D&D 5th edition Monster Manual review: a deep resource for DMs



All valid points. But where are the criticisms? It lacks a Challenge-Rating-based chart to make it easier for DMs to build level-appropriate encounters (especially on the fly), and the categorization of sub-types of monster (like the Death Tyrant) make it hard to navigate without robust indices. Finally, there isn’t any significant commentary on loot. Whereas previous editions either described possible loot (like with the gelatinous cube, the carrion crawler, or the red dragon) or assigned a sort of pseudo-reward schedule (like in 2nd edition, when cross-referenced with the DMG), this guide fails to mention anything about creatures having anything beyond their physical bodies accompanying them. I think these are shortcomings worth pointing out, despite the book’s other strengths.

I believe they are taking the 3rd/4th edition approach of splitting all the loot and encounter building into the DMG which will not be out later this year (you know, so you are forced to do the organized play or premade campaigns/adventures instead of building your own stuff).

I have yet to receive my copy of the MM, but by the description in the article it seems useless without the DMG.

The one thing I liked about 4th edition is that all the monsters were big stat blocks so you could pick and pull things out of different places and create new content with ease.

I think the new content sounds like a great idea, but it really belongs in campaign settings or adventure modules. Putting too much story in the basic rules of the game makes it harder for people who like world building and storytelling.

This almost makes me wish I was twelve again.


This past weekend I was hanging out with a friend who’s working on… I don’t think he mentioned the name of the book, but it was a bunch of stuff fleshing out the culture and history of two kinds of intelligent monsters that’ve been around since 1st Ed. And it is gonna be chock full of totally sweet adventure hooks. Almost makes me wanna start playing again.

Let’s also not forget that spell details are once again a page reference instead of a stat block. As much as the player in me looks at 5E and goes ‘oh neat, this is like 3E but better’, I’m really not looking forward to DMing being a bigger chore than 4th. :frowning:

Yeah, although that was one of the big complaints of 4E - it’s two schools of thought and I don’t really think there’s a right answer. Some people like rules and storytelling to be separate, and a lot of others prefer the more traditional intertwining stuff that D&D 5E does and earlier editions did too.

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You have some valid points, but I think the decision to not include loot guidelines was a conscious one. 4th Ed (for many players) felt too much like a video game where the entire point was to kill monsters, get loot and gain levels. 5E seems more story-focussed. Characters get cool tricks, but they don’t become the unstoppable forces they tended to become in 3E.

DMs can easily decide what loot each character had, and a few of the monster descriptions (the Grick comes to mind) suggest that they might have a significant hoard in the area.

In short, I think the loot omission was more of a conscious choice than an oversight or shortcoming.

Even if we grant that treasure guidelines will appear in the DMG, this MM doesn’t even hint at the sort of reward appropriate with the creature. Does a dragon sit on a pile of gold coins? Are there items floating inside the gelatinous cube? Does a giant snake have the same treasure that a CR-equivalent goblinoid has? Do humanoid monsters use magic items? These aren’t just about character rewards; they’re guidelines for worldcrafting, which - per the article - appears to be central to this guide.

Furthermore, there are the technical shortcomings of the book: there is no index of creatures by challenge rating, no centralized list of variant creatures or grouping of creatures by type or by environment, nothing that goes so far as to make the available information organized and useful to a DM. It appears that, short of reading the book cover-to-cover, there isn’t a simplified means of pulling data relevant to building adventures. Those are all significant and real shortcomings beyond the treasure issue.

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I’m having a blast with 5e – my son is 10, a nephew is 12 – the sweet spot to start this stuff. Yeah, there are lots of things in the MM that would be nice (I always liked “number appearing”), but the Challenge Level / XP line gives you a pretty good sense of how to balance encounters against the players you have.

Eh, it’s like the serving size on packages. You want 100 beholders? Go for it.

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I wish I had more time to play (and a group to play with). At the very least I expect to participate in some truly epic campaigns at the seniors’ centre.

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