Thursday, March 7, 2013

In Retrospect: The Monstrous Manual

This retrospective on the AD&D Second Edition Monstrous Manual completes my retrospectives for the AD&D 2e core rule books. I went over the Dungeon Master's Guide yesterday, and the Player's Handbook way back in October of last year. Also did one on the Monstrous Compendium, but I don't think it really counts because the compendium is not a book, but a binder.

Indeed, back in the day I could not wait to get the AD&D Second Edition Monstrous Manual. I got tired of lugging that compendium around with all of its loose leaf pages. When I finally bought it 1993 when it was published, I was a happy gamer. Sure, there was no new information in it, but it was a book. 

Yeah, the demons and devils were still long gone (but that's what owning the AD&D 1e Monster Manuals were for, right?). I still cringe a little when I read the cumbersome terms "baatezu," "tanar'ri," and "yugoloth." Man, what were they thinking? Even "Monstrous Manual" doesn't quite sound right.

To this day I still don't mind monsters having an ecology and extensive backgrounds, even though some readers think it takes up too much space that could be reserved for stats or more monsters.

I liked that each monster's experience point value was printed with each entry. Gone were the XP calculations determined by hit points as in AD&D 1e.

Most of the full color artwork was okay, nothing really inspiring, or leaving anything to the imagination. The monsters are just standing in their white box going "grrrr..."

So once again, AD&D 2e leaves me torn. Its organization and functionality beats AD&D 1e, but the "cool stuff:" the ambiance, the artwork, the "feel" of the books, the mystery, is gone.

Now, unlike the 2e DMG, I did use the Monstrous Manual for my games.


  1. The Monstrous Manual was great reading, if nothing else. Plus, it was one of the first places in a core book I'd seen for mechanical specifics on creation of liches and other such undead.

  2. Just out of curiosity, are you using the original 2e printing, or the reorganized 2e? I like the first version's artwork and writing more than the second (2.5?) version.

    1. I'm using the original 1993 printing, not the 1996 version. I have both, but I'm not sure if there's really any different between the two aside from the cover art, is there?

    2. I'll have to go look to see if I even still have my 96 version, but the 89 version has those great full-page color prints scattered throughout it. The bored elf king is one of my favorites, if only because it reminds me of my favorite anime villain, Desslok (as portrayed in the US "Starblazers" series).

      After some digging around, it looks like the "2.5" version was the one printed in 95. I really didn't like the art in that one. I'm not sure if the content was different, though the web indicates that it was different enough to be termed "2.5" by a lot of 2e purists.

    3. Ok, I wish there was an 'edit' feature. I'm talking about the PHB on a MM thread. Sorry!

    4. That's all right. I liked the artwork in the original PHB better, too.


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