Review: Monster Manual 3

Ogremoch, illustrated by Matias Tapia

Ogremoch, illustrated by Matias Tapia

Girlfriend DM loves the Monster Manuals. Every night, she comes home to her ‘folio of friends’ and flips through each page one by one, asking me how high level a monster we can take. While soft cackling can be heard as she trolls through the Monster Builder, true evil begins when her eyes rest upon visuals that invite the creation of sinister scenarios. Yet week after week, she never fails to complain about how we kill her monsters too quickly.

Part of it might have to do with the hypercompetitive deva avenger from our last campaign, or the fiendish amount of hell I’ve been unleashing with my min-maxed dragonborn fighter. I’m fairly certain though that it has more to do with the difficulties DMs face in studying monster stat blocks. With Monster Manual 3 presenting a whole slew of new ‘friends’ in a revised stat block format, it appears that is certainly the case.

Previously introduced to print in HS1 The Slaying Stone, the new stat blocks are structured so that DM’s  can maximize the action economy of the monsters. That means the mnemonic language being used remains the same whether you are managing monsters behind the screen or managing your character in front of it. (i.e. “I move here and for my standard action I … and for my minor action I…”) Simply put, the new monster stat block is more intuitive to read. The only downside I can see to it is the amount of ink you’d end up using printing it out, as it takes more lines to render than the old format.

Slime Devil, illustrated by Franz Vohwinkel

Beyond the new stat block, Monster Manual 3 is also about the new  friends that Girlfriend DM gets to make.  Many of them will expand her choices for paragon and epic play and require massive combat grids, like the Astral Kraken, a Level 25 Solo  that deals modest psychic damage while possessing a monstrous range for AOs. I also like the Ogremoch, a brutal Level 34 Solo that immobilizes, stuns and petrifies and is basically a thrashing primordial monstrosity.

Kitschy classics like Mimics and Rot Grubs make their return in MM3, bringing back that old school Gygaxian feeling. Some are presented with new fluff in case you have trouble taking them seriously, but I suspect many older DMs are just going to use these monsters in their original form.( “You put on the cloak and an unnerving moan wails in the air before it envelops you. Take 20 ongoing damage.”) That said, I kind of wish they had the Lurker Above, the Stunjelly and the Trapper.

Tweaks have been made to the monsters themselves, which now do significantly more damage while still incorporating the reduced hit points applied to solos and elites in Monster Manual 2. The new monsters are not as resilient as their Monster Manual 1 brethren, but they pack a greater wallop. The result should be less combat grind, with dispatching a monster requiring fewer attacks but without reducing the threat they present on a turn by turn basis.

Putrid Slaad, illustrated by Dave Allsop.

The presentation of information DM’s need to make use of monsters has also changed. In previous Monster Manuals, sample encounter groups were presented as bullet point lists and monster combat tactics as purely mechanical text. Here in Monster Manual 3, we get these factoids in terms of flavor text. For example, the Banderhobb – a bunch of paragon-tier monsters in the form of blob-shaped boogeymen – are described as loners (even amongst their Shadowfell kin) that rely on the element of surprise to gobble unsuspecting mortals.

Like the new monster stat block, it’s a less efficient means of presenting information, but it’s also  more intuitive. What I like about this is that it becomes easier to get a sense of the monster’s non-mechanical place in the world(s), making it easier for DMs to incorporate them into their stories. You could say that between custom monster building and the ability to reskin existing monsters, neither this or the mechanical tweaks to monsters are necessary, but I say it helps for DMs who want to be able to run the game out of the box.

That said, if Monster Manual 2 was about improving monsters to make them more interesting and making solo/elite encounters less drawn out, then Monster Manual 3 is about making an exciting encounter easier to build and run. Ideally we’ll be having less DMs going “Um, wait, uh the putrid slaad does, um…,” less time spent trying to find the flavor means to describe those actions and greater ability to add a tinge of danger to encounters without compromising the ablity to resolve them quickly.

Other reviews of Monster Manual 3 by friends of My Girlfriend is a DM:

Oh and here’s a gallery of art from Monster Manual 3 by great artists like Dave Allsop, Franz Vohwinkel, Steve Ellis, Jason Felix, Ralph Horsley, Howard Lyon and of course, My Girlfriend is a DM favorite Eva Widermann.

If you appreciated this review of  Monster Manual 3, then kindly consider supporting My Girlfriend is a DM by purchasing any number of RPG products from our Amazon associates store, such as the very awesome Player’s Strategy Guide or the new heroic tier adventure, HS1 The Slaying Stone.

One Response to “Review: Monster Manual 3”
  1. Kato says:

    The new stat block is a really nice improvement, and it’s good to see that WotC spent a lot of time thinking this one through. I am looking forward to running monsters with the improved format now that the Monster Builder has been updated.

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