Gaming Advice: 5 Things I Like (And 5 I Don’t) About the 5E Monster Manual

After last week’s post about my general thoughts on 5e, I turn my baleful gaze toward the Monster Manual…

Lich by William McAusland (Outland Arts)


I recently posted about 5 things I liked (and 5 I don’t) about D&D 5. This week, I’m taking about the new Monster Manual. (I’d love to give my thoughts on the Dungeon Master’s Guide next week, but you know…)

In this post, I’m focusing on the big picture, and won’t be obsessing over this monster’s hit points or that monster’s ability.

5 Things I Like

  1. Monster Selection: The designers have done a great job of collecting together all the classic AD&D monsters from the 1st Edition Monster Manual, Monster Manual II and Fiend Folio. I love the focus given to monsters such as orcs, goblins and so on. Each gets between 2 and 4 pages presenting background information and several different stat block ready to go.
  2. Legendary Actions: These are very cool, and really set apart monsters than have them (such as the demilich) from more standard monsters. They make the monsters truly challenging foes!
  3. Lair Actions & Regional Effects: I’ve grouped these two together as they are quire similar. Like legendary actions, these are very cool additions to certain monsters that allow them to either manipulate their lair or affect the surrounding area. Very cool and very atmospheric.
  4. Art: To my mind, the art is much better than the Player’s Handbook, which I felt was a little bit hit and miss.
  5. Handy Stat Blocks: Along with all the classic monsters, the designers also include a suite of generic stat blocks for the GM to modify as needed. Such stat blocks include assassins, bandits, knights and more. These are tremendously handy and sure to save GMs loads of prep time.

5 Things I Don’t Like

  1. Lack of Complex Templates: I loved the inclusion of templates in the 3.0 D&D (and all subsequent editions). While the Monster Manual has got some templates I was dismayed to see that skeleton, zombie, lich and vampire as not among them. I don’t think all vampires and liches (for example) are created equal and I’d love rules for designing my own. (To be fair, the vampire section does have rules for converting PCs to vampires so I expect you could use the same rules to make your own NPC liches).
  2. Lack of Simple Templates: One of the things I liked about 4e was the simple templates it introduced to enable GMs to modify monsters quickly and easily. Pathfinder does something similar with their young, giant and advanced templates and I was really hoping 5e would as well. Perhaps they’ll be in the DMG.
  3. Lack of Monster Advancement Rules: These will be in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but it makes more sense to me to keep these in the Monster Manual.
  4. Dinosaurs: I never really understand why these make it into the Monster Manual or Bestiary in every edition. I know this is the simulationist in me, but I don’t think you need dinosaurs in a world with demons, dragons, devils and more.
  5. There is no fifth thing: The Monster Manual is a great resource for 5e games.

What Have I Missed?

Do you particularly love or hate aspects of the new Monster Manual? Have I missed something? Let us know what they are in the comments below!

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Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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