I picked this one up to add to my understanding of D&D and combat in pen-and-paper RPGs in general. A base of knowledge about monsters, and mechanics and varieties; this is certainly the place for it.
There is SO much more to them than the capacity to inflict damage to a player's health. Indeed, death-in-battle is the least of an adventurer's worries when there are creatures that can convert them into monstrous thralls, use them as incubators for its young, or trap their souls. Imagining all these creatures inhabiting the same world gives one the idea that the adventurers live in a terribly dangerous place. Granted, not all of them are in the Material Plane, that is, the world most humans inhabit. Even so, they exist and can cross over to join the native horrors.
It makes me think that stories such as "Goblin Slayer" or "Berserk" have the right idea of things. An adventurer is just one or two bad die rolls away from a dreadful fate, and even a skilled and experienced one may not be equipped to face a particular foe. It would be easy to become a Killer-Game-Master, and not even deliberately. The kinds of monsters appropriate for new adventurers are obviously outnumbered by the ones that are not, and even the weak monsters can get lucky or overwhelm with numbers. How scary must it be, to live as a non-adventurer (a commoner farmer, for instance) in such a world?
It was a fun exercise, to look at the challenge level of each monster and work out what precisely went into that decision, and then compare it to other monsters. There's a particular plant monster, completely immobile and without a strength stat, that is a challenge level of 2 because of special abilities. This means it should be as tough as SIX goblins (challenge rating of 1/3 each). I didn't figure that out one. Then I came across a shadow-like monster with a higher rating, and a similar condition.
I was puzzled until I realized a few things: it can only do strength-stat damage, and at zero strength, the victim turns into the same sort of creature within the battle. Every character has a lot more HP than strength and a non-strength character would go down faster. I have a dwarf paladin at level 2 which has a strength stat of 15. Given initiative and maximized dice rolls, this shadow creature could kill him in as little as three turns. I thought "this is something I'll fight from a distance".
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Dungeons and Dragons' Monster Manual for 3.5 Edition" an A+
Click here for my previous book review (a request): Misaligned
I also reviewed another useful author aide, the Dungeon Master's Manual.
Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).