Review: Prepare Yourself for the Dangers of The Realms With Volo’s Guide To Monsters

The Forgotten Realms are a dangerous and mysterious place. Filled with all manner of men and beasts both magical and nightmarish. What crazed lunatic would dare venture into the darkest and most obscure corners of Faerûn and not only live, but make it his mission to tell the tale? Why, the world’s most famous explorer Volothamp Geddarm himself, that’s who!
Of course, while a valuable tool to explore the Realms in all their splendor, Volo’s musings aren’t without some scrutiny, as famed wizard Elminster of Shadowdale will attest. In fact, the entire volume is full of foot notes from both Volo and Elminister doing his best to clarify some of the things the haughty explorer might have gotten wrong.
In fact, such interaction throughout the book is very immersive and really sells the setting in a way that makes it much more interesting than simply page after page of stat blocks.
And, while definitely a charming addition to your 5th Edition monster roster with stats and habits of a multitude of critters, the book offers other avenues for inspiration and play.
For Dungeon Masters, there is a wealth of information about not just how many hit points a monster has, but its motivations, its desires and how its views in the world may differ from what we would think of as civilized humanoid races. Some are certainly similar to us, such as certain giants, while some, like the Mind Flayers are utterly alien.
Entries also include maps and lair options for some of the more well known and powerful creatures.
But there is also fun material in there for players. Although not as expansive as some players may have hoped for, there is a total of 7 playable races included to expand character options. The list includes:
Aasimar, Firbolg, Goliath, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, and Triton
Each race has their own strengths and weaknesses and despite some online complaints of possible “power creep”, they seem to be more or less in line with previously published races.
Further more, there are also rules for playing what would otherwise be considered monsterous humanoids such as Bugbears, Kobolds and Orcs. Very cool.
So where does that leave you if you’re in a home brew setting? Well, if you’ve managed to create your own setting, pulling out the good bits from this book will be a cake walk. The stats, maps and lore of the creatures will work in any given setting or environment. In fact, there are 3 indexes that sort the monsters by type and name, Challenge, and by the environments in which they are found.
Of all the books released to date, this one fits most into the ‘must have’ category of core source books, along with the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual. Whether you’ve opted out of Sword Coast Adventurers and all the campaign books or if you have them all, this book is one you really shouldn’t skip because the information inside transcends setting and story lines and is just a wonderful resource. all around.
Lastly, I wanted to mention, as I sometimes do, I always want to encourage you to get these products from your local gaming or bookstore if at all possible. In fact, the limited edition alternate cover is ONLY available at hobby and game shops. That said, if you do get them online, it helps me and helps the site if you order through our affiliate links (linked from the pictures) as well by clicking here. Not only that, this book is currently going for less than $30 on Amazon rather than the cover price of $50, so check it out.