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Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault (4e)
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Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault (4e)

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Iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters that are easy to run and fun to fight.

This essential product for Dungeon Masters collects the most iconic monsters of the Dungeons & Dragons world in one handy box and presents all-new variants, including new spins on such beloved monsters as dragons, orcs, and vampires. The monsters described herein are designed to be easy for Dungeon Masters to use and fun for players to fight. In addition to combat statistics, each monster entry comes with story information to help DMs incorporate the monsters into their adventures and campaigns.

In addition to a comprehensive collection of iconic Dungeons & Dragons monsters, this box contains die-cut tokens for the monsters that appear within, as well as a 32-page adventure that showcases several of the monsters.

Dungeon Masters can easily incorporate the adventure into their ongoing campaigns.

Product History

Monster Vault (2010), by Rodney Thompson with Logan Bonner and Matthew Sernett, is the Monster Manual for D&D Essentials. It was released in November 2010.

About the Cover. The cover shows an angry owlbear surrounded by humanoids. It hints at the classic nature of this new 4e monster book.

About the Title. The monster books for D&D are typically called Monster Manuals, though there were variations, like the classic Fiend Folio, the 2e Monstrous Compendiums, and the Basic Creature Catalogs. However for the majority of D&D's life, if you wanted a monster, you went to a Monster Manual. Calling the Essentials monster book a Monster Vault suggested that it was going to be something different from the norm — which it was.

Continuing the Essentials Line. Though the Essentials line was advertised as ten books, that includes dice, three Dungeon Tiles sets, and a Starter Set. The core set of Essentials rules was actually just five books long, starting with the Rules Compendium (2010) and Heroes of the Fallen Lands (2010) and continuing through the Dungeon Master's Kit (2010). Wizards closed the line off In November 2010 with Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (2010) and then Monster Vault (2010).

With 2011 looming, the question was: what next?

About the Components. The Essentials line was full of boxed sets; Monster Vault was a close match for the Dungeon Master's Kit, as they each featured a box that included a digest-sized book and a set of other components. For Monster Vault that meant 10 sheets of monster tokens, matching the character and monster tokens from the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (2010). The biggest innovation of these new monster tokens was the ability to make any "large" monster "huge", by putting it inside a huge ring.

Adventure Tropes. Monster Vault also includes "Cairn of the Winter King", a short 32-page adventure. It could be played as a sequel to the adventures from the Stater Set and the Dungeon Master's Kit, providing players with a short adventure path. Unfortunately, "Winter King" largely drops the plot threads from the Dungeon Master's Kit … but the levels and locales still line up.

In the classic style, "Cairn of the Winter King" is a dungeon crawl; in the 4e style, it's laid out as 10 set encounters.

What a Difference an Edition Makes. Though Essentials broadly reimagined how characters worked in D&D 4e (2008), the rest of its updates were mostly errata that was being incorporated into these new core books … and that's exactly what Monster Vault was as well.

To be precise, Monster Vault integrates all the changes from the July 2010 Rules Update and all the new ideas from Monster Manual 3 (2010); none of this material was new for Essentials. It was the Monster Manual 3 that was the big innovator.

That book had introduced three major changes for 4e monsters:

  1. New Math. Monsters now did more damage.
  2. Updated Stat Blocks. The stat blocks were totally reorganized to be more readable and more accessible, while details of important keywords were also added to the blocks. Monster Vault then made one addition not found in the Monster Manual 3: each stat block also contains a picture of the monster (drawn from its monster token).
  3. More Details. Considerable detail is added to the monsters' background and history.

Monsters of Note. The goal of Essentials was to provide a new core of rule books that were simplified, updated, and errataed, so that they'd be easier to use. Monster Vault accomplishes this by revisiting many of the monsters from the core Monster Manual (2008) for 4e. The table of contents thus reads like a very classic monster book, including old favorites like carrion crawlers, chromatic dragons, elementals, goblins, lizardfolk, owlbears, purple worms, and the undead. These monsters are also biased toward the lower levels: almost two-thirds of them are Heroic Tier, and most of the rest are Paragon Tier. To keep the Vault from being too repetitive, it includes new builds of many of its classic monsters.

Future History. Bonner presented many of the monsters that he regretted not being able to include in the Monster Vault in a "Monster Manual Updates" series
that ran from Dungeon #191 (June 2011) to Dungeon #198 (January 2012). It covered chokers, chuuls, foulspawn, ghosts, gibbering beasts, grells, griffons, grimlocks, kuo-toa, naga, nightmares, oni, sahuagins, satyrs, shambling mounds, wights, worgs, and wyverns.

Wizards later published Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale (2011), a sequel to the Monster Vault but also a very different sort of monster book.

About the Creators. Lead designer Rodney Thompson worked at Wizards of the Coast from 2007-2015, though he freelanced as far back as the 2003 release of the Star Wars Hero's Guide (2003). He worked extensively on the Essentials line, also contributing to Heroes of the Fallen Lands (2010) and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (2010).

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 shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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Discussions (2)
Customer avatar
Royden C October 14, 2016 6:19 am UTC
is this just the pdfs or is the the tokens ?
Customer avatar
October 06, 2015 5:12 pm UTC
PURCHASER
the files DOES include maps and tokens - both in JPG and PDF file formats. Full review later!
Customer avatar
Timothy B October 07, 2015 3:47 am UTC
PURCHASER
I'm glad to hear it!
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Product Information
Silver seller
Rule System(s)
Pages
288
File Size:
79.48 MB
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File Last Updated:
October 05, 2015
This title was added to our catalog on October 06, 2015.