By Robert J. Rider
Lions and Tigers and Barghests! Oh, crap. Every role player has experienced that surge of fear that accompanies the appearance of some new creature that they are sure will send them running home to their mommies. I recently got the opportunity to review Monster Manual for Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition, which describes more than 500 of these meanies. It is the third core rulebook for TSR's new edition of AD&D and it is essential for all DM's.
Any adventure requires three things. The first is a group of bright, shining heroes representing all that is good and just in the world. The second is a goal worthy of such a sterling band of courageous adventurers. And the third essential ingredient is a villain and opponents who try their best to stop the heroes in their quest.
But think about it. The design of the dungeon can take a huge amount of time. Designing the plot of the adventure also requires a large investment of time and thought. And then, when all of this is done, you still have to make up a main villain and his innumerable lackeys. This can be a huge pain in the ass, and is problem that has been faced by many a game master. So if you're like me, and probably 95% of the rest of America, you want an easier way. Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast has heard your cry and responded with the 3rd Edition Monster Manual, one of the most comprehensive listings of monsters and fiends that I've ever seen for any game.
For all of you newbies, this book is a remake of the Second Edition Monster Manual. It allows you to have a creature for any occasion to use on your poor, unsuspecting players. For all of you old hands who already have the Second Edition version of this book, I have one thing to say to you: "Buy this book!". It will save you the weeks of time it would take to modify all your monsters to Third Edition rules. Additionally, it is such an excellent reference that it's a great read on its own. .
The main purpose of this book is to provide a quick, easy reference for game masters to find monsters to use in their adventures. The Monster Manual provides all the essential game information to run any of the monsters therein. These essentials include the basic information such as hit points, initiative bonus, armor class, attack bonus, and many more. In addition, all the entries on the monsters provide a detailed description of the appearance, motivations, and the natural environment of each of the creatures. This information allows the DM to choose monsters suited to whatever environment the DM is running the players through, and also gives a detailed description of how the monsters act in combat. All of this information gives the DM a pretty comprehensive understanding of all the monsters in the manual. Armed with this information the DM can develop encounters and situations that test the intelligence and mettle of his players.
But the Monster Manual is much more than just a description of several hundred monsters. It is also a reference that provides much more interesting and handy information. Among these is a detailed description of each of the powers that these monsters possess, including the saves, modifiers, and the statistics that govern the use of these powers. Other resources include advancement schemes of the creature types, challenge ratings, and notes on the treasure types of the monsters and how to figure these out. There is also a listing of the types and sub-types of creatures. This is especially useful for rangers, since they progressively develop species enemies that include all the creatures of a specific type. The advancement schemes for the creature types allows a DM to allocate experience points to the reoccurring villains that he uses in his adventures. To make it easier for the DM to pick monsters to challenge their players it even provides a list of creatures organized by their challenge ratings. This list makes it simple to flip through and find a monster to use against any level of group. All of this information is presented in a well-organized, easy to read form that makes understanding how to use the monsters simple on any game master.
One of the first things that anybody sees when they open this extraordinary book is the art. The pictures of the creatures are wonderful; they are highly detailed and show how each creature looks. This may not seem very important to some, but in any role-playing game it is necessary to develop a suspension of disbelief; in order to fully interact in the fantasy world a player has to be able to see it in their imagination. Thus good descriptions are of paramount importance in RPGs, and the stellar art in the Monster Manual is exemplary.
All of these factors make the Monster Manual a must-have for any GM. It cuts down on the work that a DM has to do and helps them to people (or monster?) their adventure with interesting and powerful monsters. With this book a DM need never run out of unique monsters to use against their players. In addition, the book is an excellent reference that helps the DM to develop different encounters for any situation. All in all, the d20 series pikcs up another worthy addition with this excellent offering.