Thursday, November 1, 2012

Review: AD&D 2e Monstrous Compendium

The Monstrous Compendium was another thing that made me feel torn between 1e and 2e. Here we seem to have an upgrade at first. But when used, the Monstrous Compendium was just unwieldy.
I didn't like lugging that thing around--it took up a lot of backpack space. 

The binder itself was about 3" thick, and it came with 144 loose leaf pages, which only filled up about 1/4 of the binder space. The intention was that you'd go out and buy more compendiums to fill up the binder. And I did, because, well... TSR seemed to have abandoned the concept of the "Monster Manual" being a hardbound book. Soon my binder was full. Additional compendiums when into another non-TSR, three ring binder.

Now, I can understand where the designers were coming from: they wanted to make the DM's job easier. A DM could remove only the monsters he needed from the compendium for his sessions. My problem: I didn't dare--I was too afraid that the sheets would get lost or damaged. Also, I didn't want the  hassle of putting them back in. Furthermore, maybe I just wanted to have all of the monsters on hand for "just in case" or to be certain I had all the monsters on a random encounter table.

I did like, however, how each monster was given at least a full page of description. You got the statistics, how they function in combat, and ecology. There are naysayers out there about the ecology section. Why bother having one if the characters are going to kill the monster anyway? That space could be used for more monsters. 

But I didn't mind each monster having its own ecology. They did contain some useful information. At the very least, most made a decent read. 

I did mind, though, that the original compendium contained less than 144 monsters. See, some monsters got more than one page. Even so, the AD&D Monster Manual contained more monsters. So, in that aspect, I was somewhat opposed to the ecologies. My main beef though, was that I'd have to buy the Monstrous Compendium, Volume 2 to make the compendium "complete" with the basic monsters for AD&D 2e. 

When looking back, I can understand why veteran DMs of OD&D and AD&D would not like AD&D 2e. The Monstrous Compendiums would be major turn off. I was young, and really didn't know better. I just wanted to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. I can easily see a veteran DM saying to himself:

"Wait a minute, you want me to trade in my Monster Manual, Monster Manual II, and my Fiend Folio for that beast? All three of my books can fit into that binder! I have all the monsters I need--and they're compatible with Second Edition should I decide to play it."

Not everybody, of course, has such a harsh judgement on the Monstrous Compendium. Yet, I for one was relieved when TSR published the Monstrous Manual in 1993. 

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