A New Breed of Adventurer
Whether wondrous or wicked, some monsters have a calling that reaches beyond the ordinary existence of their kind. Traveling alongside other intrepid characters, these heroic creatures carve their places in legend with sword, spell, tooth, and claw.
This supplement for the D&D game provides everything you need to play a monster as a character or to make the monsters your heroes fight even more formidable. Inside are over 50 all-new monster classes that show how creatures develop their characteristics and abilities as they gain levels. Along with new prestige classes and monster templates, Savage Species also features new feats, spells, magic items, and more.
To use this supplement, a Dungeon Master also needs the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. A player needs only the Player’s Handbook and the Monster Manual.
Savage Species (2003) is one of those rare books that revolutionized the D&D game.
Okay, bold words, but a huge number of playable non-standard D&D races in 3e and 3.5e D&D were shaped and influenced by the ideas in this book. ECL (Effective Character Level) isn't a perfect system, perhaps, but it was head-and-shoulders above anything that preceeded it when it came to making monsters into playable characters. This book managed what some people considered impossible: It made it possible to play monstrous races that were balanced alongside normal races and character classes.
How It Works. Savage Species breaks down each playable monster (and there are a lot of them) into a standardized, balanced progression of monster levels. A monster level is comprised of Hit Dice, feats, skill points, and special abilities. Players are welcome to take monster levels until they are a "full" monster, with all of the abilities and power a standard monster of that sort would have, or to substitute in class levels if they want to make things a little less predictable.
Accompanying this is ECL, or Effective Character Level. This level adjustment accounts for abilities that all by themselves are worth a class level or two. A pixie, for instance, has 5 monster levels and an ECL of +5, making it equivalent to a 10th-level Player's Handbook character.
The result is surprisingly fun and balanced. Mind flayer psionicists, although they'd probably be mocked by full illithids for their relative fragility, can stand beside low-level adventurers and yet be on a fair footing. Bugbear barbarians can thrive, with the player deciding on the balance of bugbear to barbarian she wants. There are even prestige classes that amplify monstrous abilities, ephasizing the character's bestial or monstrous nature instead of the learned abilities that would come from traditional prestige classes.
You'll also find feats, new gear, and some remarkably fun templates: gelatinous, insectile, mummified... mix and match to get the character you want.
"What Do You Mean, You Don't Fit through the Tavern Door?" The main speedbump faced by Savage Species is in DM acceptance, not in rules balance. It has been traditional in D&D campaigns for DMs to prohibit monsters as player character races, for they could never be sure if such requests were merely an attempt to obtain an unbalanced PC who would then lord its relative power over other PCs. With balance addressed by Savage Species, the issue became, "Why are there an umber hulk and a minotaur hanging out in my human city?"
It takes some suspension of disbelief to allow a party of truly mixed PC races.
Some DMs have chosen to use this book to create unique and memorable NPCs or to focus on unusually themed adventuring parties. A group of centaurs ridden by elven archers makes for a superb party, for instance, as does a contingent of dwarves and their clan's minotaur storm troopers. One of the nice things about this supplement is that there's a very high "wow, that's cool" factor every time you are able to do something never before allowed in D&D.
Keystone of D&D. The rules set down in this supplement carry throughout the rest of d20 and D&D 3.5. If you're playing or running in those systems, you'll find this to be a superb book to have, in terms of both utility and creativity.
About the Creators. David Eckelberry left Wizards in 2003 and is currently Game Director at Lionhead Studios in the U.K.
Rich Redman held multiple positions during his 13 years at Wizards, including brand and licensing management for Neverwinter Nights and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance.
Jennifer Clarke Wilkes has been an editor at Wizards for 18 years, with a stunning portfolio of completed games to her credit.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.