Mind Storm Labs was nice enough to send me a physical copy of their new creature catalog for their sci-fi game, Alpha Omega. If you are familiar with the Alpha Omega rulebook, then you will find the same attention to detail and production quality in The Encountered, Volume 1.
If you’re not familiar with Alpha Omega, I recommend you check out the core book. It has a fresh rules system that looks crunchy but plays smoothly. The production values are of the highest quality and it also establishes an original post-apocalyptic setting. For more information, you can check out other articles I’ve written about AO.
The Encountered is a hardbound with thick, glossy covers while the pages have a nice weight about them. The interior is full color and clocks in around 300 pages. The Encountered, Volume 1 retails for 39.95. You can even grab a preview of it here.
The Encountered introduces 200 monsters for use with the Alpha Omega roleplaying game. They are broken down into 5 categories (Freaks of Nature, Tech Fiends, Spiritual Creatures, Abominations, and Demons). They are also presented in order of magnitude of relative power, so if you want to step up the opposition, just thumb a couple more pages into the section.
It also gives Game Masters 40 new templates to play with (which means something like 8000 variations of creatures). Another feature is advice spread throughout the book that should help both new and experienced GMs manage their encounters. In fact, there is even an entire chapter dedicated to encounter management.
Their mastery of page navigation (a good example of web UI influencing books) is in force with a sidebar that helps you easily identify where you are at and where you want to go (digital copies, if they exist, should definitely take advantage of this navbar). I mentioned their order of magnitude above and this number is also laid out in an easy to find section of the monster template.
The art in the book maintains a very consistent feel. The art also has its own style, setting it apart from your standard fantasy or science fiction fair. Quite a few if the illustrations are epic and beg to have adventures built around them.
What is pretty cool is that you can also pull fan-made creature resources (which follow the same format as The Encountered) from the fictional The New World Science and Engineering Commission. You can even follow the intrepid researcher, Roger Traffler, in his journey of discovering new life forms on his twitter account.
I love creature compendiums. They are the one type of supplement I am most likely to purchase even if they belong to systems and settings that I do not have any inclination of using. The reason I like creature manuals so much is because one cool monster can inspire me to create entire campaigns or adventures around them.
Even though I have only been able to do a one shot with this book using the Alpha Omega rule set, I heartily recommend this book for AO groups. And if you’re just a fan of creature books, I also recommend you pick up The Encountered!