The Darkest Dungeons of Your World Just Got a Little Darker.
This supplement for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game presents more than a hundred monstrous foes to challenge even the toughest player characters, including draconic masterminds, demonic horrors, vengeful fey that haunt ancient ruins, and mind flayers driven mad from their journey beyond the planes. This book also provides powerful, ready-to-play varieties of popular monsters such as the hobgoblin, the kuo-toa, and the vampire, saving Dungeon Masters precious time at the game table.
In addition to scores of new monsters, this tome features sample encounters, easy-to-follow tactics, and guidance for integrating these new creatures into any D&D campaign setting.
For use with these Dungeons & Dragons core books: Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, Monster Manual.
Monster Manual V (2007), primarily by David Noonan, faces the classic challenge of monster collections that come about late in a game's lifestyle: They need to present monsters that are either exciting or unique enough to justify the purchase. This one succeeds. The vast preponderance of monsters are either extremely flavorful, come with a unique and fun hook, or both. Many of the monsters here can carry an entire adventure on their own, and it's not unusual to find developed adventure hooks or mini-adventures written with the monster description.
Take the tirbana, for instance: This race of uniquely insectoid monsters are given a full seven pages, including four monster variations, sample encounters, lore, ecology, a sample lair, a map, and strategies and tactics. That could be overkill for a less interesting race, but tirbanas turn out to be a fun low-level threat that can depopulate entire villages and take the focus of several consecutive gaming sessions. It's a welcome counterpoint to more traditional monster entires, such as the straightforward vinespawn; however, even simple monsters like vinespawn are given ecology and sample encounters to make encounter-building a snap.
One Inspiration after Another. One of the nice side effects of "Sample Encounters" section and detailed backgrounds is that reading monster entries in the MMV is inspirational; it's almost impossible to browse entries and not have one good adventure idea after another. The "Mind Flayers of Thoon" give guidelines for an entire campaign at low, medium, and high levels; mockery bugs (descended from the ankheg) are intelligent insects that can magically impersonate the humanoids they consume. Rylkar are filthy, corrupted rat-colonies that strip their hunting grounds of resources before infesting new territory, and "Dragons of the Great Game" are ancient dragons who quite literally play chess with the world.
In monster after monster, unusual and intriguing plot hooks are presented. I'm reminded of the best of 2nd edition Planescape bestiaries, not for the odd cant but for the large number of adventures that can be built from a given monster. The contributors to this book did a fine job in seeking flavorful beasts to include.
Naming Conventions. While neither good nor bad, the naming conventions that define many 4E monsters are starting show up in this book. There are fewer uniquely named monsters such as "spirrax" (city-devouring aberrations that scour the planes for raw materials), "thyrm hound" (massive wolves made from icy stone), and "ushemoi" (a mutable race that grows more powerful when exposed to different stimuli). More often, accompanying them are monsters with two-part descriptive names such as the "deadborn vulture" (unsurprisingly, an undead bird), "ethereal defiler" (a plane-shifting reptilian monstrosity), and "greenspawn zealot" (battle captains of the spawn of Tiamat). This style of nomenclature isn't particularly distracting, but it's odd to see "hobgoblin warsoul," for example, followed immediately by the unique and mysterious "Illurien of the Myriad Glimpses."
Spectacular Art. The art in these Monster Manuals just keeps getting better. Wiht art directed by Karen Powell, the Monster Manual V stands out for evocative art that in most cases makes you eager to face the monster in an adventure. It's a trusim that a good monster (i.e., rules-wise) can be ruined by goofy art, but there are no poor illustrations here. Considering that this book first came at a time when most hardcore gamers already had many Monster Manuals, the artwork acts as a significant reason to own this monster collection as well.
Overall? This is a good book to own regardless of the D&D edition you're playing. Players are unlikely to have seen many of these monsters, and there are too many good ideas in here to pass on the book.
About the Creators. David Noonan has worked on d20 Past, d20 Future, and on over 35 different products for 3e and 3.5e D&D. He is currently a lead writer at En Masse Entertainment.
About the Product Historian
History and commentary of this product was written by Kevin Kulp, game designer and admin of the independent D&D fansite ENWorld. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.