Publisher: 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming
What do characters know about the creatures they share their worlds with? Is a vampire’s aversion to holy symbols as common knowledge as a slugs aversion to salt? Do people run screaming at the first sign of a horn-headed horse or are they humbled to be in the presence of nature’s good side, the unicorn? A GM that can’t answer these questions quickly can upset the flow of their session or, if an inquisitive character with a lot of ranks in Knowledge skills like a bard is in the party, the entire campaign. To save a GM some improvising, 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming released GM’s Aid VIII: Monster Knowledge Cards – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition.
Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of GM’s Aid VIII: Monster Knowledge Cards – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Edition for review, and I have a working relationship with 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming. I believe I can maintain an objective position despite this.
Monster Knowledge Cards is a PDF product designed to be compatible with do-it-yourself perforated business cards. It outlines information about all the monsters in the Pathfinder RPG Bestiary. Instead of following the rules for described in the Core Rulebook for making Knowledge checks to recognize and understand monsters (10 + monster’s CR), the Monster Knowledge cards have the same array for all monsters: 10, 15, 20, 25. Which Knowledge check applies to which monster type is outlined in the How To Use page.
I like the Monster Knowledge Cards version a lot more. Including an array of DCs removes the all-or-nothing of the Core Rulebook Knowledge rules. The skew in difficulty comes from the creature type. Outsiders and aberrations are the harder creatures to identify than goblins, dragons, and zombies because Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (dungeoneering) are less common than Knowledge (local), Knowledge (arcane), and Knowledge (religion). The creature type- Knowledge skill relationships are not always perfect, and the cards agree. Alternatives are listed as well. Still not perfect, but close enough.
The information given for each monster could be more consistent, even accepting that certain Knowledge skills are rarer than others. DC 10 Knowledge (religion) tells you “an Allip is an undead spirit of someone driven to suicide by madness; their incorporeal form cannot be harmed by non-magic weapons” but DC 10 Knowledge (planes) only tells you that “a Hound Archon looks like a muscular human with a dog’s head”. Unless you’re researching hound archons in a library, that much should be evident at a glance.
Thanks to bookmarks, the Monster Knowledge Cards are easy to reference as a PDF, although I recommend printing out the How To Use page because which Knowledge skill is being checked is not reinforced on the cards. I can see GMs that do not use computers printing these cards out, but otherwise the card format is not all that useful.
This is a perfect example of a product that knows what it is supposed to do and does it exceptionally well. I have not GMed a session without using the Monster Knowledge Cards since I got them. So far 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming’s GM’s Aid line has been a series of hits, with Monster Knowledge Cards possibly being the best of the bunch.
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