Savage Species (Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition) Hardcover – 14 Feb 2003
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Explains how to use a monster as a player or a nonplayer character; profiles fifty monster classes, including elementals, giants, satyrs, and trolls; and provides monster templates, feats, spells, and equipment.
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Top Customer Reviews
Like all the 3rd Edition books, this is a well presented tome, with stunning interior art, and oodles of brilliant ideas. It details how character ECL's are worked out, and also presents a way to 'break down' any monster into a monster charactern class, allowing a player to play a monster from first level, as well as allowing DM's to create weaker versions of their favourite beasts, so they can use them in lower level campaigns, or as variants. Examples of many Monster Manual critters dealt with in this way form a huge part of the book.
There is also a whole bunch of new feats, all geared towards the monstrous PC, as well as new spells and items.
A number of new monster templates add even more to the DM's arsenal (a gelatinous, winged Purple Worm anyone?), and there are well written guide lines as to how to apply them.
So, why only four stars?
Sadly, the book is rather badly organised, seeming to jump around in no appreciable order. It is also riddled with printing errors (though I assume that these will vanish from later versions). Also, I am not too convinced about how well some of the monstrous character classes would actually balance in a campaign. In theory they look great, but I can't help but feel that they will be either a little to powerful, or a little too weak. (I haven't had chance to try 'em out in my campaigns yet, so I may be wrong there).
There is no support for epic level play, but the rules are fairly easy to incorporate, so that's no biggie.
Overall an excellent buy (especially if your a D&D nut like me).Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Savage Species is, as the notes say, the D&D 3e sourcebook on playing monster characters. Not necessarily hideously evil psychopaths (that's where Book of Vile Darkness comes in), but non-standard races...anything from the bugbear up to a stone giant.
Monster PCs have two things to concern themselves about...hit dice (i.e. how many hit dice they naturally start with) and level adjustment (having abilities that are worth a class level or two on their own). For example, our umber hulk friend has eight hit dice and a level adjustment of +6, for an ECL of 14...so an umber hulk is theoretically equivalent to a 14th-level Player's Handbook character.
So, the authors go through and list a chart of almost every existing monster in the game that has an ECL of 20 or below, along with official level adjustments for templates (lycanthrope, celestial, half-dragon, etc.) They also discuss letting a player start as a first-level monster, which must get to its base statistics before multiclassing...there's no using a minotaur's base stats at 1 HD, because they don't get them until they reach their final hit die. There's a 52-page appendix of sample monsters' ECL broken out into class levels, which is fairly nice.
You'll also find feats suited to monsters, new prestige classes, new gear, a lot of new templates (my favorite's Gelatinous...a semi-ooze creature), and new and/or reprinted creatures, including a long list of anthropomorphic races, such as dog-men and wolverine-people, the desmodu and loxo from MM2, and the half-ogre starting race. There are also rules for transforming characters between races and adding templates.
Something like this has been needed for a long time. Not only does it follow in the footsteps of AD&D2's Complete Book of Humanoids, but it answers rules questions that have popped up ever since the first PC got infected by lycanthropy. Some creatures will be less-playable than others, simply because their level adjustment is so high that they won't have the hit points to survive combat at their ECL. And there are a few questions, too...for dragons, do they require XP to gain hit dice, since they grow by aging? After all, 10 years can go by in a game fairly quickly, and that young dragon can become a juvenile and get stat and HD bonuses...
This is a great supplement, and I highly recommend it. It's probably most useful if you're going to start a new game, but it'll be useful for everybody at some point.
The book itself is well organized and has a little of everything and a lot of some things. For DMs who don't want to go through the work of interpolating an ECL 15 Mind Flayer into fifteen separate levels, each acquired at standard experience point intervals, or even *determine* the ECL for a Mind Flayer, you don't have to. Many monster races have entire monster class levels separated for you. For those that don't, there are guidelines both for determining level adjustments and breaking up effective levels into actual levels, i.e. "W00t, I'm now a level six Drider! I get spell resistance!"
There's a lot of stuff in this book. New spells (some good for non-monster PCs, too), new equipment (Including the Gloves of Man, so your paws/tentacles can grip those pesky crossbows or lock picks), new feats (Area Attack lets your colossal Mountain Giant smack a whole bunch of PCs when he swings a stone column), new prestige classes (Illithid Savant, for...well...eating brains for self-improvement), new templates (The illustration for the example Gelatinous Bear is great) and, of course, more.
A lot of people are highly interested in the artwork in Dungeons & Dragons books, and if that's what they want out of the book, they'll be disappointed. I personally don't need illustrations to accompany descriptions for how an Ogre Mage advances to ECL 12 because I already know what they look like. This book is almost devoid of reprinted material, but much of it is being presented in ways far and beyond what Monster Manual I (or II) ever planned. This small paradox makes a great number of illustrations unnecessary relative to most books with so much new material. Drawings of all the weird weapons and equipment are comparable to those in the Player's Guide and other books. It's really pretty irrelevant, though, because if you took the pictures out of the second half of the book it would still be wonderful, if rather drab.
One of the more reassuring touches is a tiny list at the beginning of the book that mentions a few changes from Monster Manual I that are/will also be in the revised Monster Manual I. No one wants a book that will be obsolete in just a few months.
Savage Species is a great book, and has almost everything you could possibly want in it. What it doesn't have, it offers guidelines for working out on your own. Dungeon Masters who spend fifteen hours planning sessions will be able to do anything they want, but if you just want to create an poor little orphaned fire elemental, you can do it as quickly as any other NPC. As a player's book, the pre-made monster classes will help provide some variety, even if the game is starting from level one. Pre-made=easier DM approval, too. Of course, *buying* your DM the book would help your case, but I would *never* condone such bribery...
Just...keep the fire elemental outta my bar, will ya?
The templates are what really make this book sing, along with a long appendix full of examples of monstrous classes that should empower any DM to turn a monster into a playable character.
This is, however, a book in serious need of one more working draft. The writers and editors took on a mighty task with this book, so I'm willing to forgive a lot, but references to incorrect pages, tables that don't exist and simple proofreading errors hamper the Savage Species experience. Also, there are numerous glaring examples of critters that bust wide open the abilities that a PC should be permitted at 1st level. This happens mostly with the advanced monsters, but many of them start with no attribute penalties, no serious drawbacks and numerous magical abilities. A little more scaling was needed for these, I think.
Still, now I can have that troll/barbarian I always dreamed of . . . and with more complete information that the "Complete" Book of Humanoids.
I've now read through the book cover to cover and, as a result, must downgrade my rating from 4 to 3 stars. The editing is more than just inconsistent, in parts its deeply confusing. Numerous feat and spell entries are extremely contradictory. For example, the spell "Earth Reaver" calls for no saving throw, but the last line of the spell description says that those who fail the saving throw will be made prone. I can guess what kind of saving throw is necessary, but, honestly, this is the sort of thing that should've been easy to spot in the editing process.
The excellence of the appendices, the prestige classes and the suggested rules are the saving graces of this book.
The book starts out well enough with a detailed table on page 11 for the exact calculation of ECLs. It also encourages an acid test situation to verify the ECLs so calculated. These tools both generate an ECL that seems quite accurate in terms of balance.
The book then lists countless monster races from the Monster Manual 1 and another source. However, almost NONE have an ECL that would suggest it used EITHER of the two aforementioned tools. On average, their ECLs were all off by two and the acid test confirms this.
The book has 4 recycled monsters in it labeled as new: half-ogre, desmodu, thi-kreen, and Loxo. As an example of their errors: The half-ogre has a level adjustment listed as 1, but the ECL calculator gives it an ECL of 3 (+1 for the super stats, +1 for reach, +1 nat AC 4) and the acid test shows it to need a level adjustment of at least 2.
Of the great list of monster as PCs, only a random half are detailed to where they can be played without a lot of guesswork on the DM's part. I for one bought the book to remove guesswork, NOT create it. Those who enjoy the game are better off without this book and the chaos it threatens to impose in an otherwise fun game.
It has lots of monstrous feats, some better than others, great magic items with art, wonderful illustrations, some good templates and some so-so templates, but mostly just text that gets you thinking, "hey, i want to make my own special class." The rules are set down, the options are there, and if anyone wants to take the time to craft their own beasties it's not too difficult. Plus, it lets a DM scale down monsters for lower level parties, and easily boost them for higher level.
Ideally, if a DM were starting his own campaign in a monster-dominated world, you can't do without this book. SCrap the standard races of humans and elves and leave in the minotaurs and troglodytes, celestials and djinn.
Lastly, the book says that a monster class should be taken completely from 1st level to whatever level it maxes out at before one can add on regular character classes. The reasoning is that someone can take the powers of a 1st level monster and tack on character levels from there on out. I'm bending this rule myself; if players wanted to take several levels of mindflayer and go rogue the rest of the way, fine, but they can never go back to mind flayer. Besides, a mind flayer at 3rd level would not have the abilities of say, a 3rd level dwarf cleric, and far from the lethal mindblast talent.
A great resource, it just takes some determined reading to fully implement the usefulness.