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Monster Manual (D&D Core Rulebook) Hardcover – September 30, 2014
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That said, I have to say that I love the "Monster Manual". The artwork is amazing and each monster pretty much gets its own page, with loads of details in an easy-to-read format. In the back of the book is a section of creatures that are not as much monster as wild animal or giant-sized animal and then a section of sample NPCs. In each case, the information presented is easily usable "as is" or in a modified form. I find the information throughout the book easy to reference and access.
From a nostalgic point of view, I still love the 1st editions of Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and the Fiend Folio for their diverse artwork (some good and some not so good) and background information. The 5th edition is much more consistent in terms of information presented and quality of artwork. First edition had a lot more monsters, but the 5th edition ones are the ones you'd actually use frequently. In essence, this one book serves me just as well as those three volumes did.
Overall, my advice to older gamers who'd think they like to maybe get back into it - start here with the 5th edition. The three core books (PHB, MM, DMG) are superb in presentation and in content. New gamers? In my opinion, the 5th edition is very easy to jump into and have fun with. Start here!
- A lot of monsters, and all the classics
- More, better organized info about each monster, and like literally EVERY MONSTER. 4E's MM has way too little, and 3.x's MM had uneven amounts of information.
- Drop-And-Go NPC's. Several pages of humanoid NPC's in the back of various CR's, all grouped up conveniently.
- 24 PAGES of miscellaneous animals and creatures. These are the types of things that just claw-claw-bite, and don't have a pathos or special abilities.
- Way better layout than previous editions. They more or less kept it to a monster a page. It feels much more like the sort of whimsical bestiary you'd see in a fancy wizarding movie or cartoon.
- Down-N-Dirty explanation of anything a DM would need to know about monsters, making the book function entirely on its own. They repeat only what's necessary in the intro section
- Not a bunch of non-info pages/advertisements in the back. Open the back cover and there's the Index.
- Awesome Cover. Nice and thick, very high quality feeling.
- The art is incredible. I know this seems like an afterthought, but the art really is fantastic and expressive. 4E's art often looked overly animated or cartoonish, and 3E's art often looked like something out of a field guide book. Neither of these are inherently bad, but the 5E MM strikes a balance that hits a sweet spot.
- Owlbears look dumb now. This is important. 3E Owlbear or GTFO
- Mechanically, inside a vacuum, just from looking, I feel like I want some of the more challenging monsters to just do more. There seems to be some mechanical redundancy. However, from experience, I know that sometimes this can end up not being something the PC's will notice, since looking at things in a vacuum removes them from the context of the situation at hand, and for a DM, this design could actually be perfect. I like how 5E gives you just what you need, and does subtle things to enable you to do far more with it than 3E seemed to want you to do, but in a much more straightforward way without the clutter of 4E. This is not really a dig on 3.X or 4E. It's just a highlight of how GOOD 5E is.
- Construction-wise, i found the index page to feel like it was glued poorly. It bends awkwardly when opened and doesn't lay flat. I knock a star off for this. 5/5 means perfect. This was near perfect, but not perfect, so 4/5.
Recommended for people playing D&D 5E. But then again, if you're playing 5E you pretty much need it, so buy it. Buy it from your Friendly Local Game Store if you can afford to!