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by Michael Brown 6 min read

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Review of Paizo’s Pathfinder Monster Codex and Villain Codex

You all know, or at least should know, that I am in love with the Pathfinder Roleplaying System! A lot of people seem to be taken back by how many books that Pathfinder has under its belt, but the game has been in print for around eight years, so of course it’s going to have a lot going on.

The good thing about the system is you do not need all of the books to play the game. Everything branching out from the Core Rulebook is optional. It’s a lot like downloadable content for video games.

I could sit here and write a review of each Pathfinder book, but I think instead, I am going to focus on the ones that really stand out to me and help me as a Game Master. Having books that add flavor and feeling to a game enhances the player’s experience, which makes an all-around good time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every book that Paizo puts out, but I am spotlighting the ones that are knockouts for me.

And here we are, at the two books that I decided to focus on for this article: Pathfinder’s Monster Codex and Villain Codex, two tomes of ultimate detail and depth that will provide a clearer insight to the denizens of the world of Golarion (Pathfinder’s core world) and beyond!

What these two books add to your game

When you are a Game Master, sometimes you get asked some questions like “what are some cultural traditions that are common to Bugbears?” from a player who is getting really immersed into the world.

Now, without the Monster Codex, all you would typically have is the small description of Bugbears in the Bestiary and your quick imagination. Sometimes, it’s really obvious when a GM comes up with something on the fly, so why not avoid that?

The Monster Codex allows you to delve further into the details of the different creatures, which makes it easier for them to make sense when inhabiting that area of the world. Sometimes a monster can seem rather ‘cookie cutter’ when encountered.

For example, it’s easy for the players to see that the tribe of kobolds was placed in the area they’re exploring because they typically dwell in caves. The Monster Codex allows you to populate the cavern with different castes of Kobold society, ranging from shamans to warriors.

It feels more like a populated world when the societies and organizations of its inhabitants are cataloged. And because there’s an array of new information, Knowledge skills can provide a character with more detailed information.

I’ll use a video game as an example here, because I am also a video gamer, although I seem to have a lot less time for that these days.

Anyway, take Bethesda’s Skyrim, for example. In Skyrim, you’ll encounter one version of a giant in the main game; they all look the same and behave in the same manner. So, because of this, it seems like there is no sense of giant culture or history.

They are simply just there. In the Monster Codex, Fire Giants and Frost Giants societies are chronicled, which makes more awe-inspiring storytelling and imagery when the party encounters one.

What does the Villain Codex have to offer? Have you ever needed access to a quick organization for your group to encounter?

The great thing about the Villain Codex is it allows you to place the villain’s contained within into Pathfinder’s world of Golarion or your own custom campaign setting. And another added bonus is the fact that although the material is open ended enough to seamlessly incorporate into your own story, it doesn’t feel generic and bland.

Each villain organization and its occupants have had a lot of thought put into them, making them feel vibrant and flavorful when added to your sessions.

I’m sure you have noticed that I constantly reference the concepts of immersion, flavor, and depth. As a GM, these are the concepts that when built around create a very powerful experience for your group.

The more descriptions and information you give your group, the easier it makes visualization. I have a condition called Aphantasia, which means I cannot visualize images in my mind’s eye.

Although this condition hasn’t hindered me creatively since I am in fact an artist, it forces me to approach imagination differently. For people like me, more visuals and information makes it easier to place myself into the setting. And this is a reason why the NPCs in my gaming worlds all have their own unique personalities, which I try my best to at out by doing their voices and mimicking their body language.

If you are a GM who likes to go all out and basically turn your sessions into a small play, it makes it easier to do so when the proper information is out there and accessible. Sometimes, a small tidbit of information in a book isn’t enough to get the full scope on the creature or person.

However, the Monster Codex and the Villain Codex gives you a clearer insight into those who inhabit the world your party is adventuring in.

Incorporating the two books into your sessions Alright, now that I have convinced you to take interest in the two books or you already own them but are unsure of what to do with them, I shall give you some suggestions on how to make good use of them.

Now, we know that Pathfinder has a lot of books under its belt… like a lot. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to use each and every single thing in your campaign setting. All that will do is confuse and overwhelm people. Like throwing some calculus at a toddler.

The easiest thing to do is create a map of your world or the area that your party is adventuring in, and start creating territories and habitats.

This helps you see the living world you are running and to get a sense of what is populating it. This also allows you to create interesting encounters, plot hooks, and story tie-ins. Let’s say you have a region that is on the border of a region full of thieves. This means that it could be

common for some thievery to happen around the border and over time, your party may try to uncover the organization behind it all. Another interesting take on this is the fact that an adventuring party usually attracts unwanted attention; power attracts power.

The party could be seen as a growing threat that needs to be taken care of, or simply that they’re acquiring great wealth and they need to be relieved of it.

Now you are delving into the Villain Codex and using the thieves within to create an organized crime syndicate to interact with your group. And like most organizations, this one likes to contract out some of its work, which means employing some denizens from the Monster Codex.

One of the great things about these two books is the amount of inspiration you can get just by flipping through their pages. You’d be surprised by how much of an idea can be built upon a small piece of artwork or a small description of something. And because these two codices provide so much information and visuals, building a whole quest or even setting around their content is a breeze! Paizo has always been wonderful about expanding their material and making it easy for others to expand upon it as well.

Conclusion Of My Monster and Villain Codex Review

Conclusion I highly recommend any GM who runs the Pathfinder Roleplaying System should be highly considering acquiring the Monster Codex and the Villain Codex.

Not only are these books full of beautiful artwork, they are a resource that can expand your game and make it easier to have fuller backgrounds to the enemies and creatures that populate the world that you are running your group through.

Any resource that makes things easier for the GM is always a welcomed thing. Yeah, some books add a boatload of new rules, which can be daunting, but these codices offer information, which is very valuable!

Happy gaming! Thanks for taking the time to read this! Do you have an idea for a game you'd like me to review? Contact me through my social media and let me know!

Thank you, Boggsimus of Boggsimus Games

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