Monster Manual 3: An Early Review

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on June 14, 2010

On shelves tomorrow, Monster Manual 3 is exactly what you’d expect from the new creature catalog. It’s chalked full of new monsters – some brand new and many other old favourites that have been noticeably absent from 4e D&D. There are about 300 monsters in the Monster Manual 3. About 125 are heroic tier, 100 paragon tier and 75 at epic tier. With more of us playing at paragon and epic tier, these new creatures give DMs more high level foes to throw at those poor unsuspecting PCs.

Layout

In March Wizards debuted their new monster layout. We provided out first impressions in Wizards Delivers a Killer Monster Makeover (Part 1 | Part 2). Now that I’ve got the new MM3 and I’ve had the opportunity to read through it, I’m even more impressed. How did we get by with the old layout? Everything is still there but it’s so much easier to use. If you’ve been hesitant to run a game because you feel intimidated by all those monsters to keep track of, then this will put you at ease. Once Wizards applies the new template to the Monster Builder, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my MM or MM2 again.

Epic Monsters

With each new Monster Manual we get more and more monsters at the top end of the spectrum. The highest level monster in the original Monster Manual was Orcus (Level 33 Solo Brute). The highest level monster in Monster Manual 2 was Demogorgon (Level 34 Solo Controller). The highest level in Monster Manual 3 is Lolth (Level 35 Solo Lurker).

The top four monsters in the MM3 are all extremely powerful and dangerous solos. Think you’re PCs are tough, try taking on any one of these foes.

  • Allabar, Opener of the Way (Level 30 Solo Soldier)
  • Imix (Level 32 Solo Controller)
  • Ogremoch (Level 34 Solo Soldier)
  • Lolth (Level 35 Solo Lurker)

Increased Monster Power

One of the most immediately noticeable changes to the monsters themselves in MM3 is that they do a lot more damage. I’ve read some chatter online that this is the first step Wizards is taking to toughen up monsters. In my game last night I used a couple of the new monsters from MM3 and the players agreed that for a balanced encounter these new monsters hit a lot harder than the monster they’ve been fighting up until now.

There are also a lot of monsters in MM3 that have psychic powers. With the introduction of the psionic power source in the Player’s Handbook 3 I totally expected to see this. So for those classes and races from PHB3 that deal psychic damage and offer psychic defenses, you’re going to have your chance to fight monsters that are better aligned to your abilities.

New Monsters as PC

In MM and MM2 the section Racial Traits gave us enough detail to use some of the monsters found within those books as PCs. I was disappointed not to see a Racial Traits section in MM3. I really expected the Thri-Kreen, a new race for the upcoming Dark Sun setting, to be featured. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the official Dark Sun books in August before we find out exactly what the Thri-Kreen’s racial modifiers look like.

Thri-Kreen is the only Dark Sun monster I noticed in the MM3. But I must admit that I’m not an old-school, Dark Sun expert so I might have inadvertently overlooked something. Keep in mind that we’re getting an entire Dark Sun monster book later this year, so I’m sure Wizards didn’t want to bump a monster appropriate for any campaign setting in favour of giving Dark Sun monsters valuable and limited real estate in MM3.

Familiar Faces

In addition to our cover girl, Lolth, we have many of your other D&D favourites seeing the 4e treatment for the first time in MM3. Some of the more noteworthy monsters include:

  • Babau Demon
  • Nalfeshnee Demon
  • Air Elemental
  • Earth Elemental
  • Fire Elemental
  • Water Elemental
  • Intellect Devourer
  • Mimic
  • Verbeeg

The races first revealed in PHB3 also get entries in the MM3.

  • Minotaur
  • Shardmind
  • Wilden

Favourite New Entry

When I was a kid I remember hearing stories from my friends about the bogyman. I think all children are afraid of monsters that may get them while they sleep. Some parents even scare their kids with tales of such beasts. Be good or else. The Banderhobb are examples of these creatures. The Banderhobb Warden (Level 16 Soldier) hides under the bed or in the recesses of a dark closet. When detected it swallows it’s prey whole and takes them into the shadowfell where it eventually regurgitates its still-living cargo. The Banderhobb Filch (Level 17 Skirmisher (Leader)) climbs down the chimney or slinks in through an open window. It grabs and drags away its victims. The Banderhobb Abductor (Level 18 Brute) hides in the shadows and moves without a sound before swallowing its victims. What normal child can protect itself against monsters of this caliber? I havePCs who would be lucky to survive an encounter with these beasts. It’ll be a while before I sleep soundly again.

Read more about the inspiration behind the Banderhobb at Steve’s Gamer Blog.

Opinion

So the big question is whether or not you should purchase the MM3 . As we’ve mentioned in our reviews of other source books from Wizards of the Coast, anyone with a DDI subscription will have access to all of the material contained within the MM3 with the next monthly update. There are those people (me included) who just can’t wait a few more weeks for the update and are going to pick up the book regardless of what’s said about it. But for anyone who has a DDI subscription and wants to save a few bucks there really isn’t a lot the book offers that you won’t get already.

The real bang for your buck with the Monster Manual 3 (as well MM and MM2) is the flavour text and the pictures. Having the stat blocks in Monster Builder is great, but without a description of the monsters or a picture I often have no idea what my PCs are fighting. The details that make each creature more than just a stat block is why you should pick up Monster Manual 3. I was a little bit disappointed when I recognized a fair amount of the art from other previously release material (mostly 3.5e Monster Manuals). Some of the new art is great, but some is not up to the level of detail I’ve come to expect from these books. But even with that setback, I still think the information provided makes the book a valuable pick-up for DMs. I don’t think everyone at your gaming table needs to own a copy of MM3, especially if you already have a DDI subscription. As long as you have access to the book when you need it, one copy within your immediate gaming group will go a long way.

7 on a d10

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Neuroglyph June 14, 2010 at 10:23 am

Very cool review, and I’m a bit jealous that I can’t get my copy yet. I got an email it shipped today, so I have to wait for ups ground to get it to me. But from what you have said, it sounds like a solid buy, although I respectfully wish to reserve judgment until I do my own review! I like the idea of the Banderhobbs! Sounds like there’s a whole adventure in dealing with critters that snatch children away to the Shadowfell – creepy!

2 Lahrs June 14, 2010 at 10:26 am

I only pay for the DDI service one month out of every quarter for the updates, so I do not always all the newest information at my fingerprints in digital form. Beyond that, I prefer having a hard copy as a back up, and will be picking up the book as soon as I get back from vacation in two weeks.

I do like the new layout. In fact, I like it a lot. You mentioned in your preview of MM3 that you sometimes miss interrupts during an encounter because the information can be buried in the stat block, I do too. This new format will greatly reduce missed opportunities and repercussions of a PC’s actions.

3 GuiguiBob June 14, 2010 at 10:29 am

Weird, I got a copy from my FLGS last thursday. I asked the guy if it had just came out and he sais he had it since aq week. Well he didn’T seem to know what he was talking about so I guess I was just lucky.

4 Kenneth McNay June 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

i’m glad to see the pure elementals coming back. those will be better related to dark sun than the archons. it is also much easier to get minis for those.

5 skallawag June 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

This is a bit off topic, but related to the new monster layout…
I’m seriously hoping that Wizards will build something into the character builder so that I can export a stat block of a PC in the same format.

6 Ameron June 15, 2010 at 8:31 am

@Neuroglyph
I think long-term players and full-time DMs will find the MM3 worth the money. Anyone new to D&D may opt to pass on MM3 and just get a DDI subscription or stick with the original Monster Manual.

@Lahrs
I never thought about “cherry picking” a DDI subscription. It’s certainly a great way to save a few bucks. Even though it’s updated every month you can certainly get by with what you’ve got for a few months until you buy back in.

@GuiguiBob
My understanding is that a lot of gaming stores are given permission from Wizards to start selling the books as soon as they receive them. This gives the folks running the smaller shops an edge on places like Amazon.com.

@Kenneth McNay
I was actually quite surprised to see how many familiar monsters were only getting the 4e treatment now, two years after 4e was introduced. I threw a team of Air Elementals at my group this weekend. Nothing like getting back to basics.

@skallawag
I’d be amazed if they did. But I agree that grouping a PCs options like the new monster stat blocks would make thing a lot easier for players, especially at higher levels.

7 DarkTouch June 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I’m very glad to see the older classic psionic monsters working their way into the game.

8 chase dagger January 8, 2011 at 8:54 am

I wish they had also had a MM that was all various humanoid builds.

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: