Volo’s Guide to Monsters is yet another profound supplement to the otherwise stellar 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. It clocks in at a solid 224 pages, and since I purchased the limited edition, I received the special Mind Flayer artwork by Hydro74 (So nice!). This tome contains over 120 new monsters, including some new approaches and lore for those classic baddies we love so much. It takes an interesting approach by giving you tales from the contrasting viewpoints of Volothamp Geddarm (aka: Volo) and Elminster Aumar, Archmage of Shadowdale.
The first chapter contains detailed folklore on the inner workings of particular monstrous societies: How they live, where they live, what they eat, who does their bidding, etc. This chapter also lays out the system of governance by which these monsters live. Be it through force, cunning, or sheer chaos, Volo’s Guide gives you the details. (P.S.- They also give you some rad monster lair maps.)
Chapter 2 is particularly my favorite chapter because it lays out new playable races. I will not lie, I squealed like a giddy child when I heard some of the options displayed in this book. Who doesn’t want to play a neurotic Kobold Sorcerer or capture the decadence of a Fallen Aasimar Noble? Personally, I found some good bits in here. My one disappointment was with the Orc, who I felt should’ve been more closely related to Half-Orcs in their abilities. That’s okay though, because the other tidbits more than accomplished what I was looking for.
The final chapter makes up the rest of the text with a bestiary chocked full of weird, creepy goodness. There’s anything from Abjurers to Elder Brains to the dreaded Froghemoth and more. One of my personal favorites was the classic Nilbog, a creature of pure chaos and trickery. Now that’s some good stuff.
All in all, Volo’s Guide to Monsters sets a different tone for this edition of D&D. It represents an abstract narrative quality (as opposed to a mechanical one) that was absent in some earlier editions. It contains a certain adventurous spirit about it that is reminiscent of a safari guide or field manual. It’s a quality-made book with a lot to uncover, and I give it my highest marks.