Even before I started reviewing Creative Conclave’s work, I knew that their “Lazy GM” series of books was aptly named. It’s not that GM’s are an inherently lazy bunch, but rather, the amount of work that any given GM has to do for even a single adventure is strenuous at best. Even if you’re running a pre-generated adventure, it’s no picnic to prepare and run, and if you’re running an original adventure, well…you’ve got your work cut out for you. Nowhere is that more true with making appropriate encounters. After all, the d20 System allows for incredible flexibility when advancing or otherwise altering monsters, but you better be prepared to sit down and work out the math in painstaking detail…for each creature. Here, however, Create Conclave saves GMs from such burnout with their Dungeon Beasts product, covering a rather wide variety of monsters from the SRD.
Here, we find forty monsters are presented, none of which are humanoids of any basic sort (that is, don’t expect to see trolls or giants here). Each creature has a series of variant stat blocks; all have advanced nature Hit Dice presented, and then various combinations of templates, class levels, and/or size alterations (and, sometimes, natural Hit Dice advancement in conjunction with one of these). There’s no particular rhyme or reason, that I could see at least, for how these latter sections go. Some creatures got skeleton and zombie templates applied, others had fighter levels, some had advanced Hit Dice with the half-dragon template, etc. The variety is enough so that even if you don’t find something exactly like what you’re looking for here, you’ll find something close.
Lest this sound utterly dull, the book doesn’t just throw stat blocks at you and walk away. It opens with a brief introduction, goes over the format of the stat blocks and how to alter them as you see fit, and then has a hyperlinked listing of each stat block by CR, letting you zip to exactly where you need. There’s also a discussion of what monsters work best in what roles (e.g. flyers, guardians, etc). Each monster is presented in alphabetical order, and begins with a short paragraph describing them (and covering their variants). The only drawback that I could find here was that there was no way to zip straight to the entry for a particular monster, whether in bookmarks or a hyperlinked table of contents. This was corrected in their later book, Savage Creatures, but it would have been nice if they’d gone back and added that feature here too.
That said, the truly staggering number of stat blocks here is a great advantage for any GM that’s having a hard time making themselves wade through the sea of numbers that comes with advancing creatures. Rather than going to all that trouble, why not just look here and pick up an advanced monster that’s already been formatted for you. These Dungeon Beasts won’t let you down.
[5 of 5 Stars!]