A Look At The New 3.5 Monster's Manual


Have you ever been DM'ing a 3rd edition campaign and thought you had this really great challenge in store for your players (after all they are 4th level and it is a CR 7)? Then low and behold they defeat it in one round? You are not alone.

Have you ever been DM'ing a 3rd edition campaign and thought you had this really great challenge in store for your players (after all they are 4th level and it is a CR 7)? Then low and behold they defeat it in one round? You are not alone.

Almost everyone I know has had the exact same thing happen to them, usually more than once. This tells me there is probably something wrong with the Challenge Ratings. And if I may be so bold as to say I was right.

I just got through reviewing the 3.5 Monsters Manual, and this is one of the many changes to the core rulebook III. In my opinion it's the best possible change in the game itself.

All of the challenge ratings have been revised to reflect either a higher or lower challenge to the players. So maybe now we as DM's can pick a random CR 10 monster for our 8th level gamers and they won't slaughter it in thirty seconds.

Of course one of the best ways to solve this problem is to create a monster using one of the many templates in the Monsters Manual. These have been redone as well to make creating your half ettin/half blue dragon a little less complicated.

I have found using the template serves many purposes, not only for challenges, but to stir things up and not resort to using the same monsters over and over again. Plus, the players always find it fun to meet new encounters. There are quite of few new templates in 3.5, and the older ones are a lot easier to understand now. A few of the templates are half-celestials, half-dragons, and ghosts.

Also new to the 3.5 system is a description listed under each monster you can use to describe to your players, which can definitely come in handy instead of saying, "You see a small. . . green. . . dirty. . . thing," to describe every goblin you see. Of course even the description given to you in the book can become stagnant after you use it twenty times to describe every orc the players face, but it definitely works in a pinch and is better than nothing.

The greatest disappointment is there are very few new monsters in the new rulebook. I emphasize few, because from what I saw there were no more than three to five added monsters.

One of the new additions to the monster's gallery is one called the INEVITABLE. Actually there are three types, and they are used to hunt down and kill those who violate the natural laws of the universe.

Each one serves a different purpose. One hunts those who unnaturally prolong life, i.e. wish spells, deck of many things, etc. The second hunts those who have escaped prosecution, execution, or both. And finally the third is used to punish those who back out of deals or break agreements. So as you can see, these can be very valuable to a dungeon master in dealing with quite a few situations. And you can always make up your own Inevitable to deal with other circumstances.

There is also an added monster class, called the Guardinal. Much like the inevitable, they are good-aligned (which were lacking in the 3rd edition book). However, these creatures hunt ALL evil. Once again a great tool for evil player campaigns.

Some monster additions also come in the form of the mummy lord, which is a higher level mummy who has added special abilities, and can also cast cleric spells. There are swarms, which are pretty self-explanatory, but come in the form of everything from locusts, to rats, to hellwasps.

One of the new evil monsters go by the names of Githyanki and the Githzerai. Both are CR1's, but they give you something new to add to low level campaigns. They both hail from the astral plane, and are very seasoned combatants. The Githyanki are more fighter aligned type, and the Githzerai are more like monks. As I mentioned before, they give low levels new spice instead of goblinoids and orcs over and over again.

The final two new creatures I found are the Eladrin and the Archon, once again extra-planar fighters of good and justice. I won't go into total detail due to having already done so with two similar types of monsters.

Of course, I can not leave out the artwork. Many of the monsters' pictures have been redrawn, repainted, etc. All of these edits look great and are a good breath of fresh air. But the greatest thing in the art department is that ALL the monsters have their own artwork. Allow me to explain. Have you ever been trying to pick out an interesting demon, gone to find the picture, and it didn't have one? Well, problem solved. You will find illustrations of every demon, devil, and celestial; werebeast. . . I could go on forever. And for the grand finale. . . (drum roll). . . all of these illustrations have a caption depicting the monster's name underneath the illustration of the particular creature. So no more predicting or guessing which demon is which. . . or having to stop and read the monster description to determine if it's the picture of the monster you are wanting to use. I for one had the Ravid and the Remorhaz confused for a long time. But that is beside the point.

As within the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide there is a very detailed glossary in the back of the Monster Manual.

All in all, the New Monster's Manual is very DM friendly and a very good buy for those who found the old MM kind of lacking. I personally find all the changes very welcome, and cannot wait to use this and the other two new core rulebooks in my new campaign. For all you Dungeons & Dragons fans out there, the new change is very exciting, even though it is an expensive change. As for all of the gamers out there who despise D&D I apologize for my very one-sided article.

I hope some of you found this article informative as to what you want to shell out thirty bucks for, but don't know if it's worth it. In my opinion. . . it is.

At least he acknowledged the people who don't like D&D.

I actually really appreciate that. No sarcasm, seriously.

Not having seen the book yet I didnt know about the new artwork. This befs the question has the picture of the invisible stalker returned to its former greatness?

No apologies necessary, ALD. Nice article.

I'd heard about the CR changes, and I'm glad to hear that you think they're appropriate. Has anyone else here playtested these new CRs against PCs?

It's neat to hear that the followers of Gith have migrated from the original AD&D Fiend Folio to d20!

Umm... since when have archons and eladrins not been in the Monster Manual? I found them under Celestial. That's where most of the good-aligned creatures are listed.

But anyway, I liked the article, and I'm excited about the changes that have been made.

I'll have to see if I can't take a look at this...I've been working with a cobbled together mix of 3.5 and 3.0 in my last campaign, and in some cases the way the monsters interact with the players is just...bizzare. I have had my group of lil' level 7s completely maul encounters that should have been appropriate for them, and I've watched them triump easily over encounters that should have been a nasty challenge. I'll definitely make a point of checking this out to see if it can help me give them a real shock again.

maybe the reason the challenges arent even in some campaigns in your games is due to magic item imbalance. i have a level 1 yuan ti (ECL 13) with only the gloves of man (so he can use weapons beside 2 bite attacks), and anyone else in the parts (averages out to about ECL 12) can beat him up. twice over. sideways. of course, the lowest weapon they have is something like a +3 flaming greatsword, and armor is equally powerful.

You forgot to mention that skeletons and zombies (and probably other things, but those are the only two I checked) are templates now. They have 9 premade templates, so you don't have to spend forever to just throw a skeleton in. Also, skeletons with 20 or more hit dice can't be raised by animate dead, so no raising Terrasque/Hellfire Wyrms/Deities as your personal servants. Instead of half slashing/peircing damage if you don't already know, skeletons get 5/bludgeoning. Makes them a real challange for lower players that lack clubs.

Oh yeah, new Nymph picture.

'One of the new additions to the monster's gallery is one called the INEVITABLE. Actually there are three types, and they are used to hunt down and kill those who violate the natural laws of the universe.'

An ancient idea. Their real names of course, are Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megaera. And they are the three furies!


Well, Aquasha, the Celestial entry was broken down into Eladrins (Chaotic), Guardinals (Neutral), Archons (Lawful) and Angels, the high level celestials like Solars which can be any alignment. A new Eladrin was added, and the Leonal Guardinal was imported from the MotP (as were the Inevitables).

ALD also didn't mention the addition of several brand new monster-feats, such as Awesome Blow, which allows a Large monster to hurl opponents with his slam attack! A much better version of Large and In Charge, basically. All in all, the 3.5 MM is a great value, like ALD said! I personally love all the updated books, even the DMG.

In regards to oddly easy encounters, part of that relies on knowing your party. If you have four clerics, encounters with undead will probably go very easy, but they won't be as well equipped to fight a T-Rex as a druid would have been. Hoards of small enemies will be easily taken out by magic, but will overwhelm a rogue's sneak attacks. Sometimes, due to the group's unique weaknesses, a relatively easy encounter can turn into a killer! This doesn't excuse the formerly lousy CR system, of course, but it does account for some of the 'easy kills'.

And let's not forget that the DM has the final word on how many XP's get handed over to the PC's. I mean, some encounters designed to exploit the weaknesses of the party should get higher CR's just as some monsters synergize to such extent as to boost each other's CR.

Examples: A red dragon and a bunch of iron golems make for a killer combo. As the golems pound the players hand to hand, the dragon does straffing runs with his breath weapon that not only hurts the heroes but heals the golems.

Fighting a troll in a cave that has 3 feet of water in it make it almost impossible to burn the troll once it's down.

All that being said, the whole of 3.5 is a definite improvement on 3rd edition, expecially challenge ratings which I had stopped using to evaluate the threat monsters represented (until now).

Finally got a chance to look at the thing, and I think that the quick scan missed a few new monsters. It looks like a lot of things that were added were upgraded versions of more familiar types, giving you a bit of extra bite with lower level creatures. From what I remember, the Wraith, Mummy, Hellhound, Vampire, Lyncanthrope, and Shadow all got upgraded versions. Two other really handy features were the listing of the creature's base attack and the character level adjustment if you want to use the creature as an NPC or such. Really handy, especially since I just added a Hill Giant NPC to the party. He's not doing much, but it's a blast to play the dimness of him.

In regards to the problem of parties slamming through CR's, sometimes they do have legitimate advantages that raise them up. I've got a party of 8th levelers, and the biggest magical item they have is a single longsword +2. But when you put a half-orc with 20 strength behind even a minor item, they can become veritable wrecking machines. It is indeed possible to play to the party's weaknesses (Lack of magic in this one, now that the mage is taking a vacation) but there are difficulties in doing that all the time, especially when using less intelligent enemies. As the DM we ARE out to get them, but constantly throwing enemies that they are weak against nulifies some of their character design and can be pretty frustrating. Occasionally I think that you have to have an enemy try to fight fire with fire and get burned to reinforce the players' macho feelings.

My latest section of the campaign is going to be where I get cut-throat, since I know that many of us DM folks tend to be a bit gentler than we should be. The mastermind of this particular plot is a vampire with 14 levels in wizard, specialized in necromancy. Should come as a nasty problem to the barbarian, fighter, and thief.

Just a thought but are the gith variations on pages 147-149 of the psionics handbook? Most of the new monsters aren't they are now just in the MM for a change. Any idea when they will get around to 3.5ing the psihb?

I am, as well, one of those DMs who had given up using the CRs for handing out experience. When I had a party of 16th level characters tromp through CR18 demons only to get their asses kicked royaly by Firbolgs (CR12). I have not looked at any of the new 3.5 stuff yet but I plan to pick them up sometime. For XP I now just aproximate CRs or ELs or whatever you want to call them, based on how tough a time the group had. I probably still will do that but it will be easier to gauge what will be an approprieate challenge ahead of time, for which I do look at CRs.

I've lookes through all the 3.5 rulebooks, and am quite impressed. No one, however, has mentions that some of the monsters have instructions on how to use them, for those DMs like me who are idiots. I'm planning on getting the 3.5 MM, and I migth actually be able to make something that can kill this one annoying half-celestial paladin in my campaign...gotta love templates.


Actually what I like best is how they broke down everyhing. So there is no question now what the monster's "flat footed touch armour class" is.

You now know how much a monster can put into power attack or expertise, without having to guess at it.

The templates are ok, as long as one doesn't overdo it like the "gelatinous bear" or the "symbiotic bugbear-stirge" in savage species.

WHAT POSSESSED YOU TO ALLOW A HALF-CELESTIAL PALADIN??? As if an aasimar wasn't powerfull enough. I do hope you've ajusted the ECL of that character (that is the template counts as actual levels when it comes to count XP's). Please tell me you did so.

He's the only PC, and I keep throwing the most powerful stuff I can at him, hoping he'll die this time. And yes, I adjusted his ECR. I'm not stupid...wait...no...I am. Just not that stupid. Besides, it's amusing seing what he'll do next...

I have been really using templates here lately to create new monsters in my spare time, and I found one that is a great challenge. I used a troll as the base creature and used the half-dragon template to make it a half red dragon, so it is immune to fire. Then I gave it about 10 levels in fighter to pack even more punch, plus a few magical items, especially some that give it acid resistance, and voila, I have a new baddie that will be very hard to kill, while also supplying the PC's with something new that they don't see all the time.
Sorry for the rant, but thought someone else may like to use this idea.
Thank you all for the great comments.

A fiendish troll is a good one, too. I knew a guy who applied the ghost template to a T-Rex...weird but nasty.

That's weird. A gohst Tyrannosaurus. But oddly disturbing. I like it.

Funnily enough my DM sent at us an invisible t-rex with an invisible lizardman assassin. Damn thing took out half the party.

What really was odd was when we faught the huge spider. apparently a challenge rating lower than us, it took out two heavy fighters, a monk, a druid and a druid/wizard easier than pie. *shakes head*

The Warbeast template is the most useful template ever when creating steeds for characters. You want a riding spider, just call it a warspider, alter its stats, and there you go. You want to have orcs ride boars? Just call it a warboar, alter its stats, and bingo! It's boo-shank!

Sam said:
"WHAT POSSESSED YOU TO ALLOW A HALF-CELESTIAL PALADIN??? As if an aasimar wasn't powerfull enough. I do hope you've ajusted the ECL of that character (that is the template counts as actual levels when it comes to count XP's). Please tell me you did so."

It was agame based in the Diablo world, I was not using any of the severe crap Diablo books however, so a half celestial kinda fit, and he wanted to play a paladin so I said go for it. The template in the book, 3.0 not 3.5, said it was +2 level. This turned out to be servely unbalancing so the player and I both agreed to up it so the template was played as a +5 level and everyone was happy. Magnus kick ALOT of ass though, he was awesome.

I liked the 3.5 MM better, now that I have downloaded and read it. My only beef is that the templates are not grouped together in a handly, little 'Templates' section. Other than that I am glad I spent the time to get the book.

Mark said:
"What really was odd was when we faught the huge spider. apparently a challenge rating lower than us, it took out two heavy fighters, a monk, a druid and a druid/wizard easier than pie. *shakes head*"

I had this experience with an Umber Hulk when I first started playing 3rd Ed. I really kicked our collective asses. We just kep saying things like "Umber Hulks aren't supposed to be that tough."

With this war beast idea, what about a ghost pirate on a rather large fish? Or maybe a zombie whale as his steed?

Just an evil thought from the head of the inane me.

Yo there Gamers, Ecl's and LA's (Effective Character Levels, and Level Adjustments) Are added together in our campaigns, as many of us wan't to play those monstrous creatures, Dare any of you try to take on my Barbarian/ Fighter Ogre???
On the note of Power Gamers, I hate you guys!! no seriously! I think perhaps you should attempt to Role-play, rather than Roll-play, I can't imagine not building a character from base level, with all the history and hilarity that ensues...aww don't worry guys I don't really hate you, but I do think you are missing out on the true fun and excitement of the game, and roleplay in general! Characters should be more than a bunch of number crunched statistics for the game to entertain! well there are my thoughts, I also love the fact that each mention in the MM has an illustration alongside.
Well May the dungeons be full of terror inspiring creatures evermore
M.A.D. Hills