Ever felt like customizing a monster? Taking a look under the hood to see what makes it tick? Or perhaps you’ve thought a particular monster is too powerful or not powerful enough for a particular encounter? I’ve usually handled this in my games by making the monsters a tad more intelligent than they might have been normally. But occasionally I’ve wondered, beyond simply using numbers to my advantage and adding *more* of a particular monster type, how I might tack on something unique on the fly when I needed.
WCP’s Monstrous Garage, Volume 1 by William C. Pfaff offers a set of six different critters for your 4e D&D game with different options to make them stronger or simply different. You get six points to spend to make a creature unique. Consider each change a minor mutation. For instance, with the Tarpit Drake, you can beef up the beast’s HP, Defenses, Attacks, or simply bolt something on. This critter is an elemental creature made from tar, so you can give it a ranged spit or burst attack, maybe a tail slap (like a tentacle of tar)… Perhaps you beef up it’s AC and HP a little or give it regeneration to give it an edge.
The six critters that can be worked on include everything from the tar creature already mentioned to a velociraptor, a giant scorpion, an intelligent fungus, and more. The variety offered suggests how broadly applicable the “garage” mentality could be for monsters. For a short PDF (13 pages with 9 pages of content), there’s a lot to like here.
And though I love the concept, the implementation took me a bit to figure out. Each monster’s page is laid out with an introduction, a color-coded stat block, and some boxes pointing to various chunks of the stat block. Before I get to my confusion, I’ll suggest that red and green aren’t the best colors to indicate different bits in the stat block. As a guy with some color blindness for certain colors myself (gray/purple all kind of look the same to me), I know that red/green color blindness is not uncommon. Perhaps some kind of grayscale shading might work better.
My confusion came when I was looking at the different areas in which points could be spent. Starting at the top for the Tarpit Drake’s stat block, I see that I can spend 1 point for Base HP and Defenses (HP 38, Bloodied 19, AC 15, etc.) or 2 points for Improved (HP 52, Bloodied 26, AC 18, etc.). But other than the color coding, there’s no indication that this is how things work. Perhaps if there were two more clearly indicated options – (a) and (b) that corresponded to the directions in the boxes to the left. This same confusion caught me for attacks as well. But if this was just a hair clearer, I think this opens up all sorts of interesting variants.
Included towards the back of the book, there’s a
And as much as I love doing things by hand, I’d really love to have an automated way to do this. I could easily see a web page put together for each monster that has a drop-down for each area you could “tweak.” Then print it and you’re off and running, as opposed to jotting something down that I may or may not understand a month or a year from now.
That said, I think the layout would work great with a little clarification. But I absolutely love the cover from artist Daniel Olsén. The cartoon style reminds me of some of the 1st Edition D&D hardback books of my youth.
I really look forward to seeing what else Bill has in store for the Monstrous Garage series. Hopefully we’ll see a story or two about how he tweaked a monster and it got his group’s attention. Along those lines, Bill does include two great sections offering some background on his creations – “Design Notes” offers some thoughts each monster included and the “FAQ” tries to fill in the blanks in his “Garage” design methodology.
If you’re looking for ways to offer some unique critters for your 4e game, WCP’s Monstrous Garage, Volume 1 has some cool options to explore. I think Bill has definitely hit on a cool line of supplements for Escape Velocity Games. Check out WCP’s Monstrous Garage, Volume 1 at RPGNow/DriveThruRPG today and see what you can whip up in your own garage!
- Supplement Review: Incredible Insects, Volume 1 by William C. Pfaff and Esape Velocity Gaming (gameknightreviews.com)
- Book Review: City Slices 1: Marketplace Fun by William C. Pfaff from Escape Velocity Gaming (gameknightreviews.com)
- EN World Review – Baba Yaga: Queen of the Wicked Fens from NEUROGLYPH Games (neuroglyphgames.com)