MONSTER MANUAL V
By David Noonan and 16 other guys listed under "Additional Design"
Wizards of the Coast product number 956817200
222 pages, $34.95

Monster Manual V is the latest in the Monster Manual series, and the last such monster book to be produced by Wizards of the Coast before Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition makes such books outdated (at least, for those planning on following their pied piper's call to play the latest edition). As such, it was the very last opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to prove to their purchasing audience that they had finally, in the last days of 3.5, mastered their own rules for 3.5 stat block generation. Did they finally put forth the effort to release a book of monsters that weren't horribly riddled with stat block errors?

Nope.

I'm sad to report that Monster Manual V seems to suffer with about the same level of quality of stat blocks as previous entries in the series. Let's get the various stat block errors out of the way, shall we? I recommend making the following changes:
  • p. 8, Arcadian Avenger: Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 on other planes) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)].
  • p. 10, Banshrae: Spent 139 of 144 skill points.
  • p. 12, Blackwing: Claw attacks should be at +14 melee, not +13 (+6 BAB, -1 size, +8 Str, +1 Weapon Focus). Skills should include Diplomacy +4 [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Sense Motive] and Survival +2 (+4 following tracks) [0 ranks, +2 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. Odd that a 12-HD creature has an Advancement that ends at 28 HD instead of the standard 36 HD. (Most creatures advance to triple their standard Hit Dice or by character class.)
  • p. 14, Burrow Root: Bite damage should be 2d6+8, not 2d6+12 (+8 Str, and bite isn't its sole attack, and it isn't using Power Attack). Tail spike damage should be 1d6+8 base damage, not 1d6+4 (+8 Str, and it's an either/or attack). Again, it's kind of odd that a 12-HD creature only advances to 25 HD instead of the normal 36 HD.
  • p. 20, Demon, Adaru: Spent 177 of 176 skill points; reduce Concentration to +10.
  • pp. 24-25, Demon, Draudnu: Odd that a 14-HD creature can advance all the way to 54 HD, instead of stopping at 42 HD, as is the norm. (Or has been until now, anyway.) The stat block gives it a 20-foot reach with its flesh hooks, yet the Draudnu Lore table puts it at only 15 feet. (So now, what, you're getting deliberately false information for successfully making your Knowledge (the planes) check?)
  • pp. 26-27, Demon, Gadacro: Skills should include Use Rope +4 (+6 bindings) [0 ranks, +4 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Escape Artist] and Survival +0 (+2 following tracks) [0 ranks, +0 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. Also, while this is admittedly not a stat block problem, the illustration on page 27 is missing its large horns.
  • p. 30, Demonthorn Mandrake: Spent 18 of 10 skill points; if it had a climb speed (and corresponding +8 racial bonus), the skill points would add up correctly. I'd say the easiest fix is to give it a climb speed of, let's say, 10 feet.
  • p. 32, Devil, Galthir: Ray of enfeeblement attacks should be at +7 ranged touch, not +8 (+6 BAB, -1 size, +2 Dex).
  • p. 40, Dragons of the Great Game, Chorranathau the Inscrutable, male ancient fang dragon: Languages aren't properly alphabetized. Spent 331 of 330 skill points. Skills should include Disguise +3 (+5 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Survival +5 (+7 following tracks and to avoid hazards and getting lost) [0 ranks, +5 Wis, +2 synergy bonuses from Search and Knowledge (geography), respectively]. Trip modifier should be +27, not +33 (+12 for being Gargantuan, +11 Str, +4 for having four legs).
  • p. 42, Dragons of the Great Game, Morlincantha, female young adult silver dragon: Spent 196 of 220 skill points. Spellcraft should be +17, not +15, due to a +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (arcana). Skills should include Intimidate +6 [0 ranks, +4 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff], Disguise +4 (+6 acting) [0 ranks, +4 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff], Gather Information +6 [0 ranks, +4 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (local)], and Survival +4 (+6 following tracks) [0 ranks, +4 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. As she has 19 HD, her frightful presence should affect creatures with 18 HD or less, not 19 HD or less.
  • pp. 45-46, Dragons of the Great Game, Xorvintaal Exarch, Singh the Immense, male human rogue 7/shadowdancer 6: Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 following tracks) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. His dragon's favor choices aren't listed alphabetically (nor are they listed alphabetically in the template description details on page 47).
  • p. 48, Elemental Mage, Ken-Kuni: Spent 20 of 22 skill points.
  • p. 48, Elemental Mage, Ken-Li: Will should be +10, not +11 (+4 as a 12-HD giant, +4 Wis, +2 Iron Will).
  • p. 49, Elemental Mage, Ken-Sun: Spent 125 of 140 skill points. "Survival +5" should not be followed by "(+7 in aboveground natural environments)" as it only has 4 ranks in Knowledge (nature), not enough to earn the synergy bonus.
  • p. 52, Ember Guard: Languages not alphabetized.
  • p. 56, Fetid Fungus: With HD equal to 2d8+2, average hit points should be 11, not 12.
  • p. 58, Frostwind Virago: Feats aren't alphabetized correctly. Spent 293 of 297 skill points. Skills should include Disguise +5 (+7 acting) [0 ranks, +5 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Use Rope +6 (+8 bindings) [0 ranks, +6 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Escape Artist].
  • p. 60, Garngrath: Grapple attacks should be at +63, not +56 (+28 BAB, +16 size, +19 Str). Bite attacks should be at +40 melee, not +33 (+28 BAB, -8 size, +19 Str, +1 Weapon Focus). I'm not sure why his gizzard has AC 23 instead of AC 20, since half of his natural armor bonus is +10.
  • p. 62, Gem Scarab: Initiative should be +0, not +1 (+0 Dex).
  • p. 68, Golem, Force: Ref should be +4, not +6 (+1 as a 4-HD construct, +3 Dex). As a 4-HD creature, its Advancement should normally be to 12 HD, yet this one goes to 15 HD.
  • p. 70, Golem, Magmacore: With HD 4d10+20, average hit points should be 42, not 47. Odd that it has 4 HD yet has an Advancement of only 10 HD, not 12 HD.
  • p. 74, Greenspawn Zealot: Skills should include Diplomacy +3 [0 ranks, +1 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Sense Motive].
  • p. 82, Haunt, Taunting: In its Speed entry, "fly 40 ft. (perfect)" should be followed by "(8 squares)."
  • p. 85, Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Spellscourge: Will should be +9, not +7 (+4 as a 5-HD monstrous humanoid, +1 Wis, +2 Iron Will, +1 cloak of resistance, +1 Mage Slayer feat). With 5 HD, he should have 2 feats, not 3 feats plus a bonus feat; one more feat should be annotated with a superscript "B" or else dropped entirely. Skills should include Balance +3 [0 ranks, +2 Dex, -1 armor check penalty, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble].
  • p. 86, Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Warcaster: Spent 29 of 35 skill points.
  • p. 87, Hobgoblin, Hobgoblin Warsoul: Scorching ray attacks should be at +13 ranged touch, not +14 (+10 BAB, +3 Dex). Spent 72 of 91 skill points (although an increase to Intelligence could be at play somewhere along the line here).
  • p. 90, Illurien: Tempest lash attacks should be at +27/+22/+17/+12 melee, not +28/+23/+18/+13 (+20 BAB, -1 size, +7 Dex with Weapon Finesse, +1 Weapon Focus). Skills aren't alphabetized, and should include Disguise +5 (+7 acting) [0 ranks, +5 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff].
  • p. 95, Kuo-Toa, Kuo-Toa Exalted Whip: Touch spells should be at +15 melee touch, not +13 (+10 BAB, +3 Str, +2 aura of aquatic might). Skills should include Swim +9 [0 ranks, +3 Str, +8 racial, -2 armor check penalty]. "Concentration +14 (+17 casting defensively)" should read "(+18 casting defensively)" as the Combat Casting feat grants a +4 bonus when casting defensively, not +3. Escape Artist should be +8, not +9, due to a -1 armor check penalty.
  • p. 96, Kuo-Toa, Kuo-Toa Harpooner, male kuo-toa fighter 2: Escape Artist should be +10, not +11 [0 ranks, +3 Dex, +8 racial, -1 armor check penalty]. Swim should be +9, not +11 [0 ranks, +3 Str, +8 racial, -2 armor check penalty].
  • p. 97, Kuo-Toa, Kuo-Toa Monitor, female kuo-toa monk 4: Spent 43 of 35 skill points. Skills should include Use Rope +2 (+4 bindings) [0 ranks, +2 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Escape Artist].
  • p. 104, Mind Flayers of Thoon, Thoon Disciple, mind flayer cleric 4: Tentacle attacks should be at +10 melee, not +11 (+9 BAB, +1 Str). Should have 5+1 1st-level cleric spells, not 4+1 (3+1 as Clr4, +2 for Wis 21). Martial Weapon Proficiency (heavy flail) and Weapon Focus (heavy flail) should be annotated as bonus feats, as they derive from the War domain. "Concentration +19" should be "Concentration +18 (+22 casting defensively)" [It spent 16 points on Concentration, but as a 12-HD creature it can only spend 15; it has the Combat Casting feat which grants a +4 bonus when casting defensively.] Skills should include Survival +5 (+7 on other planes) [0 ranks, +5 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)]. Spent 107 of 105 skill points, so you'll need to crop one more point (the other was taken care of when we fixed its Concentration skill point total).
  • pp. 114-115, Mind Flayers of Thoon, Madcrafter of Thoon: Will save for its mind blast should be DC 16, not DC 15 (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha bonus = 10 + 5 + 1 = 16).
  • p. 118, Mind Flayers of Thoon, Stormcloud of Thoon: Ref should be +4, not +8 (+2 as an 8-HD construct, +2 Dex). Will should be +5, not +9 (+2 as an 8-HD construct, +3 Wis).
  • pp. 121-122, Mind Flayers of Thoon, Thoon Elder Brain: Skills should include Survival +6 (+8 on other planes) [0 ranks, +6 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (the planes)]. Since mage armor is an at-will spell-like ability, there's no reason for its AC not to be 30 instead of 26, and its flat-footed AC not to be 28 instead of 24.
  • p. 126, Mockery Bugs, Mockery Monarch: Special Attack entry isn't alphabetized. The creature's abdomen AC (from the inside, used by those PCs it has swallowed whole) should be 14, not AC 15, as it has a +9 natural armor bonus, half of which, when rounded down, is +4.
  • p. 127, Mockery Bugs, Mockery Drone: With HD 12d10+72, average hit points should be 138, not 114. Odd that a 12-HD creature only advances to 23 HD.
  • p. 130, Phantom, Kugan, Phantom Ghast Ninja, male phantom ghast ninja 4: Skills should include Disguise +4 (+6 acting) [0 ranks, +4 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff] and Intimidate +6 [ditto].
  • p. 132, Ruin Chanter: Rusting grasp spell-like ability attacks should be at +17 melee touch, not +15 (+10 BAB, +7 Dex with Weapon Finesse). Overspent its skill point allotment by 2; reduce Search to +18. Skills should include Balance +9 [0 ranks, +7 Dex, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble] and Jump +11 [0 ranks, +5 Str, +4 speed, +2 synergy bonus from Tumble]. "Search +18" should be followed by "(+20 secret doors)" due to a +2 synergy bonus from Knowledge (architecture and engineering). "Survival +26" should be followed by "(+28 following tracks)" due to a +2 synergy bonus from Search.
  • p. 138, Rylkar, Rylkar Swarm: Hide should be +16, not +14 [0 ranks, +8 size, +6 Dex, +2 Stealthy feat]. Distraction Fort save should be DC 16, not DC 14 (10 + 1/2 HD + Con bonus + Ability Focus feat = 10 + 3 + 1 + 2 = 16).
  • p. 145, Scouring Construct, Slinger Scorpion: Average hit points should be 15, not 5 (it gains +10 hp as a Small construct). Technically, if BAB = +31 (based on the scouring slinger), then Grapple attacks should be +27, not -4 (+31 BAB, -4 size +0 Str).
  • p. 148, Shaedling: With 4 HD, it should have 2 feats, not 3. Skills should include Disguise +5 (+7 acting) [0 ranks, +3 Cha, +2 synergy bonus from Bluff]. Also, the SHAEDLING LORE table states that its sleeping curse affects those struck by its javelins as well as those who touch the sleeping victims, although there's no actual mention of this in either the creature's stats or its written description. What gives? That's a particularly important bit of information for the DM to know.
  • p. 150, Shardsoul Slayer: Ref should be +4, not +6 (+2 as a 6-HD construct, +2 Dex). Odd that Advancement only goes to 16 HD, not 18 HD as you'd expect from a 6-HD creature.
  • p. 152, Siege Beetle: Either it should have Multiattack as a bonus feat, or its bite attacks should be at +21 melee, not +24 (+15 BAB, -4 size, +15 Str, -5 secondary attack).
  • p. 158, Skull Lord, Serpentir: Climb should be +13, not +10 [0 ranks, +5 Dex as per Skills description, +8 racial]. Hide should be +13, not +12 [ditto]. Spent 8 of 11 skill points.
  • p. 162, Spawn of Juiblex, Lesser: Advancement should be 9-10 HD, not 9-12 HD, since once a spawn of Juiblex attains 11 HD it becomes a greater spawn, not a lesser spawn.
  • p. 174, Tirbana, Tirbana Spawner: Why does this creature - which only has one head - get two bite attacks? No reason is provided; I'd just drop it to one bite at +10 melee.
  • p. 182, Tusk Terror: What's a tusk terror - a hooved boar, essentially - doing with 2 claw attacks? Also, the STRATEGIES AND TACTICS section refers to a bite attack that is not present in the creature's stat block.
  • p. 184, Ushemoi, Arkamoi: Since it casts spells as a 4th-level sorcerer, it should have 4 2nd-level spells/day, not 5 (3 as a Sor4, +1 Cha). Furthermore, it should only know 3 1st-level spells, not 4, and 1 2nd-level spell, not 2 - sorcerers don't get to add their Charisma bonus to spells known, only spells/day.
  • pp. 185-186, Ushemoi, Hadrimoi: Missing a Possessions entry, which should mention its 4 daggers.
  • pp. 187-188, Ushemoi, Turlemoi: Odd that they have rock throwing as a special ability (like giants), but it doesn't seem to confer a +1 bonus to hit. If this is an oversight (it seems likely), then thrown rock attacks should be at +14 ranged, not +13 (+12 BAB, -1 size, +2 Dex, +1 rock throwing).
  • pp. 190-191, Vampires, The Black Duke, male vampire knight 7/ronin 10: The save against his dominating gaze should be DC 23, not DC 22 (10 + 1/2 HD + Cha bonus + Ability Focus feat = 10 + 8 + 3 + 2 = 23). Skills should include Survival +1 (+3 following tracks) [0 ranks, +1 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search].
  • p. 193, Vampires, The Red Widow, female vampire ninja 5/fighter 2/ghost-faced killer 8: Skills should include Survival +3 (+5 following tracks) [0 ranks, +3 Wis, +2 synergy bonus from Search]. Diplomacy should be +6, not +4 [0 ranks, +2 Cha, +2 synergy bonuses from both Bluff and Sense Motive].
  • p. 198, Vinespawn: With HD 12d8+36, average hit points should be 90, not 102. (It would need a Constitution of 18 or 19 for it to have an average of 102, but its Constitution is only 17.) Save DC for its engulf attack should be DC 22, not DC 18 (10 + 1/2 HD + Str bonus = 10 + 6 + 6 = 22).
  • p. 202, Wild Hunt, Master of the Hunt: AC should be 41, not 42 (-1 size, +15 Dex, +10 armor, +7 insight) - and the really sad thing is that all of the AC breakdowns are correct; this is just a stupid math error that nobody caught! Touch AC should be 31, not 32. Ride should be +52, not +50, due to a +2 synergy bonus from Handle Animal.
  • p. 202, Wild Hunt, Hound of the Hunt: Spent 27 of 23 skill points.
That's 56 stat blocks with errors, out of a total of 101, for an error rate of 55%. You might have though that they've have finally ironed out the bugs in their stat block calculations, but I guess it was never worth the effort, and now all of their focus seems to be on 4E. (Which, incidentally, looks to be a bit less "transparent" as far as stat block rules go - apparently I'm going to be out of business as the "nitpicky stat block reviewer!")

In any case, stat block errors weren't the only problems with Monster Manual V, as there were quite a few proofreading and editing errors as well. These ran the gamut from misspelled words ("palnes" instead of "planes," "treassure" instead of "treasure," "suggstion" instead of "suggestion"), incorrect word usage ("then" instead of "than," "five" instead of "four," "a" instead of "an," "CR 5 or higher" instead of "4 HD or lower" [this one occurred twice!]), spell names not being italicized, undefined terms (what exactly is a "tharcion" as mentioned on page 37?), sentences with extraneous words ("within in an" should just be "within an") or missing words ("the"), misused punctuation (a closing parenthesis instead of a comma), improper hyphenation of a word between two lines ("Blad-erager" instead of "Blade-rager"), and several alphabetization gaffes in the Glossary on pages 206-222 ("Alternate Form" should come after both "Aligned Strike" and "Alignment," for instance). Apparently three editors and an editing manager aren't enough to weed these kinds of things out. More's the pity.

Okay, so far this sounds pretty bleak, huh? Well, fortunately, there are several things to like about Monster Manual V. For one thing, they did a better job conforming this book to what many (dare I go so far as to say "most?") people expect from a Monster Manual, namely, cutting back on the lair maps, doing a slightly better job of slapping class levels onto existing monsters, and cutting down on the impulse to cram a whole ton of related monsters together in a section that eats up a large percentage of the book. (Monster Manual IV went a bit too far in each of these areas for the tastes of a vocal section of the purchasing audience; Wizards of the Coast seems to have learned from that experience and toned it down a bit this time around.) While I'm still not a fan of lair maps in a Monster Manual, at least there are only two this time around (a tirbana-infested thorp and a rylkar warren), and these seem to be present only to fill up adequate space for the next monster to start on a new page. Those pre-existing monsters that had class levels slapped on them at least, for the most part, used classes from some of the more obscure books that not everyone's going to necessarily have purchased, so we're not seeing a slew of Player's Handbook classes that anybody could have done themselves. (And best of all, you don't need the books that the classes in question originally came from in order to use these new monsters, as everything necessary is printed here in the stats.) Finally, Monster Manual IV's interminable "spawn of Tiamat" ate up a lot of space on variations of the same types of creature, whereas Monster Manual V uses instead the mind flayers of Thoon, which not only gives some support to those who use the "quintessence" rules from Magic of Incarnum (while doing so in a way that doesn't require access to that book), but also shakes up the creature types a bit: instead of 36 pages of monstrous humanoids and magical beasts like those spawn of Tiamat, the mind flayers of Thoon section takes up only 22 pages and provides 4 aberrations, 2 monstrous humanoids (one from a template), and 4 constructs.

Several of the monsters are very interesting, and I'll probably use them myself in my own campaign. My favorites include the mockery bug drones, human-faced centipedes that burst out of their human bodies in a splatter of gore; the deadborn vulture, a kind of zombie-phoenix which rises as an undead creature immediately upon its death; and the god-blooded template, which provides a simple yet flexible way to boost up a wide variety of creatures. I also liked the whole concept of xorvintaal, the "great game" of the "Dragons of the Great Game" entry, which allows for a completely different way to use dragons in the campaign, and also shakes their combat abilities up a bit (they lose spellcasting for a variety of different abilities). Others, however, seem rather like the designers are scraping the bottom of the idea barrel; are we really at the point where we can't come up with anything better than a nimble boar who hops and skips around the battlefield (the tusk terror), another pointless attempt at melding the twin horrors of the undead and jesters (the taunting haunt), or pretend trees who throw pretend scorpions at you (the scouring slinger and the slinger scorpion, both constructs made by particularly deranged druids). For that matter, I got a little tired of the ultra-powerful fey shtick going on: the flute-wielding banshrae, the "I'm so depressed and melancholy I'm going to summon constructs out of junk to smoosh you while I sing dirges" ruin chanters, and the master of the hunt, who gets a +20 damage bonus to each arrow he shoots while outside when the moon is out (which, incidentally, is the only time he hunts, and he gets 5 attacks with his Rapid Shot, so there's 100 free points of damage if he hits with each attack). Another downer, for me at least, is the rather high number of specific individuals in this book. I'm not talking about template examples, where stats for a given individual are perfectly fine, but rather creature entries like the two vampires in this book (which take up 6 pages all by themselves) or Illurien, a female outsider librarian of sorts who steals knowledge from people's minds. I prefer my Monster Manuals to focus on creatures that can be used again and again in different encounters; how many times can you encounter the Black Duke, a vampiric individual, after you drive a stake through his heart?

Then there are a couple of monsters that just don't seem to make a whole lot of sense to me. I understand that the designers were attempting to create monsters that did new things, so I can see why the verdant reaver causes plant growth in its adjacent squares (which deals additional damage to the reaver's foes when it hits with both of its slams), and I can even picture the verdant growth springing up around the verdant reaver as it moves (a rather evocative image), but the fact that it immediately sinks back into the ground after the verdant reaver moves away just screams "game mechanics" to me - it takes me completely out of the "I accept this because it's fantasy magic" mindset. Likewise, the fact that the rylkar harridan - the Huge "queen" of a nest of smaller, ratlike creatures - is blind is an interesting difference, but why do the rylkar tormentors tear out a new harridan's eyes when one is discovered in the lair? (The reason given is that they probably hope that will prevent her from devouring her own kind, but since that never works it comes across as a rather feeble excuse to have harridans be blind. Hey, if you want blind harridans, just make them blind already.) I don't have a problem with Thoon illithids cranking out various types of constructs to aid them in their search for quintessence, but I'm afraid that I just don't buy the fact that madcrafters of Thoon just spit them up fully-assembled. (That concept worked much better in the Fiend Folio when it was an ulgurstasta spitting up undead.) I can buy steelwings having razor-sharp metallic feathers, and I can buy them shooting their feathers as ranged attacks (whoever designed this guy must be an X-Men fan, and particularly fond of Warren Worthington III in his Archangel phase), but when the feathers continuously whirl all around the creature "just because," my suspension of disbelief fails me. Overall, there are quite a few monsters in this book whose overall design just failed to excite me, or, worse yet, made me scratch my head in wonderment that somebody thought that this was what the game has been missing. Sadly, there seem to be many more monsters in this book that I can't see myself ever using than in previous entries in the series.

Getting back to the positive, I also noticed (with some amusement) that apparently at least one of the designers is a Doctor Who fan, as the Solamith demon is remarkably like the Absorbaloff from the "Love and Monsters" episode of David Tennant's first season as the Doctor.

As for the artwork, the front cover is once again by Henry Higgenbotham, this time featuring a sort of mutant illithid head, representing the mind flayers of Thoon, on the front and punctured skulls on the back cover. Interior artwork consists of 87 full-color illustrations by 20 different artists, and cartographer Jason Engle did the two full-color maps. Quality is generally fairly high, with a few exceptions. Wayne Reynolds' dragons on page 44 are way out of scale, as the silver dragon is only supposed to be Large compared to the fang dragon's Gargantuan size. His elemental mages are mislabeled on page 49: the ken-kuni is identified as a ken-sun, the ken-li is labeled a ken-kuni, and the ken-sun is called a ken-li. Ron Spencer's hobgoblin duskblade and hobgoblin spellscourge illustrations are similarly mislabeled on page 85. William Mahy's scyther of Thoon illustration on page 117 should have a silvery tone, not bronze. And I'm sorry, Skan Srisuwan, but I can't tell where one of your tirbanas on page 175 ends and another begins - you might want to work on your definition a bit better in future. I'm not sure what Franz Vohwinkel was shooting for with his shaedling illustration on page 149, but if it wasn't to get me to say "Hey, that creature's got rolling pins for boobs!" I'm afraid he failed miserably.

On the plus side, I particularly enjoyed James Zhang's crazed kuo-toa on page 94 (I like the lanky look), David Allsop's Thoon elder brain on page 123 (reminds me a bit of the monsters from the old "Fiend Without a Face" movie I watched as a kid), Daarken's mockery bug drone on page 128 (catching the creature in all of its gore-splattering glory), and Jason Chan's siege beetle on page 152 (interesting mouth structure).

Layout was for the most part okay, although I noticed that 5 of the monsters' stat blocks were "page-flippers" that started on an odd-numbered page and continued on the back side of that page. That's particularly irritating during game play, and I would have thought they'd be able to prevent that sort of thing from happening by now.

Overall, I can't seem to generate a whole lot of enthusiasm towards Monster Manual V. I can appreciate the attempt to create monsters that do different things on the battlefield, but the end result seems like a bunch of creatures with some interesting abilities but not a whole lot of depth to them, or very little in the way of justifying, in game, why they do what they do. I was also saddened by the fact that well over half of the stat blocks had errors of one type or another (or several types), this late in the 3.5 game. Since a Monster Manual, in my mind, is more dependent upon good stats than any other type of RPG book, this can't help but weigh heavily on my final score. I'm going to go with a rating of "3 (Average)," because despite the overall poor quality of the stats and the rather high number of seemingly goofy monsters, I appreciate the fact that they learned from the mistakes they made in Monster Manual IV and turned this book back quite a ways to where a monster book of this type should be. (That, plus there are a few monsters in here that should be a blast to use in a game.) It's going to be interesting to see where 4E takes us; I can only hope that a considerably greater amount of effort will be put into the accuracy of the stats in that edition of the game.