The RPGrrl's Blog

{January 14, 2011}   Monster Vault Review

For Christmas, our 10 year old decided to buy his father a new RPG resource. With a plethora of boxed sets and shiny hardcovers to choose from he selected (and I paid full price for) the D&D Essentials Monster Vault boxed set. My husband was happy to find it under the Christmas tree, and now I’ve managed to get my hands on it to do a review!

When I first spotted the D&D Essentials Monster Vault, I was skeptical. After all, I already owned both the Fourth Edition Monster Manuals 1 and 2. I wondered if this book could possibly offer anything new, or if it would be repeating monster blocks from the other two books.

A read-through of the table of contents does not reveal any new monster names, though it does happily indicate three useful features: an animal appendix, glossary, and index of monsters. The animal appendix contains the pertinent information for various common animals (bears, rats, spiders, wolves), the glossary provides definitions for keywords and states and other terms associated with the monsters and their abilities, and the index is arranged first by monster level, then by monster type (fighting style: skirmisher, controller, brute) and lastly alphabetically within each subgroup.

The book begins with a detailed breakdown and description of the parts of the Fourth Edition monster statistics block. It takes eight pages, but if a reader was uncertain how to interpret a stat block before reviewing that information, they would definitely know how to afterward!

Once the monster section begins, each of the 63 monsters listed in the table of contents is introduced with a section of descriptive text to explain their origins and other useful history that will help a Game Master include them in adventures. (Yes! The authors took the time to rewrite the introductions!) For some monsters there are “quotations” attributed to D&D characters, and additional artwork. Almost every monster stat block has accompanying art in the form of a circular portrait of the sort found on creature tokens for use in grid/tabletop battle play. And yes, there are lots of new monsters. Or, rather, there are many new delineations of monsters. For example, of the five types of basilisk listed, four are not found in the Monster Manuals 1 or 2.

Also included in the box are colour tokens of a sturdy, heavy nature: a whole stack of punch-out sheets, with at least one token for each of the 63 contained in the book, and frequently several of each (with numbers on them, so when your party faces many of the same sort of foe they can each have their own picture token.) On the sheets you will also find generic minion tokens, and some very useful up-size rings. One can place the smaller token of a particular monster into the ring so it then occupies “huge” creature space on the grid map. Besides the tokens, there is also a ready-made adventure (“Cairn of the Winter King”) for a 4th level party, and a large, full colour, folding map to go along with it.

As I said before, I was skeptical at first, but I am pleased to report that the D&D Essentials Monster Vault is a good value, useful tool to add to your Fourth Edition collection. Besides various new permutations of monsters, the collection of tokens will definitely come in handy for GMs whose mini collections still need to be filled in. The only thing that would have made this a more-complete set would have been if the rules were included for scaling monster stat blocks up or down to tailor them to your party. You’ll have to look to your Fourth Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide for those!


{November 20, 2010}   I Want to Play Everything!

You know what I need? More people. And more days of the week. I want to play more RPGs!

I’m currently at home with my 5-1/2 month old son, but don’t anyone think for a second that means my days are empty! Besides doing housekeeping and cooking and grocery shopping and laundry and taking care of the animals and feeding/changing/playing with my son, I often run out of time to do other things (like feed myself!) Not to mention that I have writing obligations over at BellaOnline and am participating in NaNoWriMo! But beyond all that, this is what the rest of my time looks like:
Monday (evening): Nothing set in stone for this night, yet. It is supposed to be the night for G2G, but I have not received confirmation from the entire party yet, and so we have not gotten together. (This makes me sad, by the way.)
Tuesday (evening): Once a month, I have a board meeting to go to on Tuesdays. Otherwise, it’s a night that I can prepare slightly more elaborate meals.
Wednesday (evening): Once a month I have a board meeting on this night, too. Every week, my husband runs D&D Encounters at the FLGS. More often than not, I stay home, as the baby’s bedtime is around 7pm, and he doesn’t start his game ’til 6:30, but twice already this month I have ended up going. We remain prepared for the possibility that the event will prove popular, and we’ll need to open a second table (which I would run.)
Thursday (evening): previously a night where my husband would come home from work for a rushed dinner, then dash off to teach a 3 hour long class on Photoshop, and I’d stay home with the baby. Now, he still dashes off to teach Photoshop, and I still stay home with the baby, but a couple ladies drop by to play board games for a portion of the evening as well. This week it’ll be Munchkin… which is not a board game, but that’s ok 😉
Friday (evening): the only night that we actively, intentionally try to keep free for family stuff. Funnily enough, that’s the night that the 13 yr old usually wants not to be home with the family *LOL*
Saturday (morning): This time can be claimed by many things, but it is usually a) grocery shopping day, b) work-on-the-new-house day (for example, tomorrow I will be painting at the new house ’til noon), or c) frantic prep for G1G.
Saturday (afternoon): morning activities frequently spill over into early afternoon, especially grocery shopping. If I’m not out of the house, I’m getting last minute things together for game, or making a snack to take with me for the pot-luck table, and then I drive across town to pick up the other game-mom. Our game usually runs from 3-7pm.
Saturday (night): after 7pm, my day is basically cooked. Baby goes to bed, and I spend the rest of the evening catching up on email or twitter or blogging, or (if I feel particularly self-indulgent) reading.
Sunday (morning): not that I ever get to sleep in, because the baby is the most efficient (and frankly, most pleasant) alarm clock I’ve ever had, but this is the day everyone ELSE tries to sleep in. The baby and I spend most of the morning playing, I cook my fancy breakfasts on this day, sometimes I grocery shop if I had to work on the new house on Saturday, sometimes the whole family heads out of the house for Sunday morning Brunch (’cause who doesn’t love a good brunch, right?)
Sunday (afternoon/evening): Sunday is epic gaming day. We have a 10+ player table, where we originally were playing a 4e campaign (run by my husband), but are currently alpha testing a different game, followed by AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s not a bad arrangement.

So, as you can see, I’m kindof busy. Y’know. Just a little. But you know what? I want more. MORE RPGs!! On Wednesday, when I was at my FLGS for D&D Encounters this week (after the whole family auditioned for an RBC hockey-themed commercial that will be filmed here in Whitehorse — no, we haven’t heard back yet), I told the owner I’d like to collect some more gamers who were specifically interested in trying out new systems. I have a couple of games I have been invited to play-test, and there are so many games I own and really want to play!

Is this a “New GM” thing? Because I’ve just started I want to try everything? Does anyone else have this issue?

I don’t even know what night I’d fit this other group into, but I really hope to find some more players! (and more time!)

et cetera