Monster Manual

Monster Manual
Monster Manual  
Monster Manual 540x706.jpg
Monster Manual for the D&D 4th Edition Rules
Genre(s) Role-playing game
Publisher Wizards of the Coast
Media type Print (Hardback)

The Monster Manual (Monstrous Manual, or Monstrous Compendium) is the primary bestiary sourcebook for monsters in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy role-playing game. It includes monsters derived from mythology, and folklore, as well as creatures created for D&D specifically. It describes each with game-specific statistics (such as the monster's level or number of hit dice), and a brief description of its habits and habitats. Most of the entries also have an image of the creature. Along with the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide, it is one of the three "core rulebooks" in most editions of the Dungeons & Dragons game.


History of the Monster Manuals

Early Dungeons & Dragons

The earliest 1974 Dungeons and Dragons boxed set did not have separate Monster Manuals but provided listings for monsters in one of the three booklets in the set entitled Book 2: Monsters and Treasure.

First edition Monster Manual (Sutherland artwork)

After the separation into "Basic" and "Advanced" games, the "Basic" game continued to be published in level-based boxes. Monsters of the appropriate level were included in the rulebooks for the various "Basic Game" sets (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal) and later collected in a single D&D Rules Cyclopedia book.

1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

The original publication actually bearing the title Monster Manual was written by Gary Gygax and published in 1977 as a 108-page book.[1] It was the first hardcover book for any Dungeons & Dragons game,[2][3] and the first of the Core Manuals published for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) version of the game.[1][4] The Monster Manual was a supplement to the game intended to describe the standard monsters used in AD&D, many with illustrations.[1] The book was a compendium of more than 350 monsters – some were new, but some were compiled and revised from older sources such as Monsters and Treasure, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Strategic Review and the Dragon.[2] Each monster was listed alphabetically with a comprehensive description and full statistics, and was in some cases supported by an illustration.[2] A softcover version of the Monster Manual was printed by Games Workshop (U.K.) in 1978.[1] The cover of the original printing was illustrated by David Trampier, and when the book was reprinted in 1985 it featured new cover art by Jeff Easley.[1] Except for a cover art change to match a new logo and house style, and some minor corrections introduced in the 1978 printings, it went through very little change in its fifteen printings up to 1989.[citation needed]

The credited artists of the first manual, in order, are David C. Sutherland III (DCS), David A. Trampier (DAT), Tom Wham (TW), and Jean Wells. The editor of the original edition was Mike Carr.[5]

The first edition Monster Manual is also famous for the topless portrayals of some of its female monsters, including the succubus and Type V demons, the lamia, and the sylph. The casual depiction of female nudity is a hallmark of first edition Dungeons and Dragons art.[citation needed]

Tim Kask, editor of The Dragon, reviewed the book in The Dragon #12, calling it "a radical departure from the norm in wargame publishing".[6] Kask felt that, while "Gary Gygax, in his prefatory remarks, spreads the credit around, but the majority of the kudos should be heaped on his shoulders".[6] Kask also mentioned that the hardbound format of the book would make it an ideal surface for mapping, and insure that the book would hold up for a long time. It was Kask's opinion that the book's profuse illustrations were "outstanding", and that "in themselves would warrant the cover price".[6]

The original Monster Manual was reviewed by Don Turnbull in issue #8 of the magazine White Dwarf (August/September 1978). Turnbull felt that "this manual deserves a place on every D&D enthusiast's bookshelf", and praised the explanatory text, stating that it "amplifies, where necessary, [the game statistics] and the result is the most comprehensive listing of D&D monsters you will find, presented in a clarity which is unfortunately all too rare in other sources."[2] Turnbull noted some minor printing errors, and felt that some of the drawings are not as good as others, but felt that the book's quality "is as high as one can reasonably expect in such a complex matter".[2] Turnbull concluded by saying "I can do no more than heap high praise on the Monster Manual. If every DM and every player didn't buy it, I would be very surprised. It is without doubt the best thing that TSR have produced so far."[2] Lawrence Schick commented on the Monster Manual in his 1991 book Heroic Worlds: "As nothing is easier to design than new monsters, it has spawned a host of imitations."[1]

Fiend Folio (1981) was published by TSR UK. Much of the Fiend Folio 's contents were taken from the Fiend Factory feature of White Dwarf, others were taken from various D&D modules, and some were original creations for this volume. It introduced several popular monsters to the D&D game including drow, githyanki, githzerai, slaad, and death knights. It also featured monsters that were widely ridiculed, such as the flumph, one of the few non-evil creatures presented in that volume.

Monster Manual II (1983) was a 160-page hardcover, also credited solely to Gygax, and featured cover art by Jeff Easley.[1] The book was a supplement describing over 250 monsters, most with illustrations; many of the monsters were drawn from scenario modules.[1] The book includes random encounter tables for dungeon and wilderness settings, built from the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II.[1] Some of its contents had been taken from various AD&D adventure modules, in particular quite a number from S4: Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and a dozen new devils that had been first published in the pages of Dragon magazine. Like the Fiend Folio before it, the monsters in Monster Manual II listed the experience point value for each monster in the entry itself. The Monster Manual II along with the 1st Edition Unearthed Arcana book featured quite a number of monsters, races and place names from Gary Gygax's Greyhawk Campaign world. The book featured interior illustrations by Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Dave Sutherland, and Larry Elmore.

Monster Manual II was rated fairly well at the time, receiving 7 out of 10 overall in a review in issue 49 of White Dwarf magazine. The reviewer praised the book's standard of clear presentation, and felt that the artwork was better than the previous monster books. The reviewer felt that there were too many high level monsters, and too many overly deadly ones, and that just about all the monsters in the book are inimical to adventures; the reviewer felt that it would have been nice to have something friendly to meet on occasion. The reviewer did make note of the fact that there were "many interesting ideas and several well-developed tribes and hierarchies", and felt that overall the book is "a good, well presented addition to the AD&D series, with some very useful creatures" and recommended the book to anyone who likes a wide range of monsters in the game.[7] Lawrence Schick also commented on the Monster Manual II in Heroic Worlds: "Some of the monsters are less than inspired, and some are quite silly; this author's favorites are the stegocentipede, a giant arthropod notable for its twin row of back plates (wow!), and the stench kow, a monstrous bison that smells real bad."[1]

2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

The Monstrous Compendium (1989) superseded the Monster Manual with the release of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition.[1] The Compendium was a binder of looseleaf sheets rather than a hardback book. The first two volumes contained the "core" monsters of the game. These were followed by a large number of appendices that contained extra monsters for particular campaign settings.

The format was intended to help Dungeon Masters keep handy only the monster statistics needed for a particular game session, as well as to greatly expand the information about each monster, as each was given at least one full page. It would also mean they would only need to purchase core volumes and appendix volumes for the campaigns they wanted, rather than getting a mix of monsters in books. However, the binder format ultimately proved impractical for two main reasons:

  • Looseleaf pages were not as durable as the hardcover format, especially for a frequently used game aid;
  • Although some pages featured only one monster per sheet, TSR routinely printed different monsters on both sides, making it impossible to keep monsters in strict alphabetical order.

In 1993 the Monstrous Manual was released,[3] compiling all monsters from the first two volumes of the Monstrous Compendium plus a large number of monsters from other sources into a 384 page hardcover book. Cover art is by Jeff Easley, with interior illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi, Jeff Butler, Davis Simons, Tom Baxa, Mark Nelson, and color by Les Dorscheid. More Monstrous Compendium Appendices were released as a supplement to the Monstrous Manual in the form of paperback books, mostly 128 pages. They included updated reprints of loose leaf Monstrous Compendium Appendices and new volumes.

3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons

The Monster Manual for Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons was released in 2000 as one of three core books of the system. Monte Cook, Jonathan Tweet, and Skip Williams all contributed to the 3rd edition Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual, and then each designer wrote one of the books based on those contributions.[8] According to Williams, "The first item on the agenda was coming through the game's twenty year collection of monsters, and deciding which ones were going into the book... The design team decided to focus on creatures that fit well into classic dungeon style adventures, with extra emphasis on creatures we felt the game needed."[9] It was revised and released again as Monster Manual subtitled Core Rulebook III v3.5, in July 2003.

These volumes are not major variations from the earlier concepts of the Monster Manual; they update older monsters to Third Edition rules. In 2001, Monster Manual won the Origins Award for Best Graphic Design of a Roleplaying Game, Adventure, or Supplement 2000.[10] One reviewer called it " essential reference book, and it is a bargain...."[11]

The v3.5 revision has a slightly different entry on each monster, particularly the division of the attack into Attack and Full Attack entries.[12] Also, most of the monsters now have an enhanced version of them near the original one as an example of advancement (usually either with a template or with class levels). Many monsters now have instructions on how to use them as player characters.

Monster Manual II (2002) and Fiend Folio (2003) are new monster-specific rulebooks, and contain mostly updated monsters from the sourcebooks of earlier editions, though some others of the specific monsters featured therein have almost no overlap with those of their first edition namesakes. Monster Manual II includes a discussion of monster design.[13] There have been no new versions of Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio for 3.5 edition, however update errata for both volumes and for the original third edition Monster Manual are available for download from the publishers website [1].

Monster Manual III (2004) contains more monsters and was originally published in the v3.5 format. This Monster Manual is notable for having descriptions within on where the monsters might be found in the Eberron and Forgotten Realms campaign settings.[14]

Monster Manual IV (July 2006) is also published in the v3.5 format, and uses the new stat block format that was introduced in the Dungeon Master's Guide II. Monster Manual IV contains fewer actual monsters than Monster Manual II and III, but has sample lairs and encounters for them, gives stats for classes and templates applied to old creatures (for example Drow Ninja) and full page maps. Also, like the third, it has information on where the monsters might appear in Eberron or the Forgotten Realms. The book also ties into the "Year of the Dragons" theme that Wizards of the Coast planned out for 2006 with the Spawn of Tiamat, yet contains no new monsters that are considered 'true dragons.'

In October 2006 the Special Edition Monster Manual was released, completing the set of special edition core rulebooks started in 2004 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons. Like the others, this book was leather-bound with silver-gilt edges and a cloth bookmark. The book was expanded with some new information, 31 new illustrations, and a new index. All collected errata up to its release date was included in this revision, making this edition the most up-to-date Monster Manual so far [2].

Monster Manual V was released in July 2007, published in the same format as the Monster Manual IV, featuring lairs and tactics and like III and IV detailing how these new monsters fit into Eberron and Forgotten Realms.

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

The 4th edition Monster Manual was released with the other core books on June 6, 2008, and featured the demon prince Orcus (a villain since the earliest days of D&D) on the cover. The Monster Manual 2 was released on May 20, 2009, and featured Demogorgon on the cover. The Monster Manual 3 was released on June 15, 2010, and featured Lolth on its cover.

The Monster Vault was released November 16th, 2010 and featured monsters introduced in the Monster Manual revised to the new format that was introduced in Monster Manual 3. The Monster Vault 2: Threats to the Nentir Vale was released June 28th, 2011 and re-introduced a few new monsters as well as several related to the setting of Nentir Vale.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. pp. 106–107. ISBN 0-87975-653-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Turnbull, Don (Aug/September). "The Open Box, The Monster Manual". White Dwarf (8): 16–17 
  3. ^ a b "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2005-08-20. 
  4. ^ "Dungeons & Dragons FAQ". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on 2008-10-03. Retrieved 2008-10-03. 
  5. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual (TSR, 1979)
  6. ^ a b c Kask, Tim (February 1978). "Editor's Library". The Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#12): 22. 
  7. ^ Evans, Megan C (January 1984). "Open Box: Dungeon Modules" (review). White Dwarf (Games Workshop) (49): 14. ISSN 0265-8712. 
  8. ^ "Profiles: Monte Cook". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#275): 10, 12, 14. September 2000. 
  9. ^ Ryan, Michael G. (October 2000). "ProFiles: Skip Williams". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#276): 12, 14, 16. 
  10. ^ "2000: List of Winner". Origins Game Fair. Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design. Archived from the original on 2007-12-24. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  11. ^ Shafer, Scott (2000-10-20). "Pyramid Picks: Monster Manual (WotC) and Creature Collection (Sword & Sorcery Studios), for D&D3/d20". Pyramid. Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  12. ^ "The improvements include separate lines for standard and full attack action...." Ehrbar, Steven E. (2003-08-22). "Pyramid Review: Monster Manual v.3.5 (for Dungeons & Dragons)". Pyramid. Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  13. ^ Kohler, Alan D. (2002-10-02). "Monster Manual II". Pyramid (originally published in d20 Weekly). Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 
  14. ^ "...virtually every creature lists where it frequently occurs in the Wizard's campaign settings of Faerun and Eberron...." Honeywell, Steve (2005-01-21). "Pyramid Review: Monster Manual III (for Dungeons & Dragons)". Pyramid. Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved 2007-12-24. 

Additional reading

Reviews for first edition Monster Manual II: Fantasy Gamer #6 (1984) and Different Worlds #33

External links

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