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Monstrous Manual (2e)

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Need a monster? Look inside, where more than 300 new peices of full color art show what the monsters really look like!

This book contains more than 600 monsters including all the creatures from the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM Volumes 1 and 2! In addition, there are monsters from the other MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM Volumes, and some creatures never seen in the second edition AD&D Game before.

Product History

Monstrous Manual (1993), by Tim Beach, based on work by David "Zeb" Cook, Steve Winter, Jon Pickens, and others, is sort of the third core rulebook for the AD&D 2e game. It was published in June 1993.

About the Title. Second edition was the only version of the mainline D&D game that didn't have a "Monster Manual". When it first appeared, monsters instead were published in a long series of Monstrous Compendiums (1989-1993). Afterward, when those Compendiums were replaced by a core monster book, it sort of made sense to call it the Monstrous Manual — especially since more Monstrous Compendiums followed.

But why not just call them all Monster Manuals? Some folks suggest it might have had to do with Dave Arneson's lawsuits, which granted him royalties for certain AD&D books, including the original Monster Manual (1977). However, this supposition seems pretty unlikely, as Arneson also received royalties for any "revised edition" of the Monster Manual, and a 1985 court case determined that even the Monster Manual II (1983) fit that criteria. It seems probable that the Monstrous Manual would also meet the definition of "revised edition" from the contract, which was: "a printed work having a title the same as or similar to the related earlier work, revised to include changes or additions to the text, but continuing to include substantially the same rules and subject matter as contained in the earlier work."

So why the name change? The folks in charge probably thought that it sounded better!

About the Monstrous Compendiums. TSR talked quite a bit about producing some of the AD&D 2e rules as looseleaf sheets that could be put in three-hole binders. The small press Hidden Kingdom (1983) RPG and Columbia Games' Encyclopedia Hârnicas (1984-1985) were rare examples of previous roleplaying books that had used the format. However, D&D's B/X Basic rules (1981) had also been three-hole punched — though they were still produced as saddle-stitched books. In end, TSR didn't use the hole-punched format for the AD&D 2e rules, but they did go that route for AD&D 2e's monster books.

MC1: "Monstrous Compendium Volume One" (1989) and MC2: "Monstrous Compendium Volume Two" (1989) together formed the core monster books for the new edition. The first book included a big monster binder, and each of the releases contained 144 perforated pages that could be inserted into that binder. Afterward, TSR produced another 13 looseleaf Monstrous Compendiums (1989-1993), most of them 64 pages long and most of them focused on a specific campaign world. There was also one more binder among those releases — available with MC4: "Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix".

Though the looseleaf Compendiums would continue through the November 1993 release of MC15: "Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix II: Children of the Night" (1993), the Monstrous Manual nonetheless marked the beginning of the end. It was the first squarebound monster book since the era of AD&D 1e (1977-1988), and it marked a reformatting of the line that would continue with the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994) and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994).

So why the format change? This one we have a better answer for!

Unfortunately, the idea of an forever-expandable monster book never quite matched up with the physical realities of the line. The major problem was that the monsters were all printed on double-sided pages. Though some covered both sides of the page, most of them were instead detailed in a single page. This meant that it was impossible to properly alphabetize the monsters as the line grew.

The actual physical binders and looseleaf pages were subpar too. The binders were big and bulky, while the pages were overly flimsy. The perforations sometimes tore wrong, and over the time the holes ripped out too. (If you see a surviving Monstrous Compendium binder, it probably has ring protectors on its pages.) Overall, the Monstrous Compendiums didn't hold up to the ever-improving quality of the AD&D 2e books, so four years after the line began, the looseleaf experiment ended, and the Monstrous Compendiums moved over to a more traditional format.

Many Printings. The Monstrous Manual (1993) was originally printed with a stark white cover, but just two years later it was reprinted with a black cover (1995) that marked it as part of the 2.5 edition of AD&D. Unlike the other 2.5e core books, the Monstrous Manual was not reset, probably due to its recent pedigree.

More recently, the Monstrous Manual was reprinted by Wizards of the Coast as part of their AD&D 2e premium edition (2013), with the cover now inset as part of a faux leather cover.

Monsters of Note. At 384 pages, the Monstrous Manual was the most impressive book of monsters that D&D had ever seen, far eclipsing the Monster Manual II (1983), which was previously D&D's largest Monster book at a mere 160 pages. With that expansive size, the Monstrous Manual collected the vast majority of the monsters in the original two Monstrous Compendiums, plus a spattering of monsters from later Appendices, especially those produced for Dragonlance, the Forgotten Realms, and the World of Greyhawk.

Of all the monsters in the book, it's the dragons that are the most impressive. There are over twenty types. You start off with five evil chromatic dragons and five good metallic dragons, but the book also includes the five neutral gem dragons — an idea proposed way back in The Dragon #37 (May 1980), but which only became official for AD&D with the publication of MC14: "Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix" (1992). These dragons are filled out with pseudo-chromatics, pseudo-metallics, and a few others that had appeared over the years: the brown dragon, the cloud dragon, the deep dragon, the mercury dragon, the mist dragon, the shadow dragon, the steel dragon, and the yellow dragon.

Other large monster categories show off D&D's other favorites of the period. For example the beholder spread now features a variety of beholder-kin, an idea largely derived from the Spelljammer campaign (1989). The giant category now includes 17 entries while ten different creatures have been squished into the "ooze/slime/jelly" category. Curiously it's separated from the deadly puddings, which include another four oozes.

The monsters that are the most neglected by the Monstrous Manual are unsurprisingly the demons and devils. Just four devils and two demons appear, all under their bowdlerized names — baatezu and tanar'ri. Even this was a major victory, because they'd been entirely absent until the publication of MC8: "Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix" (1991). They'd gain a lot more prominence in just a year in the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994).

About the Creators. The new format of the AD&D "Monstrous Compendiums" was set by the original AD&D 2e team of Zeb Cook and Steve Winter, with Jon Pickens. Tim Beach was the coordinator who put together this new (mammoth) collection.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

Reviews (20)
Discussions (40)
Customer avatar
Matthew C June 07, 2024 8:01 pm UTC
The Invisible Stalker art is the funniest art in the 2E line.

Attributed to the Author.
Customer avatar
Kyle S May 06, 2024 8:22 pm UTC
Yearly plea to please add hardover... I will continue waiting...
Customer avatar
Christopher T April 24, 2024 9:00 pm UTC
POD in hardcover please!
Customer avatar
Jacob H February 07, 2024 12:52 pm UTC
If this and the other 2e core books were available in hardcover I would have bought them as soon as I found out about this site.
Customer avatar
Jason C February 05, 2024 4:28 am UTC
Been awhile since we said, but hardcover please.
Customer avatar
darren W October 08, 2023 12:33 pm UTC
hardcover POD please! thanks
Customer avatar
Brandon C September 07, 2023 6:25 am UTC
Crazy that these aren't available in hardcover.
Customer avatar
Alex T June 14, 2023 3:42 pm UTC
Just adding my voice to the chorus here asking for a hardcover option.
Customer avatar
Jason C May 15, 2023 5:05 am UTC
Just throwing down my yearly request for a hardcover option. Still waiting.
Customer avatar
Kyle S February 25, 2023 4:55 pm UTC
Still waiting for hardcover. Please WOTC, I'll buy MM, DMG, and PH if they're in hard cover
Customer avatar
Mathieu B October 20, 2022 2:01 pm UTC
Hardback would be awesome, thanks!
Customer avatar
Jason C August 14, 2022 9:53 am UTC
If you want a Hardcover option like I do, drop them a note here:
Customer avatar
Bruce L August 10, 2022 4:32 am UTC
Attn: WotC... POD, High Quality paper and ink, Hard Covers, please, for all three core rulebooks. Thank you.
Customer avatar
Dhin C July 27, 2022 10:54 pm UTC
Hello folks! Could you consider a hardcover option, additionally could you consider selling the "white cover" version (with hardcover option too) - I have all the core books with original covers (nor premium, nor the black borders) and I am only missing this one (with white cover)
Customer avatar
William L June 02, 2022 4:16 pm UTC
Why don't you have the hardcover as an option? Surely that option is not up to the discretion of WTOC.
Customer avatar
Robert R March 04, 2022 8:34 pm UTC
Would buy this in PDF plus print if it were available in hardcover. It seems like many of us want this, is there a reason for this not being an option?
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File Last Updated:
January 25, 2019
This title was added to our catalog on August 25, 2015.