Supplement Review: Incredible Insects, Volume 1 by William C. Pfaff and Esape Velocity Gaming

Have you ever stopped to consider how outnumbered we are as a species on planet Earth… by insects? Sure, each of us may take out a few during our lifetimes with judicious hand slaps, foot stomps, bug sprays, bug zappers, and so on… But did you know it’s estimated that insects make up 80% of the world’s species? And that at any given time it’s estimated that there are 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) individual insects alive? (Check out this great article about numbers of insects at Encyclopedia Smithsonian.)

That’s a lot of stomping.

So wouldn’t it be apropos if there was a similar insane number of insect species in RPG settings?

Well, William C. Pfaff has your back if you’re a GM looking to add some new insect varieties to your 4e game. At only twelve pages, Incredible Insects, Volume 1 may not seem that expansive, but it offers eight varieties of bugs to make your players squirm a bit when they put their PCs in harm’s way. Included are  two varieties of ant, a beetle, a centipede, two varieties of mosquito, and a couple of ticks.

As the quote says on the front cover – “Poisoning, blood-sucking, biting, and spitting? Things are gonna’ get messy.” Indeed!

Starting with the Honeypot Ant, I was reminded of one of the key monsters in the first few missions of the video game Fallout 3 from Bethesda Scrollworks. Like the Fire Ants in the Waste, these Honeypot Ants have an interesting twist to make your PCs think twice before blindly attacking. Not only can they spit corrosive digestive juices at targets, they can explode if you hit them just right, covering an entire area in the sticky, nasty stuff.

Before I move on to another of my favorites in the book, I have to mention the brief list of “Antventures” associated with these ants. Included are three separate ideas, from a local alchemist wanting some of the ants’ digestive juices for an experiment to a group of ants who have managed to do something interesting with some magical potions. My only complaint with these is that we don’t see more with the other insects described. I would have loved to have seen a set of possibilities for each monster in the book.

Next we have the “Goldbug Lucent” which is an intriguing magically-constructed critter that lends itself to all sorts of potential mayhem. Somehow these creatures were created for some holy war long ago. And the first thing I wanted to know was how these things were created? Insects with actual gold in the carapace? These large, tough critters would offer some serious trouble to any group of munchkins hoping to simply kill them and boil them down for coins.

I also wondered whether there were other varieties of these creatures (copper, silver, platinum), each constructed for a different purpose. But I loved seeing the “Designer’s Note” about how to use the Lucent in a campaign. I like the concept of the creature *being* the reward as opposed to it simply having a collection of goodies from its victims stashed somewhere. The designer note itself reminded me of similar notes used in Raging Swan Press’ products, and I would love to see more of these where they make sense.

Lastly, I have to say as I was reading about the two varieties of mosquito swarms, I really wanted to grab my can of bug repellent. The “Darkswarm” and the “Bloodwingswarm” are truly scary. I’d hate to see a cloud of mosquitoes descend on an adventuring party like one of the ten plagues. [shudder]

Though I like what Bill has done with the book, I think that at twelve pages it should have been a bit more consistent with the layout. The use of shapes to contain notes on individual pages is great, but I’d like them to be the same from monster to monster – not using a yellow box for one, a grey oval for another, and a pink box in another place. I found the different uses of color to be distracting, making me wonder whether the color choices were done to signify a particular purpose.

That said, the majority of the page design worked for me – broken into sections, with consistent layout of the stat blocks and each monster having a unique picture. These are definitely some ugly bugs I’d hate to encounter in a campaign as a player, but would be very tempted to toss into a campaign as a GM. And since this is “volume 1,” I fully expect to see more insects in future Escape Velocity products!

If you’re looking for something to throw at the PCs in your 4e campaign, I’d definitely recommend you check out Incredible Insects, Volume 1 from William Pfaff and Escape Velocity Gaming. It’s short, but it packs a mean punch and your players will insist on finding some form of magical bug spray in no time! You can’t beat the price (less than $1) at RPGnow and DriveThruRPG, and find out more about Escape Velocity Gaming at their website.

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4 comments to Supplement Review: Incredible Insects, Volume 1 by William C. Pfaff and Esape Velocity Gaming

  • Fitz,
    Your comments are dead on. This book almost became a lot bigger in a hurry but I wanted to leave myself some room for volume 2 while ideas were still percolating. My main partner at EVGaming constantly notes my “interesting (with eyebrow raised” layout choices. I’m getting better just not where I want to be yet. This supplement was incredibly fun to make and I tried to make insects that were familiar but also made PCs say “Yikes!”. This has become a pretty popular seller. I found a second review of the product here where the author offers some positive notes as well…

    Thanks for the work on this review and keep on Escape Velocity Gaming for more 4e/gsl products soon!

    William C. Pfaff

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