No edition of D&D would be complete without the infamous Monster Manual (MM). Held off reviewing this book since we test drove 4th edition yesterday, and to know the manual’s content would be unfair – you know how Dungeon Masters are so often disadvantaged *smirk*. Nothing spells doom and excitement like seeing is MM copy being opened by your DM as he begins to use spooky adjectives and asks for spot/listen/perception checks. You’re about to get what you came for: XP, loot, blood, GLORY! Failing all those, at least a heroic death.
Let’s begin. Aaracokras … are not included in this edition, neither are Aasimars. Despite the lack of weird bird people or angelic descendants there are many old favorites: all three brands of goblin, kobolds, carrion crawlers, owl bears, trolls, mind flayers, and an assortment of titular dragons – color-coded for your killing convenience. Swarms are mostly missing. There are stirge swarms, which is weirdly horrific because these sucky things are halfling size now. Each stat set is described in a tight little block of data including name, defenses, XP and some new entries.
Role we’ve discussed in reference to player characters (PC), well it rightfully applies to monsters as well. Brutes are your traditional tanks, while lurkers skulk in the shadows to jump out and jack up unwary heroes. Most to the other descriptors are simply renamed equivalents of defenders, leaders, and strikers on the home team. I like these labels being used to classify as that easily tells a DM how to use a monster. A young white dragon being a solo brute means his nest mates won’t be hanging around – sibling rivalry is animosity for them anyway. A Fey grove Choker – a lurker – sitting in a single tree on a flat plain at high noon isn’t lurking shit, plus one tree does not a grove make.
Besides healing surges and various themed powers, which monsters have too, some abilities have a recharge time determining when some bit of nasty can be used again to harm. A picture shows a dice face that indicates what on a six-sider must be rolled at the beginning of their turn to be able to use the ability again. Some of these powers have multiple faces, giving you multiples of 16% chance to re0gift the pain. On a roll of 5 or 6, one in three chance, the Tarrasque can use either its Rending Bite or Tail Slap if used before. The good news: you’ve got a two in three chance of not needing to worry about these in a given round while whittling through it’s one thousand four hundred and twenty hit points – if you do, suck it up cause this is what epic level is all about “hero“.
Unlike the DMG, the manual gives very little filler. A paragraph of their home terrain and general nature, a blurb on their tactics, and a nice illustration showing the variety of them is all you get besides the hard stats of hellaciousness. Besides horses, there isn’t a single normal animal in the book – a bestiary this is not. Turn to boar and you find the weakest version is a level 6 Dire Boar next to it’s level 15 Thunderfury cousin. Bats come only in shadow hunter or Fire varieties. Beetles are never smaller than a dog. Dog’s aren’t mentioned because the beetles ate’em.
More bang for your buck is also given in the form of encounter scaling. Only the solo creatures feature a single enemy. Kobold and other group dwelling menaces feature several examples with interlock functions based on role showing a bit of their society. Their level 1 minions are a hit point each, but give bonuses for attacking in mobs and flanking threats. Skirmishers hide behind the minions and stab at you with extra damage when they have advantage and better accuracy the more minions are around you. Slingers stay back and target foes with special effect weapons, while the Dragonshields being the knights of Koboldom level more hurt in the front line. Wyrm priests lowering the magical boom from distance and serve as leaders for the total forces. A level 4 Slyblade can hide amongst minion and deal debilitating damage while using its brethren for shields. KOBOLD NINJAS !?!?!11
Entries also include encounter groups that give you a group of the featured monsters organized by level and XP yield to save you time. Some of these pay no mind to the components used though. Stirge swarms and Flesh Golems? Wouldn’t the little suckers drain their Frankenstein?
All in all this book is definitely core and purchase worthy. In a week, we’ll have for you our first Dominion Cast discussing Fourth Edition amongst high Dominions such as Hunin, Nicole, your Dominus and others plus actual play of our first foray in the new world.
Thank you for enduring this week of focus-featured dorkdom to you cool kids. To our Dominion dorks, you’re welcome.