Paizo’s Bestiary 5, with over 300 heinous beasts, is a production of the same high quality we expect from Paizo. It comes complete with wonderful cover art by Pathfinder‘s style-defining Wayne Reynolds and 46 talented artists providing the story-inspiring interior art. However, after four bestiaries with over one thousand monsters, what more could Paizo have to offer us in monsters? Quite a bit, actually! In this latest edition they offer some new options in existing categories such as demons, devils, and dragons, as well as some missing real-world monsters such as polar bears. Many of the creatures in this book are a collection of beasts from prior materials such as the Android first seen in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary, but there are also a great many new creations. In the first 60 or so monsters I checked, two-thirds of them were new.
What’s really new in the Bestiary 5, though, are monsters utilizing rules from the recently released Occult Adventures. With new rules to handle the paranormal, now your baddies don’t just disembowel the adventurers, they can mess with their minds first!
The Nightmare Dragon has an ability from Occult Adventures to enter someone’s dream and can “utterly control any dreamscape.” If the Nightmare Dragon causes someone’s death in a dream, that person’s material body dies as well. If the prey manages to “nine, ten, never sleep again,” the Nightmare Dragon can just tear a foe apart with its devastating claw, claw, bite routine. Oh yeah, and then there’s the DC29, 20d6 breath weapon of sizzling acid. A true nightmare! All of the new dragons in Bestiary 5 utilize rules from Occult Adventures.
As always, while thumbing through the volume, adventure ideas ooze from the pages. Of particular interest to me were such things as the mutants and robots.
Mutated by “long-term exposure to radiation or bizarre magical fields,” the Mutant Orc provided in the book is a fine adversary, but what intrigues me about the mutant entry is that it also provides a template for converting any creature into a mutated aberration. This offers so much fodder for adventure. I see the characters delving deeper into a dungeon’s core, only to find greater and greater mutated beasts as they proceed, until they find and plug the leaking mutant-causing energies. Do they get mutated as well? Or maybe the town’s inhabitants are slowly mutating as their water supply is polluted be a seeping-evil– from the corpse of the demon the adventures saved the town from last week! Bestiary 5 includes other templates as well, such as Mummy Lord and the undead Plague Beast that can infect others with Demon Plague, zombie-apocalypse style. Yay.
I have not had the pleasure of playing the science-fantasy Iron Gods adventure path from Paizo, but the robots also jump out as great food for adventure. Imagine the implications of a swarm of Robot Terraformers carving a swath of genesis-device-style destruction across the kingdom with Robot Gearsmen and Annihilators confronting the heroes as they try to stop the destruction.
If you like to keep the two great tastes of science and fantasy separate though, these high-tech creatures represent just a small sampling of the challenges in this book. There are literally hundreds of traditional fantasy options available to torment your players with as well.
Many of the creatures are drawn from actual myth, such as the Anemos, godlike beings from the Plane of Air, and the Akaname, or filth licker, a Y?kai from Japanese myth, described by Paizo’s Editor-in-Chief, F. Wesley Schneider as “a perfect monster” and “frickin’ gross!”
Ever wonder what Baba Yaga does with all her daughters? Well you can rest easy now, knowing that their frozen remains become deadly Crone Queens. There are some new familiars including chickens, penguins, seals, and, what I now want for my Magus who is slowly going crazy Cthulhu-style in carrion crown, the clockwork familiar.
There is just so much awesome, story-inspiring content in this book. The Ghoran is a plant creature originally created by druids as tasty food for humans, but has become sentient and is now available as a character race: delicious as ever! The Abrikandilu demon is why we cannot have nice things, “Known as wrecker demons, abrikandilus delight in destroying beauty, be it by rending a fine painting to shreds, reducing a magnificent statue to rubble, or scarring a lovely face.” Always fun to invite to a party.
I hope to have a chance to present my players with just a fraction of the ideas Bestiary 5 is giving me as I read through it. In any case, I know my son will enjoy hours of monster-study with this new tome. Bestiary 5 is available in book form or PDF. If you tend to buy many Pathfinder RPG books you should subscribe to receive the books as they come out. You also get the PDF of each as well as a discount on Paizo products when you are a subscriber.
Bestiary 5 is a great addition to your Pathfinder game, or just as something to peruse for the great story ideas and inspiration the book is teaming with.
Disclosure: Paizo provided a copy of Bestiary 5 for this review.