Title : Pathfinder Roleplaying Game : Monsters Codex
Publisher : Paizo Publishing
As a storyteller, picking up Paizo's Monsters Codex for $39.99 was a hard call to make. I've passed on it so many times but found it second-hand (or possibly third-hand) for $7.00 and felt comfortable taking the risk on a book that I originally thought was just a collection of pre-created NPC monsters that someone could pick up and toss at a party.
I WAS SO WRONG!
This book starts off strong with a brilliant two-page introduction that explains that monsters with some level of intelligence and cunning should not be just faceless goons attached to a collection of numbers to roll dice against. It indexes twenty species including Ghouls, Ogres, Trolls, Serpentfolk, and Vampires, and then it deep dives into each one and explains how to use the book as an effective guide on ecology and encounter creation.
Each chapter of the book starts with a brilliant illustration and a bit of narrative fluff that sets the mood and tone for the creatures you will be learning about in each particular section. Various cultural items are presented with stats as well as species-specific feats. Some sections also offer spells that are unique and specific to the species being discovered. There are also pre-generated monsters with various equipment and abilities that you could use in your home game, but after reading through most of them I believe the intention is for them to be used as a jumping off point for deeper customization for encounters. There are even stats for unique creatures and mounts that are part of the species' society and culture.
This book is a worldbuilders dream, providing a wealth of content that can be used as-is or modified for any setting or campaign. I could even see this book being used by some creative players who wanted to gather more knowledge of the world, or break away from the traditional species and try their hand at playing a "monster."
For a new DM looking to toss some creative creatures at a party, this is a great book. I would also recommend picking this book up for an experienced storyteller, because the deep dives it provides on the ecology and society of creatures, which I feel is so often overlooked. The Ghoul and Serpentfolk sections alone were worth the cover price for me. I really wish I had picked this one up sooner, but I am so very glad I can add it to my shelf now.
Ask your local bookstore if they have a copy, or you can snag the softcover or PDF at Paizo.com