The Monster Manual (MM) is the second book of the three reissues I’m reviewing. First, a history lesson. These are reprints of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) which launched in 1978, a year after Dungeons & Dragons Basic. Both are based off the first version of D&D from 1974. The idea was players would start with Basic and then “graduate” to AD&D. The two weren’t completely compatible however and eventually Basic expanded into Expert, Master, etc. TSR released AD&D 2nd Edition in 1989.
The cover is again a trimmed version of the original (by David C. Sutherland III this time). Honestly, I prefer the more focused reprint. The original’s not bad, just oddly posed and stylistically out of fashion. The second point is true of much of the interior artwork, although some (pgs 91, 104) captures the energy of a dungeon crawl and feature good use of shadow.
Most monsters will be familiar to gamers, but once again there‘s enough difference to make one go “What?” There are rules on beating Dragons into submission and selling them to NPCs. There’s an annoying habit of describing monsters subcategories such as chiefs or females as “fighting as orc/ogre/whatever” but such terms are usually clarified. There is more focus on the ecology of monsters than there will be in future editions, even the problem monsters.
Problem monsters come in two varieties: stupid and cheap. Stupid monsters are the ones that make you go “that’s stupid.” They tend to be reworked or ignored in later editions. Cheap means they have abilities that require a ridiculously specific prep or items to counter. Slide 3 is the perfect combo: the Thought Eater. Fear the “skeletal-body, enormous headed platypus” from the Ethereal Plane that can suck a PC’s intelligence down to “low grade moron” or death. Only psionics or certain spells can affect it. Really, AD&D players should be paranoid; it is possible to walk into a room and have the floor (Trapper), ceiling (Lurker Above), and furniture (Mimic) all be creatures trying to kill the characters.
You need this and the Dungeon Master’s Guide to run an AD&D game. The book’s 111 pages and retails for $34.95. The design is similar to the Player’s Handbook, including a ribbon bookmark. It’s the best organized of the three. If you want the AD&D books, it’s worth it. Solid piece of game history either way. Happy Labor Day, see you next week.