Monster books are much beloved by all RPGers. This is known. The Midgard Bestiary from Open Design is more useful than most, filling two potential gaps in your monster arsenal: it serves as a monster manual for Wolfgang Baur’s Midgard Project, and it uses Green Ronin’s AGE system, adding a ton of new creatures to a system that hasn’t had a ton of additional supplements published for it.
I’ll admit that I have zero familiarity with the Dragon Age RPG or the AGE system, other than a ton of positive buzz in the RPG Internet community. A cursory glance shows that it’s a relatively stripped down rule set (something I like) based around rolling 3d6 for most challenges. Characters and monsters get stunts that act a lot like all the various spells/supernatural abilities/class abilities/feats that you’d see in D&D, but perhaps easier to create and use.
Because I don’t have a grasp of AGE’s mechanics, I wasn’t able to determine how monsters are rated. The individual monster pages don’t have anything like a challenge rating, level, or an experience point award listed. I could figure out their relative difficulty based on their defense rating — if you know the attack bonus of your PCs, you can easily figure out what monsters will be impossible for them to hit on a 3d6 roll. That, of course, isn’t the sole arbiter of monster difficulty, but it’s a nice approximation. While D&D makes it easy to construct balanced encounters by rating monsters, it also leads to predictability. I kind of like that the Midgard bestiary’s critters aren’t explicitly ranked (or maybe they are and I just wasn’t parsing the stats correctly).
Among the 50 monsters presented, you’ll find some old stand-bys that will do yeoman’s duty in just about any fantasy setting (centaurs, dwarves, mushroom people) and some really creative beasts, like the sap demon and the dog mole. The dog mole could stand beside the owlbear and the umber hulk as an iconic weird RPG monster. There are some gnarly undead too, like bonedust ghouls and the putrid haunt. Every monster is depicted with truly excellent art, most in black and white but a few in color.
The real creativity in the monster design comes from the various stunts they have at their disposal. Stunts give monsters special attacks, movement bonuses, immunities and other cool twists. The stunts all have evocative names too. The putrid haunts can Vomit Leeches for example, while a young cave dragon can emit a Cacophonous Roar.
It’s sure nice to see a new RPG system achieve success, especially if it provides Open Design an excuse to publish more books of monsters. This is a Volume 1, after all.