistles. We'll get to those in a bit.



Extraplanar is an extremely common subtype in this book, as this Fiend Folio was intended to round out a lot the bestiaries so that they had more extraplanar monsters than just devils and demons (although we get 9 of those anyway). Some of them are new, but a lot of them are reprints from previous editions, including the abrian, which originally appeared in the second Planescape Monster Compendium (which I should also do some time).

This version isn't a radical departure from that - it's a relatively straightforward monster with a bite/kick/kick combo and a shriek attack. Oh, yeah, should've mentioned, these are ostriches that can yell so loud that they can daze, deafen or inflict sonic damage, depending on how many of them there are. They also have sonic resistance, which, being as they're a CR 1 monster, will pretty much never come up in combat, and an increased crit range for their bite attack. Mechanically, they're pretty good, other than both of their kick attacks being at a penalty, which, even for a low-level monster, makes those attacks basically useless and annoying. The mechanical text takes up less than a whole column.

In terms of the fluff, we don't get much, though. They speak Abyssal and are "far more intelligent than they look." This, too, will be a running theme in this book, a holdover from 2nd edition where there were monsters that were literally boulders with minor telekinesis and the Intelligence of Stephen Hawking. At least here we have ostriches that are said to engage in the occasional bit of trade. How, exactly, and of what, is left as an exercise for the reader. I'm guessing they exchange their eggs for those grabber arm things.

We don't know if they're carnivores for certain, but they're in the Outer Planes, specifically the Abyss, and one of the options under "Organization" is "hunting flock," so it's a safe bet.

Rating: 6/10. They get points off for being a rehash of an existing D&D monster that wasn't very exciting to begin with, and for the lack of innovation in their recreation, but they're a pretty solid low-level monster, which is rare for extraplanar beasts, and I can see how a good DM could take their weird intelligence and make a memorable encounter with them, the kind of thing that announces to the players, "The Outer Planes are a very strange place and you can't trust ANYthing."
 

Crinos

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#8
I think the Abrians were in one of the Planar boxed sets right?

Anyways, its kind of a waste because there were better bird based monsters they could have drawn from.

First we have the Wastrel, which is a lower planar like crow that drains a victims life force. First they draw blood in an initial attack, then they circle around after that, slowly draining their life force and will to live.

The other is the Simpathetic, a Lower planar bird that originally appeared in the forgotten realms, and eats the goodness of any being that draws near, turning them evil.

Either one of them would be better than the hell Emu there.
 

Dweller in Darkness

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#9
Oh, hey! It's our first original monster! Well, "original."

Abyssal Ghoul

I swear I saw something like this in a previous edition, but maybe I'm just thinking of City of the Spider Queen, where they first appeared.

They're extraplanar*, and undead, and ... not entirely terrible? I guess? I think this is a creature that suffers from being imported from a published adventure without its flavour text. All that we actually get is an inset box that tells us that in the Forgotten Realms, they serve Kiaransalee, and, hey, wouldn't they be great servants of the King of the Ghouls? I don't know that I need the book to tell me that ghouls make good servants of someone called the King of the Ghouls, but that's far from the least useful text we'll come across.

Mechanically, these guys are harbingers of the problems that the system would eventually run into with monsters as they tried to balance the damage output and magical capabilities of casters - they have immunities or resistance to basically all of the elemental types, so a savvy player is going to have to find some way of defeating them that doesn't involve direct damage, and they have an annoyingly high spell resistance.

Of course, they also have four attacks, two of which inflict disease, and are basically immune to sneak attack, so it's not like melee fighters will fare any better against them. They also have my least favourite ability - improved grab, which means that I have to keep the PHB open to the page(s) of grappling rules. They also drain Wisdom, deal sneak attack damage and have a combination of feats that make them hard to pin down in combat. They're technically blind, but they have blindsight, so they can actually "see" better than if they actually had sight, and are immune to light-based effects. They're CR 10, and they feel like it.

Once again, the fluff here is minimal. We're basically told that they have "abyssal connections," but what that means is unexplained. I'm thinking that they probably went to to the same prep schools as the barbazu or something. The abrian illustration was kind of cool, but this one? I have to think it was just copied out of the module they appeared in, where the strange pose had some context to it, because when I initially scanned this book after purchasing, I sincerely thought that they had a solid upper torso, but a lower body of smoke or mist. Actually, I preferred that look so much that rather than using these guys, I just took the picture as inspiration and made a spectral ghoul.

Oh, did I mention that they have an Intelligence of 14, for no particular reason? Yeah.

* I'd start a joke about taking a shot every time a monster's extraplanar, but if I followed up on the jokes, I'd be dead of alcohol poisoning before getting out of the Cs.

Rating: 4/10. First, any monster with improved grab gets a -1, and any monster with blindsight gets a further -1. There are plenty of mid-range undead without the abyssal ghoul, and they don't do anything unique or special. The only niche they fill is giving the DM the satisfaction of saying, "Try to fireball this, Brian!" With some indication of what they do, or where to use them, that rating might go up, and I think that if I saw them in their natural habitat (the module they came from), my rating might go up, but here we are. As it is, they don't even give a clue about where you ought to put them as their Climate/Terrain entry is, "Any land and underground."
 
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Dweller in Darkness

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#10
What’s their alignment? If it’s anything but evil, they’ll raise a few points in my eyes.
Usually chaotic evil, sorry.
Crinos said:
I think the Abrians were in one of the Planar boxed sets right?

Anyways, its kind of a waste because there were better bird based monsters they could have drawn from.

First we have the Wastrel, which is a lower planar like crow that drains a victims life force. First they draw blood in an initial attack, then they circle around after that, slowly draining their life force and will to live.

The other is the Simpathetic, a Lower planar bird that originally appeared in the forgotten realms, and eats the goodness of any being that draws near, turning them evil.

Either one of them would be better than the hell Emu there.
I have them only in the Planescape Compendium II, but they may have been in the boxed set. As a base monster, a very low-level critter, they're all right but, yeah, pretty uninspired.
 
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