Monster Manual

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D&D's first Monster Manual

A Monster Manual (sometimes called a Monstrous Manual or a Bestiary) is a book (or set of pages you can put in a binder if you are a particularly crusty neckbeard) used in RPGs to describe the various kinds of monsters the PCs can encounter and fight. The Manual is intended for DMs to make encounters for the players. Though they are more often described in the DMG, these books can also contain descriptions for the more exotic kind of trap (no not like that). Some books may also include templates to apply to existing monsters to change them (read: make them deadlier) or ways to make your very own monster from the ground up.

If they are not bundled into the main manual, a new release of a game can see a new Monster Manual as well. This first Monster Manual is seen as a "core book" in the trinity of the Manual, the Handbook and the holy Guide. There have been times when the first monster manual preceded the rest of the core: this notably happened in 1977, so its Manual was compatible with the ancient rules that became BXCMI, up to which the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide had to catch. This also happened in 3e/d20 with Sword and Sorcery Studios' rushed-to-print Creature Collection, and with Violet Dawn's Denizens of Avadnu. If ever comes that published setting at all, as Eden's Liber Bestarius.

After the first Monster Manual of an edition the follow-up books are divided into two different camps. One is the list of Monster Manuals who will be named Monster Manual II, Monster Manual III and so on. The other are the more "themed" books that describe settings for adventures and monsters that fit in those settings, like books describing the Underdark having many Drow, spider and Aberration type enemies, or The Manual of the Planes describing Fiends like Tanar'ri and Baatezu, alongside creatures of Chaos like the Githzerai and creatures of Law like Modrons. Books in the latter category are not considered Monster Manuals despite their number of described creatures.

Then there are the "B Side Collections"... In the early 1980s TSR found itself with dozens of post-Manual monsters from early adventure-modules and especially from another country - Great Britain, in White Dwarf magazine. Gygax bundled the former with the best he could scrounge from the latter, birthing - or, perhaps, pinching off - the Fiend Folio. After this one's mixed reception, "fiend folio" is now a term for a holding-pen of niche monsters which you don't want defiling the mainline of Manual sequelae.

The problem with making a lot of Monster Manuals is that the monsters in the later books are split up into four groups: 30% will be reprints of monsters from older books of varying obscurity, 30% will be either upscaled animals or creatures made by slapping a number of templates together ending with creatures that lack the focus and originality of their progenitors, 30% will be 'Folio-bait (Three-headed hermaphrodites! Killer paper! Murderous hats!), and the final 10% being actually interesting creatures (either original or mythological) that could make an interesting addition to a game.

Theoretically the game can be played without the Monster Manual and just the PHB+DMG by making human(oid)s and traps the only enemies. In practice this is never done for long and the Monster Manual is an important part of any game, as a game with nothing interesting to fight is just as bad as uninteresting mechanics or classes.

The only two editions after AD&D to not start with a Monster Manual are 2nd Edition, which instead had the Monstrous Compendium series which were released in loose-leaf form instead of as books before they later released the Monstrous Manual, and 4th Edition Essentials, which instead had the short-lived Monster Vault series. Those ideas went down like Monica on the Hindenberg against the Washington Monument.

List of Monster Manuals and the Monsters within[edit]

(Under Construction)

Monster Manual (AD&D)[edit]

The basic monsters were the monsters which the English Speaking Peoples [TM, Churchill] grew up with, from such stories as Gary Gygax read in his childhood - which was a long time ago. (Note that E.G.G. was a "coot" even in Dave Arneson's eyes in the early 1970s.) You will see a lot of Europe in here, from Grimm and Greece. Where the critters aren't European - like the djinn - they are from Victorian-era translations of Egyptian and Syrian work. The most truly exotic here are the demons; perhaps as they should be.

This list is currently about 85% complete.

Monster Manual II (AD&D)[edit]

The Fiend Folio was deemed a failure to which end TSR's marketing geniuses figured out its MAIN problem... branding. So here we got the third Manual sold to us as the second. As the Folio passed along 1970s-era monsters (and a lot of shit from the Fiend Factory), this "second" Manual packaged up early 80s monsters from the S- series and the A- series (alongside some shit from Dragon). The illustrations are better than Folio's grainy and gory horrors. The font is still awful, so a generation of gamers never did figure out if the orangutan demon was a bar-lgura or a bar-igura.

Monstrous Manual (AD&D 2E)[edit]

This was an odd duck in the series, because post-Gygax TSR got it into its head that we didn't need no stinkin' manual. Their rationale was that every setting should differ, and where an Athas might not have orcs (anymore) another locale might be like Talislanta and short on elves. Even if they did have something called an "elf" it will be setting-specific. So they released "Monstrous Compendium" sheafs, each monster to fill two sides of a page, which the DM could put into a binder or a Trapper Keeper or something.

As usual, early 1990s TSR had failed to listen to their actual customers, lost demon-worshipping souls as we are. It turns out that plenty of settings agree on the same basic monsters, or at least like to leaf through the pages for inspiration. So, kicking and screaming, in 1993 TSR released the Monstrous Manual. It followed the same monster-to-a-page format, so you could detach these ladies and fill your binders with them as the Prophets demand.

Monster Manual (D&D 3E)[edit]

Monster Manual II (D&D 3E)[edit]

Monster Manual (D&D 3.5E)[edit]

Monster Manual III (D&D 3.5E)[edit]

Monster Manual IV (D&D 3.5E)[edit]

Monster Manual V (D&D 3.5E)[edit]

Monster Manual (D&D 4E)[edit]

Monster Manual 2 (D&D 4E)[edit]

Monster Manual 3 (D&D 4E)[edit]

Monster Manual (D&D 5E)[edit]