Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual Review
by David Stark, winner of The Dungeon Master Award at GenCon 2014
I was given a copy of the D&D Monster Manual at GenCon this year, and I have to tell you all how absolutely blown away I am. “A menagerie of deadly monsters for the world’s greatest roleplaying game” it states on the cover, and it is 100% accurate! The Art, Emotion, and Detail are second to none, and bring the reader into the world in a way normally only found in novels.
The first thing I’d like to talk about is the art. The cover and title page are iconic pictures depicting a Beholder and a Dragon; but the first piece of art that stood out to me was the Giant Frog. On the Table of Contents, a Giant Frog is shown swallowing an unfortunate adventurer. It is whimsical and detailed, while holding a feeling of a field guide sketch of an actual creature in the world. This theme is held through the manual. Weapons, Feathers, alternate views, profiles, and Anatomy sketches bring each monster to life. The Detail to the art pieces is second to none. There is a picture available for EVERY Monster in the Manual, allowing the player and DM to be on the same page adventure to adventure.
These pictures show fear, anger, stoicism, benevolence, and danger inherent to each monster detailed inside. These, accompanied by shadows, variant rules, personalized descriptions, and a wide array of transitions between art and text show a variety of emotions as the reader proceeds. Scenes of an adventurer standing in the Elemental Chaos in wonder, an Ancient Silver Dragon, standing watch on a cliff protectively, an inquisitive pseudodragon watching a mouse that has wandered into his master’s study, and an adventurer’s desperation as it tries to escape the same danger as the Orc opposite as oozes begin to eat them; These scenes bring a sense of emotion and intensity that we normally only find on covers of modules, or in the pages of books.
Each entry is dedicated to teaching you about the monster in question. A short description of their lairs, allies, tactics and history accompany the art and Monster Entries on each page. This attention feels normal until the reader begins looking into the complexity of the entries. Let us look at the Modron as an example. A creature I have ignored since their creation in 1983, I have fallen in love with these wonderful creatures since happening upon them at three am in my hotel room at GenCon.
The Description gives a breakdown of “Normal” Modrons, including their alignment, history, personality, and communication methods. The art shows a copy of each version: Monodrone, Duodrone, Tridrone, Quadrone, and Pentadrone. The description briefly describes the reason for differences between them, and the monster stat block gives detailed differences. On top of this, the design team included a variant for Rogue Modrons so the reader knows that while this is the norm, Primus’ creations do not always follow his orders. This collection of Art, Emotion, and Detail has made me fall in love with a creature I’ve never looked twice at before.
THIS IS NOT THE ONLY TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED. This book is PACKED with over 150 different TYPES of monster, and accompanied by Creatures, Nonplayer Characters and an extensive index. All in all this Monster Manual blows away our preconceived notions of what a monster manual should be. The D&D Team has something to be truly proud of. R&D, Community, Marketing, Production, Illustrators, and contributors gave their all, and the reader can see it. I hope everyone will jump in with me and share a whole new world of Dungeons and Dragons for future generations. Don’t worry. You will have a Monster Manual. This time, we will be prepared.