A Horde of New 5th Edition Monsters!
DM: “A collection of hundreds of eyes floats down the corridor toward you, trailing ganglia and dripping caustic fluid that sizzles when it hits the ground. What do you do?”
PLAYER: “I retire, and become a farmer.”
Whether you need dungeon vermin or a world-shaking personification of evil, the Tome of Beasts has it. Here are more than 400 new foes for your 5th Edition game-everything from tiny drakes and peculiar spiders, to demon lords and ancient dragons.
Tome of Beasts includes monsters from the entire history of Kobold Press, with longtime favorites such as:
- Clockwork creatures
- Drakes and dragons
- Devils and arch-devils
- Dangerous flavors of the fey
- Undead-and much more!
Use them in your favorite published setting, or populate the dungeons in a world of your own creation. Pick up Tome of Beasts and give your players an encounter they won’t soon forget!
Also Available: One-shot adventures using creatures from Tome of Beasts, in the Book of Lairs and in the Prepared collection.
Pawns: A full 300 pawns are available to complement the Tome of Beasts on your battlemat, from small to HUGE.
I received my physical copy of the Tome of Beasts today and I’m really happy with it.
The pages are the same thick matte stock as Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat. This adds a bit to the book’s overall weight and thickness, but it also feels really durable.
Printed colors are bright and vibrant, although some of the darker pictures lose a bit of detail when compared with the pdf.
The book is 432 pages and is close to 1.5″ thick. Other than the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, this it the largest book on my gaming shelf.
The artwork is plentiful and professionally done; every monster is in full glorious/gruesome color.
The layout and text are clean and easy to read; stat blocks are a near-perfect match to the Monster Manual format which is good.
There are faint images of the monsters in the background of the pages which actually look really cool. (These are less visible in the pdf, but are quite striking in the print version.)
The monsters hail from a wide-variety of folklore and backgrounds making it easy to find one that will thematically fit into nearly any adventure. There’s the old standby dragons, giants and golems that appear in almost every RPG monster book ever, but there are also plenty of new stuff in here too, especially fey. If you want wicked fey for your game look no further.
CRs are a good mix with maybe slightly more focus on mid & high level monsters than lower level ones. I thought a lot of the monster abilities were really creative and interesting (Ex: the Idolic Deity is a small construct that can cause clerics and paladins to doubt their faith.) My overall impression is that quite a few of these horrors are lethal. No punches were pulled in handing out the hero-thrashing abilities for the Tome. The stuff in here will provide a good challenge for adventurers of all skill levels
The lore is okay. Each monster has a written description and a few miscellaneous factoids about it. It’s not as in-depth as the Monster Manual, but there’s certainly enough to run a monster in-game or get a feel for its disposition.
If you’re playing in the Midgard setting there are sidebars how some of the monsters fit into that setting. These are small and unobtrusive if you’re not interested, but reading a couple of them actually made me want to learn more about Midgard. I hope Kobold Press considers a 5E version of the existing Midgard campaign setting.
I was a little disappointed to not find any this-monster-as-player-race sidebars. I had seen one on the preview page for the Alseid, but it looks like it was cut from the final book.
Another minor quibble: some of the beast type monsters with really minimal intelligence are listed as neutral (ex: bone crab, carrion beetle) They should probably be unaligned since they don’t have the mental capacity to choose between good and evil or law and chaos.
Overall I’m really happy I bought this. Production values are extremely high as is the quality of the content. I have no hesitation in recommending this book. It’s well worth the asking price. Do yourself a favor and spend the $49.99 for the print/pdf bundle.
Oliver McMechan –
I haven’t yet received my hard copy but I have just took 30 mins to skim-read the PDF and am very impressed. There is so much material in this book that your brain starts to ache when you think about how you can try and fit all these incredible monsters into your game.
There is a fabulous mix of completely new horrors and additional types of existing monsters – I particularly like the new kobold, hag and giant types, but the list is endless. There is a nice vein of humour throughout the book with creatures like the Ale Drake and the Oozasis – creatures that will certainly raise the laughs in your game.
Finally, as noted by the previous reviewer, all these monsters have ‘teeth’ and I don’t mean literally. They all carry a certain amount of heft and power and are not monsters that will be despatched with easily. An amazing product at a great price. This book alone can fuel your story ideas for years to come. Thanks Kobold Press!
Received my copy of the physical book a couple days ago. I’m very happy with the quality of the content and the artwork as well as the binding, paper, and print quality. An all-around excellent book that I’m sure I will get much use out of.
Awesome, a must have.
I received the Tome of Beasts in surprisingly fast time! When I opened the pages, I loved immediately how thick the paper was and how vivid the colors were with each picture. The monsters themselves are very creative and lend to a lot of unique possibilities for future DnD games! A must-have for anyone seeking to add some more beasts, both good and bad, to their campaigns 😀
Excellent book! Filled with creatures of all difficulties. There are some really impressive High CR monsters, including members of the fey court and arch devils and demons that you could build entire campaign arcs around.
The background information included was so fascinating, especially for the Ghoul Imperium, that this book convinced me to get the Midguard Campaign setting.
This is a must have, especially if your players are maybe a little too familiar with the monster manual and you want to keep them on their toes 😉
So I got my copy last night and I was so excited that I ripped open the package and started to look through it. In Appendix B: NPC Features I realized that not all things listed are in the book for example the Dhampir, I wanted to know what the abilities do, so I went to the contents page and looked under d for Dhampir, and it goes from devils to dinosaurs no Dhampir. So I went to the monster manual for 5e and it isn’t there. Don’t get me wrong I love the book, so many cool new monsters like the void dragon but if you put something in a list and don’t explain the abilities, then there should be a page for it, or a page of abilities and what they do. So that is the reason I give it 3 stars but over all I love it.
Jason Kaufman –
The second greatest book I have ever received, The first being a gift from my fiancee, so no contest.
-This book is 110% manliest creation of most Badass creatures, EVER!
-Well made, Solid design, pages are high quality, Art is High quality, most importantly Binding is high quality.
-Smells of the tree it was cut from, Made my manly beard become even manlier and the creatures more afraid of me.
-Contains so many bad guys, I will have to play for at least 1000 years to use them all.
Stop what you are doing and buy this book. Now. Seriously, Go add it to your cart and buy it. No Regrets.
Disclosure: I don’t know if this needs to be said, but I did kickstart this project, so there you have it.
So this review has been a long time coming. I have had this book for a long time, I have looked at a good number of the monsters in detail (though not all, it may take another few months to a year to do so). I think I have a pretty good handle on this book and its contents in a way that I can deliver a relatively in depth review, and hopefully I can tell you something you didn’t already know.
What you likely do know is that this book is amazingly well done. It has many great monsters that are very well thought out and excellently written. It has a lot of baked in adventure ideas that can be based off of nearly any of the monsters within. It has art that is the envy of the 1st party publishers. It has enough monsters to keep your players entertained and challenged for many a campaign.
Lets start with some of my favorite monsters.
First, I thoroughly enjoyed the Chained Angel. It is one of very few examples of a creature that can be redeemed, and gives a very good reason for wanting to redeem it. Most creatures are made for bashing to death, or at the very least to present formidable opposition with no choices outside of victory and defeat. The art for the chained angel is excellent. Interestingly, the chained angel had a good number of errors in its mechanical text that have since been fixed in errata, so be wary if you have a print copy. That having been said, the errors do not make this creature unplayable.
Second, I have to call out Camazotz as being one of my favorite creatures. I won’t go into its mechanics for being a CR 22 creature, but the art is fantastic, and the fact that it is derived from a Meso-American myth is something that pleases me to no end. Overall, well done, and a good candidate for a demon lord.
Third, the Drakon makes me happy because it is a beast. Beasts need more love, and one of the central issues with the “animal” type in Pathfinder is that they are too boring. 5e, and Tome of Beasts in particular, seem to dispel this notion and make beasts as interesting as any other creature type. The art work is of course evocative and great, and its stat block is brief but useful.
Finally, in a sweeping category I love the NPC section, as it expands the very useful but relatively limited NPC section in the 5th edition monster manual. Not only do we get pictures (unlike in the aforementioned monster manual) for every NPC, and the statistics can easily be used for a plethora of occasions. This is a good addition to the Tome of Beasts, but actually makes me wish that Kobold press would put out a book of NPCs on its own!
An honorable mention goes to the various Cthulhu creatures. There is one other book that has Lovecraft monster and I hope to do a comparison on my blog, but so far I am loving the Kobold Press take on them.
Now on to the things I didn’t like. Now I know a lot of people have mentioned this, but I have to echo that the “dangerous water maidens” are pretty prevalent. In all fairness, it is an artefact of Pathfinder; Pathfinder probably has more of the dangerous water maidens throughout its various bestiaries. However, I would have wanted maybe… one entry for a dangerous water maiden, and an ample side bar or page dedicated to the various cultural variations that comprise the numerous myths surrounding women and water (and boo for not having “la llorona”, if you are going to go full on water maiden, be all inclusive!). Really, I get that water maidens are an interesting cultural touchstone like vampires and dragons and ghosts and so on, but I think that it could have been approached more elegantly, with an eye towards the curious cultural differences and what they say about the collective myth.
I also am somewhat disappointed that some of the potential playable monsters (things like the Ramag or the Rat Folk) weren’t given sidebars for play as PCs, but this is hopefully just to preempt more products like Midgard Heroes and Southland Heroes, both of which I enjoyed and recommend.
If I had one other quibble, it is that there are no comprehensive lists as with the Pathfinder Bestiary, with breakdowns of creatures by type, terrain, and so on, but that’s really just me being lazy, and I don’t fault them for not doing that. I’m sure that the layout on this monster (book) was enough as it was. Moreover, I’m sure that some industrious individual will create such a list soon, if not already.
Now, my dislikes of this book were actually few and shallow. I have to end this review by saying that I love this book, it was very well done, and it is an essential book for anyone serious about running 5th edition games. It should be essential if you love bestiaries as I do, and fancy just paging through monsters for any reason. This book is essential as a designer, because every stat block tells a story through its intricate use of the rules.
This book is just essential.
Trust me, you won’t regret the $20 that you will spend on this book as a pdf, and if you should have the extra money, pay to get it in print. I can’t tell you how impressive the book really is as a physical text. You will marvel at the size of it, then at the beauty of its full color and glossy pages. It’s as big as those obnoxious textbooks you had to carry around in college or perhaps high school, with the important distinction that you will want to see every page and thumb through it.
Yes, get this book. Get it now. What are you waiting for!?
5 stars and my royal approval.
An Endzeitgeist.com review
This gargantuan tome of monsters clocks in at a massive 433 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial/thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with a mind-boggling 424 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review is based on the second version of the book and was moved up in my review queue at the request of numerous readers.
Well, wait…before we do, please bear with me as I embark on a little tangent. As I’m typing this, D&D 5e is a relatively young system, a phenomenon I like to call “B1BS” – Bland 1st Bestiary Syndrome. I have seen A LOT of first bestiaries for various editions and they, obviously, have to cover the classic basics. Unfortunately, that also means that they tend to bore the hell out of me. Yes, I need my dragons, devils, etc. in a new gaming system and these books cover exactly that…but still. Call me monster-hipster or discerning connoisseur, but ultimately, it is the second, the third bestiary I’m looking more forward to…or the 3pp bestiaries. Here, you can usually find the uncommon, the strange and the weird. It is hence I look forward to the first big 3pp-bestiaries with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.
Traditionally, there is one downside to big 3pp-bestiaries: Budget. 3pps usually don’t have the budget for a ton of expensive artworks or, if they want to get a book of these proportions done close to the system’s infancy, lack the time for making all the critters utterly unique in abilities and tricks. there are exceptions to this rule, obviously, but particularly in a system’s infancy, separating the wheat from the chaff is pretty difficult.
Well, the first thing you’ll note when flipping open this book would be that Kobold Press obviously did have the budget thanks to the KS that powered this: The Tome of Beast is chock-full with a gigantic array of absolutely stunning full-color artwork, making it frankly one of the most beautiful bestiaries I have read by any publisher. Yes, I actually consider this book to be more aesthetically pleasing than Pathfinder’s first bestiary or the 5e Monster Manual.
The second problem mentioned, at least concept-wise, is a non-entity of an issue as well: You see, Kobold Press has years upon years of evocative critters released for 3.5, 4th edition, Pathfinder, 13th Age…add to that the rich lore of the various Midgard supplements and you have a gigantic panorama of mythologies and concepts to build upon…and at least as far as I’m concerned, context has always made it easier to design critters for me. So the ideas already are there, just awaiting their mechanical representation.
That is not to say that this book contains only previously released critters, mind you – quite the contrary is the fact, actually! There are a ton of creatures contained in this massive book that have not been seen before. There is a reason for this scope: The massive mythology established for the Midgard campaign setting is defined partially by the gigantic assortment of creatures one can encounter there. Once again, this does not mean that the book is in any way tied to the system: While numerous little boxes and side-bars elaborate upon and contextualize the respective adversaries, this book can be considered to be very much campaign setting agnostic, although Midgard’s themes obviously do influence the type of creatures you can find within these pages.
The relative prominence of fey, to name a creature type, is a direct result of the canon established for the setting. Even beyond the confines of the setting, this canon can be considered to be an inspiration for the GM – when e.g. fey lords and ladies begin their entries by first establishing a massive array of fluff regarding their positions, including obvious adventure hooks, the book does shine. Speaking of which: From the challenge 8 Bear Lord to the legendary Lord of the Hunt to the Queen of Night and Magic or the River King, these beings not only are beautifully portrayed, they also make excellent use of several of 5e’s peculiarities: Legendary actions, lair actions and the like supplement these powerful entities…and the book also features regional effects: The areas in the vicinity of the fey lords start behaving in unique ways: The region containing the river king, for example, provides abundant fishing, but also makes streams strong and erratic as well as increasing the chance of rain and thunderstorms. The powerful entity thus makes his presence felt, merely by…well, being present.
This is as great a time as any to speak about one crucial feat that this book manages: Beyond being a massive collection of creatures, the book actually manages to unlock several of the absolutely legendary modules from Kobold Press’ catalog for D&D 5e. While conversion into the system is pretty easy, it is ultimately classes and monsters that are hardest to adapt; GMs seeking to convert some of the ever-green gems released for other systems thus have a crucial work load taken off their shoulders…and, considering the absolutely stunning artworks suffusing this book, they also get the bonus of having a great visual representation of the iconic foes. (5e GMs: Seriously consider getting “Courts of the Shadow Fey” – it’s frankly one of the most unique, amazing modules I know and with this book, conversion is dead simple for experienced GMs). That only as an aside. And yes, the Snow Queen is in this book. Told you there are a ton of new creatures inside!
Now another issue bestiaries of this size face would be that different people expect different things from bestiaries and striking the right balance between those needs can be challenging. Let’s face it, we gamers are an opinionated bunch: Take e.g. the owlbear or flumph – ask 10 gamers what they think about these classics and you’ll get vastly diverging opinions. Two of my players absolutely love these two, while 2 others immediately start groaning whenever I use these foes. As such, opinions will diverge when faced with e.g. an oozasis/mockmire – gargantuan, intelligent ooze that sports the option to implant compulsions in those that partake from its waters or fruits, a thing that can actually emit vapors that manipulate the emotional status of creatures nearby. The serpent/leopard hybrid serpopard would be an actually cool magical hybrid creature that I can see becoming a classic.
So beyond the fey and such creatures, one aspect I always loved about Midgard (and Southlands) is that the books manage to quote real world mythology and add this distinct, Midgardian spin to everything, generating an internally concise mythology of a fantastic earth-like environment that kinda could have been…if the world was steeped in magic, flat, and surrounded by the world-serpent…but you get my drift. The adaption of such themes also does not take the usual, Tolkienesque/Anglo-Saxon focus you can usually find in RPG-bestiaries, instead drinking deeply from the wells of Germanic, Slavic and Norse mythologies as well as from sources beyond the ken of many a designer.
You know, before Tolkien pretty much defined the basic assumptions we have for the type of fantasy we play in, the world did not sit idle and research can unearth a vast panorama of fantastic sources from far before the time of the venerable professor. Christian medieval mythology, for example, still features the accounts of Prester John, fabled ruler of the Nestorian nation, a legend sprung from the missionary endeavors of Thomas the Apostle, who supposedly ruled over a land of immortal and wondrous creatures. Back then, this realm was considered to be possible…and while we now know that the realm as depicted in the sources does not exist, the mythology it created, with for example the blemmyes, who have no head and wear their face on their breasts, still resonates to this date. To the uninformed, they may constitute a nice, if a bit weird adversary; to those in the know, they represent a type of fantasy all too often neglected.
But perhaps you do not share my fascination with obscure mythologies and fantastic flights of fancy of ages gone by; perhaps your particular taste hearkens closer to the horrific, rendering you dissatisfied with the creatures featured in the Monster Manual that fulfill said niche. Rest assured that aficionados of Lovecraftiana will find some much-needed beings herein: The Folk of Leng, prominently featured in many a current module and timeless classics like the Shoggoth are contained within the pages of these tome as well, once again taking a lot of work off your hands. And, before you ask: Yes, shoggoths may absorb flesh; yes, they emit a mind-shattering piping. While we’re talking about the darker creatures within these pages: There would be an undead, exceedingly hard to destroy aboleth variant within…and the fiends presented in this book are…well, fiendish.
Really fiendish. Not in the “kinda weird-looking humanoid”-kind of way; there are some beings here that truly are unique: Take the Soul Eater: These things look like basically a Medium-sized crab with humanoid arms, but from their back rises a horrid, blue-ish mess of almost Giger-esque proportions, sporting hundreds of pupil-less, red eyes. Classic creatures or creature types are not simply depicted – they are lovingly introduced. Take the sphinx herein: It actually comes with 11 classic riddles.
Does one of your players suffer from a mild arachnophobia? Well, this book actually contains several delightful arachnids, from the Spiders of Leng (obviously…where the folk are…) to the J’ba Fofi, the research was well-made; the latter, just fyi, is most commonly known as a cryptozoological creature, here with a unique angle beyond its origins in our world. Speaking of unique angle: There are beings within this book that have sprung from an imagination I can only applaud: One of my favorites would be the suturefly: It is said that these pests are the reason for forest folk not speaking much. They, or so goes the legend, lurk and wait for someone speaking lies, only to proceed to sew shut the mouth, nose or eyes of an offender who commits blasphemy, which these beings can sense. Tiny, yet exceedingly flavorful, these things feel like they could have come from the mythologies of our world, though at least to my knowledge, they very much are an original creation…or at least are so obscure I never even heard of them. I love this critter, though, much like many a being herein, the beasts herein are challenging foes – if your players are like mine and are experienced roleplayers, the adversaries herein certainly will make them work for their XP.
Let’s e.g. take a look at the mascot of Kobold Press, the small but fierce kobolds featured herein – 3 such huamnoids are presented, the kobold alchemist, chieftain and trapsmith, all of which are not simply variants and instead feature unique tricks at their disposal. The least powerful one, the trapsmith, features a challenge of 1 and has a hefty 36 hit points at his disposal, which means that, yes, if you expect an array of easily slaughtered mooks, then this would represent one of the few things this pdf does not deliver…and in my opinion, that’s a good thing. Throwing a mook at players is something most experienced GMs can easily accomplish and not something you usually buy bestiaries for- at least I don’t. Instead, I get such books for evocative beings and unique mechanical tricks – and in that aspect, the respective humanoids tend to deliver in spades. Aforementioned trapsmith’s statblock, for example, features no less than 4 sample traps! Now if you are a relatively new GM and concerned about perhaps throwing too strong creatures at your players, do note that the beings in this tome, oriented after the official DMG’s guidelines regarding HP per challenge. The MM itself does not seem to follow that guideline, so yes, the beings herein tend to be slightly stronger. That being said, the book does an excellent job of pointing towards potentially problematic options in sidebars and the like: When a creature has a detonate-style final parting shot, it talks about how to use this without screwing the players over; in the example of the trapsmith, consideration is given for the number of traps previously placed. It may be a little thing, but it certainly is something new GMs and players will appreciate.
One of the more prevalent complaints I have heard about the MM would be the relative dearth of proper, high-challenge boss-adversaries. The Tome of Beasts delivers in spades here: Beyond aforementioned fey lords and ladies, arch-devils like Mammon, Arbeyach or the scribe of hell Totivillus (renamed due to some immature people taking offense with his previous name Titivillus…), the book certainly offers some seriously powerful endgame adversaries. One of my further nitpicks would pertain one of these guys, though: At challenge 27, Mechuiti, baboon-faced demon lord of cannibals is a cool build per se…but ultimately, with baboon-face and area of expertise, he does feel a bit like a Demogorgon-ripoff; further emphasizing the pseudo-Mayan nomenclature in flavor would have helped in further distinguishing…but perhaps that was not intended and the being just intended as a means to bypass the closed IP of ole’ demogorgy. Why am I harping on this poor demon lord? Well, because the rendition of his fellow Camazotz is significantly more steeped in mythology and ultimately, more interesting. Yeah, I know, I pretty much grasping at straws regarding things to complain about. A similar creature obviously intended to unlock something classic would be the wormhearted suffragan – basically an undead worm-that-walks, which fans of old Kyuss certainly should appreciate. And yes, the guy features a nasty worm-affliction, though, alas, no animation of the dead…though you can easily add that aspect.
Another target demographic, obviously, would be guys that share a bit of a sensibility like yours truly: At one point, I simply started getting bored with the more classic fantastical creatures and wanted something radically different – the book does deliver in that regard as well: Take the tusked skyfish: A jellyfish like, flying entity with massive tusks and the option to spray adversaries with skunk-like stench-spray. Or the skein witch: Androgynous humanoids mummified in diamond thread that feature translucent skin – inside, they do not have organs, but rather dozens of quivering hourglasses. Bending and distorting fate, these weird beings have the abilities to supplement their unique tricks.
That is not to say, however, that the creatures contained herein that deliver the traditional niches are boring, mind you: I certainly want to throw a mithral dragon at my players and both steam and smaragdine golems feature enough unique mechanics: The latter is driven by a boiler and extinguishing the fire can shut it down – clever PCs will try to make use of that. Speaking of clever: Yes, the steam golem’s ability actually talks about what happens if a water elemental and the critter clash. A small note, for sure – but something most assuredly appreciated. The by now classic darakhul, the intelligent, militaristic ghouls of the underworld or mighty jotun giants similarly feature evocative mechanics – the latter would be as good a place as any to come full circle regarding the mythological aspect, for the book does something smart: Instead of trying to fill so far unreleased monster-niches that will be filled (sooner or later rendering the fill-in obsolete), the book instead focuses on providing the means to employ a creature’s themes, but with a distinct identity.
Were you, for example, sad to see that the MM had neither a siren, nor a nymph of similar stand-in? With the evil abominable beauty and the lorelei, we do find creatures that can fit these roles, while still maintaining a unique identity of their own. The beauty, for example, has a touch that burns you and a voice that deafens, setting her clearly apart from the spellcasting focus of the classic nymph. Have I mentioned Baba Yaga’s horsemen? As a fan of swarms, I was also pretty excited to see several of these featured within this massive tome…and as a huge fan of Norse culture and mythology and their twist in Midgard, I was happy to actually see Boreas in these pages. Winter is coming.
Deadly butterflies, gigantic serpents, simian demons with diseased ichors and a demonic representation of none other than German legend Rübezahl (interesting – I would have made him a feylord) and a selection of 3 dinosaurs should also make fans of Sword & Sorcery-style fantasy pretty happy with this huge book. Have I mentioned the time-travelling eonic drifters or the edimmu? Design philosophy-wise, the book also retains a sense of believability regarding the nature of the respective builds: Animals are efficient; the gearforged and similar created are obviously made with functions – it is a subtle thing, but one that is a mark of good monster design. The theme of death and related abilities also extend to the undead….and while I like a lot of them herein, it is perhaps the one creature category that feels a bit less inspired than the rest; there are slightly too many “undead ied to x, that’s why he does x”-type of creatures herein…but perhaps I am simply spoiled in that regard. To note a positive exception here: Shadow vampires are actually fiends and, for an incorporeal drain-y creature (of which I have literally seen more than 100 over the years), it does its job relatively well.
Now, I could continue rambling on about creatures herein and bloat this review further, but I believe you should, by now, have a solid grasp on what the book offers. There is, for example, a mini-NPC-codex with generic adversaries in the back, with black knights gaining fear-inducing charges, disarming city watch captains and the like providing some supporting role material. A table contains ability modifiers and features for uncommon races, if you require a quick and dirty “change race”-table. The book also contains a massive 2-page list of monster by challenge rating – and from several 1/8 creatures to 27, you’ll have more than enough fodder at pretty much every level. One slightly unpleasant complaint here: Monsters grouped by type and terrain would have made for great additions to this book and help regarding navigation and user-friendliness if you need associated creatures on the fly.
Editing and formatting of the 2nd edition are impressive for a crunch-book of this size. As a whole, the quality of prose and statblocks is pretty impressive, considering the size of this tome. Layout adheres to a beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the book sports one of the highest concentrations of amazing full-color artworks I have seen in any book. While fans of Kobold Press may know some of these from previous books, there are a ton of completely new artworks herein as well. As a further bonus, aesthetics-wise, the book actually has a unified look regarding the artworks. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks – good! While I have held the physical version of the book, a massive hardcover, I do not own it. If my memory doesn’t deceive me, then its spine was less thick than that of e.g. the Southlands book, so not sure how well it will survive in the long run. I do remember that the print quality per se was very high, though.
A metric ton of people worked on this: Dan Dillon, Chris Harris, Rodrigo Garcia Carmona, Wolfgang Baur, William Ryan Carden, Christopher Carlson, Michael John Conrad, James L- Crawford, Christopher Delvo, Matthew F. Dowd, Timothy Eagon, Matthew Eyman, Robert Fairbanks, David Gibson, Chrsitopher Gilliford, John Henzel, Jeremy Hochhalter, Michael Holland, Ben Iglauer, James Introcaso, Dan Layman-Kennedy, Christopher Lockey, Maximillian Maier, Greg marks, Dave Olson, Richard Pett, Marc Radle, Jon Sawatsky, Ryan Shatford, Troy E. Taylor, Andrew Teheran, Jorge A. Torres, Darius Uknius, Sersa Victory, Ben Wertz.
That is a LOT of different voices, which is which I’d like to mention the unsung heroes of the book: – Developer Steve Winter, editors Peter Hogan, Wade Rockett and Wolfgang Baur and proofing by Dan Dillon are what ultimately could have been a mess regarding the different power-levels and qualities of creatures and forged the book into a concise, remarkable whole.
So, should you get this book? To cut a long ramble short: YES! The second edition of Tome of Beasts is an amazing, massive collection of creatures that, in imagination and execution, is full of creatures that is on par and exceeds the best the Monster Manual has to offer. That being said, depending on how nitpicky you are, there is something you should be aware off: The book does have a 6-page errata. Traditionally, I do not take these into account and only count actual updates to the respective book. That being said, even if I disregard these (changes include e.g. a reference to “ability damage” being changed to “…Strength reduced. A creature with 0 Strength dies.” Depending on how nitpicky you are, that may well annoy you. Condition/damage immunity poison(ed) have been forgotten a couple of times; there’s a reference to “Diminutive” that should be “Tiny.” What I’m trying to show you here, frankly, is the extent of the hiccups and give you an impression of whether they would annoy you.
It should, however, be noted, that, as a whole, the book is TIGHT. Personally, even disregarding the errata, I most certainly have found more creatures I want to use within these pages than in pretty much all early-edition bestiaries before. Beyond the fact that this “unlocks” a ton of amazing Kobold Press books with its creatures, the emphasis on the unique critters herein also means that it will not be rendered obsolete as soon as the next MM comes around – instead, it is a titanic collection of gorgeous creatures that should be considered to be pretty much a must-have purchase for 5e-groups and monster designers alike; in spite of the minor hiccups herein, the totality of the creatures herein must be considered to be superb, evocative and suffused by the stuff of myths. In short: If I had to get rid of one 5e monster book and my choices were this and the MM, I’d throw the MM out of the window faster than you can say “Liosalfar.” (Yep, these delightfully creepy guys are in the book as well…)
So yes, this massive tome is very much worth the asking price and makes for a superb purchase – and I’d be surprised if I saw any 5e-monster book anytime soon that manages to beat this. In the end, my final verdict, in spite of the hiccups mentioned, will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and this also receives the nomination for my Top Ten of 2016.
I will keep this a little short since people thinking about buying this book have already heard about its size and prevalence of fey. So here are some mechanical aspects to address.
-Variety: This is where the book excels and it has its impressive number of monsters without simple palette swaps. There is everything from from faeries to lovecraftian horror. A GM should be able to find something for nearly any game day. A lot of these monsters have interesting abilities in their stat blocks (more on that later) and this can make the game feel fresh. You could run an entire campaign out of this book as the monsters per CR category are remarkably even. However, I would probably prefer about double the CR 1/2 monsters. This is a small gripe though and only applies if you are running low level campaigns. However, assuming you are running this in-conjunction with the normal mm and volo’s then you will be pleased to have the gap of mid to high CR monsters filled. Also, unlike the mm this manual gives you the stats for its major unique monsters instead of making you buy a campaign book to get them (looking at you archdevils and demon lords). Overall, I’d give variety a 5/5.
-Lore: This is both a strong point and weak point for the book. On one hand all the monsters have interesting lore which has gotten me excited for the release of the midgard campaign setting. On the other, for those not interested for the setting may disregard it entirely. In practice, most monsters can fit into a variety of settings without much lore tweaking. The amount of lore per monster is a little less than the standard mm but this is usually fine. My main gripe is that I would of liked a little more information on the unique npcs and the hierarchies they lead similar to the nine hells section of the standard mm. However, actually having the unique monsters minimizes this small criticism. Overall 4/5
-Balance: I find the balance to be pretty on par and am going to give my overall of 4/5 score first, before getting into the nuance. This was created using the dmg guidelines and they seem to have a good method of using those guidelines. Some will talk about hp inflation and this is partially true but only for low cr monsters and generally the offensive capabilities are lessened in those cases. When a party faces a monster at their cr level the challenge is equal to an mm monster of the same cr in general. That being said when a party faces a monster of higher cr than their level the difficulty is generally higher than an mm monster in general. As a rule of thumb, the greater the offset the greater the difference. This is due to the abilities mentioned previously. These often rely on saving throws which against a lower level than cr party can really disrupt a party. This is a problem more inherent to the 5e system than to this product as the same thing occurs with some of the mm monsters. I generally like the abilities which usually have 1d4 round duration. This system feels more dynamic than the saving throw once per turn for one minute that is standard. The only other areas of concern are diseases and spellcasting. Its not so much that the diseases are unbalanced. Its just that they can be a bit annoying and awkward as diseases are in 5e. Most of them can be ignored easily though. Some of the monsters have a really large amount of spells they cast despite not being wizard type enemies. This was likely done to keep these monsters interesting in nearly all situations while keeping the stat block at a reasonable size. The excess just makes tedium for the dm though. A couple monsters have spells which seem a little to strong. Strangely, in both cases the spells can be ignored and the monsters still pose a balanced challenge which causes a question of why these monsters have such spells. My thoughts are that they expect a party with a dedicated wizard or sorcerer to counter these spells and that my players just don’t care for that party role. Still these are only a couple monsters and they aren’t major concerns.
Overall rating of 4.5/5 and a definite must buy in my opinion.
Garin Jones –
The depth of creativity alone makes this a must buy. Flipping through this book inspires new storylines every time.
My review is so brief because you should be checking out already.
Travis B. –
Decided to pick up this book on a whim when I was at my local comic shop and I’m so glad I did! The monsters in this book are fantastic and just thumbing through it in the store sparked 3 or 4 different ideas I wanna tryout on my players as soon as I can. Looking forward to seeing what else Kobold Press has to offer.
One of my players has asked to use this book in my campaign, for the specified purpose of having more “beast” class monsters to use for spells like polymorph. This is one area where the official Monster Manual really lacks. Since multiple animal conjuration spells, wild form, and polymorph use this one class of creature, you would expect more variety to exist. So, I was excited to see what this tome had to offer in that regard.
However, upon reviewing the beasts in the book, I found one glaring problem: the CR for the beasts is generally one CR lower than they should be. Plugging their stats into DM challenge rating formulas almost uniformly places these creatures in a higher CR. This is not a huge issue with most creatures, because CR is just a guide to plan encounters. But for “beast” class creatures, it is a pretty big deal because of their use with the previously mentioned spells and abilities.
So while I really love the book and will definitely be using many of these creatures in my campaign, I do have to knock a star off my review just because of the lack of CR balance compared to the beasts in the Monster Manual. I’m going to have to go through every one of the “beasts” and adjust the CR before I allow my players to use them, which could turn into an argument in some cases if they were really invested in the idea of using a particular animal.
Bruce Gray –
Folks, if you are a 5th Edition Dungeon Master looking for ways to spice up your campaign, there’s nothing better than a few new monsters ….
Few, did I say? There are over 400 new 5th edition creatures ranging from a Nihileth Aboleth (listed under Aboleth, Nihileth) to Zmey. There is a very comprehensive Table of Contents. There is also a very handy Monsters by Challenge Rating index for, believe it or not, everything fro CR 1/8 (yes, folks, that is one eighth CR) to CRs of 20 or more. In fact, the only thing keeping me from giving this tome a perfect 5 is the lack of an index.
432 pages counting the standard OGL statement and a single two sided advertisement for other Kobold Press books.
If this is any indication of their ability to produce a great book, I know I shall be seeking out other Kobold Press books.
I love this accessory. It’s added so much to our games, especially since it includes quality lore for every monster and expanded lore for villains like demon lords and arch devils. It’s easy to use this information to fit them into a different campaign (we adapted to Forgotten Realms just fine). Thank you for making this and keeping it up-to-date. If you ever create a volume 2 or smaller add-ons in with the same style and quality I’ll be back for more!
Stellar product. As good as the original 5e Monster Manual. Covers lots of the gaps left in the Monster Manual, and full of evocative ideas and lore. 100% recommended.
David Schuette –
Absolutely stunning product. High quality printing and binding, art is top-notch (and all full color!) Huge range of critters. If you already have the 5e Monster Manual and are looking for a few more bad guys that your players haven’t ever seen before… buy this book.
Grimm the Eternal –
This was the second kobold press book I got (the first one I got was the creature codex) the book’s stellar artwork really helped me figure out the appearance of the monsters.
As we all know after a while of using monsters from the monster Manual and other official sources can get sorta dull because it winds up like this
DM: “suddenly a troll appears from the swamp”
Player: “ok everyone start hurling fire at it, wizard start casting acid splash like crazy”
But if you swap that troll with a lake troll from this book it might go a bit like this
DM: “you suddenly see what looks like a troll emerge from the water”
Player: “everyone start hitting it with all the fire and acid you got!”
5 minutes later
Player: ” aw crap why is it still regenerating?!”
If you like folklore then this book has got it I mean you got everything from goat-men to dullahan (a little more about that later)
Now onto my favorite monsters from this book
The oozasis a giant ooze mass with surprising intelligence and can be used as a great adventure hook
These waspfolk are quite interesting my favorite thing is the insanity that occurs when the queen dies
A maddened dragon from the outer reaches of space (AKA the void) a void dragon can make unique ally or a deadly enemy and the ancient ones have a devastating final blow when they die
A wraith in a clockwork or gearforged body. I intend to amp one up and make it a main antagonist in my campaign
Now onto my least favorite things and minor stuff
Now I enjoy their adaption of the dullahan as a fey rather than an undead how ever in the most recent official d&d book they had made has their own dullahan and my personal code makes me have to use the official one.
I am not a fan of the ravenfolk as they seem to be nothing more than kenku with a different background but this book is amazing
Overall this fine publication gets 5 stars,a 10/10 rating and is Grimm the Eternal approved
Otto VanLeeuwen –
The hardcover book feels oddly light after seeing it’s size and thickness. Sits on the self a bit taller than official material. Binding is great and the pages are textured, standard font, and the art is inspiring. The bits of lore are always a nice touch. Combat Rating or CR is a little off for the use of spells or in combat, may not hurt to consider the Book of Lairs and running a one-shot to get a feel before they enter your game.
Softcover has a nice weight to size ratio and contains glossy paper. This helps the art “pop” a bit more than in the hardcover edition. Binding is good and the glue looks strong, font is not hard to read but if you may want a PDF, the page cut to the cover seems to have missed a bit but that does not ruin the overall physical appeal.
Appendices are limited physically with my 2nd edition pocket edition, their standard is available for free as PDFs above. I highly recommend you get those with purchase.
This is a phenomenal product and Kobold Press’s first 5e monster manual. I always refer to it when making encounters alongside my official material.