There is a lot of potential when it comes to creating monsters. Not only can you create something that will thrill in combat, but you can also create something that can have a real impact out of combat. A monster's ecology, behaviour or society can often play an important role in the grander setting and can be pivotal in any campaign world. I'm a firm believer that monsters should be something more than just statistics on a page, and that there should be some sort of ecological balance which they form an integral part of. Every monster should have a purpose and a reason beyond what is dictated by its statistics, but at the same time its behaviour and ecology should be reflected in its combat behaviour.
Monsters of Aihrde IV is a short 7 page pdf containing 5 monsters for the legendary world of Aihrde (as first publishing by Troll Lord Games in their Codex of Erde). This product is the fourth in a series of four which aims to revise and update the creatures from Aihrde and provide several new ones. In the light of what I wrote above, this product does a grand job of providing creatures that fit the bill in terms of ecology, setting and behaviour. Monsters of Aihrde IV is designed for the Castles and Crusades system, although can be modified for other rule systems by modifying the mechanics.
This product comes as a single pdf file. The presentation standard is very high and professionally done, with some gorgeous artwork by artists Mark Allen, Jason Walton and Peter Bradley. The cover art of the mogrl is particularly impressive. The product contains an excellent cover, informative credits and information page, and 5 pages of content. There are no bookmarks, but that doesn't really matter for such a short pdf. Writing and layout is excellent, with some really descriptive text and excellent details on each of the monsters contained in the product. Overall, a top quality presentation from Troll Lord Games.
Monster of Aihrde IV contains five monsters from the world of Aihrde - the eshchl (realistic demi humans), the io-topek (apemen), the mogrl (a powerful demonic creature), the sarab pool (magical, living pools), and the ceeana olgdonberg (powerful horse-like steeds). Each creature is presented with complete statistics for Castles and Crusades, detailed descriptive information on ecology, society and role in combat, and lastly a section on the creature's history and place in the world of Aihrde. The details are fascinating in places, and really give you a sense of the creature's role and place in Aihrde, and the descriptions do a good job of providing a vivid image of what the creature looks like beyond the artwork in the product.
I found this product presented these five creatures really well. I think the level of detail is just right, and allows room for creativity while at the same time giving the creatures a firm footing in one's imagination. At the same time, however, while the details are excellent, I'm not sure that the uniqueness of the creatures is the best. In the product we have a typical demi human, a humanoid creature based on an animal, a demonic/devilish creature, a sentient pool and a stronger breed of horse. Despite the concepts perhaps not being the best, the details themselves, and particularly how they fit into the campaign setting, make up for the somewhat weaker creature ideas. In a way, these are more creatures re-imagined for the world of Aihrde, than unique creatures in their own right.
Overall, I found this to be a good product. I loved the details provided on each of the monsters, and the thought that had gone into making them slot into the campaign setting. The presentation is top notch, both the writing and the artwork. While perhaps the concepts of each of the creatures weren't the best, I think the way in which these concepts are used in the setting makes up for this slight weakness in the pdf. Good product that one can get a good amount of use of, irrespective of setting or rule system.