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3.5 NPCs & Monsters II $2.95 $2.00
Publisher: Black Death Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2009 18:44:31
I was so hoping that the 3.5 monsters 1 was a fluke; A quickly rushed product sent to the market before anyone had signed off on it, a risky decisions that did not pay off, a product that was already paid for and was too expensive to recreate.

However, it appears that the horrific layout, poor creature design and deficiency of artwork for each creature are signatures of this series as 3.5 NPCs & Monsters II recreates the same problems and adds new ones.

Someone must have neglected to tell the folks over at Black Death Publishing that there was not much added expense for producing extra pages of product for a PDF. Attempting to save a buck is the only reason for the cramped and squished layout in Monsters II . The 8 page product (6 pages are actual product) should be at least 22 pages. Each of the 11 monster entries are crammed into two or three paragraphs, compressed into the old 3.5 format. It is a great format for adventures, but a poor way to display creatures to a dungeon master that must quickly identify and read them. This is by far the worst layout I have seen in any product. I am pretty sure that a well trained monkey with a crayon and a beginner’s manual to Adobe Pagemaker 7.0 could do a better job.

As for the lack of art for their creatures, there is no reason for that type of negligence. Half of the creatures have some sort of artwork. Of those, the style of the art is very inconsistent and feels rushed and unedited. Black and White pencil drawings are thrown into the same lot with digital painted art.

It is a sad presentation for material that is not too bad. Reading through each entry in Monsters II, they seem like a lot of fun. Most are different takes on creatures you have seen elswhere such as undead medium goblins and a more dangerous form of zombie.

For the Dungeon Master
If you are looking for a couple of undead and twisted creatures, try the Nightwalker and the Varghul. They are two of the only creatures in the book that felt original. That is not to say that other parts of the product did not feel original, but they are based on creatures that have floated around the fantasy realm for decades.

The Iron Word
I have read some impressive adventures from Black Death Publishing, some of them suffering from layout issues as well. However, 3.5 NPCs & Monsters II feels like a kindergarteners foray into Indesign compared to the layout mistakes in their previous books. It is both difficult to read and difficult to use simultaneously. Outside of the couple of decent monsters in the book, many feel as if they were used elsewhere (and in some cases were) and changed for the sake of padding the book.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Hi Nate,
I much appreciate the constructive comments in this review. You raised some very good points that caused me to immediately look at the product with 'fresh eyes'. They are useful for upgrading (which I have already done) the product to meet higher expectations (for a $2.00 supplement). I also appreciate the positive comments on our publications in general. I do need to explain some things though:

1) I myself do all of the writing, editing and layout using Open Office 2.4, including the conversion to PDF format. I am in the process of learning this as I go along. I do not have, nor can afford, expensive software that would allow for much better layouts. Our best layouts were for two early works that Joe Calkins did for me. Joe is a true professional in artistry and design.

2) You may have been adding humor to your analysis with some of your comments. However, I believe they were beneath the standards of staff reviewers. The wise cracks were offensive to me and the result has been sales that were going very well completely stopped. I hope that is just temporary.

3) I provided full previews, people saw them and were buying the products. The supplements cost only $2.00 - $2.25. It seems as if you expect the low cost product to be as good as the usual $12 - $30 supplements. My niche in the market is producing useful works for those who want to spend $7.00 and under. Not everyone can afford to download 20 - 50 pages then print all of that out, adding more expense by using printer cartridges.

4) My Iron Bottom line is that they cost $2, they are easy to download and inexpensive to print and each one allows for cut and paste copying. Until I learn to do layouts well, your expectations on non-essentials like having a WoTC appearance are way too high!

To end on a good note, I do appreciate constructive comments like Peter did for the first supplement. I bear no ill will toward you in any way.
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3.5 NPCs & Monsters II
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