You can’t have a dungeon crawl (or planar adventure) without a stack of monsters to populate it, and so Paizo is back at it with Bestiary 6, the latest collection of monsters, masterminds, and even some allies for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Broad sources of inspiration for many of the monsters in Bestiary 6 include legends and mythology, cryptozoological creatures, and Lovecraftian writings. The book is, as per usual for Pathfinder bestiaries, well-organized, with multiple indices/tables to look up monsters (by name, by challenge rating, by environment, by type, etc.). Also as usual Bestiary 6 includes universal monster rules, so the GM doesn’t need to leave the book to find rules for monster abilities and types. And every monster gets its own excellent illustration.
Bestiary 6 is (intentionally) top-heavy (38 with a CR over 20), with many of the monsters presented operating in the mythic/demigod sphere, including quite a few unique foes (or potential allies). As Bestiary 6 notes, these foes are often not well-suited for direct confrontation by the players, either acting as masterminds behind the scenes or only being confronted after the PCs have completed a variety of quests to temporarily weaken their foe. These unique opponents include the eight archdevils (who each rules over a layer of hell), three Empyreal lords (well, those three are allies), three Great Old Ones, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, three kaiju, four qlippoth lords, and Krampus. The full range of CRs are covered, however.
I love the troops introduced here – “monsters” that are unified stat blocks for groups of weaker foes, enabling a swarm of lower-CR opponents to present a threat to a higher-level party while still being simple enough for the GM to run. Bestiary 6 includes troops of goblins, outlaws, and drow cultists, with some modifiers that can be applied to adjust their capabilities and CR. I hope to see more of these in the future.
- There are a lot of devils, daemons, demons, and such in Bestiary 6 – it takes over 100 pages (out of 320) to get to the end of the ‘D’ section.
- Bestiary 6 introduces the blight, a series of environmental-based oozes who control stretches of wilderness and seek to drive out civilization.
- Also introduced are entothropes, essentially wereinsects.
- Other categories of monster with more than one new entry are azata, dinosaur, dragon, fish, giant, golem, megafauna, naga, protean, psychopomp, qlippoth, sahkil, sea anemone, sea worm, solifugid, and wild hunt.
- There are five new species identified as PC playable, including monkey goblins (tree-dwelling goblins with prehensile tails), naiads (water fey), and rougarou (wolf-people). However, two are harder to use, as the munavari (an albino subterranean species) come with a CR modifier and the yaddithians (a Mythos-adjacent species from the stars) are presented as rarely ever less than level 9.
- Spellcasters looking for a familiar will find the coral capuchin (a semi-aquatic pink flying monkey) or the mockingfey (a fey with a bird body and a humanoid head that, well, likes to mock people). May the odds be ever in your favor.
Other monsters I found particularly interesting, for my own various reasons:
- The alter ego and animus shade, two new ways to create “evil twin” versions of a PC;
- Bonethorn, a fungus that grows around and “animates” skeletons – a cleric who tries to turn this seeming undead is in for a rude awakening;
- The combusted, a low-level undead created when a person spontaneously combusts, are perpetually on fire and screaming in agony. It can be hard to make memorable or iconic new low-level monsters, but the combusted get the job done.
- Undead exoskeletons of giant insects;
- The hivemind template, when cranium rats aren’t creepy enough;
- The mokele-mbembe, which looks like a herbivorous dinosaur, but is really, definitely, not herbivorous;
- The ouroboros, a CR 21 beast that really is a snake eating itself, constantly regenerating its flesh. I’ll admit that I’m not sure how I’d ever work fighting this thing into an adventure, but it’s still a pretty cool monster. And
- The slithering pit, which is what you get when you combine an ooze with a portable hole.
All told, Bestiary 6 is another solid set of monsters for GMs still looking for more. It’s heavy on unique enemies and planar foes, but still includes a broad array of content.
Promotional consideration was provided in the form of a review copy.