Posted by : David Guyll June 10, 2010

Monster Manual 3 is purported to have, "over 200 monsters," but I'm not about to count the index or glossary to confirm this. There's a lot of monsters, and book supports the entire range of monster levels, so like past books its good no matter what tier(s) your characters populate. Some are classics, like the cave fisher, mimic, and nymph, while others expand upon existing monster types (more gnolls, runic gargoyle, and pact hags). I'm not sure if some of them are entirely original, but again I'm not about to do a shit-load of Google-searches to figure it all out.

Aside from having new monsters, it also features the new stat block layout that we'd heard about last month. The main difference between the format layouts is that powers are categorized by the action required to use it and are given a dark-green color to make the action type stand out, and powers now take up additional space. What I mean is that while power mechanics are listed in a clearer manner, they tend to take up an extra line or two of space.

For example, a typical weapon attack in the old format would take up a single line: +X vs. AC; X + X damage. In the new format, it has an Attack and Hit row. Really, most powers basically end up taking an extra line to type out, but the more powers the monster has the more lines it eats up (ie, four powers means four extra lines used). Otherwise there are some minor differences, such as auras and shit like regeneration being categorized in a traits section. I think that while it might take some getting used to, ultimately it's going to be more intuitive and easier to reference.

I'd heard that some of the formulas got shuffled around a bit, and comparing default values from Monster Builder I've determined that in most cases the attack bonuses haven't been changed at all (I did find a brute that had two points up on an attack bonus), but damage output got ramped up. For example, default level 5 brute damage is 1d10 + 5, but the silverback ape has a slam attack that deals 2d10 + 5. One of the apocalypse spells inflicts 4d10 + 10 damage on a hit, up from 3d8 + 10. Finally, one of those mirror golem thingies deals 3d8 + 14 on at at-will (normally 3d6 + 8).

On the topic of new layouts, all monsters now have multiple paragraphs devoted to fluff content about them instead of well, barely one-ish. There's an opening paragraph that supplies some exposition about the monster in general, some more focused information on the individual monster type, a section on encounters (though no more sample encounter group bullet lists), and a bit on combat tactics. Some monsters like the chitine get quite a bit of story content (not to mention a sidebar).

For example, since for some reason I keep opening the book up to the entry on banderhobbs, I'll just fucking roll with it. Banderhobbs are frog-like creatures native to the Shadowfell that cross over into the natural world to abduct people for some nefarious purpose. How do they abduct you? By either swallowing you up, or more mercifully stuffing you into a sack (though oddly the Equipment line is absent from the stat block...I...don't wanna know).

Anyway, under Banderhobb Abductors in Combat it doesn't say something like, "Start out with grasping tongue and follow up with gobble or swallow." No, instead it says, "In a soundless second, a long, muscular tongue encircles a body and yanks it forward. The monster's head snaps backward, and it's jaws unhinge. Then the victim's body disappears down the creature's gullet. A second later, the creature vanishes."

I actually like these descriptions, since it not only provides you with an example of how to narratively describe the actions as they occur, but also adds some, I don't know, personality to the monster. Not all monsters follow this trend, however, some just talk about the monsters habits in combat though it doesn't cite specific powers.

This is my favorite Monster Manual by far: more monsters (obviously), better stat-block layout, and better balance between hard mechanics and story content. I'm hoping that Wizards updates Monster Builder to alter all the official monsters to follow the new format (because I'll already have my hands full updating my own creations). 

Update: My Girlfriend is a DM also did a review.

{ 5 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I have to agree. This is a good book and I am very pleased to add it to my collection.

  2. I'm torn on the fluff thing. It sounds cool, but when I'm skimming the book in the thirty seconds before a totally improvised combat starts, I'd really rather see "use power X then follow up with attack Y and use attack Z whenever enemies cluster."

  3. @Swordgleam: For me it was give and take, but in the end I was happy for an example on how to describe the power in action. Often I just ignore the tactics and do what I feel best from the powers given, and since the stat blocks seem more intuitive I think that will cut down on time a LOT.

  4. i believe the new format helps alot considering that if a monster had alot of abilities and powers, it was hard to go through all of them. Sometimes i even forgot a certain monster could do this or that just because i got lost with the stat block.

  5. I agree. This is thus far the best of the Monster Manuals. I was happy to see the return of several classic creatures and welcome the added lore/fluff and the new stat blocks. There has most definitely been power creep as noted. The ape is scary for its level!



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