What Do I Know About Reviews?–Creature Components Volume 1 and Creature Components Tome of Beasts (5th Edition OGL)
Spell components have a long history in Dungeons and Dragons. Spell components can add texture to the world and deepen the story of the world—but, eventually, they can lose their charm. I loved reading about what Raistlin was pulling out of his belt pouches to cast his spells, but when I would play a wizard, I hated keeping track of how many rose petals, feathers, or grains of sand I had on me.
Tangentially related—I think almost everyone eventually runs into those circumstances where they wonder how much the body parts of a monster might be worth, and if those body parts might not help with potions, magic items, or material components on their own. Folklore is filled with heroes gathering up monster bits to do important things.
The 3.5 version of Unearthed Arcana had optional rules for metamagic components—expensive material components that boosted the effectiveness of spells, but at the cost of lots of gold pieces. Given that gold pieces could be spent directly on level appropriate gear in 3.5, and given that a character had a hard time functioning without their full loadout, that one time burst of power may not have felt like it was worth laying out 3000 gold pieces for a one-time boost.
That brings me to Playground Adventures’ Creature Components line, specifically Creature Components Volume 1 and Creature Components Tome of Beasts. These are 3rd party supplements for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons that provide rules for harvesting bits of monsters, and using those bits to boost spells and magic items.
Tomes Of Monstrous Lore
Creature Components Volume 1 is a 52-page book, and the Tome of Beasts edition of the series is 46 pages long. Both have a full-page ad for other products at the end, as well as a full page OGL statement. Creature Components Volume 1 is in various sepia tones, with purple sidebars, and detailed sepia colored monster sketches. The Tome of Beasts version uses artwork from Kobold Press’ Tome of Beasts, and the headers, sidebars, and formatting uses consistent colors and patterns from that product.
Both volumes are attractive books—the Tome of Beasts version of the book has similar formatting to Volume 1, while retaining the colors and trade dress of the Tome of Beasts where applicable. They maintain an appearance where they kind of match without actually matching.
Creature Components Volume 1
Creature Components Volume 1 has sections that detail a variety of topics.
- harvesting Creature Components
- guidelines for Creature Components that the GM may wish to introduce into their own game
- parameters for lesser, moderate, and greater components
- rules for modifying magic items with monster components
- reducing magic item creation costs
- standard monster Creature Components from the 5e OGL
- new feats
- new magic items
The power level of Creature Components is determined by the CR level of the creature being harvested. There are guidelines for creating effects based on the power level of the creature, if GMs don’t want to use the monster components in the book, or if they wish to make Creature Components from monsters not detailed. There are difficulty numbers provided for harvesting various monster bits, and how much those body parts are worth on the open market. It is even possible to harvest some components from willing monsters without killing them, although there are also rules to represent how this might be dangerous for the living monster.
There are suggestions for additional powers that magic items might have if they are constructed with monster components, as well as guidelines for lowering the cost of creating magic items based on the rarity of monster bits used in their creation.
The majority of the book has suggested effects that various monster components might have on spellcasting. Some monster components affect broad categories of spells, while other components are useful for one specific spell. Some monsters have multiple body parts that can be harvested for different effects.
There are some feats towards the back of the book that allow a character to harvest their own blood for various effects if they are of certain character races. There are magic items specifically created for harvesting monster essence, as well as items that reproduce monster effects. Additionally, there are variant magic items that have been modified with monster bits of different types that might be made available in various campaigns.
Throughout the book there are in character sidebars written from the point of view of a wizard that has done extensive research on harvesting and using monster body parts. There are also sidebars that provide complications for certain monster parts, such as having addictive properties when utilized regularly. There is also a half-page set of rules for researching new formula for modifying existing items to incorporate monster body parts.
Creature Components Tome of Beasts
The bulk of the Tome of Beasts edition of Creature Components contains examples of monster parts that can be used for various spells, but these monsters have been pulled from the Tome of Beasts. Additionally, some of the spells that the Tome of Beasts monster parts modify are Midgard setting specific spells.
Creature Components Tome of Beasts does not reprint the harvesting rules from the original volume, but it does introduce new rules for harvesting tools, hazards, and new magic items that are inspired by the magical properties of Midgard specific monsters.
Hazards are similar to traps, in that some monster parts are more dangerous to harvest than others. There are rules for characters to identify when a hazard may be present, and how to mitigate that hazard, before harvesting the monster’s parts. As an example, when harvesting magical body parts from an ice-based monster, a character may run into a hazard that does cold damage and may freeze them solid.
There are additional sidebars in this book as well. This time the metanarrative follows a wizard that has traveled to Midgard expressly to study the monsters from that setting, but the narrative is tied to the original wizard from Volume 1 of the series.
Top Shelf Items
Going back to my earliest game sessions, I have had players that wanted to harvest monster body parts, and different editions have had varying answers for how to model this activity. I love that this provides a quick, logical answer to the question of monster parts. Even without introducing the special effects of monster components on spells and items, these rules are already useful. In the Tome of Beasts volume, I love the additional rules for hazards and tools, to provide more elements for the GM and players to interact with.
Do We Have More in The Back?
These books are focused on a very specific thing—if you aren’t interested in player characters harvesting monster body parts, these products probably won’t be of much interest. There are a few places where some of the sidebars dive into topics, and I got a little lost on what the rules were trying to model, but eventually the context becomes apparent. I also wasn’t especially excited about the feats, in that I’m not sure if PCs will find that harvesting their own blood will be worth a feat, and as a GM, I would be a little disappointed that someone took a feat to take advantage of these rules instead of hunting down monsters themselves or even going to a crazy magic shop to get them.
Creature Components Tome of Beasts has a little more of a caveat to it, in that if you don’t have the Tome of Beasts, it may be a little less useful, and the fact that some of the components modify Midgard spells further makes this more of a niche product, because for 100% full functionality, you might want both the Tome of Beasts and the Midgard Heroes Handbook or various Deep Magic supplements.
(Creature Components Tome of Beasts) Qualified Recommendation–A product with lots of positive aspects, but buyers may want to understand the context of the product and what it contains before moving it ahead of other purchases.
(Creature Components Volume 1) Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.
While I think that harvesting monster parts is a very specific aspect of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, I don’t think it is too far removed from the standard concept of fighting monsters and looting treasure hordes that it is difficult to recommend, if someone is already interested in 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons to begin with.
I’m a little more hesitant to broadly recommend Creature Components Tome of Beasts, just because it is tied to one or more additional products if you want to get maximum effect, but personally, I would have picked this book up even if I wasn’t heavily invested in Midgard, just for the hazard rules, which I think adds a lot to the process of harvesting monster bits. I still think it is worth looking at even if you don’t have the Tome of Beasts, if only for the hazard rules. Additionally, you can easily repurpose the monster effects onto other similar monsters from other sources.
I liked the hazards so much that I’d pick up a volume of this series that was just hazards that were specialized examples for specific monsters. Regardless of what’s next in the series, I’m looking forward to future entries into this line of supplements.