After four big books of monsters, the crews for Pathfinder & D&D - the heartbreaker & the heartbroken - must have both been scraping up dregs for the fifth.
Time for the showdown nobody's been waiting for. We're gonna see who's wrung the best of the things that go bump in the night out of their blood, sweat, and tears - Pathfinder Bestiary 5 vs. Monster Manual V:
Category 1: Covers
Category 2: Dragons & Dragonoids
Monster Manual V has got "Xorvintaal dragons", who join a dragon chess club - except that the chess is played with people as pieces and the board is the world. They get telepathy and the ability to empower their chosen "exarchs". I like the word exarch, got a good sound to it.
It's also got Greenspawn Zealots, who are just dragonborn but evil I guess. Could've done without these guys.
Bestiary 5 has got: astral dragons, dream dragons, dragonkin, etheric dragons, nightmare dragons, occult dragons, amphipteres, cetuses, ether drakes, jungle drakes, khalas, peuchens, pyraustas, scitalises, shens, uraeuses, vishaps, water leapers, wyrmwraiths, and FUCKING ROPE DRAGONS. That makes for a very crowded idea-space.
I like that the cetuses (these guys):
Winner: No one. Too many goddamn kinds of dragons. Why does everything have to be a distinct kind? Bestiaries should have more unique monsters instead of a bloating of kinds, each with their own particular situations & scenarios. A whole species of nightmare dragons doing evil dragon stuff in the land of dreams? Yawn. A single dragon heralded by people dreaming of a time when mammals were just tree-shrews in a world ruled by reptiles, waking up with nasty raptor-bites? That's starting to get somewhere.
Category 3: Cutie Patooties
Winner: Pathfinder. Bestiary 5's got an avalanche of cutie patooties, but it'd take some work to make a few of them gameable.
Category B: Undead
It's a boat, crewed by the drowned dead and made of reanimated whale-bone. What's not to like?
Ghost-coach, steals souls. Folkloric.
Unique set of monsters - twelve of them in the entire world, seeking artifacts to raise their master / their whole self? It's ambiguous, and that's appealing. Have three skulls, each with their own power - videogamey fun.
Category X: Flora & Fungi
A plant/fungus symbiote that mistakenly and usually futilely attempts to infest people, causing them to experience bizarre symptoms and delusions as it integrates into their bodies. A plethora of mind-altering drugs can be harvested from it - it's likely the groups harvesting these drugs will be of more danger to you than the creature itself - secret police with truth serums and so on.
Winner: Pathfinder by a wide margin. Why are there so many parasitic plant/fungal monsters though? Odd to me.
Here's a youtube channel I've been watching lately - it's a microbiologist or something of that sort analyzing parasites and viruses and so on in movies & other media and attempting to explain how they might work biologically: https://www.youtube.com/c/RoanokeGaming/videos
Category Y: Weirdoes & Spookums
Chariots of the Gods-style shapeshifting, civilization-sculpting ancient aliens. Some of their abilities are based on high-tech devices you can steal from them - that's neat.
They're nightmare-monsters that feed on fear. The art for all these guys is great - maximalist Silent Hill-type stuff.
Look at that picture. That's a great picture. Artist is "Daarken". These guys have a queen that eats people and poops out drones that look like those people, except very stupid, who goof about until they burst out as centipede-things with those people's faces.
Mind flayers, but even spookier. Also got great art. Wouldn't want to run into one of these guys.
They've got knives for fingers, and need to steal the organs of others to put inside themselves. Definitely spooky.
I hate these tornado-nipple bastards so goddamn much.
Winner: D&D, but seriously I hate shaedlings. Pathfinder has a lot of stuff that's too close to its source inspiration, if not ripped entirely like the Lovecraft stuff. This I do not like. Get a little crazy with it, I can adapt the King in Yellow or whatever on my own.
Category !: Elementals & Golems
Dope art. Art by Tomasz Chistowski. Big ol' houseman.
Winner: I want to wrap this post up, so it's down to just these too. Pathfinder wins on the strength of its art.
Category Z: Vapourblobs
AAHH!! That cloud's gonna punch me!!
These guys have it out for "unnatural sources of light or darkness". Pretty lame.
Like a polong but lamer.
Caller in Darkness
Don't think this one's got any.
Category ?: Monster Women
Looks like a dang Zelda.
Special Category: Twinks
Nothing. Not a single one.
Winner: Pathfinder by a landslide.
Special Category: Silly Names
Pathfinder: Chuspiki, Exscinder, Tsaalgrend, Somalcygot, Rhu-Chalik
D&D: Draudnu, Garngrath, Guulvorg, Rylkar, Spirrax
Special Category: Pagecount
Winner: D&D. Yeah, having fewer pages means you win this one. More pages = more monsters = more potential for good monsters. Gotta balance it out somehow.
Ultimate Winner: What's this..? It's a tie?!
That's crazy. That's almost unbelievable. I was sure Pathfinder was going to win - maybe they would if there had been more categories.
What have we learned? Maybe that art can make a monster concept. Maybe that it's not enough to just have a monster be threatening, it has to be distinct and have hooks & mechanics that distinguish it from the undifferentiated mob of shovelware monsters. Draw your own conclusions.
Bonus: Look at this Artorius from Dark Souls-looking ass: