Saturday, November 5, 2016

Gamer ADD: Monster Manual II Part 1

A few years ago, I did a series of posts based around the idea of seeing what would happen to Moldvay’s Basic D&D if the Fiend Folio had been the source of all the monsters instead of the more traditional ones found in the Monster Manual and the monster section of my favorite version of D&D.

As happens when I start thinking about gaming and actually gaming, my brain jumps from one idea to another in what can only be described as Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder. I was recently thumbing through the Monster Manual II in search of inspiration for some 5e monsters, when my brain began to think on the possibility of repeating the aforementioned exercise with the MMII instead of the FF.

What makes this possibility interesting to me is that the MMII has always been my least favorite of all the monster manuals. This is in part because I did not buy it upon release in hopes that I could be surprised as a player when new monsters came crawling out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, so much of the work in the MMII is derivative that I only found myself disappointed rather than surprised.

When I finally got my hands on one, I found that the collection was as boring and disappointing as I’d feared. Like its predecessors, the MMII has an overarching theme. The MMI is chuck full of mythological and literary monsters. The FF has a definite sci-fi vibe to it. The MMII is an expansion of Gygax’s underdark and planar cosmology. Whereas I am a huge fan of mythology and the literature of science fiction and fantasy, I have no love for either Gygax’s version of the underdark or the various D&D planes. Indeed, when I am world building, these are two concepts that are left on the cutting room floor almost every time.

As a result, I don’t find any really iconic monsters in the MMII that demand entire campaigns or even adventures to be structured around. I am constantly fighting the the preconceptions that come with the theme: the underdark and the planes. If experience has taught me anything when it comes to D&D, however, it is that there are many hidden gems within even the most familiar of texts.

Therefore, I am actually looking forward to this series of posts. I can’t wait to find those gems that I have passed by all these years because of my own disdain for the MMII.


Roger G-S said...

Don't forget all the normal animals ... the best monsters in the book are mostly from modules.

Ruprecht said...

If I had seen the Modrons while thumbing through the MM2 in the story I think I would have passed. Aboleth may be the only creature I used from the book.