I was so hoping that the 3.5 monsters 1 was a fluke; A quickly rushed product sent to the market before anyone had signed off on it, a risky decisions that did not pay off, a product that was already paid for and was too expensive to recreate.
However, it appears that the horrific layout, poor creature design and deficiency of artwork for each creature are signatures of this series as 3.5 NPCs & Monsters II recreates the same problems and adds new ones.
Someone must have neglected to tell the folks over at Black Death Publishing that there was not much added expense for producing extra pages of product for a PDF. Attempting to save a buck is the only reason for the cramped and squished layout in Monsters II . The 8 page product (6 pages are actual product) should be at least 22 pages. Each of the 11 monster entries are crammed into two or three paragraphs, compressed into the old 3.5 format. It is a great format for adventures, but a poor way to display creatures to a dungeon master that must quickly identify and read them. This is by far the worst layout I have seen in any product. I am pretty sure that a well trained monkey with a crayon and a beginner’s manual to Adobe Pagemaker 7.0 could do a better job.
As for the lack of art for their creatures, there is no reason for that type of negligence. Half of the creatures have some sort of artwork. Of those, the style of the art is very inconsistent and feels rushed and unedited. Black and White pencil drawings are thrown into the same lot with digital painted art.
It is a sad presentation for material that is not too bad. Reading through each entry in Monsters II, they seem like a lot of fun. Most are different takes on creatures you have seen elswhere such as undead medium goblins and a more dangerous form of zombie.
For the Dungeon Master
If you are looking for a couple of undead and twisted creatures, try the Nightwalker and the Varghul. They are two of the only creatures in the book that felt original. That is not to say that other parts of the product did not feel original, but they are based on creatures that have floated around the fantasy realm for decades.
The Iron Word
I have read some impressive adventures from Black Death Publishing, some of them suffering from layout issues as well. However, 3.5 NPCs & Monsters II feels like a kindergarteners foray into Indesign compared to the layout mistakes in their previous books. It is both difficult to read and difficult to use simultaneously. Outside of the couple of decent monsters in the book, many feel as if they were used elsewhere (and in some cases were) and changed for the sake of padding the book.