Monster Manual V (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007
I have always been of the opinion that when it comes to Dungeons & Dragons, there are two things you can never have enough of: Magic and Monsters! Part of this stems from my innate laziness. I’m simply not as motivated as I used to be to sit down and create my own monsters and magic items. It also stems from the fact that in the early days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, there simply were not a lot of supplements out there as I have mentioned before. The original Monster Manual was published in 1977. We didn’t get a new hardcover supplement until the Fiend Folio in 1981, which largely sucked. There were a few good monsters in the book I’d say no more than a dozen, twenty at best, were worthwhile. Contrast that with Wizards of the Coast publishing a new Monster Manual Supplement on the average of one every 12 – 18 months.
Monster Manual V has a good mix of monsters in terms of their CR. While Wizards of the Coast sometimes gets criticism for books being too high level, the new Manual has only eight monsters which rate a CR of 18 or higher, while there are 35 monsters which have a CR of 5 or lower. I think that’s a pretty good mix. As you would expect, many of the new monsters are subsets of a known monster type. For example there are five new demons, three new devils, two new golems, a number of new undead, and a new race of Mind Flayers which I will discuss momentarily.
In addition to new monsters, the book also gives us unique examples of existing monsters. One rather interesting inclusion is the information on Dragons of the Great Game. There is a game that Dragons play called Xorvintaal. I guess it’s sort of equivalent to the old board game Risk, except the game board is the entire world. Dragons vie for control of each other’s territories and dragon hoards. As exemplified by the unique examples included, it is played by Dragons of all alignments. The book gives us Chorranathau, an ancient Fang Dragon, and Morlicantha, a young adult Silver Dragon. There are also rules provided for creating these Xorvintaal Dragons for use in your own campaign.
The book includes a new type of Mind Flayer called the Mind Flayers of Thoon. The lore goes that a vessel of Mind Flayers was traveling at the far edges of the Astral Plane and encountered something that changed them both physically and philosophically. Their sole purpose now is to serve Thoon and to gather a mystical energy called quintessence. Whether Thoon is a deity of some kind or merely a symbolic ideal isn’t stated…that’s being left up to your own DM to decide. My personal take what that the designers were trying to go for an esoteric being in the mold of Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos deities such as Azathoth. These Mind Flayers employ creatures called Madcrafters of Thoon who create bizarre and extremely powerful constructs.
So what’s the final word on Monster Manual V? On the good side, most of the new monsters are unique and not just merely new species of existing monster types (despite the fact that most of what I mentioned is just that!). The monsters do show a lot of creativity not only in their design and look but also in their lore and ecology. As mentioned the mix is very good and there’s creatures here to challenge most levels of player characters. The art was up to Wizard’s usual high standards. On the negative side a few things: There was an incredible dearth of good-aligned monsters in the book, like maybe one! Secondly, as much as I appreciate the efforts of the designers, they continue to saturate players with more information than we could ever use. Almost all of the monsters in the book have entries that are 2 – 3 pages long. This is a case where they are simply over-thinking their creations. All in all, a welcome addition to the D&D library.
Mania Grade: A
Written By: David Noonan
Art By: Various
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast