All in all this is a great publication from WOTC and worth every gold piece. The writing and art are superb, but the biggest selling point is the shear amount of information and how it is presented. I think it is definitely worth shelling out 50 bucks for. Full review at Arcana Times.
Volo's Guide to Monsters: After carefully reading a good portion of Chapter 1, Monster Lore; Reading chapter 2, character races; And perusing chapter 3, Bestiary I think this is a great direction in possible future material. The appendices are also very helpful adding npc list and monster list by stat blocks, challenge rating, and environment. These monster lists, especially, will help build great encounter tables for those that like to build sand-box games. The one critique that may trouble some people is that this book does three things, which I think is a strength. It builds monster lore for the DM, adds options for Players and the PHB, and adds to the Monster manual bestiary. Not a critique really, but some may argue that the book does too many things and not enough of any one of them. To that end, the authors suggest that there will be future products, perhaps, in this format. The book, however, comes in at 224 pages and I like the format. So I think the book is worth the retail price, but especially at the usual internet 25% discount. That said, I liked the Mind-flayer cover for retail stores as a boost for FLGS. I picked up my copy at Chicagoland Dice Dojo (Great cover, book and badass local game store) which was about $55.11 in Illinois.
Chapter 1 is over 100 pages long. The monster lore section, along with the layout of this book, is fantastic. Expounding on the flaws, thinking, organizations, motivations and personalities of Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mind Flayers, Orcs, and Yuan-ti is a DMs boon. Some of the races have adventure maps of lairs. The Beholder, Goblinoid, Hag, Kobold, Mind Flayer, Orc, and Yuan-ti all have example lairs. This is tremendous, along with some class-oriented variants of each monster listed overall. I became immersed reading this section, as each entry inspires many potential adventures sites. This is largely helped by sections containing treasure, but importantly, lesser minions, greater minions, or even pets of the monsters (as is the case for beholders and mind-flayers). Overall the monster lore is a great addition to any fantasy gamer's library who runs games with some of the monsters that have become so heavily associated with classic sword and sorcery.
Chapter 2 character races also rates very high for me. Official expansion material is trickling out for fifth edition, and as long as it well tested and of high quality like the playable races in this book, then options books like this will be welcomed at my gaming table. PCs and NPCs can be built from Aasimar, Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku (crow-like people), Lizardfolk, Tabaxi (cat-like folk), and Triton (underwater folk) as well as a short section on "Monstrous Adventurers." While I didn't think I would care for the anthropomorphic races, I immediately imagined a Kenku merchant on the black market. These races seem balanced and appropriate for a millieu of environments/adventures. While this section expands the PHB for players, it also adds some great NPC material for DMs building adventures. I like the additional races.
Chapter 3 is the Bestiary. Again, this section is a great addition to this edition. Many classics pop-up here such as Quicklings, for those of you that played first edition. But also some additions from second and third edition like the Draegloth and Rothe' (cow). This section also has several variants of the featured monster races in chapter one. This deepens the ranks of otherwise two dimensional monster tribes, groups, or lairs that often populate adventure areas or adversaries. I like the associated expansion of both classics monsters from previous editions and variants in the featured monster lore section of this book.
Appendices are also worth noting and great additions to the book, adding to its utility at both the table and during adventure/encounter table building. There are three appendices including assorted beasts, nonplayer characters, and monster lists. The assorted beasts reminds me of and is the continuation of how the monster manual was set up, which is handy I think. The NPCs are very handy for game population with little work. The apprentice wizard caught my eye and immediately forced into my mind a story surrounding this little fellow as a side quest in a campaign. Again, this book seems like it will be relevant at both the table, but especially during adventure building/planning.
In conclusion, the monster lore, expanded character races, bestiary and appendices make this book a hit for me. That and the reoccurring rule of three that seems to be peppered throughout this tome adds a fun theme, easy navigation, and again, solid organization. This is one of those books that will likely stay in my collection after this edition and join some of my classic basic and 1st edition tomes. This book also signals a new type of splat book in essence. But the addition of the monster lore makes this a fantastic adventure building addition to the fifth edition library. I give this book a 5/5 for DMs looking for some well thought-out adventure building material for 5th/any edition Dungeons and Dragons.
1) an in-depth study of nine of the most classic D&D monsters (Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Illithids, Orcs, and Yuan-ti – Dragons are notably absent, but this is alright, given many editions' Draconomicon-type books to draw upon at D&D Classics). This mega-chapter is golden fuel for full campaigns-worth of adventures featuring each of these respective monster groups. The chapter also gets inside the mindset of each of the subtypes of these monsters (including new subtypes featured in this book, see below), their cultures and religions, their relationships with other races and monsters, and what their lairs might be like. This chapter provides an answer to the age-old story of balancing new crunch versus flavor text in a Monster Manual. 3.5e's later MMs famously had incredibly long monster entries to explore the mindset and cultures of monsters. 4e's MM books, on the other hand at times felt almost devoid of flavor text outside knowledge check info, in favour of cramming as many monsters in as possible. 5e's Monster Manual falls somewhere in the middle, but more on the side of 4e than later 3.5e: the desire for more flavor text explore common monsters was something I felt strongly this edition. This chapter answers that desire. This is essentially a Dungeon Master's Guide to Core Monsters Not Named Dragons.
2) A near-doubling of racial options for players, with 7 fully-fleshed out additional character races and 6 monstrous races who carry just stat blocks and a generic explanation of monstrous player characters (notably, all six of these races are featured in the earlier chapter, and thus don't NEED cultural/character write-ups in this section. A good DM would provide a more limited, player-friendly write-up if one of their players was taking on a Monstrous PC though). The 7 new races each fill an important player character niche not yet present in the races in the Player's Handbook, and combined with the two additional races added by the Elemental Evil Player's Guide, fulfill almost every common thematic niche. I say two because the Goliath is reprinted here word-for-word from the Elemental Evil Player's Guide. In addition, the Aasimar race, explored as a possible write-up in the Dungeon Master's Guide, has been edited and expanded to a 3-subrace class exploring what it means to be a being of Angelic heritage or blessing, guided in dreams by an Angel, and what happens if you likewise fall from grace. The race feels very much, "what if Paladin was a race" and is a critical niche that allows those thematic stories to be explored alongside a class chassis that is not Paladin. Then there is the Firbolg, who as many have seen in the previews is a gentle, druidic fey giant (of medium size), a stark contrast to the fairplay competitive mountain athletes that are the Goliaths (sometimes considered Half-Giants). While this is a departure from the arrow-deflecting, ruddy-bearded large vikingesque giants (they stand at 7-8 feet now and are medium-sized with powerful build, rather than 10ft large-sized creatures), it's more true to the mythic origins of the Firbolg as a more gentle predecessor to the Fomorian Pirate-Giants and the Fey Gods known as Tuatha DéDannan in Irish myth (where nearly every story features at least 1 Druid). It should be also noted that the Firbolg depicted seems to have a slightly reddish beard. Beyond the giants the book explores the Kenku, an old classic on the trickster-ravens/crows of Native American stories as well as the Tengu of Japanese folklore. Kenku are an interesting addition to the player roster due to their inability to speak normally. You'd think that as all speech is essentially mimickry, they'd be able to talk like anyone else (babies learn to talk by mimicking their parent's words), especially since Kenku can mimic anyone's words perfectly and with that same pitch. But the idea seems to be that your character is limited in speech and thus pantomimes or makes interesting sounds based on what you've encountered in the actual campaign. From that perspective, it's a fascinating example of something that isn't a real gameplay problem (there's a sidebar that explains how you should pretty much always talk out of character rather than in-character). It's sort of like the situation of R2-D2 and Pete in Darths & Droids. It's not a real weakness with a lenient DM, though if a PC and DM agree to make things difficult it could be an interesting situation.
We then have Lizardfolk and Tabaxi: for The Elder Scrolls fans, these are your Argonians and Khajiit, and for those who haven't religiously played those huge fantasy C-RPGs (themselves largely inspired by D&D), these two races fulfill niches demanded by players since forever: the catfolk with the Tabaxi, and the non-Dragonborn Lizardperson race. There seems to be a fascination with Lizardfolk by a large number of players, especially those who hated 4e, since the core Dragonborn in both 4e and 5e seemed to be another way to hate on the divisive edition (and its few but prominent influences on the later 5e). That said, despite my known love for 4e, Lizardfolk are a welcome addition in my book, and fulfill a different niche: semi-aquatic, reptilian people with a mindset far more difficult to enter into than the honor-bound, gold-hungry Dragonborn. Meanwhile, Tabaxi fulfill a cornerstone of my campaign setting: catfolk are one of the six key races in my world. I've been using Shifter from UA as a crutch, but these guys are quite interesting in their own right. Mechanically speaking, they'll be bouncing off every wall, and that's not just a turn of phrase. With the ability to climb and the ability to speedwalk in microbursts, Tabaxi might just be in my top 3 favourite races in the entire edition. Finally, we explore the Triton: the answer to "how do a play a merman/other aquatic character?" We've had two mini-answers before – the Water Genasi in the Elemental Evil Player's Guide and the Half-Aquatic-Elf in the Sword Coast Adventure's Guide, but both are limited by being subsets of races not wholly focused on the aquatic environment. There's been talk of adding Aquatic Elves or Merfolk to the game, though the former fits the same issue of being a subrace (and thus having to focus pretty much all its features on getting that swim speed and amphibious nature down) and the later is caught with the fact that it would be a fish out of water… whenever it's out of water. So Merfolk only work in an underwater game where everyone has a way to swim/breath water, and thus their racial benefits would be lacking. Tritons emerge as an answer to this two-fold problem: they are a new race, singularly focused on being that Aquaman/Zora guy. They've got feet, and can breathe air, and won't dry up and die if they're away from water for too long. And yet, they're most comfortable (flavor-wise) in the water, and become far more dangerous if they can get their enemies into the deep end of the pool. And like any good Aquaman, they can talk to fish. They can even create water-related weather magic each day, and their innate spells are different choices from that of the Water Genasi! Tritons definitely will serve players trying to create a Legend of Zelda-based game (Elves can be Hylians, Gerudo are Humans, Dwarves can be Gorons, Tritons ARE Zoras, Gnomes or Halflings can be Kokiri, Aarakocra can be Rito, etc), and bring the most-needed archetype to the game at last.
The six monstrous races, as discussed above, are all high-demand races, and while two have racial ability score decreases (Orcs and Kobolds), they have incredibly strong racial features to counterbalance. Also, these decreases are narratively important for them: Orcs value Orogs and Half-orcs in the horde due to their higher intelligences than your standard Orcs, and all Kobolds are weaklings whose lives are defined by the fear of being stomped by stronger races and thus require pack tactics just to survive. Interestingly, the two small races presented here (Goblins and Kobolds) break the mold of small races facing speed penalties. Both have a walking speed of 30ft, which means an additional square or hex of movement versus Halflings and Gnomes.
One thing I've noticed about these races is that they seem to be much higher on number of features than some races are. I'm not sure about what makes a race the balanced. These are like, Dwarf-level of number of abilities. But all in all, this is the most exciting part of the new book, and a solid addition to the player material roster. It's quite possibly the biggest expansion of player material after the PHB. While Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide had an assortment of new subraces and subclasses, these are whole new playable concepts that open up a multitude of new ways of having fun. It's truly a Player's Handbook to Monsters!
3) The last mega-chapter is a straight-up companion to the Monster Manual, a Fiend Folio of sorts. Here we have stats for the new variations of monsters mentioned in chapter 1, plus a bunch of classic creatures updated at last to 5e. A handful of new interpretations too. Dark Ones and Shadar-kai arrive finally, after two years of conspicuous absence (after Shadar-kai's relative prominent place in 4e), but they're under a new name, Darkling, and they're fey (like Shadar-kai was in 3e's Fiend Folio). They've got the features of the 4e Dark One, where they spontaneous combust upon death, but now are tied into a new flavor about offending the Summer Queen, and thus being seared by sunlight. Now the burst is a radiant flash of light, and a blast of radiant damage for the stronger variation, the Darkling Elder, which is a clearly-cribbed design of a Shadar-kai, but without it's Shadow Jaunt (and instead taking on this combustion effect). The backstory also speaks of a Crow entity that offended the Summer Queen – another tie to the Shadar-kai's Raven Queen-adoration in 4e. It's a shame to me if this is the only form Shadar-kai will take, given how complex and interesting the race was last edition and the lack of player stats or even significant enemy stats that follow the race to form on its shadow-jaunt (a sort of shadowy version of the fey step). They always felt a bit like Shadow Eladrin due to the Shadow Jaunt, so perhaps this is again an attempt to separate them further (especially if they're Fey again). That said, Eladrin still are missing from everywhere but the back pages of the DMG…
As the designers noted in a recent podcast, many of the monsters here are creatures they wanted to include in the 5e Monster Manual but ran out of space to work with them. Others are iconic creatures they knew they wanted to get to but knew they didn't belong in that first monster book. This section is rich, including creatures from Boggles and Banderhobs to new Demons and Devils, from the Catobelpas and the Froghemoth, to the Draegloth and the Bodak and the Neogi, from the Spawn of Kyuss and the Quickling all the way to the Flail Snail and the Vegepygmy. There are so many new creatures crammed in here, it's hard to mention even a handful of them! Oh, and Grungs. Cute little evil Poison Dart Frog people. I think I found my new favourite enemy creature for my next campaign! Oh, and the book has Old Gregg in it. If you don't know what I mean, go watch the excellent British comedy show, The Mighty Boosh and come back to me.
Of course, the chapter also handles new variations of the 9 creature families featured in chapter 1. We've got at least one new variation of each, and usually several. For the giants, there's a new take on each variety! There are even three different takes on the Yuan-ti Malison, each focused on a different Yuan-ti deity (Zehir is notably absent from the whole book; 4e has seemingly been forgotten).
At the end of the chapter are dozens of new animals and NPCs (including an adorable little Anakin Skywalker… err, Wizard Apprentice). These round things out greatly. Who would of thunk that we didn't have stats for a cow yet? What's more, now we have stats for a Stench Kow!!
Power wise, the book maxes out at Challenge Rating 22. I think it's a great range of power, obviously tilted toward the early levels, but that's where the game tilts anyway. Again, a solid chapter that greatly expands the campaign's challenge options.
I loved the book, and it's a great addition to my shelf. The special edition cover is especially nice!!!
Aside from some typographical errors (Froghemoth's page cough), this is a solid entry that highlights where D&D should go in the future. 5/5
Wizards has done a good job of bringing a little more than just the basics to each book it has published. Each adventure module has had a few spells and a few more general stat blocks that make each book tempting to pick up. This book, as a sourcebook, doubles down on that principle making there elements that you just can’t afford to miss. This book has extended value for the GM of your group, but remains optional for the player short of playing a racial variant. That said, I think anyone who picks it up is going to find it’s a great addition to their collection. Full review at Skyland Games.
The name implies the presence of a first person narration that just is not there. These little first person footnotes are really confined to small sidebars, which already existed in the Monster Manual. The lore sections of the book are uneven, and not all of the features races are well served. The book really shines when it focuses on the elements unique to D&D: the giant ordning, mind flayers, yuan-ti, demonic gnolls but stumbles when it tries to make the more generic monsters interesting while also tying them to D&D lore.
However, the book is much more interesting than just a straight new monster book. All past attempts at making a Monster Manual 2 stumble over the necessity of fitting 300 new monsters into the game, leading to poor design and loads of filler. By focusing on fewer monsters, the ones in this book are much more desirable and there are fewer monsters just filling the pages. And the increased lore encourages you to use some of the most classic monsters in your game, providing adventure hooks and the inspiration for their lairs.
I would have still liked to see a focus on monsters with a higher CR.
Volo's Guide to Monsters is an excellent addition to the Fifth Edition line-up and should be a part of of any DM's or player's library.
As others have said, VGtM is really three books in one, each complimenting the three core rule books. Chapter 1 covers nine monster types in-depth and definitely augments the DMG in that it will help and inspire DMs when using the featured monsters. Chapter 2 details thirteen monstrous races - six having been fully covered in Chapter 1 and seven unique to this chapter - adding to the PHB in giving players more options for character races. Finally, Chapter 3 adds over 100 monsters and NPCs to those already covered in the MM.
The book overall seems to be pretty sturdy, with little of the issues seen in the early printings of the core rulebooks so far. I purchased the variant cover (it was the only type my FLGS had!), and it's quite nice. I can only hope that this experiment was a success and we'll see future variant covers for this type of book. It has 224 pages in total, which is slightly less than typical 256 pages for the hardcover adventures for the same price; however, it definitely has far more re-usability and utility than they do, so the difference isn't that bad, all told (and definitely well above the page per dollar ratio that the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide had!). The art is definitely up to Fifth Editions excellent standards, with the two large pieces in the gnoll section being particularly outstanding in my opinion. There are a few recycled pieces here and there, but they are by far the exception rather than the rule.
While the book at first glance seems to be a report by Volothamp Geddarm on the various monsters of D&D (with interruptions and corrections by Elminster the sage), in reality only the introduction is written in that manner. Volo's and Elminster's voices are heard through the use of frequent side notes commenting on the text, but the text itself is written in typical rulebook style. Those worried that the book itself would be highly Forgotten Realms oriented can rest assured that the mentions of the setting are few and far between, some with suggestions on how to adapt those parts to other settings, and all other cases being as easy as just some name changes. And it's not just the Realms that get some love - Spelljamming is indirectly (but fairly obviously) alluded to in the mind flayer and neogi sections, while the froghemoth and vegepygmy entries reference the classic Greyhawk module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.
Chapter 1 covers nine different classic D&D monster types: Beholders, giants, gnolls, goblinoids, hags, kobolds, mind flayers, orcs, and yuan-ti. The introduction to the chapter immediately addresses the "why these and not others" question by stating that they plan on this being just the first of many such books, with those covering dragons and other popular monsters to follow (presumably if this is a success, which hopefully it will be!). As a player who cut his gaming teeth when 2e was brand new, a lot of the stuff in the chapter did simply rehash a lot of old lore from previous editions, although there is still plenty of new and surprising information in it (moreover, to those new to the game, this is all brand new to them after all!). By far the most interesting and original section was the one covering hags, who have received little lore love over the history of the game. To state it bluntly, it was pretty amazing. I now cannot wait to throw some hags at my characters, and, from what I have read, I'm far from alone in this now, and it bodes well for this edition if the creative team can turn neglected, run-of-the-mill monsters into something everyone wants to use! (I do have one minor niggle with the hag section though, which I'll get to later). Beyond hags, I was most impressed by the goblinoid section, since they have rarely been described as a total society before, with the places and relationships among the three races in their hierarchy fully explored. I was also pleased to see the entire goblinoid pantheon described in full, as the past few editions have simply reduced the goblinoid gods to Maglubiyet alone. The other sections were more of a distillation of lore from previous editions, although, again each section had some new information. Most notable here is that beholders apparently reproduce simply by dreaming up their offspring, instead of a more normal birthing process (if vomiting up one's children through one's mouth could be considered "normal"!). The discrepancy could be chalked up to the fact that studying beholder reproduction would be a highly esoteric line of investigation, which was likely fatal to many of its practitioners, so there would be little in the way of actual hard facts on the matter. Finally, nearly all the creature types covered in this chapter are given maps for typical lairs or settlements, which can easily be dropped, or adapted, into just about any game.
Chapter 2 covers several new optional character races for players. In addition to the bugbear, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, orc, and yuan-ti pureblood races described in detail in Chapter 1, this chapter also gives details on how to create characters for seven other races: Aasimar, firbolgs, goliaths, kenku, lizardfolk, tabaxi (cat folk), and tritons. This is going to be a popular chapter for players, and perhaps a bit of a headache for DMs, since requests for monstrous PCs will soon be coming in large quantities (if my own players are anything to go by!). All the races are presented in an interesting way, with useful powers, bonuses, and abilities. I've already had players come up with ideas for aasimar, firbolgs, tabaxi, and kobolds, which goes to show just how intriguing this section will be for players. Most of the races are well balanced, although some may be disappointed that the firbolg isn't Large-sized like it had been in previous editions. Two of the races presented, orcs and kobolds, actually receive penalties to ability scores during character creation (Intelligence and Strength, respectively); this is a pretty controversial first for this edition. When it comes to the kobolds getting a Strength penalty, I don't see much of an issue as their other powers more than make up for it. Orcs losing Intelligence is somewhat worse since their suite of abilities is a bit weaker, but unless you had your heart set on playing an orc wizard, it's not going to have too much affect (and even then, Fifth Edition is much more forgiving when it comes to ability scores anyway).
Chapter 3 covers more than 100 monsters, some variants discussed in Chapter 1, or entirely new monsters being updated to the new edition after being left out of the MM. Starting with those which are simply new variants, for the most part I was very pleased with them. The gnoll, hobgoblin, kobold, and orc, variants all fill empty niches and would allow a DM to create interesting, vibrant communities for their players to come and (most likely) wreck. I'm already planning a low-level kobold complex using all the variants (a sorcerer leader with a dragonshield bodyguard, another dragonshield leading a squad of inventors to make the characters' lives unpleasant, and so on). The updated flind is particularly noteworthy (and nasty!). I also like the mind flayer and yuan-ti variants, which updated important monsters from previous editions while, in the case of the yuan-ti, creating some new interesting types. However, in their cases, I have a minor niggle with the CRs of the Elder Brain and Yuan-ti Anathema; both should be at least a few CRs higher into the 15+ range in my opinion, in order to create some real epic threats in their respective settlements. I liked the beholder variants listed (very happy to see the gauth especially), but I do wish the eye of the deep had been updated as well. It's not like the book was trying to avoid aquatic creatures (there are quite a few in Chapter 3 actually), and they were in the original First Edition Monster Manual after all. I'm sure if the new beholder method of reproduction had been an issue, they could have come up with a way it came about (a beholder in a sea cave lair dreaming about drowning or something similar). As for other monsters, I'm a bit less pleased with the giant and hag variants, not for what is there, as the types in Chapter 3 are all excellent and definitely usable in play, but due to the fact that "leader" types weren't featured and statted out. The giant variants are all interesting, but, other than rare occurrences for the frost giant variant, they can't serve as leaders for groups or settlements (and for any thinking "Well, use the leaders from Storm King's Thunder, only the cloud giant leader in that book has a higher CR than the base type; all the rest of the leaders are just the base type with more hit points and a minor additional feature or two). As for the hags, Chapter 1 kept talking about advanced "grandmother" hag types more powerful than the base type, but, other than giving them some lair actions, it didn't go into further detail what those powers were and just how more powerful (i.e. what CR) they made these advanced hags. As for goblin variants, there is only the rather esoteric (but fun!) nilbog and a few suggestions in Chapter 1 for using the NPC blocks for variants. And finally, as for bugbears, well, they unfortunately didn't get a variant, so you'll just have to use modified NPC stat blocks.
As for the monsters in Chapter 3 which are totally new updates, I do have to say that the vast majority of them were excellent choices. I was truly pleased to see all the dinosaur niches missing from the MM were completely filled by entries in this book. A good amount of fey creatures were also updated, including my favorite, the quickling, which filled a fairly large gap in the MM. Lots of old favorites like the catoblepas and leucrotta that were unfortunately missing from the MM are all here. The morkoth was updated from a rather ho-hum undersea monster to something rather terrifying (although I'm not to sure about their new planar-traveling islands lore). Conversely, one of the few demons in the book, the babau, is missing one of its iconic features (its acidic slime) for no discernible reason (although it wouldn't be excessively hard to home brew it back). Honestly, just about the only monster in the section that I would rather have not seen were the grungs; while cute and interesting, they don't fulfill that "classic monster" mystique that virtually all the others in the chapter do. There are a few notable omissions that would have worked well with the monsters featured in the book - gibberlings aren't updated although they could be re-cast as gnoll underlings in a war band, and some other evil fey (like the spriggan or sirine) could have been used, like the other evil fey in the book, as minions for various types of hags. But then again, these omissions, as well as others (such as gem dragons and celestials), will likely see updates in future books of this type.
Chapter 3 is followed by several appendices, detailing a few beasts (mainly bovines, but also updating rot grubs for the edition) and a whole bunch of useful NPC types for DMs to add to their campaigns. Finally, there are charts listing the monsters covered in the book by CR and type.
So, in conclusion, Volo's Guide to Monsters is an excellent addition to the Fifth Edition line up. If you're interested in monsters, or in playing one, you should definitely pick up this book. Its few flaws are definitely more than made up for in all the quality contained within it!
Volo's Guide to Monsters is going to be a regular on my table, and I'll be plucking out nasties and their stories to creep out my friends for a long time. I love the marriage of narrative and mechanical information. It's easy to ignore if you just want to have new stat blocks, but it's hard not to get sucked in and read all of it. Full review at Destructoid.com.
Volo’s Guide to Monsters is one seriously cool book, but is it another Monster Manual, a sourcebook, or something else entirely? Answer? All of the above. Yes, it’s a new Monster Manual. Yes, it’s a sourcebook. That plus some other stuff and all mixed together makes it something else entirely. In some ways, it’s 5th Edition’s Fiend Folio yet also so much more. Full review at ShanePlays.com.
2016 saw the release of two monster books: Kobold Press's Tome of Beasts and Volo's Guide to Monsters. Both are excellent, and both are worth buying. Tome is a giant book of stat blocks, while Volo's splits its page count between lore, playable races, and monsters. Personally, I prefer Volo's, because it adds depth to some of D&D's most iconic monsters: kobolds, goblins, orcs, etc. It's a DM's gold-mine. Highly recommended.
This is one of my favorite 5th edition books and should be useful for more games out there than the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (2015). I’ve already used lore (gnolls) and addition monsters (gnolls, NPC Blackguard) in my current game, and the content is really helpful when prepping for an encounter. Full review at Tribality.com.
Excellent product from WoTC to increase the number of monsters as well as give more story ideas for many of the core monsters. Include the new playable races and the top notch art and layout makes it a "must buy" in my book!
[FONT="]Volo’s Guide to Monsters provides a deeper look for continuing D&D players – a deeper roster for the DM, a deeper insight into common foes, and a deeper selection pool for players who want to go beyond the (admittedly already expansive) character options from the PHB. I wish there was a little more time spent on the new PC races, which will not be nearly as familiar to players as the PHB standbys, but I get that there’s only so much page count to go around. [/FONT][FONT="]Volo’s Guide provides some nice extra flavor for common monsters, as well as additional options, making it a worthy addition for a D&D 5E campaign.[/FONT]
I love the mix of Monster Lore, Character Races, and Bestiary. Sure, players may buy the book for the character races and that will give them access to the bestiary, but they can buy and read the Monster Manual as well and there is nothing you can do about it. Selling books that both players and DMs will want is good business sense.
I really enjoy VGtM. It made for a nice read and it contained some great monsters and lore (especially Hags). It is worth the $50 but it is a steal at the Amazon price (currently about $30). I am already planning on using the variant Hobgoblins from it along with the Hobgoblins from the MM to create an add-on to LMoP.
I picked this up a few weeks ago looking for story fluff connected to iconic monsters, in hopes of finding some inspiration for future stories. The book's perfect for it, and the writers did a brilliant job of connecting that fluff to the mechanics that define the various iconics in the first section of the book. If you want to find new, awful ways to unleash gnolls on civilization, almost akin to a zombie plague, this book will get you ready. The section of PC races was okay, but probably not something I'll use a lot. Still, it was well-written and interesting. The final section, of new or new to 5e monsters, was great, adding more beasties to the collection I already have. And the Trapper made its returned! I turned that page and smiled wide at that.
If you're a DM looking for ideas to vary 'stock' monsters, this book will help a lot. If you're looking for new monsters and races, this book will do the job.
I'm forced to eat my words with this review somewhat, since I initially maligned Volo's during its release for its choice to split the book into 3 sections, two of which I had significant doubts about in regards to quality and usefulness. Some of these were a happy surprise with how well done they were, while sadly some of my initial predictions did come to pass.
- Artwork is amazing, as usual. Wizards has a good track record here and they continue to maintain it, with mind-flayers, hags, and yuan-ti looking as sharp as ever. Not much else to say here, I can't think of any art in the book that came off as sloppy or inaccurate.
-Some of the lore sections are really well done, such as the Hags, Yuan-ti, and Illithids. These entries expand upon existing lore and offer some much needed diversity in how these enemies can be presented.
-Monster design is great, with a lot more of the entries having unique or iconic effects translated into distinct abilities for that specific monster, rather than using filler spell-lists. We also get a lot of great variants within existing monsters, like some new illithid variants, beholder offshoots, and orc variations.
-fairly setting agnostic. While it does bear the title of Volo, this is not a product married to the realms or its lore, which is a plus for me. If you're a huge realms fanatic, this might be the opposite.
-in contrast to Pro #2, some of the other lore entries are pretty bland and uninteresting, with offerings like the kobold and goblinoids not offering anything new that wasn't already well known or alluded to in the basic MM.
-The section on races is pretty awful, to be honest. The ones that are pseudo-balanced still require DM oversight as they're pretty damn niche (Triton as a player race?), and more egregiously the section on playing the more monstrous humanoids straight up tells you they didn't bother balancing those options. To me this is like paying for a broken tool, because for me buying an official product should carry with it the assurance that the designers used their industry experience and skill to offer something better than the homebrew options floating around long before Volo's was announced, and that just isn't the case here. As a player resource I find this book severely lacking.
-Price. The only reason I'm giving this product a 4 star rating is due to the fact that I got it 50% off, which I feel is a reasonable price for it. At 50$ this would likely sink to 3 or even 2 stars, potentially.
In summary, there's a lot to like about Volo's, but intentional design has left some parts feeling like too little butter spread over too much bread. There's some real progress in monster design though, and there are some admittedly great additions to existing lore that I underestimated before getting my hands on it, despite other elements confirming my initial fears. If you can pick it up on a sale then I'd do so.
Great book for actual 5E gamers. The overview of the monsters was interesting and full of ideas. The new player races are great. However, I am still wondering how the Tritans can see in the depths without Darkvision. And the new monster entries are great. I just hope new products will actually use some of them. Overall, worth getting even if you are budgeting your 5E purchases. Worth the money.
Besides an extra way to play as a few monsters, it gives you more monsters , descriptions and other things to spice things up, and its explained differently, but still in a dnd manner. its an exellent addition to sword coast.