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Review of Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Aberrant Horrors

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft (The Call of Cthulhu, 1928)

This seems to be the season for tentacle-waving blasphemous things, at least in the realm of role-playing games. I’m not sure if it is something in the air in springtime, or just one of those bizarre coincidences, but I keep “stumbling” into the Far Realms these days.

It started a few weeks ago, at PAX East, where in the DM’s Challenge Contest, I got the chance to play in a very well-written, lovecraftian-style, Underdark adventure. Then I happen to be reading the third book of Cook’s Black Company Series, which has any number of references to bizarre otherworldly aberrant creatures in it (ie. the wasteland mentioned in the story is called the “Plain of Fear” for a reason!).Cover BBB Aberrant Horrors And I just released the sequel to my freebie adventure module, A Curse at the Old Inn, called Bane of the Warlock, and it is chock full of creepy goodness. And finally, I just reviewed KQ #13, in which there is a scary D&D 4E article about worshipping Lovecraftian Gods.

Is someone trying to tell me something?!

And while checking through my list of products to review, what happens to be on the schedule this week? I think I better take a look at Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Aberrant Horrors… before it’s too late!

Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Aberrant Horrors
  • Designer: Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel
  • Illustrator: Jesse Mohn
  • Publisher: Blackdirge Publishing
  • Year: 2009
  • Media: PDF (8 pages)
  • Cost: $1.49

Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Aberrant Horrors is a monster manual in ebook format, containing five new terrifying creatures from the Far Realms which can be used in any Dungeons & Dragons 4E setting. The horrors range in Levels from 4 to 24, and all but two are considered elite creatures. These monstrosities can fill a variety of roles depending upon the type of combat encounter being designed.

The production quality of BBB: Aberrant Horrors is very good, with straight-forward and easy to use layout, and the monsters displayed in standard “stat block” format recognizable to any D&D 4E gamer. The artwork is mainly pencil-style sketches, but are nicely done and convey the general “awfulness” of these entities of the Far Realms.

The Author introduces the supplement with a quick description of the origin of these monsters, which sets the tone for the rest of the ebook:

The Far Realm is a place of absolute madness and chaos, but despite this fact, it teems with fell life. The aberrations that live within the Far Realm sometimes find their way into the world, and although all of these abominations are disturbing and dangerous, some command power that outstrips even that of the most fearsome natural monsters.

The monsters detailed in BBB: Aberrant Horrors include:

  • Grethling – Level 4 Lurker
  • Varghul – Level 9 Skirmisher
  • Warptail Watcher – Level 13 Elite Soldier
  • Creeping Maw – Level 18 Elite Lurker
  • Chaos Kraken – Level 24 Elite Controller

The last monster on the list, the Chaos Kraken, certainly lives up to its name, and is described by the Author as a deranged (at least from a mundane point-of-view) experimenter with the very stuff of chaos and horror:

Drifting through the unending madness of the Far Realm, pondering concepts far beyond mortal understanding, the chaos kraken is a terrifying monstrosity that can control the mutating effects of chaos and inflict them upon its enemies.

This creature could certainly be used to seed some interesting adventures, and would make a worthy “boss” to fight as a climax.

Likewise, the Creeping Maw was another favorite of mine, and could certainly present some serious threat to any party of adventurers which crossed its path:

Creeping maws are disgusting aberrant predators that lurk in dismal caves and ruins where the barrier between the world and the Far Realm is thin. They eagerly devour any living creatures that come within striking distance of their fanged, retractable mouths.

The Author did not forget the Heroic Tier, and the Grethling and Varghul make for some nasty predators, waiting to challenge any band of dungeon-delvers. However, while I enjoyed the descriptions and powers deployed by many of these blasphemous horrors (you knew I had to use that word at least once), I am not so sure that their roles fit the power packages for a couple of these Far Realms-ian beasties.

The Grethling and the Creeping Maw, for instance, were labeled as Lurkers, but aside from having a trained Stealth skill, did not really have anything else which would make me feel they were all the “lurker-ish”. If anything, the Grethling, also called a “face-hugger”, seems more like a skirmisher with an interesting mode of attack. The Creeping Maw, on the other hand, seemed to me as mainly a brute, with some very nasty attacks. And the Varghul, which is a horrid diabolical flying beast with a prehensile tail and the capability of “hanging” its enemies, would fill a Soldier role much better than the Skirmisher role it was assigned.

Role assignment is often the trickiest part of monster design, in my opinion. And although there are a few irregularities with the monster roles in BBB: Aberrant Horrors, the monsters are still well-designed, and have abilities which will keep Player-Characters surprised and often confounded.

Overall Grade: A-

Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Aberrant Horrors is a nifty assortment of Far Realms’ horrors to add to a campaign. The monsters are well conceived, have some great abilities, lore, and descriptions, and make excellent “surprise” adversaries for almost any adventuring heroes. Although I found some irregularities in the combat roles assigned to these creatures by the Author, the monsters still function well, and definitely fit the theme of “aberrant horrors”. And with a price of only $1.49, you get a lot of blasphemous beastie for your buck.

So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Editor’s Note: This Blog’s Author received a complimentary copy of the product in PDF format from which the review was written.

Grade Card

  • Presentation: A-
  • - Design: A
  • - Illustrations: B+
  • Content: B+
  • - Crunch: B
  • - Fluff: A
  • Value: A+

About The Author

Editor-in-Chief
Michael is an Adept of a Secret Order of Dungeon Masters, and dwells in a hidden realm with his two evil cat-familiars, deep within the Vale of Wolverines, called by some "Michigan". He has been esoterically conjuring D&D Campaigns for nearly a Third of a Century, and has been known to cast ritual blogs concerning Dungeons & Dragons every few days with some regularity. Michael has freelanced for Wizards of the Coast, and writes reviews of D&D and other Role-Playing Game products on EN World News.

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