Monster Manual

Mike Mearls

Book cover

I think I already talked at length about my childhood encounter with the AD&D 2E Monstrous Manual in one of my reviews of the other 5E D&D core rulebooks, so I won’t re-hash it here. This was the last of the core rulebooks for 5E that I bought–initially I felt like I could get by with the monster stat blocks in the free System Reference Document, and I think that’s largely true, but it is nice to have the MM as a reference. Also, with the SRD, you only get the stat blocks, and none of the lore. Some of the lore in the MM is really good, e.g. the section on blights describing the history of the Gulthias tree.

Overall I think this is a superior book to the 2E MM, considered objectively. The art is miles better than the older book, whose art looks basically childish in comparison. However, I do miss a little bit about the 2E book, which styled itself more as a “field guide” and included notes on rarity, diet, social structure, etc., which are missing from the newer book except when they happen to be included in the lore text. This gave more of a feeling of being a window into a “real” world–much like the appendices to the Lord of the Rings books–which I think is part of what drew me in so much as a kid.

I do wish WoTC would give you access to a (searchable!) PDF version when you bought the book. I understand that piracy is a big issue for them, and that they also want players to support local game stores. But when I DM a game, I am usually traveling somewhere, and it is kind of a pain to lug a bunch of books around, rather than just bringing my laptop. I think maybe they do provide this in their online D&D Beyond portal, but I don’t really want to do that whole thing.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars