||I was hoping to get a real feel for a unique jungle locale with this document, but I was dissapointed. It turns out to be just a collection of beasts that re-treads themes covered over and over again in other monster books.
I'm a lover of monster books, and a lover of EN world, but this book just failed to win me over. It didn't add anything dynamically new to my monster artillery, nor did it give me a good feel for a special jungle where my players could adventure.
The monsters were largely things that I already have the tools to use. I don't need zombie monkeys -- I have the zombie template, and the monkey. I don't need guardian stone golems -- I already have stone golems. I don't need bloodsucking plants -- I already have those, too. Tiny forest people? Well, halflings are portable. While there were a few interesting or dynamic creatures (a psionic monster, an ooze that qualifies as a terrain feature, a ), many beasts are dull and listless, existing more as mechanics than as dynamic monsters that I would throw my party against. The largely tread the same path as monsters that have come before, which is unnessecary -- I've seen the mosnters that have come before, and I really don't need another Generic Plant Monster #452, another Dryad-Like Tree Sprite #6, andother Demon #800,000. These generic jungle critters don't add any dimension to the jungle, nor do they give off a specific "pale jungle" feel; the pale jungle might as well be any jungle ever in any camapaign as far as I can tell.
The addition of a blurb at the end of each monster to reveal the thoughts of the designers was very useful, though in some situations emphasized the blandness of the monster, or proved more a pulpit for the expounding of game design philosophy.
Finally, I was hoping to get a feel for the Ruins of the Pale Jungle as a locale, but after a brief mention at the opening, they are not considered. There is no further campaign information, and there isn't even an encounter table for what creatures are likely to appear there. I was hoping to be able to pick this up, read all about how the Ruins of the Pale Jungle is unique and dynamic, and be able to insert it directly from the book into my campaign. Perhaps I was mislead, or perhaps I jumped to conclusions, but the fact that it was a monster book filled with fairly generic jungle creatures was a great dissapointment.
LIKED: * Some genuinely interesting beasts, such as psionic undead, giant oozes, and serpentine dragons
* Good attention to balance and fairness
* Openness about design philosophy and use of the creatures helps understand how a DM can use these weapons.
DISLIKED: * Tanar'ri are not in the SRD, so their use seems odd. Drake is not a monster type, so it's use seems odd.
* Flavorless blandness abounds!
* Some of the insights were just opinionated ramblings. Calling most templates magic-heavy or the dryad unnessecarily limited seems ill-informed, or at the very least grossly over-critical.
* No feel for the locale at all, though it strongly hints that there should have been...
[2 of 5 Stars!]