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Volo's Guide to Monsters Hardcover – November 15, 2016
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For the DM, this book is a treasure trove; I tend to buy 5E books for inspiration, and don't really play pre-generated campaigns, and VGtM is helping me take the campaign I'm running in some exciting new directions (at least, for me). Also, I'm all about giving players more options, so the new player races are also extremely interesting to me. I don't know how much I'll use the pre-gen NPCs, but they're handy to have, just in case.
One of my favorite things about the book is the chief conceit of its design. Peppered throughout the book are comments of Volothamp Geddarm (the "Volo" of the title) and the archmage Elminster Aumar. These little side notes add a lot to the flavor of the book, and help the reader immerse him/herself in the world.
EDIT: Another thing I like about this book that I just discovered is that the index of the book has monsters sorted by challenge rating and sorted by location. So, if you're hunting for creatures in, say, the Underdark, it's extremely easy to find them in the book. Nice addition!
What exactly are you getting in this book?
- Nearly 90 pages of in depth monster lore, focusing on Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mind Flayers, Orcs, and Yuan-ti. This is very in depth work, with multiple pages providing variants, tables, lairs (including maps), historical background, and even some of the psychology of the creatures that can really help you flesh out these types of creatures in your games.
- 7 new Player Character races, including Aasimar, Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, and Triton. These are a nice edition, and I especially like how the details for these new races includes tips on how to role-play as these slightly more unique creature types. Overall, these new races feel like they can breathe a lot of new life into campaigns for players who might be starting to get tired of the standard set from the Player's Handbook.
- 6 new Monstrous Player Character races, which feature groups that were represented in the first 90 pages. These are more limited/specialized builds that a DM would really need to weigh before including in a game, but absolutely could provide some fantastic adventures for the right group of players. The 6 Monstrous races represented are Bugbear, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Kobold, Orc, and Yuan-ti Pureblood.
- An expanded Bestiary.The next 99 pages of the book are dedicated to new monsters for your games. There are an excellent variety of new creatures, including some favorites that didn't make the original Monster Manual. Personally, I was glad to see a nice balance between creature types, and that these new creatures help round out some of the groups, such as Fey. It also is nice to see a book like this deepen the bench; this section of the book provides an especially large amount of new monsters of the type covered in the first 90 pages (Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mind Flayers, Orcs, and Yuan-ti). A full 10 pages of this is also used to create new NPC stats, which is a great boon to be able to build encounters that stretch across a wider CR level in more civilized locations.
- The book wraps up with 4 pages of Appendixes which provide a quick reference no matter how you are looking for a creature: you can find them by CR level, by Creature Type, or by the typical environment that you would find the monster in.
All in all, the content is incredibly useful for any dungeon master who wants more content. The new monsters alone are worth the price of admission. The new character races are also an excellent new addition, although their uniqueness may make them more useful for some groups over others; that said, options are always nice to have. The first 90 pages of lore will be most useful to DM's who are planning on using the types of creatures listed in their campaigns. Especially if you are using those creature types, I highly recommend this as an addition to your collection, as the amount of material provided on these creatures is sure to spark your imagination and spin new adventures for your table.
The next section is on new PC races, such as lizardfolk, goliaths, and some others. Goliaths were already introduced in a free online supplement, but on the whole, these new PC races are fine and add variety to player options.
The final large section contains new monsters (some of which are variations of the creatures presented in the first section) and others entirely new. You get some hilarious new kobolds (like a inventor who torments the PCs with random crazy inventions)! Also at the end are some very useful new NPC stat blocks.