The Tome of Horrors Complete (S&W version) Review
Okay, so I think just about everyone who plays the grand ole game has an affection for monster manuals. I can think of several occasions in which I owned a monster manual before I owned the Game Masters guide. We are used to historical depictions and environmental details being given as well as origins for the creatures. Frog God Games does nothing to differ in this approach, however, its not where they align with popular mechanic references that make their monster tomes stand out. I hope in this review to illustrate not only the quality of the product but why this product in specific deserves to make your game shelf.
History of the Product
The Tome of Horrors, Swords and Wizardry version is 667 pages of glorious monster filled content. the list of creatures is in alphabetical order as one would expect and most entries consume no more than one page in length. I am sure versions for Pathfinder have a few more pages just to accommodate what I can assume are much lengthier stat blocks. The original Tome of Horrors 1 was written for 3rd edition Dungeons and dragons with later versions being written for 3.5 instead. Later, Frog Gods strove to cater to the Pathfinder crowd and made many updates to reflect new changes specific to that system.
Finally, it all came back to where it all began, and a Swords and Wizardry infused release was given to the old school gaming crowd. For those unfamiliar with Swords and Wizardry, Matt Finch and others took the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons rules and translated them from high Gygaxese into a more plainly spoken text. Certain features like Thac0 and saving throws are given optional updates to reflect modern sensibilities and streamline gameplay.
Contents of the Tome
The book wastes no time in getting down to business with roughly 658 creatures lurking within. Many of these creatures are completely original, and the few that are not are still variant versions of old favorites. The illustrations are black and white with bold line work. As the aim is to reflect a more old school feel the idea of black and white fuses perfectly, while Pathfinder enthusiasts may find that off-putting in comparison to Pathfinder products one must remember that Frog Gods puts quality in a lot of places shinier products do not.
Every single monster gets an illustration, a stat block and a brief game ecology style description of its behavior. This is the place where Frog Gods do something I absolutely love. They include a plot hook fueled small story perfect for the GM to quickly grab and insert into their game. It is time, to be frank and honest folks. Sometimes you just do not have time to write out your masterpiece adventure. Sometimes, life kicks you to the curb and you have no choice but to cast the GM only spell “wing it”. I am sure I am not the only GM to have my players occasionally fall into the odd wilderness encounter or the one-off small dungeon in the middle of nowhere. This is the very spirit of Lake Geneva gaming.
In this age of over saturation of details and splat products that provide a ton of information that may or may not actually be of functional use, the Tome of Horrors Complete instead provides solid useable material. The descriptions are just long enough to convey exactly what they need to in order for the monster to be of use immediately. The plot hooks provide a place, function, and reward in most cases, and do so in an immensely fun fashion to read.
Every last page has gorgeous black and white illustrations. The Tome of Horrors Complete straddles the line between old and new, having fine examples of art far beyond what one would expect in an old-school product but the touch of black and white keeps it from seeming like more of the same. I love full color books, but I appreciate simple and complete over gorgeous and confusing. The layout is functional and flows well, separating information into bite-sized bits for easy GM consumption. The production quality of the book itself is very good. I am not sure what print press Frog God Games uses but they obviously print with the longevity of the product in mind. The quality is reminiscent of a brand new school book, built to go through many hands. The book is certainly solid, and can easily function as a shield from an angry player!
Is it worth the price??
The Tome of Horrors Complete combines the Tome of Horrors 1, 2 and 3 into one complete book. It is available for both Pathfinder and Swords and Wizardry, which makes it fairly easy to translate to any D20 based system. It is a great book with literally hundreds of original monsters, hundreds of plot hooks for each monster and great artwork. Frog God Games gives credit on each every monster entry to its creator, which is truly an awesome display of respect. You can pick up The Tome of Horrors Complete at Frog God Games website. So spice up your game with this great book today!