||Brixbrix's Field Guide to the Creatures of Ados is a 222 page pdf detailing the monsters from Tangent Games' Ados, the Land of Strife, campaign setting. The pdf is supposedly written by the Hunter's Society of Ados, which collects information and details on all the creatures that are unique to the land of Ados. Given the extensive page count one would expect to see a staggering amount of monsters here, but there are in fact only 55 new monsters in this pdf, not counting dragons of different age categories. The pdf makes up for the relatively few monsters by providing excellent detail to each monster creatures, sample encounters, and three adventure hooks per creature presented.
The layout is done in a rather 'unique' fashion in that it uses colored blocks of text to highlight different aspects of the text. For example, sample encounters come in a purple background blocked section, while beige fields contain the actual creature descriptive text. Normal text outside of these different sections of blocked text is designated as open content, and this is probably one of the few pdfs, barring those that offer 100% OGC, that highlights OGC very effectively in the pdf. Art is done by a variety of artists and ranges from stunning art such as the sand orc and shura, to very mediocre and often poor art such as the wind runner. A lot of the art also looks 3D rendered, something that's not often seen in a monster d20 sourcebook. Combination of full-color art and colored blocked text throughout the pdf makes this a no-printing pdf. It would've been extremely useful to include a print version, particularly for such a large monster pdf.
One of the things sorely lacking in such a large pdf is bookmarks. While the table of contents is thorough, the page numbers provided are not the actual pdf page numbers, but rather the content page numbers and so are off by a few pages with the pdf page numbers. Lack of bookmarks make this very difficult to navigate, particularly since the creatures are organized by type in the pdf and not alphabetically. If you don't know the creature's type and name, then it'll be very difficult to find without a trip to the table of contents first. While the creatures in the pdf are arranged alphabetically by type, ample tables are provided that organise the creatures differently, such as alphabetically by name.
Monsters are very well detailed in this pdf, including small details such as pictures of monster footprints, world maps of Ados indicating where the creatures are found, images of the skeletons and skulls of creatures, and general information about the creatures within Ados, such as range and habitat. While a lot of information about Ados is provided in the text, these creatures should be easily adaptable to any campaign setting. Each monster entry also contains a sample encounter, three plot hooks (stat blocks to the NPCs mentioned in the plot hooks are provided in the appendix), and excellent descriptive and background information on each monster.
Almost all the creatures types are represented in the pdf, except for elementals, giants, monstrous humanoids and oozes. Dragons (not always true dragons but rather mostly drakes) and undead are the two most common creature types, and, as it happens, probably the best selection of monsters in the pdf as well. The pdf also provides several templates in the appendix based on some of the undead creatures in the pdf, such as the disciple of pain. The appendixes themselves offer a wide variety of information (new spells, details on undead with the plant subtype, monster summoning tables, reincarnation tables, and a list of exotic materials and items crafted or harvested from the monsters in the pdf), making this a very complete monster pdf with a lot of information and useful detail.
Like the art in the pdf the monsters range from very good and interesting critters to the bland and uninspiring monsters. While the majority of the monsters listed are good, their stat blocks unfortunately aren't. Almost all the stat blocks contained errors of some kind (most related to incorrect attack bonuses or grapple bonuses, but also incorrect hp or Hit Dice), but also some poor mechanics and some dubious CRs. The CRs are particularly off when attempting to scaling creatures. One creature, the natili, for example, casts spells of a level equal to twice its HD, which does not scale well if you wish to improve the monster according to HD as the level adjustment suggests. For a 5 HD creature, it casts spells as a 10th level sorcerer, yet is only CR 8.
There are, however, some interesting, inspiring and creative creatures in here, despite it generally being a mixed bag of creatures. The dragons and undead are particularly good, as are some of the other creatures in the pdf. Given that there are 55 creatures in the pdf, one can expect to find a good proportion of those that are unique, interesting and most of all useful. With a few corrections here and there to other monsters and the addition of some more interesting abilities, each of these creatures will make for a good encounter. The encounters and plot hooks provide give some excellent examples of how to use these creatures and provide all the details required to run successful encounters with them. Tables in the appendix also list the encounters by EL and by creature name.
LIKED: This is a very comprehensive and detailed pdf with fantastic detail on each of the creatures presented. The dragons and undead are particularly good, and some of the art is outstanding. The addition of sample encounters and plot hooks makes each monster much more useful, and all the supplementary information is a welcome addition to this collection of often very good creatures.
DISLIKED: There are a number of other problems with this pdf, such as lack of print version, lack of bookmarks, poor art in places, large number of stat block errors, balance errors and dubious CRs, or some stat blocks not being correctly formatted for 3.5e, particularly those for NPCs in the appendixes. Some of the creatures are also rather uninteresting and bland, lacking in anything truly special.
[3 of 5 Stars!]