December 22, 2010

Dark Sun: Monstrous Compendium Terrors of the Desert

Recently WotC rereleased the Dark Sun setting for 4E. This article is part of a series that examines a release from 2E Dark Sun and sees how and if it can be integrated with the new 4E version of the world setting.

The sourcebook we’re looking at today is Monstrous Compendium Dark Sun Appendix (Terrors of the Desert) published in 1992. It consisted of 96 loose-leaf pages. 2E provided the buyers of their Monster Manual with a 3-ring binder and monsters were printed on pages with hole punches. This allowed the purchaser to insert his monsters into the binder as he wanted, and also allowed for the pages to be removed for a variety of reasons, such as wanting the data sheet for the monster at hand for a night’s adventure.

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The source material (I can’t really call it a book) starts by listing the stat titles of the monster, such as Frequency, Activity Cycle, Treasure, Alignment, etc., and describing what each term means. The material next gives the reader a series of random encounter tables organized by terrain type. While the tables may not be of much value, being able to take a quick glance at what monsters might be found in a certain terrain region could come in handy when designing adventures.

Thereafter the rest of the material consists of monsters. Obviously the stats as written will not work in a 4E campaign. There are 52 monster types and some of these are further divided into sub types. For instance, there are 6 variations on the golem. However, unlike 4E monster listings wherein each monster listing has a variety of different stat blocks for the same type of monster (Belgoi have stat blocks for Belgoi Craven, Belgoi Stalker, Belgoi Hunter and Belgoi Caller) the majority of the monsters in this source material only have one stat block.

Monsters that are found in both this material and in the 4E Dark Sun Creature Catalog consists of Brohg, Chathrang, Cloud Ray, Drake, Dune Runner (Wight), Floater (Floating Mantle), Giant, Golems (Dune, Obsidian), Hejkin, Id Fiend, Kank, Kirre, Megapede, Nightmare Beast, Sand Bride, Silt Horror, Rampager, Spider (Crystal), and Thrax. In addition, some monsters can be taken from monsters already in the 4E game system such as the Banshee, Elementals, and Roc. Also of note is an article from D&D Insider from Dragon 364 (June 2008) that detailed some Dark Sun plants which are also found in this supplement such as the Dew Frond, Sand Cactus and Spider Cactus. After that, we still have 29 monsters without 4E stats. An ambitious GM could convert all of these to 4E stats, but that would be a lot of work.

Artwork is provided for each monster. As such they could be presented to the players when they encounter said monster.

Overall: This supplement is a mixed bag. On one hand the descriptions of each monster are far more detailed than their 4E equivalents. This can help to run them and make for better use in building encounters based on the monsters. On the other hand over half the monsters are without 4E stats and can’t really be used until such a time as the GM creates these stats. If a DM wanted to spend the time converting the monsters to 4E stats, he would certainly have a lot of information to help him along. Otherwise, most people should pass on this supplement if they are planning on using it in a 4E campaign.
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