A neuronphaser.com review.
Monsters Without Borders is a charity-supporting release by a slew of the biggest and brightest names among the Dungeon Masters Guild's amateur and semi-pro authors and artists. All proceeds go to MSF/Doctors Without Borders, an international organization of folks who brave the harshest of geographical and political climates to save lifes: these are real-life adventurers, folks, and this book takes that theme and runs with it! There are 20 deadly monsters ranging in Challenge from 1/2 to 21, and there are three fantastic player options that immediately fit the theme of the charity organization this supports: a Paladin Oath (Oath of the Hospitaler) and 2 backgrounds (the Almsgiver and the Healer).
The monsters presented are:
- arcane ooze - 6
- beholder eye of the deep - 8
- bone giant - 6
- bound colossus - 21
- demon blight - 3
- eelfolk - 1/2
- firefly golem - 6
- gulabus - 5
- jungle walker - 8
- kenning - 1
- killer kobolds, kobold air cavalry - 2
- mind flayer cenomorph - 3
- ooze dragon - 20
- storm hound - 2
- tempest beast - 4
- terracotta warriors, soldier - 2
- the evil doll - 4
- the hood - 6
- tomb spider - 3
- werespider - 5
A little over a quarter of these monsters are brand new to this product, never-before-seen! The rest are taken from a slew of existing products on the Guild, but all are given a fresh coat of paint both stylistically as well as in terms of the writing. Every monster here has its own art piece (something I firmly believe to be a requirement in monster books), they are written up in full-formatting style similar to the Monster Manual, and their stats are laid out beautifully. The editing is truly superb, and an issue of a missing table has already been fixed just days (hours?) after launch, showing that the team behind this book is committed to making it the best possible reference tool for these monsters. A cursory examination of three stat blocks using the Dungeon Master's Guide monster creation tools suggests these monsters were run through a full stat block edit, and come out balanced perfectly.
The Paladin Oath is the Oath of the Hospitaler, and comes with a good mix of appropriate healing and protection powers. They aren't just hit point regeneration bots, but also gain a list of spells and powers that make the paladin highly mobile in order to get across the battlefield fast, and protect their allies from conditions of all sorts. Their spell list includes some options that also come from another DMsGuild release, Elminster's Guide to Magic, which shows the dedication of the authors in this book to promoting their fellow Guild authors and creators. It should be noted that for every spell from Elminster's Guide there are options from the Player's Handbook, too, so if you don't have that guide, you're still fully capable of using this Paladin Oath without any fuss.
The two backgrounds are the charity-giving Almsgiver and the alchemically-fluent Healer. Both are obviously working in-theme with this release, and both are built exactly as core rulebook Backgrounds with Proficiencies, some options where necessary, a Feature, suggested characterisitcs to make the most of their abilities, and complete tables for Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.
The book ends with a page promising the forthcoming Monsters of the Guild, an even bigger tome of monsters from the Guild's top authors, as well as Guild Adepts and pro D&D luminaries like James Introcaso, Shawn Merwin, and Wolfgang Baur!
The layout on this release is gorgeous, clearly a fully professional work. Page backgrounds are unobtrusive yet stylish, with a cool "stitching" design on the interior border, a muted background, and monster stat blocks that almost perfectly mirror those of the official Monster Manual. There are enough flourishes in the layout to give this book a separate-but-connected look compared to the core rulebooks. My only complaint -- also a complaint for the core rulebooks, mind you -- is that the page numbers are relatively small and are a muted gray color. For a reference tool, I find that slightly annoying. But let me also note that I'm pretty sure this book's page numbers are a larger font than the core rulebooks, so they've already got points over Wizards of the Coast on that ;-P
All-in-all, this book is gorgeous. Seeing that the content, editing, and sheer amount of artwork is also there in spades makes this whole thing come out as one of the most professional, beautiful releases on the Guild, and certainly worthy of your support. That every cent of this support also happens to go toward an amazing charity is icing on the cake!
Fantasy Grounds Support!
Fantasy Grounds conversion guru Rob Twohy built a fully supported version of Monsters Without Borders for that virtual tabletop engine! You pick up this book at any price and the MOD file is included, so everything you need is already in there. Talk about service!
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