The lips aquire stains,
the stains become a warning.
It's by will alone!
I borrowed this from fordmadoxfraud, as I'm a fan of Dark Sun...though so far only in theory. Like the Dark Sun campaigns of editions past, it seems really cool, everyone agrees it would be fun...but the game never materializes. Dark Sun is a mirage, a setting people talk about running & then never do. That doesn't mean parts of it don't wiggle in places-- somebody plays a Mul or Thri-Kreen or whatever, or something like this book comes out, full of monsters. If you need something messed up, just reach in here & pull something out. Need something desert themed? Or psionic themed? Want some creepy version of the traditional DnD races-- like cannibal halflings? Just looking for a taste of something new? Boom. This is the strength of any compendium of monsters, & always has been. You provide a laundry list & let the Dungeon Master choose a la carte. I think my favorite monster in the book is actually...the salt golem? No wait, my favorite monster in the book is definitely the crystal spider. I have a thing for spiders, I have a thing for glass & I especially have a thing for glass spiders. Remember that old BBD door, Barren Realms? I was clan Glass Spider & I steamrolled my enemies with technological superiority; fertile coast lands & mega-carryalls disgorging fleets of ornithopters, because that is how I roll. Hey, "Barren Realms," huh? Prefiguring this very moment, in the barren realm of Athas?
Least favorite monster is probably a toss-up between the drakes & the tarek. Drakes because...guys, they are just dragons. You can't not have dragons but then have fire breathing dinosaurs! Okay, I get what you are doing-- trying to "cheat," to have dragons without having Dragons. I get it, I just don't think it works. The tarek, blech. You said you wanted a setting without orcs but then...made orcs, but with a different name? Speaking of orcs, I realized recently that I consider orcs a "base fantasy race" now. Orc, elf, dwarf...I just include them in the bones of my internal "high fantasy" conceptualization. I think it is okay to make goblins as generic foes, because you can make them magical-- you can make them monsters, not people. Gnolls are beast-men. Orcs though...orcs are a "race," a type of fantasy people. Making them default monsters is a gross colonial attitude. Actually, I think "elf" & "orc" are two of the more robust fantasy races, because you can deal with them using the wide net of evolutionary psychology. Elves should be "what if humans lived for hundreds of years, how would they behave?" Orcs are a little fuzzier-- they coud be "what if humans only lived for a short while?" or "what if humans had litters of young?" but really? Really I think orcs are "what if Neanderthals were still around?"
I know martak is gonzo about the last quarter of this book, the "Personages of Athas" chapter that includes the Sorcerer-Kings. I know that these sorts of things are matters of some contention. Most gaming groups don't need multiple epic solo threats; the epic game is somewhat of a rarity, & they don't need constant "boss fights." You know what though? I certainly don't care. I haven't played a 4e campaign past 4th level, but I gobble these guys up. It is more than a matter of stat blocks, it is Dungeons & Dragons mythology! Things like the Archdukes of Hell or the Demon Princes or the Sorcerer-Kings reveal the fundamental underpinnings of the metaplot, & that is cool. In fact, I wish the book had diverged from the format of the stat block a little. I appreciate that Wizards of the Coast have veered away from descriptive text, allowing pictures to do the heavy lifting, but for the big ticket items, I'd like more discussion. I think Nibenay is my favorite of these guys-- I just like his name, & the image of the Dragon-King is iconic, right? Then the very last few pages are monster themes, which are fine, but also hazards & terrain features, which are cool-- every map should get spiced up with some hazards or terrain features! Maybe they are a legacy of miniature war gaming, but they are a cool one.