Book Review: D&D: Volo’s Guide To Monsters
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D&D: Volo’s Guide To Monsters
Dungeons & Dragons
Wizards Of the Coast
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Cover Price: $49.95

There are two schools of thought when it comes to expansion books. The first sees extra non-core books as a waste of money or even as a ploy to get them to part with their hard-earned wages, whereas the second is more open-minded and is happy to utilize these extra tomes to enhance and elaborate on their adventures. I have forever been part of this second group, happy to have more text and knowledge to increase the entertainment value of my role-playing games. I presume if you are reading this then you also have an interest in expansion books, since that’s what Volo’s Guide to Monsters perfectly represents. Still curious? Good, I’ve got quite a bit to say about it!

To begin, let’s talk about the book itself. Hardbound with an amazing cover of a massive Frost Giant and a far less imposing adventurer, this release features over two hundred pages of game facts, stories, and statistics. Broken into six sections, this guide is easy to delve into and enables players and game masters alike to reference needed materials quickly and effortlessly. I would say that roughly half of Volo’s Guide to Monsters is dedicated to storytelling and information with the other half focused on the more technical aspects of tabletop role-playing. Allow me to briefly go through it, if you will.

The initial section is the first of three chapters and it’s dedicated to Monster Lore. Delving deeper into origin and psychology of the creatures than ever before, it far surpasses the Monster Manual in all ways. Covered in this nearly hundred pages are nine of the more commonly encountered beings: Beholders, Giants, Gnolls, Goblinoids, Hags, Kobolds, Mind Flayers (my person favorite), Orcs, and Yuan-ti. Each of these is then broken down into the various incarnations and features specific data that redefines what has previously been put forth. It might not humanize them, so to speak, but it certainly gives insight into why they act the way they do.

Next up is a far briefer chapter; it deals with Character Races and attempts to clarify some of the “more distinctive race options in the D&D multiverse.” As this section only dedicates one or two pages to these races, it is meant as an overview and is optionally available at the Dungeon Master’s discretion. Categories include Aasimar, Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, Trition, and several more. This is not to say these are the only character races available, but rather have been added to expand the limits of the game; which are, in actuality, almost limitless anyway. I find that the diversity gives it a certain uniqueness, provided everyone doesn’t choose a non-humanoid race since many of them are enemies and would be hard pressed to work together.

The final of the three chapters is the Bestiary. Set in the same format as the Monster Manual, it is essentially a continuation of that same core book. Adding nearly a hundred more creatures to the DM’s options, you may find that some the atypical encounters become far more entertaining with this added list. Set in alphabetic form, the Bestiary is a veritable fount of knowledge that will enhance your campaigns for years to come.

Rounding it all up are three appendices that span less than a score of pages but still contain a plethora of specifics that folks like me will just love. Assorted Beasts are going to be non-monstrous creatures, mainly mundane but perhaps occasionally not. Then we have Non-player Characters for when the game calls for a more generic individual or stereotype. And lastly, the Monster Lists which is in essence an index but also features some interesting sorting sections for when you need experience appropriate encounters, or if you’re building a new campaign and need to build it accordingly.

There are plenty of maps, stats, and data to satisfy the technical aspects and it’s balanced with stories that range from interesting to hilarious. The annotation from Elminster vies for attention alongside the tales from Volo himself. Needless to say, you won’t be bored while reading! I recommend this as the perfect addition to any D&D rulebook collection. It is definitely not a necessity but it could mean the difference between a boring game and an amazing campaign. D&D is first and foremost about telling a story. Sure, it’s an interactive story where the players influence the outcome but without a good backstory it might well be just another role-playing game. Let me assure you it’s not, as it was just announced that D&D is being inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame! So see, it’s not just a game, it’s a part of our history! Why hesitate, you know you want it! Now go get it!

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