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Volo's Guide to Monsters Hardcover – November 15, 2016
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Pre-order today
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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.
Now, I really have to get this out there: this. book. is. AMAZING. It has some amazing creatures that I thought were horribly left out by official D&D sources this edition (the expansion of fiends itself is worth the buy to me).
The new player races are awesome, and with my limited playtesting since FLGS release, all seem mostly balanced (my party had some issues with some vague wording here and there but that's probably mostly due to their goal to drive me thoroughly crazy). Like, 10+ new (significant, not variations of already released variables) races added is a pretty big deal.
The lore bits and flavor are both top-notch, though I personally found the interactions between Elminster and Volo to be a tad - I don't know, childish? Cringey? For the most part, though, it wasn't an issue, and usually the information conveyed by the interactions is important (different takes on the creature you can have fitted for your campaign). I should also note that my friend and fellow DM had no problem with the dialogue.
The lair information is great, but I really wish there was more.
The binding seems a bit sturdier than the previous WotC publications, but I only received the non-FLGS copy this morning. You can rest assured that I will update my review as soon as a page falls out, or if I note an issue with the printing itself.
The layout of the book is great. It's nice to have the list by CR at the back of the book - a feature missing from the Monster Manual.
Overall, my nit picks don't really matter when one considers the quality of the book. It's honestly a must-buy for any 5th edition enthusiast. If you're new to the hobby, however, you might want to wait a bit before buying.
Most recent customer reviews
Many changes since my 1st Edition rule books from 30 years ago.
Color pages are nice, wish they weren't so muted.Read more