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Friday, September 26, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition - Monster Manual

This is part one of my extensive look at the Dungeons & Dragons 5e Monster Manual. I was unable to find the art online, so you'll have to suffer through photos I took out of my book, photoshopped and cropped to the best of my meager ability.

I'm just going to flip through it and make inane observations. I will complain and moan a bit, so turn away now if that sounds like your idea of a bad time. But for the most part I really like this book and I am happy with it in a major way.

I'm going to break this up into two articles, as it is proving to be massive. I should have the next part up in a day or two.

The Opening Stat Stuff:

I was hoping there would be a bit of elaboration on how challenge ratings work, but I guess they are saving that for the Dungeon Master's Guide. I just want to know how many lower level creatures are a challenge. Like, for example, are four CR 1 monsters an appropriate challenge for a level 4 group?

Legendary Actions:
I love this one.
There's a discussion of legendary actions and lair actions on page 11. I've already talked about these here. I love both concepts, especially lair actions. It's like they took the 4e terrain power stuff and integrated it in a more concrete and useful way.

My big pet peeve with these books is the weird stains and page tears they use as part of the design. There's these green cloudy blotches all over the place in this book. I really hate it. I don't even know what the point is. Why not just put the monster on the page? There's already all sorts of parchment texture stuff going on in the background.


- There's a cool bit on fallen angels. There is a mention of Zariel, ruler of the first layer of Hell, which I believe is a change from 4e (I could be wrong). I think the pit fiend Bel ruled it. Tiamat was the original ruler.

- They changed Devas. They're still sort of like the 4e race (which I think everybody liked, although some didn't like the name... "diva"). They are not reborn with amnesia anymore and they don't wear their weird/cool armor anymore.

- The lair actions are great. And I love the death tyrant! Look at that! Their central eye shoots a cone of negative energy that raises those slain as zombie thralls. It has a death ray that does 55 points of damage. The target is immediately killed if it drops to 0. I really like the hovering eye spheres. I guess that would make for a lousy miniature, though.


- Sorry, I have never been a fan of twig blights. I mean, come on... twigs? Even if I am running a level 1 PC, it feels like a pretty pathetic moment when a walking twig bundle is a threat to my cool character. I ran The Sunless Citadel, which is twig blight central.. it didn't do much for me. This book does refer to the Gulthias Tree in the blight entry, which is very cool. This book does a great job of referring to all of the D&D lore in a way that doesn't confuse new people. Just quick little blurbs seamlessly integrated into the monster entry.


- I've always thought they were cool. Half-demons are never not-cool, right? Apparently now cambions can be the spawn of either demons or devils.


- A chimera is a pretty iconic fantasy monster that doesn't seem to get much use. Has there ever been an adventure centered around them? There should be. I think they are great foes for lower level PCs.


- I am alarmed that these guys have a CR of 1/2! They turn you to stone! Two of them are an appropriate challenge for a level one party? They have 27 hit points, too. Yikes.

Death Knight:
- I like that they used Lord Soth as the depiction, though I kind of wish there was another depiction of a generic death knight as well. They even have a blurb about Soth's origin, which I didn't know. I love Lord Soth, he was the big bad guy in my best high school campaign.


- They did a great job in very succinctly describing all of the basic cool things you can do with demons. Demon summoning is something there should be more of. How cool would it be to have an ongoing NPC who can help the PCs be a bound demon that the party spellcaster has to negotiate with?

Lamashtu belongs!
- The book lists the major demon lords. I was wondering if they would introduce a new one or two. Each edition should build on the lore. Regardless, I don't think anyone would disagree that some of the Pathfinder demon lords belong in the official D&D cosmology (I am thinking of Lamashtu and Nocticula to start with). I believe those entities are based on names mentioned in D&D products that hadn't been fleshed out.

- They covered up the marilith's chest in this. It makes sense, as she is a warrior, so she should have armor. I just don't want the game to be completely de-sexualized. I think it should be equal - there should be sexy men types in the books too. In fact, I wonder if someday there will be a sexy depiction of a transgender character in a D&D book (maybe Corellon?). I wonder how far away we are from that?

- The Quasit looks really goofy. I always get quasits and imps mixed up.

The 4th Edition Erinyes
- Something we DMs need to remember: Devils and Demons killed outside of their home plane simply vanish and appear back in their home.

- Zariel is, indeed, ruler of Avernus. They have a snazzy list of current and previous rulers. How thoughtful. I am a big fan of sidebars and little bonus content like this.

- The Erinyes has been de-monsterized in appearance. In 4e, they deviled her up big time. Now she's a bit more dull-looking.


- In 4e, there were "drakes" for most of the run. It is nice to see dinosaurs included here. Who doesn't like dinosaurs?


- They certainly didn't hold back! There are a billion types of dragons in this book. In 4e, the dragons were parceled out in different sourcebooks. I thought 4e did an awesome job of creating new dragon types in many different supplements.

- Each dragon has a few different stat blocks for different aged dragons. Each type has its' own lair actions. You could make a pretty awesome dragon hunter campaign just out of the material here.


- I used to hate these guys. The duergar dungeon in 4e's Thunderspire Labyrinth was so dreadful that it made me actively hate these guys. But then when I ran Scourge of the Sword Coast, I had these little dudes enlarging and "hulking up" and it was awesome.


- That picture on page 126 is so dark, it's just a black smear.


- Wow, these are cool. I guess they're like a stand-in for greek titans. They are children of the gods with immense power. They affect the environment around them with their mood!

Helmed Horror - my favorite piece of MM art
- Marids (water genies) used to be big blue people. Now they look like fish-people. Well, that's the artistic depiction of them, anyway. Not kewl.

- Genie Wishes! Awesome! They are presented as a variant genie power (which seems like a smart idea). That is great. I blabbed all about genie wishes in my column on the wish spell.

- I know this has nothing to do with anything, but I really wish wizards had made a final 4e adventure. As in, an apocalyptic adventure where everything changes (to set the stage for the updated cosmology and rules for 5e). That seems like a missed opportunity for a truly epic poster map. I suppose the adventure should have somehow related to the primordials, as they were something of a focus in 4e.


- There's a sidebar on giant gods. My friend, if you care at all about secondary deities, you should get the AD&D 2e Monster Mythology supplement. You can get it for a few bucks on ebay. That thing is loaded with official D&D monster gods, fully detailed.


- I didn't think anybody could top the 4e art of the githyanki, but they did it here.

- I am a bit bummed that the events of the 4e adventure path Scales of War are ignored. The pact with the red dragons was broken, among other things. It is too bad, as the githyanki stuff in Scales was really great, probably the best stuff in the whole path. Vlaakith is listed as the ruler in this book, but in Scales the heroes fight her undead floating spine and that thing caused a TPK! It was very memorable.


- OK. As someone kindly pointed out one time, I am not an "edition war" guy. I like and use material from every edition. One thing I love is Pathfinder goblins. They just look cool. I think I own about 12 different Pathfinder goblin minis, and if new cool ones come out, I will not hesitate to buy them as well.

If I am Wizards of the Coast and I am designing the 5e goblin, I am going to try to make it as cool - yet different from Pathfinder - as I can. But this final version, this yellow guy with the weird nose... it doesn't even come close. It doesn't even really look like a goblin at all! Terrible. I think I might just say that in my games, the goblins look like Pathfinder goblins.

- I love the art of them. Very cool. Just monster-y enough. Sometimes they look ridiculous with all the feathers.

- They are a challenge rating 1! Seems low? Maybe not. I guess I'd rather have my level one PCs fighting cool monsters like harpies than the aforementioned piles of twigs.

Helmed Horror:

- This is my favorite piece of art in the whole book. I love that shoulder-piece with the face on it.


- I love the way they look. They are distinctive and will not be confused with imps. They kind of look like bat/rat/frogs. Awesome.

Hook Horror

- They are what they are. Nobody tried to reinvent the wheel here. I could really do without those stupid whiskers. We took a thorough look at Hook Horrors here.

Click here to continue to Part Two.


Unknown said...

Thats what D&D goblins look like. I personally like them better then Pathfinder goblins myself. But they are not supposed to be the same thing. The pathfinder ones are much more wild and chaotic then D&D Goblins.

Hook Horrors have always had Whiskers.

Lamashtu is a very minor Demon Lord in D&D and was imprisoned by Pazuzu in her last mention.

The Devas are the old version of Deva. Which were one of the 3 major angel types. Also it is pronounced Day Va not Diva. The 4e ones were more or less a new monster

Erinyes have gone back to their more classic appearance to resemble fallen angels. While keeping their role as warriors.They are based on the Furies of Mythology and not having wings was weird on them in 4e.

jburgos said...

I have to go with D&D goblin, the PF is too gonzo-cartoony for me

Anonymous said...

I also like the Pathfinder goblins, they are just too precious

I´m also okay with the less zany short-orc-like goblins, but 5e really did a number on making them look just unappealing, their proportions are too human-like and their sking color is just weird

Ryan Jones said...

In my campaigns I fully intend to have BOTH types of Goblins. The traditional D&D goblins, which I prefer as the real true goblins for realism in culture and personality. And then the Goblyn, the Pathfinder ones. There stats are similar save I was thinking of making the Goblyn either and Aberration or a Fey creature. An extension of chaos either created from a supernatural attempt to reflect some natural creature, or the CONCEPT of a goblin plucked from the dream realm by a spiteful fey lord and released upon the land for some slight. I feel like that's the best way to let my players, and myself, have our cake and eat it too.

Sean said...

Ryan Jones: That's a really cool idea! I might do that in my game, too. Thanks!

Rocketboy1313 said...

I agree about the goblins.
We have enough muscular humanoids, we need variety.
The Pathfinder Goblins are distinct to the point of being good mascot characters for the entire Pathfinder Franchise.