The Pathfinder roleplaying game has a massive amount of rules, sources, and inspirations to draw from. Some of the best books that come out of this are in the Pathfinder Bestiary series. These detail all the horrible creatures that a party might encounter while exploring a campaign. The Bestiary 6 is a welcome addition to this series, although its practicality level is a bit different than others from the same line.
Nearly every Pathfinder Bestiary is set up the exact same. Creatures are listed in alphabetical order, usually getting about a full page or two dedicated to each one. Stats, a short description, and abilities are listed, and a gorgeous full-color drawing is included as well. Even if you are not currently involved in a campaign, Bestiaries are just fascinating to page through. They can give you ideas for future RPG sessions, help you get creative juices flowing, or just serve as a fun conversation piece for your geeky friends.
What makes the Bestiary 6 so interesting is that we have moved well beyond the traditional fantasy monsters: goblins, orcs, skeletons, dragons, etc. Every Bestiary contains hundreds of creatures, so the Bestiary 6 moves us into the “well over 1000 creatures” range. That means there are some very unique, fascinating, or otherwise unsung creatures gracing the pages of this book. That fact is one of its biggest strengths and biggest weaknesses.
All these bizarre, relatively unknown creatures bring a lot of positives to the Bestiary 6. As a player, it is interesting to read about creatures outside of typical fantasy tropes. Not that every creature was common knowledge in older Bestiaries, but there are some oddballs here. Moldwretches, psoglavs, oolioddroo, and hupias roam these pages, and their lore and special abilities are interesting reads. The art for the different creatures is also up to the usual high standards of Pathfinder books, so just paging through the book makes for some pretty interesting sights.
For GMs, there are both positives and negatives to having so many oddball creatures. On the positive side of things, it gives you lots of opportunity to specialize certain areas of a campaign or storylines for specific characters. Once a party has slain its 400th goblin, all of those battles start to run together. But you are sure to make memories if the players stumble across a camp of entothropes (humanoid insects) and have to fight their way out. On the negative side of that coin, many of these creatures are a bit out of place in normal situations. Goblins, orcs, ghouls – they can be used in most any situation. You’re going to have to funnel your players into a specific situation if you want them to encounter a fire whale.
Another interesting aspect of the Bestiary 6 is that it has a huge concentration of extremely powerful creatures. Challenge Rating (CR) is a way to measure how difficult an encounter will be. If a party has an average level of eight, a CR of ten or eleven would serve as an extremely difficult and drawn-out encounter. The Bestiary 6 has a huge amount of creatures with a CR of twenty or more, with a handful even going as high as level thirty. Since Pathfinder classes top out at level twenty, this means that we are entering the realm of god-like monstrosities throughout the pages of this book.
These insanely difficult creatures might make for a strong end of campaign boss, or some sort of insanely difficult optional path, or even some all-seeing planar lord that pulls the strings behind the scenes. They are a lot of fun to read about and dream up scenarios wherein a high-level group of adventurers could encounter them. Some of the powerful creatures you will encounter in the Bestiary 6 include:
- Archdevils – Lords of Hell that have entire twisted religions devoted to them. Belial, Mephistopheles, Mammon, and more. Every Archdevil has a CR over 25, with some reaching as high as 30.
- Planar Dragons – Strong beings from outer planes that have made their way into the material world. The oldest planar dragons are extremely powerful.
- Empyreal Lords – Angelic creatures that, like Archdevils, have entire religions devoted to them. Just as difficult to defeat as their Hellish counterparts.
- Great Old Ones – Lovecraftian monsters that exist outside the regular realms of the world.
- The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (and their unique steeds!)
- Qlippoth Lords
- The Wild Hunt
These are all in addition to several other of the less consequential beasts we have come to know and love from Pathfinder Bestiaries. In addition to all these new creatures, there are plenty of useful methods of finding the perfect inclusion for your campaigns and all sorts of appendices that Pathfinder books generally contain.
Verdict: Not a necessity like the Core Rulebook and original Bestiary, but a great look at some bizarre and tremendously powerful creatures within the Pathfinder world. The Bestiary 6 is an especially good pickup for those who love the lore and artwork of Pathfinder.