Saturday, December 27, 2014

D&D 5e Impressions - The Monster Manual

I didn't know what to expect from the new Monster Manual. I mean - the new Player's Handbook was an interesting read, and I really enjoyed the new presentation (story and background before game statistics and rules) and the way the new rules mixed the best of D&D from all editions - but the Monster Manual is just that, right? A book about D&D Monsters...


Well, I am happy to say that Wizards did the impossible and created a Monster Manual that (again) puts story and background before game statistics.

It's the first creature centric book I had the pleasure of picking up for the sake of inspiration, as part of my adventure creation process. With previous Monster Manual editions, I skimmed through the monster books to find critters to challenge my players with. I mostly looked at the statistics, checking whether this particular creature will be a good or bad challenge for my group.

Not anymore.

Now - before plunging into the details of the next session, I take the new Monster Manual from the shelf and just flip through the pages, reading the various bits and bites of story and background provided with each monster description. Some of the little 'notes' dotting the pages here and there are especially inspiring - in a tongue-in-the-cheek kind of way.


All of the usual suspects are represented - goblins, giants, dragons, demons, devils and many other 'classic' D&D critters - along with some new creations. The stat blocks (when I actually get to read them), are clear and convey all the needed information in a glance. All the information is present where you need it - no need to flip pages or open another book to understand how a specific monster works (expect spell-casting monsters - you still need the Player's Handbook for the spell descriptions). It's a real blessing, as I hardly have the mental capacity for minute details or hard-to-remember tactics and traits.

I have to say that the new Monster Manual feels superior to previous editions - from mechanics, story oriented material, presentation and art. Dungeon Masters can actually build entire adventures out of the inspiring story surrounding a critter, and it feels like the non-mechanical material was designed with that goal in mind. I totally appreciate any attempt to ease things for the Dungeon Master. I personally don't have a lot of free time, and I prefer to 'copy-paste' bits of information to create encounters and scenarios. Since this book is full of worthy content, 'copy-paste' actually works in this case - allowing me to focus on the story and back away from the statistics until I really need it.

The Player's Handbook was a great kickoff for this new edition. It seems to me that the Monster Manual release managed to top that. The package containing the Dungeon Master Guide is already underway - and I can't wait to get my hands on it...

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