Review: Pathfinder 2E – Bestiary 2
If we’re being honest, as far as much of the Pathfinder fanbase is concerned this review could probably be one paragraph long. It would read: “Lots more monsters, decently written, with good art.”
However, I feel some professional obligation to stretch things out a little further than that, and to give a little background context to those of us still plumbing the depths of Bestiary 1.
Let’s start, appropriately enough, with the raw numbers. The book is a hefty enough tome, weighing in at somewhere around 320 pages, and into that space the folks over at Paizo have managed to squeeze some 350 new creatures. This is a tad less than the first effort released last year, but is still more than enough to keep your players hacking and slashing for months at a time.
The creatures in question are a mixed lot, ranging all the way from angels and demons through to centipedes and spiders. They’re a solidly designed lot for the most part, and the developers have managed to achieve the rather impressive task of making pretty much every single monster feel distinctive.
This isn’t just a question of fiddling with the HP here and damage there, either. It’s hard – in fact, almost impossible – to find any stat block that doesn’t have at least one special ability or extra rule that makes its subject feel special.
Even something as comparatively straightforward as a Giant Slug comes with a trio of rather disgusting, largely mucus-based powers that can make any battle against it feel entirely unique. More complex creatures, such as the river-dwelling Rusalka and reality-warping Proteans, have even more going for them, creating densely-packed stat blocks full of dangers for unwary players.
It doesn’t take a professional to spot that this emphasis on unique powers is a bit of a mixed blessing, of course. Untangling some of the rules can be tough to handle at a glance, and many of the more complex creatures require their GMs to have impressive memories or excellent speed-reading comprehension if combat is going to run smoothly.
On the other hand, this kind of detail and distinction is exactly the kind of fuel that keeps the furnaces of Pathfinder 2E burning brightly. Combat lies at the very heart of the system, and Bestiary 2 does a stellar job of providing ways to keep those fights feeling fresh and entertaining.
For many this will be enough. More than enough, even. However it’s worth flagging up that this really isn’t a replacement to the first Bestiary book. Rather, it works to add in more obscure monsters and add a little depth to the catalogue of iconic creatures. Instead of red dragons, for example, you get crystal dragons and cloud dragons. If you tried to run a typical campaign out of Bestiary 2, with no other resources to hand, you’d keenly feel the absence of all the fantasy staples that have already been covered in the earlier book.
No, where Bestiary 2 excels is as – appropriately enough – an expansion to the existing rules and creature list, rather than something to be used alone.
The question, then, becomes less about whether Bestiary 2 is a good book – which it is – and more about whether it’s worth a purchase for you and your group. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by the breadth of options in the first Bestiary, this is the kind of book that can wait on the shelf ‘til a rainy day. If, however, you’re a dyed-in-the-wool tinkerer who’s already hankering for new types of troll and weird fey to drop on your players, it’s ideal.
Lots more monsters, decently written, with good art