Beastiary bought and read. I shall now attempt a review.
First off the layout. It's really nice and simple. Each creature has a nice chunky stat block which takes up usually around half a page, the other half being taken up with creature fluff and description and a nice piece of artwork. Apart from the great looking cover there's only a spattering of colour within the book, which is fine because I assume those who would print it would print in black and white. So you won't miss much.
The artwork itself is nice. Generally strong throughout. Some pieces have clearly had more time put into them than others but there is something fitting about the 'sketchiness' of the less complete pieces. That isn't to say you're looking at an unfinished stick man; all the pieces serve to give you a strong idea of how the creatures should look.
The creations themselves in the book are pretty varied, from goblin shark to caged foetuses serving as a swinging lantern (nope, don't reread it. You read it right the first time). Despite being so varied there seems to be a very clear theme running through it. I can't exactly pinpoint it but just from reading the book I have a pretty clear idea of the type of world Midgard would be to play in. I would say there's maybe only one or two creatures in the book that boil down to reskins but the thematic fluff provided gives a strong argument for their inclusion.
I was most excited about seeing the new stunts and abilities that were promised in product overview so I paid closest attention to those. While there are some shiny new abilities that some of the creatures have there are other that are generally just a very clever usage of pre-existing rules in different ways. Whether you see that as a negative is up to you, but I liked it because everything felt familiar and gave me great ideas for tweaking other aspects for use with new monsters. It's the same with the new stunts and abilities that are introduced: having read through them it'd be very easy to pick and choose different abilities and give them to an already existing monster from Set 1 or 2 and make a brand new creature.
Stand outs for me were the Bremmean Wizard, the Gilded Devil and the Derro Fetal Savant. The Bremmean Wizard just screams "Use me as the bad guy for a whole campaign!" and I loved the fluff associated with him. I'm already planning an adventure using him. Similarly the Gilded Devil begs to be used an adventure and would make the perfect lieutenant for your campaign's big bad. With both of these it was the fluff [i]and[/i] mechanics that really stood out. And now on to the Derro Fetal Savant, the aforementioned 'caged fetus serving as a swinging lantern'. This gets my award for Outstanding Creepiness. Great for use in any horror themed campaign. You can imagine a town of villagers worshipping this thing. As an aside, if you [i]are[/i] looking to run a horror themed game or adventure there's bags of ideas in the book for you.
Down to the guts of the review and I'm going to analyse it from two perspectives.
As a supplement for a Dragon Age Game: Really good. Some great ideas that could be easily tweaked or explained into the Dragon Age universe. A minor quibble I have is it would've been nice to have a little sidebar for some creatures with a note on how to blend them with the DA setting. Any GM worth his salt wouldn't have to go far to do this but it would've been a nice inclusion. Very minor complaint though.
As a Midgard Supplement: Now I opened this PDF not having a clue about the Midgard setting they're working on at Open Design so I came at it from a "How can this work for me?" angle. Saying that and having read through it I am hugely intrigued by the Midgard setting now. The book gave me enough of a tease and fluff and mentions of history to really make me want to know more. And as I mentioned earlier I think I already have a good idea of what the setting is about. And I like it.
Another tiny negative I have on the book (and it is just a minor one) is that some of the stunts and abilities are a little vague at times. Only some mind but it's still confusing. The Bone Crab's 'White Ghost Shivers' for instance says that if a player fails 3 tests they succumb to the sickness. It doesn't however say how many they must pass. A little issue but I felt it worth mentioning.
So would I recommend the Midgard Beastiay? Given the slim selection of creatures for Set 1 and Set 2, having 50+ new creations to choose from can really help. As well as that I think any GM would find it hard to read the book and not get at least a half dozen ideas for adventures. For the cost of 5 dollars (only cost me 3.50 euro) and if you play Dragon Age alot or want to use AGE for another setting (Pathfinder or Freeport etc) I absolutely recommend this book. It's a great resource for a low price.
Midgard Bestiary Vol. 1 (AGE System)
Date Added: 07/18/2011 by