Silverthorne Games, the company known for its variety of interesting and bizarre templates, has returned after a long absence with their latest product, Twisted Menagerie. But how well does this new product hold up compared to their previous works, particularly their magnum opus, The Book of Templates? Funny you should ask…
Twisted Menagerie is a book of monsters. It contains a grand total of forty-two monsters, with several being specific individuals. I hesitate to call them “new” monsters, however, because all of these creatures have one or more templates from The Book of Templates: Deluxe Edition 3.5. In essence, Twisted Menagerie is something of a companion piece to that book, though make no mistake, all of the monsters here work just fine if you don’t have the BoT – that said, there is a single brand new template here (“Servant of Olamet”), along with several new magic items, some new non-magic items, a few new deities, and some spells reprinted from the BoT:DE 3.5. Note that each creature also has, in their description, a listing for what the base creature is, along with (in several cases) full PC race information.
The zipped file that I received contained only a single PDF of the full version of the file. Presumably this has since been corrected and a printer-friendly version has also been added, but I can’t say for certain. The full version of the file is seventy-one pages long. It has full bookmarks as well as a table of contents. The art in the full version is quite plentiful. All of the pages are grey, with the edges being a darker color than the center; while I wouldn’t say the color scheme made the text any harder to read, it did seem to present a sort of muted tone when browsing the book. Almost every monster has a black and white illustration, nicely showing what they look like.
The book keeps a fairly orderly layout, with every monster occupying either one or two full pages. Each entry begins with some descriptive text, and moves right on to the creature’s special abilities. Their full stat block is listed at the bottom of the page, and the picture is off to the side. Listed by the picture is the name of the monster, and in parenthesis what the base creature and template is. This is a fairly compact system, and works well enough, but it leads me to my major complaint about the book: the text resolution is too small. While never truly hard to read, the text is just small enough that I found it to be slightly uncomfortable, and in a few cases confusing – the letter “e” and “c” were largely indistinguishable at that size, for example. It won’t be anything that ruins the book for anyone, but it’s slightly irking.
Twisted Menagerie is a very nice book, and a good return for Silverthorne Games, but while I liked it, it doesn’t quite live up to the book that it’s working from. Even with the scattering of new crunch, a book of existing monsters with templates applied doesn’t quite raise the same level of excitement as a book of new monsters/templates does. This book tries hard to compensate for that by giving us flavor text to try and integrate these as new, complete monsters, along with racial information for some of these as PC races, but it doesn’t quite pull it off. Add in the problems with the text size, and while I’d still say this book is a gem, it’s a flawed one. Nevertheless, it’s worth its cost, and if you want a book to nicely showcase what you can get from the Deluxe Edition of the Book of Templates, look no further than Twisted Menagerie.