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Monday, October 31, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons - Volo's Guide to Monsters Preview

This book isn't out yet, but there is a metric ton of preview material out for it. I figured I'd make this page a hub of links for all of the previews out so far and I'll go over what we can learn from them. I'll have a real review up once the book comes out.

You can buy Volo's Guide to Monsters here.

Preview Links

Preface: We get a look at how this book is written. It's written "in character." Volo is a traveler who writes guides. Elminster is a legendary wizard who is not a fan of Volo. From what I understand, Ed Greenwood wrote Elminster's stuff.

Chapter 1: Monster Lore

Page 7 Beholders: Apparently one beholder can "dream" another beholder into existence. In previous editions, they barfed up an egg. This whole page is about the dreaming and how different dreams or nightmares create different versions of beholders.

Page 23 Giants: We get bonds, ideals, flaws, etc. We get some info on cloud giants. They are no longer able to make cloud castles. That's kind of weird.

Page 27 Frost Giants: We get some info on frost giants. Weaker ones sometimes begin to worship Vaprak, who turns them into an "everlasting one,"which is a giant of great power.

Page 34 Gnoll Info: It says Yeenoghu is possibly the most active demon lord on the Material Plane. 

Page 38 More Gnolls: Wow, it looks like there are at least 6 pages devoted to gnoll lore. There is a mention of maw demons. I hope that means that there are new demons in this book.

Page 43 Goblins: We get a little info on goblins using wild magic, which sounds great.

Page 55 Hags: There's a list of hag ideals, bonds, names, etc. I love this ideal: "I will metamorphose into every kind of hag and live a century as each, becoming something greater in the end." I wonder if there are any hags nearing the end of that process now?

I like this, too: "I traded away something before I realized it was priceless, and now I want it back." That seems like a pretty sweet thing to set up with a character.

I love this one: "I cannot tell a lie, but I can still say nothing, nod suggestively, or bend the truth a little to suit my needs." That's really fun, especially once the heroes figure this out.

Page 64 Kobolds: We get a quick recap of Kurtulmak's story, which I think is just like it's been in previous editions. He got tricked by a gnome god and lives in tunnels (in Hell, I think).

Page 72 Mind flayers: The authors integrate tons of awesome stuff from one of my all-time favorite supplements, the Illithiad.

Ceremorphosis is a plot device that seems under-used in D&D. That is when the mind flayers stick a tadpole in your head and, over the course of a week, you become a mind flayer. The flayer retains a few of its original memories. It would be cool to have this happen to an NPC who still sort of remembers you.

"In some ways, a mind flayer colony is like a great library of lore stored within its members' minds, with the elder brain as its librarian."

(No page number) This page has a great "dissection" image of a mindflayer. Most of the time, these monster dissection drawings don't come out tight, but this one is very cool. This page goes over creatures related to mind flayers:
  • Intellect Devourers: Brains with four legs.
  • Mindwitnesses: Mind flayer/beholders. It acts as a psychic hub for a colony and can collect psionic power.
  • Neothelids: Sometimes, when tadpole pools are left untended, the tadpoles attack each other and the survivor grows into a thing like a purple worm. Mind flayers fear them.

Page 83 Orc Stuff: Ilneval, the right-hand man of Gruumsh, has certain chosen orcs who are masters of strategy. Baghtru is the big, Hulk-y son of Gruumsh. Young orcs revere Baghtru and do really cruel things to each other.

Chapter 2: Character Races


Page 105 Goliath: We get a page on one of my favorite races, the goliath. They don't understand social classes. They think that people should be positioned according to talent. Adults who can't contribute to the tribe are expelled. Goliaths die young... often, when they become 'useless,' they slip "...away into the night to seek the cold will of fate."

Page 107 Firbolg: These creatures have blue skin and reddish noses. They are up to 8 feet tall and they can can talk to plants and animals. Once per day they can cast either detect magic or disguise self. That's handy! I really love the idea of naming a Firbolg after the typo version of their name: "Fireblog."

Page 112 Lizardfolk: They are emotionally different. They think nothing of eating a fallen comrade in battle. I find this quirk quite amusing: "You have learned to laugh. You use this talent in response to all emotional situations, to better fit it with your comrades."

Breathless NPC: "The King has been poisoned!"

Mike the Lizardfolk: "Ho ho hoo! Oh myyy!"

Chapter 3 Bestiary

Page 123 Barghest: They are goblins who can shapeshift into big, evil wolf-monsters. They have a very specific goal: Consume the souls of 17 goblins. Basically, they are part of a revenge plot by the General of Gehenna, a yugoloth NPC that has a surprising amount of lore attached to him. I have no idea if this is new or an old concept but I really like it.

Page 125 Gauth: This is a beholder variant that eats magic and can drain magic items. Yikes. When you start your turn near it, you must save or be stunned! It has an eye ray that can de-power a magic item for a time.
Page 145 Froghemoth: We get the stats and everything. It is possible that a froghemoth will swallow you and then vomit you back up, which is amusing. I love this part: "A journal purportedly written long ago by the wizard Lum the Mad describes strange, cylindrical chambers of metal buried in the ground from which froghemoths emerged."

What's the deal with Lum the Mad, anyway? I feel like I should dig around and see what info is out there on this person.

According to wikipedia, he was a warlord on Greyhawk who had an artifact known as the Infernal Machine. Then he fell into Limbo, but the machine kept him alive. Sounds pretty cool.

Page 150 Stone Giant Dreamwalker: This monster has an aura that charms and it can turn you to stone by touching you! It's got a challenge rating 10 and the save DC is a 17. It seems like they beefed up the monsters a bit.

Storm Giant Quintessant: They turn themselves into semiconscious storms and can revert to giant form when they like. It can form elemental weapons out of thin air.

Page 153 Flind: A gnoll with a special connection to the demon lord Yeenoghu. It has a flail that deals out three different effects, each of which are very nasty.

Page 162 Hobgoblin Iron Shadow: These ladies are the secret police of the hobgoblins. They are assassins and spies who wear devil masks. I gotta say, the devil mask in the art accompanying this is pretty goofy. These are CR 2 monsters that make 4 attacks! They can teleport from one dark space to another.

Page 166 Kobold Inventor: These are like the kobolds from the 4e DMG adventure Kobold Hall. They chuck pots full of stuff. Lots of good ideas! Basket of centipedes, green slime pot and a skunk in a cage. That's great.

Page 171 Alhoon: These are sort of mind flayer liches. Instead of a phylactery, they use a periapt of mind trapping. They live as long as the lifespan of those they sacrificed to become an alhoon.

Page 176 Mindwitness: This is about as awesome as it gets. This thing is a cross between a mind flayer and a beholder! It has eye rays, it can stun you with a grab, really awesome.

Page 182 Nilbog: We get stats for these goblin variants. If you try to attack them, you must make a save or be charmed. It also has the ability to reduce damage to 0 and regain d6 hit points! It is a spirit of a shattered trickster god, and killing it just means that the nilbog possesses another goblin.

Page 186 Tanarukk: This creature is a cross between a demon and an orc. I much prefer how they looked in 3rd edition. It says here that Baphomet is involved in creating tanarukks, corrupting an unborn orc. Some tribes actually kill tanarukks when they are born (!).

Page 191 Slithering Tracker: When a person has a deep desire for revenge, they can get a hag or lich to turn them into a slithering tracker. Most of them go mad and forget their true purpose.

Page 205 Yuan-ti Nightmare Speaker: It can cast a ton of spells. It's a CR 4. It can create illusions of your nightmares to frighten you.

The Grung

This looks like a fun book. It seems like they are making lower level monsters tougher. The stat blocks are also getting bigger, which I don't like. I do love it when they compile and build on old lore, and that seems to be a huge part of this product.

Quotes: The book really doesn't have much Volo/Elminster banter in the actual text, which is good. It is mostly in the form of quotes. I loved the quotes from various NPCs in the Monster Manual and I'm bummed that most of them seem to be from Volo and Elminster in this book. I get a kick out of trying to dig up obscure NPCs and monsters. I can't figure who almost half of the quoted people in the MM are.

Muppet Overload: My one concern about this book is that there is too much focus on 'whimsical' monsters. I don't mind them. Almost every session I run includes a creature described as if it were a fraggle with floofy hair.

I want a certain amount of "badass" monsters in my monster books and I'm not sure if this is going to cut the mustard. The mind flayer stuff alone makes me happy so it's not the end of the world, but right now it looks like there is too much stuff like the nilbog, firbolg, froghemoth, and those grung frog-creatures (do we really need another frog-person race?).

It's not that big a deal. The book looks great. We'll see what the final verdict is in just a few weeks.


Coffeemate said...

Thanks for the great preview. All the snippets you posted sound fun to me. I don’t happen to mind some of the funkier monsters, such as the froghemoth. I think their success at the table really hinges on how the DM frames them and the tone created by the adventure. I try not to let the artwork in monster books, or even the whimsical names of the monsters, affect my judgment. There’s often nuggets of gold that are less shiny by how they are presented. It’s up to me to polish what the writers have started. Looking forward to this book though.

Sean said...

Coffeemate: It seems like it is going to be a good book. Some people have it and are saying great things. I have always had a hangup about art. If the art is ugly, it makes a book much worse to me. The 5e art is good but none of it is top notch, in my opinion. Not trying to be an edition warrior, but to me Pathfinder's art is so much better and I don't get why Wizards can't match them. I feel like deviantart is overflowing with awesome artists waiting to be used but they're being ignored.