Before I delve into the politics of "woke" monsters meant to appeal to the ultra-left, indulge me, if you will, to comment upon the non-political aspects of this tome...
- Book is gorgeous, with mostly excellent art and layout.
- There are some new, surprising monsters in here, and a lot of good old classics. The number of monsters packed into this book is huge - 414.
- Statblocks are, blessedly, much shorter now, and it's very cool that monsters now have individualized reactions, and aren't beholden to the same design parameters as PCs. This leaves more room for "fluff" and descriptions of the monsters' places in the world of Golarion. This space is usually taken advantage of, making it all the more glaring when it is absent, as in the case of the wendigo.
- Too much space is wasted on basic animals, such as horses. For some reason, Paizo felt it necessary to illustrate these as well, as if we don't know what a horse looks like.
- Too many "Good" creatures are included, unlikely to be opponents for many gaming groups.
- Flavorful and traditional creature names have often been replaced by much more generic ones (e.g. replacing stirge with "bloodseeker", ettercap with "web lurker")
- While much of the art is quite good, a number of the interior art choices are middling to poor at best (bugbear, hobgoblin, ogre, troll, vampire, etc.).
- Not nearly enough of the creatures have specific sizes listed, simply "small", "large", etc. How big is a typical frost drake, gogiteth, etc.?
- Locations where creatures are most likely to be found is missing from statblocks and only occurs sporadically in descriptions. Big drawback. Paizo could have even leaned in to their embrace of Golarion and indicated where within their world specific monsters can be found. To add insult to injury, there are no encounter or location tables in the back of the bestiary!
- There is a lot of gender activism in here (all tilting towards feminism), and you'll find immersion-breaking statements concerning gender stereotypes, certain female creatures being stronger than the male versions, and a number of societies that are matriarchal, while you'll find none that are patriarchal. Odd, that. Apparently, within Golarion, all societies are either perfect exemplars of gender equality or tilt strongly towards matriarchy. This is silly and a huge blow against verisimilitude. (-1 star) Personally, I'd find it far more interesting to have characters explore a world of true diversity, reflective of the myriad and divergent cultures of its inhabitants, some of whom will craft matriarchies, and some patriarchies. Some might be ruled by Elders, some by the wielders of the arcane, others by seers and oracles, some ruled by those unburdened by base sexual desires, and perhaps some by gifted youth whose talents fade as they age. But having every culture reflect gender parity or matriarchy is just goofy.
- As well, the usual Paizo paternalism and puritanism is present - apparently females aren't allowed to visibly express their sexuality anymore. This manifests, as an example, with the illustration for the succubus, which is now apparently a Modesty Demon. (-1 star)
In sum, Paizo allows their desire to "include" everyone and engage in gender activism to lessen what would otherwise be a decent product. It's pretty clear at this point that most of Paizo's leaders do not respect masculinity, perhaps even being misandrists. Nonconformance to masculinity seems to be placed on a pedestal, save for, ironically, when Paizo is attempting to subvert stereotypes by portraying female versions of aggressive, strong warriors. And thus, we get nearly every female crafted to "play against type", subvert stereotypes, and change the thinking of their, apparently, neanderthal readers who can't think for themselves. This is completely ineffectual, for in order for stereotype subversion to be effective, you need stereotypes to exist, and people to harbor biases. This apparently does not occur in Golarion, where every community seems to be either an exemplar of gender equality or a matriarchy. Without a foundation of stereotypes, you can't play against type and subvert them. What you're left with is a world without a sense of mooring or verisimilitude, just a shadowy reflection of some modern, ultra-liberal idea of utopia.
For those who have followed Paizo for a while, none of this should be surprising. For those new to Paizo, you'll find these viewpoints infesting nearly every Paizo product these days. Paizo apparently lives in such fear of offending or angering the far-left that they find it impossible to creatively portray a fantasy world where male versions of a creature (not just humans) are physically stronger than females, or where a patriarchal, non-evil society exists. Of course, all of this runs contrary to our own history of humankind, but never mind that!
If you consider yourself ultra-liberal politically, want this portrayed in your fantasy purchases, and don't mind a lack of verisimilitude, this bestiary is for you. For all others, there's not nearly enough positive or new here to outweigh the negatives.
- Hardcover: 360 pages
- Publisher: Paizo Inc.; 2 edition (1 August 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1640781706
- ISBN-13: 978-1640781702
- Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 2.3 x 27.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1.2 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)