Review of Volo’s Guide to Monsters

I was lucky enough to purchase a copy of WOTC’s Volo’s Guide to Monsters today and I figured I would give it a quick review in case you are contemplating purchasing it. I will also provide a little meat for those chomping at the bit to get the book.


For starters it is 224 pages of amazing material and artwork. Some stuff we have seen before in other material releases and sneak peeks (the Goliath, the Firbolg, etc…), but the majority of it is new stuff, and this DM likes it.

If you are expecting a Monster Manual Part 2, this is not quite it. This is a combination of a Monster Manual and a lore book. A handful of classic D&D monsters get an in-depth lore expansion with history, new subspecies or monster kin, variant abilities, monster traits and flaws, treasure habits, lair maps, and battle tactics. The monsters that get this special treatment are:

  • Beholders
  • Giants
  • Gnolls
  • Goblinoids
  • Hags
  • Kobolds
  • Mind Flayers
  • Orcs
  • Yuan-ti

This is 80 plus pages of amazing content and I really hope they keep their promise made on page 5 about expanding this to other classic D&D Monsters: “We hope to tackle other monsters in other products over time.” This expansion of lore is going to make running these monsters, as a DM, so much easier and more exciting. After reading the Beholder section, you start to think like a beholder. Instead of just a block of stats and some guidelines, each section teaches you how to make the most of the adversary and how to make it a memorable encounter.

After the Lore Section there are several new character and monster races to play:

  • Aasimar
  • Firbolg
  • Goliath
  • Kenku
  • Lizardfolk
  • Tabaxi
  • Triton
  • Bugbear
  • Goblin
  • Hobgoblin
  • Kobold
  • Orcs
  • Yuan-ti

Some of these new races also introduce Quirks and Obsessions which are a new addition, similar to flaws and traits which add depth to portraying their character. To paraphrase one quirk: You always pocket interesting objects you come across. Anybody smell a Kender around here? These look like to be a lot of fun around the table.

All of these races and monsters look appealing to play. I am a little disappointed that there are no rules yet for were-characters. I would have loved to see some pure-blood lycanthrope rules, but maybe that will be in another publication.

After the playable races, the book dives into new monsters. There are about 100 of them; most of these are monsters from older D&D publications updated for 5e. All of the artwork for the monsters is fantastic and they have pretty much stuck with the one page per monster layout that I love. There are a few exceptions with variant creature types, but most stick to the format. Challenge ratings in this book run from 0 (cranium rat) to 22 (mind flayer lich)

After the monsters, there are some really great NPC class stat blocks. Wizards are finally broken down into their respective school which is awesome for flavoring mages differently, as are warlocks and their patrons.

WOTC got the appendix right this time and holy crap it is awesome. Creatures are sorted by TYPE, CHALLENGE RATING, and ENVIRONMENT. You heard me, environment is back and DMs all over are going to love being able to create encounters with these tables. I would love to see the Monster Manual be reprinted with this added.

The disclaimer is hilarious, as usual.

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.

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