Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Game Designer: Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford
Artwork: Raymond Swanland (Cover Art)
Game Mechanics: Role-Playing, Dice Rolling
Contents: 1 Book
Suggested Retail Price: $49.95
The 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual is a bestiary tome packed full of denizens, god like creatures, undead aberrations and monsters of any kind you can dream up. Laid out in alphabetical order, the Monster Manual describes not only the creatures appearance, stats and tendencies, but also any lair implications that may come with happening on such a creature in the game i.e., a dragon’s lair has special abilities to help protect the dragon from harm which may be applied in the game towards the adventurers.
Reading the 5th Edition Monster Manual is like a trip back in time for me. Not being a fan of the 4th Ed. of Dungeons & Dragons, seeing creatures such as the Death Knight, Githyanki, Mind Flayers, Liches or Vampires with the Lord Strahd Von Zarovich example bring back so many wonderful memories of adventures, dungeon delving and world saving campaigns that the original version and 2nd Ed. of Dungeon and Dragons did so well and made it the best-selling Role-Playing Game of all time. The manual itself generates the need to sit and read all the creatures as the ideas keep popping in your head of either past adventures or new ones to come. It really get the ideas, dreams and juices flowing for designing a campaign or enhancing already made ones and the excitement starts to take over and before you know it, hours have past, plans have been laid and the desire to adventure is paramount in your mind!
The manual starts with the basic sections of How to Use This Book and What Is a Monster. Then it moves into the ways that a Dungeon Master or story-teller can best benefit from its use. The manual outlines where monsters might dwell with great examples to use as starting points for people In creating and designing their campaigns. General locations like Dungeons, The Underdark, The Wilderness are followed by bullet point examples where creatures may reside. I found this particularly useful in generating story ideas and is a great way to inspire different types of adventures one may not normally have thought of as we can tend to get stuck in a rut with our preferences or limited knowledge or creativity.
The manual moves on to monster statistics. The Dungeon Master has to know how utilize each monster to best enhance the experience for the players enjoyment. This is where they learn how to do that. Everything from size, monster type, armor class and hit points are discussed in this section. More defining characteristics such as alignment, skills, senses, experience and immunities are laid out here. The things that make the monsters more real, unique and character driven, instead of just mindless automatons.
As creatures get older and more experienced they may develop new special traits, equipment, and additional actions. Some creatures even become Legendary in stature attaining even greater powers and their lairs become more dangerous for the adventurers. Now not only do the adventurers have to possible fight the creature, but now may also have to deal with the lair itself. This is an impressive feature that I was not familiar with.
Having read through this book, I see the wonderful ideas the creators had in mind to create a fantastic universe for players to partake in and create marvelous campaigns in which Dungeon Masters have an incredible tool in which to challenge the adventurers in new and exciting ways with creatures that are very clearly detailed. This allows for easy implementation of a creature to a story idea or campaign. This should be the goal of any tool put out by a publisher. If a manual is convoluted or hard to understand, then people will gravitate towards other tools to plan their campaigns and Wizards of the Coast seem to understand this very well. I have yet to find anything in this new 5th Edition Launch that doesn’t deliver as promised and make the job much, much easier for the Dungeon Master to implement the campaign of his choosing.
Sometimes it is possible to over reach your goals though and maybe put too much in or get to creative and I felt this with the Mordrons. I am not sure when these particular creatures came into the Dungeons and Dragons universe, but the seemingly steam punk influence of these creatures doesn’t ring true to me with this universe. Granted, I lost touch with the Dungeons and Dragons universe with the last reiteration of this game, and I love the steam punk universe, but this did stick out like a sore thumb to me. I am sure there are many Dungeon Masters that can use these creatures very creatively in their story lines, but to me it just didn’t fit. Keeping within a believable universe would be seemingly important and although anything may be possible to many people beliefs, something’s just throw the universe out of balance and can ruin an experience for players. Fortunately, the Dungeon Master and can easily replace or remove creatures that may not fit a campaign very well.
The component quality was as always top-notch from Wizards of the Coast. From the artwork, graphic design and cover thickness. The layout was extremely easy to follow and will provide easy reference for all people using this manual.
Overall, this Monster Manual brings back the wonder, creativity and excitement that the very first one did so many years ago. It is a great springboard and a wealth of information for those looking to start running or designing their own campaigns, enhancing pre-made ones and especially for those brand new to the Dungeons and Dragons universe. It is a very solid resource that is essential for any person wanting to play Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. Well done Wizards of the Coast, Well done!
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Note: I received a review copy of the Monster Manual.
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