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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Ideas--Hurt by Bad Presentation
This Monster Manual shakes things up a lot. Like a lot of the new edition, it's about reimagining the old in a fun new way. Once you get to the good stuff, it's really wonderful. The problem is the good stuff is buried in the monster entries (scattered between the two to three sentence introduction, and the lore bits that give backstory to characters depending on how well...
Published on November 2, 2008 by Robert Blank

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93 of 106 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A re-imagined cast of characters
Like all previous editions of the Monster Manual - this book contains the list of creatures and their statistics that DMs need to create opponents for their players.

Before 3rd edition, this was all this book tried to do. While a 2nd edition DM could choose to buy the Fiend Folio instead of the Monster Manual, the 3rd edition (and 3.5) DM did not have this...
Published on June 9, 2008 by Jeff Hershberger


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93 of 106 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A re-imagined cast of characters, June 9, 2008
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
Like all previous editions of the Monster Manual - this book contains the list of creatures and their statistics that DMs need to create opponents for their players.

Before 3rd edition, this was all this book tried to do. While a 2nd edition DM could choose to buy the Fiend Folio instead of the Monster Manual, the 3rd edition (and 3.5) DM did not have this option. 3.0/3.5 added monster-specific rules that truly turned the Monster Manual into a core rulebook.

Monster feats, exotic attacks, Templates, and rules for PC monsters - all were natural extensions of the monster concept: You have monsters - and now you want to alter them for your specific needs. In my opinion, this was a good thing.

The 4th edition Manual follows this model - although there are some differences worth mentioning.

First - the easy stuff:
The laundry list of monsters includes the bulk of classic D&D bad guys: Orcs, Unicorns, & Worgs (Oh my!). A straight book-to-book comparison will reveal many differences in this edition's inventory (e.g. 4th ed. has only chromatic Dragons).

Many will be surprised by which creatures got included - but it's worth remembering that every edition of D&D has had multiple versions of the Monster Manual (3.5 was up to volume 5). If your favorite bad guy didn't make the cut - they're not gone - they'll just be in a future product.

The creature entries seem abbreviated at first. Much as in 3.0/3.5 you will not see wordy paragraphs about a creature's back-story or preferred environment. As a DM, when I need a creature I need their stats, not their life story. Wordy write-ups take up space that could be filled by more monsters. Besides, adding thematic information like back stories is *my* job.

Big changes in creature powers will come as a jolt. Negative levels are gone. 3rd edition negative levels seemed like a good idea - but were more hassle than they were worth. They had a high maintenance tail (keep track of your minuses AND then track a save the following day - for each negative level), and they threatened the primary goal of all players: level advancement. Good riddance.

Undead now drain healing reserves - something that that is depleting (in keeping with the "drain life energy" motif of undead) and does not have a long term maintenance issue. When you are hit, you lose a reserve. Zero maintenance. This is good.

Vampires - actually Vampire Lords - still create spawns but now ignore garlic, running water, and wooden stakes and have detailed rules for how they must rest. Jettisoning garlic may bother some players - but traits like that work better in novels than they do in RPGs (Bram Stoker never had to deal with PCs wearing plate mail festooned with garlic cloves).

Werewolves don't spawn lycanthropy - they infect you a disease that makes you berserk. This change is likely due to the same calculation of maintenance hassle vs. gaming value. The first time you face werewolves - lycanthropy is a fun risk. When you face an army of lycanthropes, the disease adds more logistics than drama.

There are a lot of monster abilities that will translate into the new rules in ways that surprise and confound. With 4th edition changing the DNA of spells and powers - this was unavoidable and does not pose any barrier to DMs adjusting the power of their chosen monster up or down.

The rules for customizing monsters is where I would be most critical of this volume.

The back of the book contains a subset of monsters that can be used for NPCs or PCs. This is essential, since 3.0/3.5 opened the doors for PCs to be whatever they want. The rules provided for playing a PC orc (for example) seem very light. There are a host of issues that playing monsters brought up in 3.5 - and I don't expect 4th edition to be any different. This section looked a lot like an add on (and that's fine if it is), but if DMs should expect an expanded set of rules covering this - it'd be nice if the book came out and said it.
3.5's Monster Manual had "[this monster] as a PC" entries within the monster's description which I feel is a superior model. I want to be an orc, I pick up my Monster Manual and find the listing for - Orc. Putting them in the appendix helps the player who wants to see the full menu of choices - but you could do that with an index and still put all of a monster's data in one place. I'm a big believer in one stop shopping - and having the rules for a specific task stored in multiple places just slows things down.

Scaling monsters/Adding templates.
Adding class levels and templates to 3.5 monsters ensured that no monster had to be boring (three words: Vampire Kobold Sorcerer) and from all appearances this will carry forward in 4th edition. These rules in 4th edition are in the DMG and I would question this.

If the Monster Manual is truly a core book (the core set of monsters + monster rules) why not have all the template/advancement/ monster specific abilities rules in that volume?

I can see that having these rules in a central book like the DMG is appealing - but when the rules for monsters evolve, we are more likely to get another Monster Manual than we are an updated DMG. The rules in the DMG are may be adequate, but they look rather thin. I would expect more rules and clarifications to be a virtual certainty. Plus, there's the appeal of having all my monster rules in one book.

The changes in the 4th edition Monster Manual are extensions of the changes to the core rules - so it's hard to have stand-alone praise or criticism of it. For the most part, it remains what it always was: a menu of monsters that is essential for DMs.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The best of the 4e core books, but still leaves me feeling a bit sour, August 13, 2008
By 
Rayek (Denver, CO USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
This is the best of the 4e core books for me, but still left me feeling a bit sour.

First the good. In the tradition of the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual, this book dispenses with lengthy descriptions of monsters and instead focuses on stats. Only in rare circumstances do we get lengthy prose regarding a monster's motivations outside of being fodder for the adventurers to beat up on. Filling in the details is left to the DM. The new stat blocks are straightforward and much easier to use than their 3.5 counterparts. Special abilities are in the stat block rather than hidden amongst the monster's descriptive text. That's a welcome change indeed. Also, one of my favorite things from the last two 3.5 MM's is carried over: knowledge checks to see what our heroes might know about their current foe. All in all, this is a very easy to use book.

Then there's the bad news. There are a lot of monsters missing from this book when compared to its 3.5 counterpart. Yes, some of the new core monsters were pulled from books other than the first MM, but leaving out monsters as classic as metallic dragons reeks of a mandate from marketing. Just like with the PHB, things many veteran players expect have been left out for the sole reason of saving them for another book to sell. You want your metallic dragons and the rest of the giants? Buy `Monster Manual II'. Then there's the artwork. A friend and I spent about 10 minutes playing `spot the recycled art' with this book. Roughly 10-15%, maybe more, is culled from 3.5 books. Were the contracted artists unable to meet their deadline for new artwork, or did someone at Wizards decide to cut the budget? You be the judge.

So what we're left with is a very well designed Monster Manual that's easy to use, but missing a significant number of iconic monsters and wholly original artwork. That's good for a 3 in my book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Ideas--Hurt by Bad Presentation, November 2, 2008
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
This Monster Manual shakes things up a lot. Like a lot of the new edition, it's about reimagining the old in a fun new way. Once you get to the good stuff, it's really wonderful. The problem is the good stuff is buried in the monster entries (scattered between the two to three sentence introduction, and the lore bits that give backstory to characters depending on how well they roll). You end up having to hunt around and end up missing a lot of stuff that gets buried in between big striped blocks of stats.

There's not a lot written, but man is it tightly written. No waste, very efficient and packed with new flavor and background information. Just think what they could have done if they spent a whole page on each monster. Unfortunately none of the monsters get that depth of coverage--just a few sentences. That's it. They get in a lot in those few sentences, but it's a shame they didn't expand on that. It's one of the things I really miss from the old 2nd edition books. Now it's all statblocks.

Each monster has several statblocks at different levels with different names. No time is given describing the differences between the various types of monster, in fact in most cases the name seems to be entirely about what level the monster is and what special attacks it has--rather than any particular role in it's society or anything. The difference between a drider fanglord and shadowspinner? Beats me.

The art is good and pretty consistant, but a lot of it feels like redone versions of art from the old books--and some of it is copied straight out of the old books. Not cool. The night hag, or the deathknight for example, yanked right out of their original Monster Manual entries. When they redo one though, it's ususally real eyecandy. The lich, for example, or the foulspawn, or the new take on the lamia.

I love the new ideas they're rolling out for fourth edition. Certainly the new Monster Manual gives lots of fun new twists on even the most boring of the classic monsters. But the format. Argh, the format. They really needed to devote more space fresh art and to talking about the monsters and less time statting up multiple versions of each one. Who needs six kinds of kobold? Certainly not me.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like the new monster design, but..., August 9, 2008
By 
P. Gurdgiel (Fort Worth, TX) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
the book is by far the weakest of the three core books.

The good:
The new mechanics focus on the "screen time" devoted to each monster and keeps things simpler. Most entries provide knowledge check info with DCs and useful info. Book is colorful and includes lots of creatures and variations

The bad:
Other than the DC check knowledge, background info on the creatures is really sparse. In some cases variations in a entry don't even have a phsyical description of how they are different. Templates would be better served in here than in the DMG (though that's a minor quibble).

Overall, still well worth the money if you are going to run a game.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate, but necessary, February 16, 2009
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
This MM is probably one of the weaker MMs I've read. Unfortunately with such a new system (4E) you almost have no choice but to buy this thing so you have a starting point on how to build monsters. The descriptions are lacking a lot of the background/history of the monsters that all the other MMs had which is the most disappointing thing about this MM. And I found that monsters aren't as powerful as they were in previous editions, especially 3E. Look at the stats for Orcus in this book. He's nice but compared to 3E he's nothing. In 3E he was a force of nature and in this one he's powerful, but I wouldn't call him a force of nature. Felt this way about a lot of the monsters.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Product for a Newer Generation, September 8, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
This review is copied and pasted across all of the 4th edition products I purchased as it relates to the system as a whole. The individual books are all decently made, and have reasonable (though far from perfect) editing.

For those who grew up playing Dungeons & Dragons (as I did) this 4th edition of the game is not what we are used to. This does not mean it is a poor game, by any means. It does, however, mean that what you are buying is a "modern" interpretation of the classic game. It feels much more like a video game than a pen and paper role playing game.

In the end, this is not a bad product line, but it is a better one for younger gamers than for those of us who are older and who were heavily exposed to earlier editions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good start........, March 25, 2011
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
I have been playing RPGs for a few years now and I have seen many types of monster manuals. I'm not going to go into much details, but here are the points I liked, and the stuff I thought they could do better.

Pros:
It has a little bit of everything you might want.
Easy to read
Laid out clear monster blocks

Cons:
Being the first publication of the monster manual, I thought more common creatures players will run into at lower levels (below 20th) would had been nice. For example, one of the creatures they have in the monster manual was different types of Abominations which are level 20+ monsters from the War of the Primordials. Cool, but not necessarily needed in the first Monster Manual. What would had been nice was an expanded Human, Elf, Eladrin, Dragonborn, Goblinoid, ect sections with more diversity of opponent options up to 20th level. These creatures might not have the flair that the Abominations have, but your more likely to use them in a gaming session with level 1 and 2 players.

Although, if you get Monster Manual 2, they flush out the more common monsters including expanding the opponent options for Humans, Elves, ect. So as a DM, you will need both.

So in the end, good content, but a different layout would had been nice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars No Soul, August 30, 2010
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
The Monster Manuals of 4th Edition have one good point and that is that the monsters and their powers are very clear cut and easy for a DM to run. For that I give them two stars. The missing three stars are because the 4E Monster Manuals lack the details, information, and soul of previous editions- particularly the 1st and 2nd Editions of the game.

Those earlier editions were like encyclopedias of knowledge about the monsters, races, demons, and dragons contained inside. There was information about their habitats, behaviors, and a plethora of other useful (and non-useful but entertaining) material. There is also a lack of physical descriptions for DMs to use, just illustrations (some good, some poor).

I really enjoy 4th edition as a DM, and I hope a lack of details in the books isn't a trend they take into the next edition (hopefully years off considering the investment I've made!).
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid material... Just not classical DnD anymore., December 5, 2008
By 
This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
4th edition is bound to be regarded as the love-child of collectible card games and online RPGs. And no book displays this feeling any stronger than its 4th edition Monster's Manual. I've been playing dnd since 2nd edition came out and did a lot of DMing during 3rd edition. In those times you would create a monster in a way very similar to a PC: You would choose your monster's race, give it a class and choose its feats and spells before you were done. The whole system was incredibly powerful to the point of being overwhelming. 4th edition changed all of this. Monsters now are presented "as-is", no tweaking necessary. You can't trace how many levels it has or what feat choices it took. It is basically a non-adaptable stat block. This, of course has its upsides. In 3rd, for example, between feats, spells and abilities, a normal adult dragon would have around 30 different options during combat. In 4th? Even the most powerful has about 7. And most of them are pretty linear. Of course, you can't level it up to scale the encounter to your group's level or even choose to give it different abilities (some monster templates are presented though) but it does make it a lot easier just to put one out of the book and into the battlefield. In the end, it seems monsters and enemy NPCs work in ways very different from normal PCs. They have a lot less options, a lot less depth and no way to scale. However they do look a lot user-friendlier, with a simpler, cleaner stat-block and easier to understand powers.
Bottom line, the question comes down to the Player's Handbook. If DM and players like this novel approach to dnd then the Monster's Manual follows suit and delivers a good, solid work for the busy DM. If the whole cRPG / CCG look doesn't strike your fancy, I seriously think this book won't convert you.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor, July 25, 2008
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This review is from: Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition (Hardcover)
One cannot review the new D&D Monster Manual in isolation from the other Core Rules books. The new system is a worthy successor to 3.5, but while it is in some ways even more consistently d20, it is also a dramatic break from 3.5 and you cannot take the monsters in this book to use in your 3.5 (or earlier) campaign.

What is interesting about the Monster Manual in particular is the variety of monsters available within a type. For example, there are 16 monsters listed under the heading of "Goblin." Now this inclues Hobgoblins and Bugbears as well as Goblins, but that is still a lot of different monsters. This allows the DM to craft a rich set of encounters even for low level characters including brutes, soldiers, casters, minions, leaders and more. This is a far cry from entering a room with 5 Goblins and a Bugbear, all with the same basic role and style of attack.
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Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual: Roleplaying Game Core Rules, 4th Edition
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