The latest release for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is the Monster Manual. This is the second of the three foundation books that make up the Dungeons & Dragons game system. The first core book being the Player’s Handbook and the third is the upcoming release of the Dungeon Masters Guide. The Monster Manual is a tome of information of many monsters that are in the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse. The monsters in this manual have origins in real-world mythology and fantasy literature and others are D&D originals. The monsters in this manual have been culled from all previous editions of the game.
As I have said my my reviews for the Starter Set and The Player’s Handbook, the 5th Edition makes a great first impression with it’s presentation. The Monster Manual follows suit. The cover art presents you with a menacing beholder unleashing terror on a party of explorers. The sleek modern font and black edge binding lend to a very nice finished publication. One thing I have not mentioned is that the back cover has something unique. Part of the cover is glossy, and the other has a matte finish that gives a nice feel to the book and makes it easier to hold while browsing the pages. With the great looking cover let’s take a look at what’s inside.
The 5th Edition Monster Manual’s overall look and feel is high quality. There are 352 pages of pure delight. There are listings for 149 monster types, not including sub-types and species. My first impression of the pages was this: Full color artwork on almost every page.
The page layout is very nice and well organized. There is nice font selection, line spacing and use of bold type. The stat blocks for all of the monsters is easy to read. Plus there is a lot of background information about all of the creatures, including specific information on sub-types and sub-species.
In the picture above, there are stats and information for both the Bugbear and Bugbear Chief. The pages have this nice parchment appearing background that gives the look of an old tome without being distracting to the eyes. This book has lots of nice little gems placed throughout the whole text. The Disclaimer in the front of the book should definitely be read. There are lots of flavor text boxes throughout the book, making it seem more of a historical gathering of knowledge.
The Monster Manual is primarily for use by the Dungeon Master, however anyone can enjoy the content of what’s inside. The Monster Manual is meant to be used hand-in-hand with the Dungeon Masters Guide for creating encounters. The first eight pages of the Manual give information on how to use the book, defining a monster and where they live, what monsters to use in encounters, and their statistics. The Dungeon Master Guide and Monster Manual can be used together with the Dungeon Master Guide for the budgeting of experience points (XP) and adjusting the difficulty of encounters.
The Player’s Handbook is also used with the Monster Manual to further discuss creature size and space, alignment, hit points, speed, and ability scores.
There is a discussion of legendary creatures and their special abilities along with lair actions if they have any.
Looking at the entries in the Monster Manual itself, each page has an artist’s rendition of what each creature looks like. This gives one interpretation for the Dungeon Master to use in describing the appearance of the monster. In the entry information itself is a wealth of information about each monster, where it lives, it’s habits, where it came from, etc. Certain monsters, demons for example, have information of the different sub-types as well. All of this information can be used by the Dungeon Master in creating encounters and aids in placing the right monsters in the right places. One thing the Monster Manual does is that it gives creative license to the Dungeon Master to change things about the monsters. For example, a green dragon normally has a lawful evil alignment. But if the Dungeon Master chooses, he can have a green dragon have a chaotic evil alignment if he wants to.
Speaking of dragons, there are entries for Ancient dragons, adult dragons, young dragons and wyrmlings. So plenty of different information and stat blocks for a monster that has a long lifespan.
One thing I noticed in the 5th Edition Monster Manual is the inclusion in the stat block of advantages. This is extremely useful information for use with the new rules concerning advantage. It is prominently displayed in the stat block.
There are 2 appedices in the back of the Monster Manual, one being for miscellaneous creatures that are commonly encountered in the multiverse, again listed with their advantages, The second appendix is for Non-player characters, giving stats and descriptions for many humanoid characters.
If you are a Dungeon Master, this Monster Manual is a must have. This is a wealth of information that is easy to navigate and understand with plenty of artwork to inspire your narration of encounters. The updated manual included advantages that is a major factor in the 5th edition of play. According to the notes in the book, if you are an experienced Dungeon Master, a few of the monster write-ups will surprise you as they went back to some of the older Monster Manuals to bring back some long lost factoids. They also added some new twists to some of the monsters, all the while not trying to curtail your creativity as Dungeon Master. If you are a player, although this book is not required to play the game, it is a nice resource to have to explore and understand many of the monsters you may encounter in the multiverse. I continue to be impressed with the quality of content being released in this 5th Edition. The Monster Manual is excellent in it’s own right. I find this an invaluable resource for the Dungeon Master is the creation of homebrewed adventures and also a great tool to use with printed material to use to improvise a situation where players deviate from the script per se. With the 5th edition, I continue to see the influence of going back to more of the use of imagination and the theater of the mind, and the Monster Manual is a tool that the Dungeon Master can use to inspire the players to imagine all of these different monsters in their minds. I highly recommend this new edition of the Monster Manual and I find myself highly anticipating the release of the Dungeon Master Guide.