Thursday, March 22, 2007

Monster Manual IV

Title: Monster Manual IV

Product Line: Dungeons and Dragons, d20

Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

What it is

This is a different take on Monster Manuals from what we are use to seeing for DnD.

For one thing there are very few single listings for critters (not all the entries are actually monsters). There also aren't as many new new critters in this book as we are use to getting. While some critters are listed in the standard two page layout that we are use to, many more are listed with mini adventures attached. Also, the book revisits some common critters (like Drow, Orcs, Gnolls and Ogres) giving examples of common sents of character levels. As an example, the Gnoll Slave-Taker is a gnoll with 2 levels of Ranger.

There are also 4 sample encounters spread through the book.

What works

There are some interesting, new, critters peppered through the book.

The table of contents lists several catagories that could be usefull. There is a list of the critters that are: creatable by PCs, can be used as mounts or animal companions by PCs contain power components (shades of A,D&D), summonable creatures, and new weapons.

While I'm not a big fan of just sticking class levels onto an NPC race to create a new listing, they did a good job of it. If you are drawing a blank for adventure ideas, you can open the book at random and find enough info for at least three nights worth of gaming with just a bit of fleshing out needed. It also gives the old standbys a but of extra power so they aren't just speedbumps in the later levels.

What doesn't work

This book just really didn't do it for me. I've seen more new critters in Dragon Magazine issues and I already know how to add class levels and templates to NPC races, thank you very much. For all the fact that the encounters are really well done, I didn't go out to buy an encounter book, I was looking for critters. I can understand experimenting with the form but I hope this will be seen as a failed experiment.

With all that said, if you typically look at a critter listing and think: "Well, that's nice but what do I do with it? How does it fit in with my campaign?" This might just be the book for you and I hope I gave enough information to help you make a buying decision.