What Do I Know About Reviews? My Dad’s Monster Manual (Dungeon Masters Guild Product)

My Dad's Monster Manual Cover ImageThe product we’re looking at today has a pretty unique origin. James Introcaso decided to show the illustration of monsters from the D&D 5e Monster Manual to his father, and ask him the following questions:

  • What is this creature’s name?
  • What can this creature do?
  • What is this creature’s story?

From those questions, James and Lucian Introcaso and Hannah Rose reverse engineered about 80 different stat blocks for new D&D 5e monsters.

The product we’re looking at today is My Dad’s Monster Manual, and it is a Dungeon Masters Guild product.

Full disclaimer: I received a copy of this product for review, although I was following the product in development on James’ blog before I was offered the copy. 

Paternal Bestiary

While this product will be available as a print on demand product, this review is based on the PDF version of the product. The PDF is 88 pages long. This includes three pages of appendices that list the monsters included by CR and creature type. There is an index of stat blocks that takes up one page, and another page that lists the original monsters and the new monster derived from the artwork.

In addition to the above, there is a credits and legal page, as well as an introduction. The formatting of the book is extremely similar to the Monster Manual, and includes the original artwork that was used for the above mentioned questions.

Practical Matters

Before we look at the tone and tenor of the monsters in this book, let’s take a look at how the monsters break down, in case you are looking for exactly the right monster to use at different levels or for different stories.

Challenge Ratings

The breakdown of monsters by CR looks a little like this:

  • CR 0–3
  • CR ⅛–5
  • CR ¼–1
  • CR 1–10
  • CR 2–10
  • CR 3–7
  • CR 4–5
  • CR 5–7
  • CR 6–4
  • CR 7–2
  • CR 8–5
  • CR 9–3
  • CR 10–3
  • CR 11–3
  • CR 12–2
  • CR 13–2
  • CR 14, 16, 17, 22, 26, and 30–1

The breakdown of creature types falls in this range:

  • Aberration–13
  • Beast–2
  • Celestial–3
  • Construct–6
  • Dragon–5
  • Elemental–6
  • Fey–5
  • Fiend–7
  • Giant–3
  • Humanoid–6
  • Monstrosity–19
  • Plant–4
  • Undead–1

The upper end of the challenge ratings represent creatures like powerful fey sages, archdevils, and mountain sized elemental creatures. I was a little surprised at how few undead show up in this volume, but in the introduction, James mentions that any monster that his father detailed as having lore too similar to what the monster is, as defined by D&D, wasn’t included, so I imagine this weeded out a lot of undead creatures.

Tone and Tenor

I was looking forward to this project, but I was definitely assuming that much of this work would lean towards the humorous. I was actually a bit surprised at how many of these monsters I immediately started developing hooks to include in campaigns and adventures.

There are definitely some monsters that, as presented, are leaning heavily on the comedic. For example, the Hook Horror alternate, the Leghorn, named for a resemblance to a certain cartoon character. But for monsters like that, which will be suited for very specific moments in a campaign, there are rogue archdevils attempting to forge a new layer of hell, astral worms that tunnel between realities, devils banished forever to the Prime Material plane, cursed tree stumps that can cause horrific wounds that can’t be healed with magic, and reclusive fey creatures.

As I was reading through the entries, I was thinking about how I would present these in a game. In some ways, this got me thinking about the old Google translate run multiple directions memes that appear on the internet. What I mean by this is that some creatures in D&D have such an iconic appearance that for some players it’s going to be hard to separate that image from what the creature is. But by describing the base elements of the creature, as summarized in the monster entry, the details may not trigger the same response from players.

Some of the creatures can easily be used by the time honor tradition of D&D monsters that intentionally have similar appearances. Many creatures that have traditional demonic or angelic features are easy to flavor as something slightly different than what their artwork depicts. Given the number of “beholder alikes” that have appeared in many editions, it’s not too hard to envision a rolling tiny version that lives on asteroids. Spelljammer was totally a thing.

Some of these shifts work as classic D&D misdirection. For example, a creature that uses a treasure chest in a manner similar to a hermit crab is a great way to swap expectations for a player character assuming they are facing a mimic. Having a creature that looks like a displacer beast that is a fiend created from the soul of one of those creatures is a “wonderful” surprise to spring on a party expecting a living, “standard” displacer beast. 

There are some creatures that feel a bit too iconic to repurpose in a standard D&D campaign. It’s hard to describe a glabrezu or a nalfeshnee to a long term D&D player as anything but those monsters. On the other hand, if you are playing in a campaign that is expressly not assuming the D&D Monster Manual as standard, these are some great alternatives.

Personal Favorites

I have several monsters from this book that I want to incorporate into a game. I love the idea of swarms of tiny sapient insects that work as mercenaries. I would love to add the Cedlore Stump (the aforementioned biting stump monster who causes injuries immune to magical healing) into any kind of creepy forest setting like The Margreve or Barovia. A rogue archdevil forging a new hell is a great campaign story arc. Banished devils that live on the prime material plane open up so many story elements. I love the idea of riding a cosmic worm as the beginning of a plane hopping campaign. Chitinous minotaurs, fiendish displacer beasts, quickling ogres, tar spitting dragonkin, and kraken ensorcelled giants are all great additions to any D&D campaign.

Of special note: I would love to incorporate a weird, non-euclidean statue into a story, so I could spring an Orgon on the party. I don’t know how I would get a group into a position where they would fight a mountain sized elemental, but I want to figure it out. A fey creature that looks like an otyugh but can create illusory smells feels like something that could have come straight out of the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual II.

Non-Combat XP

This is such a brilliant concept, and it could have been played entirely for laughs. Instead, these are well built, well thought out stat blocks that are functional and evocative. There is so much that can be used in a D&D campaign that is going to enhance and expand the game, and is going to provide a ton of adventure hooks.

Grind

A few of the monsters, no matter how professionally framed, still feel a little too comedic to use in a wide variety of games. In addition, there are some great monsters that might have less versatility just because they are built on the frame of a monster so iconic that for many groups it will be hard to repurpose. 

Recommended–If the product fits in your broad area of gaming interests, you are likely to be happy with this purchase.

This is going to be a solid purchase for anyone looking for new monsters and new monster based story hooks, but even if you think you have “enough,” monsters, I think this product warrants a look just to examine the thought experiment that brought this product about.

In addition to the descriptions of the monsters, and the introduction that explains the process of creating the monsters, the individual notes that summarize Lucian’s ideas about the monster art are worth the price of admission.

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