Note: Kobold Press provided a PDF copy of Tome of Beasts I (2023) for review.
Kobold Press released Tome of Beasts I in 2016. Tome of Beasts is a 425 page book of monsters for use in 5e based fantasy role playing games. Since the initial release Kobold Press has refined their books in terms of creature design and formatting of their stat blocks, which prompted the updated version of Tome of Beasts I, now available. The updated version has added some new creatures and removed others, added some new artwork, and some of the actions of creatures have been adjusted as well as the organization of the stat blocks. For a description of what has changed between these versions, consult https://koboldpress.com/tome-of-beasts-1-what-changed/ This review will not go into detail about the changes between the versions, but will instead review the book for those that are not familiar with either version.
So, should you buy Tome of Beasts I (2023)? The short answer is: yes! If you don’t have the 2016 edition, that is. This is my favorite 5e creature book from any publisher. The book is available in hardcover, softcover pocket edition and PDF, as well as bundles including print and PDF versions. There is currently a collector’s edition as well. These options mean you can buy the format that works in your game and for your budget.
Features and Notes About the Book
- The artwork is great. You may want to have the print version even if you only play online just so you can flip through the gorgeous illustrations.
- Most creatures “hit harder” at the stated challenge rating (CR) than creatures from other publishers. This is important to remember, as if you’re used to using CR to assess the challenge to your PCs, remember these creatures will likely be more of a challenge.
- Relative to the CR values noted above, if you’ve had trouble challenging PCs at higher levels, using Kobold Press creatures may help you design more deadly encounters.
- The creatures are listed alphabetically but there is also an index of creatures by CR, by type and by terrain, to make adventure design easier.
- There are a few features specific to Kobold Press such as the languages of Umbral (shadow) speech and Void (outer darkness) speech, as well as the concept of cold iron weapons which can harm fey creatures. These concepts are drawn from Kobold Press’s Midgard campaign setting, but are easily adapted to whatever setting you’re using if you desire.
- There are alternate versions of many classic monsters. There are new versions of giants, dragons, elfs, ghouls, giants, hags , kobolds, oozes and many more. Many of these are derived from Kobold Press’s products, such as Empire of the Ghouls.
- If you’re looking to populate creepy or spooky adventures, there’s a lot here for you. Check out the Rat King:
A great knot of scabrous rats scrabbles together as a mass, with skulls, bones, and flesh entangled in the whole. Teeth, eyes, and fur all flow as a single disturbing rat swarm walking on two legs.
Some of My Favorite Creatures in the Book
- Grim Jester, an undead skeletal jester with random abilities including Killing Joke (shoutout to Alan Moore), an often deadly attack. This is a great creature for GMs who love performing at the table.
- Fey Lords and Ladies. There are several outlined here such as the Bear King and the Queen of Night and Magic. These NPCs are wonderful for filling out the plane of Fey, or even fairytale inspired places like Oz or Wonderland.
- Bone Swarm, a CR 10 creature that is a sentient pile of bones. It’s a large swarm and anyone in its space is subject to its swirling bones attack (+10 to hit, for 36 (8d8) bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing damage.
If you’ve read the Tome of Beasts I, let us know what you think in the comments below! If you’ve got a product you think we should review, contact us at email@example.com