A Review of Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities
Happy day! I got my physical copy of Monstrosities in the mail today, along with issues #2 & 3 of Knockspell Magazine.
My thoughts, in no real order:
This book is THIIIIICK! And while it feels solid, it isn't terribly heavy. You could definitely break someone's face with it though.
There appears to be 526 monsters included. Each monster has it's own page.
Each monster has a mini adventure scenario included with it. You could literally flip to a random page and pluck out a monster in the middle of a game session, and have an adventure ready to go in seconds.
These scenarios are very imaginative, and often humorous without being hokey. The one entitled "Orcus & Cake" made me laugh until I read what actually happens...
Like all of S&W, the stat blocks are blessedly sparse, containing only what you need to massacre some pesky adventurers. This makes them easy to port into other rules systems, if you don't mind adding the fat in yourself.
The monster descriptions typically run one paragraph, and are to the point. They tell you what the monster can do if it has special attacks, defenses, or tactics, and includes some physical description. Descriptions for classic, well known monsters tend to be sparse, while fanciful creations get more ink. One example is the harpy, which gets 2 sentences of description, while on the opposite page the Hawktoad (written by Matt Finch himself) gets two whole paragraphs. Big nasties like Orcus get lots of ink:
Each monster actually has 2 stat blocks. One is the familiar vertical block, and the other is a horizontal stat block (examples below). My guess is that the horizontal block is included so that you can cut and paste from the pdf version directly into your own S&W material. That's the kind of open source love you get from S&W products (I hope I'm right - heh).
Hit Dice: 2+1
Armor Class: 5 
Attacks: 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d8)
Saving Throw: 16
Special: Breathe underwater
Move: 6/12 (swimming)
Alignment: Usually Chaos
Number Encountered: 1d10 x4
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30
Lizardman: HD 2+1; AC 5; Atk 2 claws (1d3), 1 bite (1d6); Move 6 (Swim 12); Save 16; AL C; CL/XP 2/30; Special: Breathe underwater.
The artwork is uniformly cool, even if you don't agree with the artist's vision of each monster. The invisible stalker is chilling.
There are some great lists and tables at the end. One breaks out the monsters by Challenge Level. Another groups them by terrain, and includes Basic & Weirder options. There are also encounter tables.
There are also brief rules on creating your own monsters and generating encounters.
All in all, this is a rock solid, high quality product. Reading through it almost makes me want to railroad my home game group out of the Barrowmaze and into the wilds just so I can throw this stuff at them.
Buying the physical book gets you a pdf version too. I'm very glad to have bought it. Every page I have read stimulates some imaginative thinking, which is the best I think I can say about it.