Terrifying monsters and villains for your heroic- and paragon-tier campaign.
The Nentir Vale - a frontier land sheltered by mountains and strewn with abandoned farmsteads, ruined manors, and broken keeps - is the perfect base for any Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale presents statistics, tactics, and lore for an array of new monsters that prowl the Nentir Vale, some of which trace their origins back to the earliest editions of the Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game. Other entries focus on campaign villains present in the Nentir Vale region, among them the Iron Circle, the Tigerclaw Barbarians, the Raven Roost Bandits, and several new villainous groups introduced here for the first time.
The monsters and villains contained within are appropriate challenges for heroic- and paragon-tier characters and fit easily into any home campaign, as well as other Dungeons & Dragons published campaign settings. In addition to a 128-page book of ready-to-play monsters and villains, this product includes 8 die-cut sheets of card stock monster and villain tokens and a double-sided battle map featuring four different encounter locations you can use when running encounters.
Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale (2011), by Sterling Hershey, Brian R. James, Matt James, and Steve Townshend was the second Essentials-style monster book for D&D 4e. It was published in April 2011.
About the Cover. The cover shows the black dragon Shadowmire and his witchlight lizardfolk.
About the Title. The title of Threats to Nentir Vale clearly showed that it was an Essentials-style monster book, but it also confused some people who didn't realize that Monster Vault (2010) and Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale (2011) were actually different releases.
Continuing the 4e Line. Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale was the third post-Essentials book for D&D 4e. Though things had looked grim in Q1, 2011, when multiple books were cancelled, Wizards of the Coast had now published three books in three months: Heroes of Shadow (2011) in April, The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (2011) in May, and Monster Vault: Threats to Nentir Vale (2011) in June.
Threats to Nentir Vale was very much a sequel to the Essentials Monster Vault book, presenting monsters in the same, updated formats, and also including tokens for play. With that said, it features two big differences.
- Threats to Nentir Vale wasn't packaged in a box, but instead in a cardstock sleeve that was shrinkwrapped to keep everything inside.
- The book wasn't digest-sized (like the Essentials books). In fact, it wasn't hardcover either (like the core books). Instead Threats to Nentir Vale was a softcover release, representing yet another format for a 4e line that was growing increasingly chaotic. (Its size and format actually matched the Shadowfell books, but they were in a box.)
The Essentials Facts. The new formatting of Threats to the Nentir Vale just confused one of 2011's biggest questions for D&D players: "What was going on with Essentials?" Even six months after the line had theoretically ended, players didn't know if it had replaced the original core rules for D&D 4e or not. Neither Heroes of Shadow or The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond definitively answered the question, though the former's content had certainly looked like it was from an Essentials book!
Threats to the Nentir Vale continues to lean in that same direction. Though it doesn't carry the Essentials logo, inside it says it is "designed for use with the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials line of products" and it's also a perfect match for the original Essentials Monster Vault book. Put those facts together, and you can make a very good argument that Threats to the Nentir Vale is the unheralded 11th Essentials product — or the 12th if you want to be generous with Heroes of Shadow.
With that said: it doesn't really matter. The Essentials line was always supposed to be totally compatible with the original 4e core; though players could (and did) argue about the compatibility of Essentials characters, you can't say the same for Essentials monsters, which were updates of the core D&D monsters using the formula and formatting from Monster Manual 3 (2010).
About the Components. Threats to Nentir Vale includes 8 sheets of cardstock monster tokens, representing the new creatures in the set. These tokens also revealed another minor change in formatting for the D&D 4e line: where the Essentials tokens were glossy, the Threats to Nentir Vale tokens were matte-finished instead.
A Different Sort of Monster Manual. Though it's formatted just like Monster Vault, Threats to Nentir Vale is actually a very different sort of Monster Manual. That's because it mostly focuses on monstrous factions not individual monster tyeps. Wizards of the Coast had started playing with factions in their d20 Modern line (2002-2006). The idea of factions had then infiltrated 4e in setting-focused books like Hammerfest (2010), Vor Rukoth, and The Shadowfell (2011). Now, the concept was being brought into the core books too.
Threats to Nentir Vale is thus full of unique villains; often they're grouped into organizations containing leaders and members alike. The result feels as much like a book of encounters as a book of monsters.
Expanding the Nentir Vale. One of the cancelled books from the first quarter of 2011 was a "Nentir Vale Gazetteer". It would have taken the new attention being heaped on the Points of Light world in the Essentials line and turned it into a comprehensive setting. Alas, the Gazetteer never appeared, but the focus on the setting continued in a variety of products — including the Shadow Over Nentir Vale Fortune Cards (2011) in February, the Conquest of Nerath board game (2011) in June, and the "DN2: The Witchlight Fens" Dungeon Tiles (2011) in June.
For the roleplaying line, the best spotlight on the Nentir Vale was actually Threats to Nentir Vale itself. Though there are just a couple of pages of actual background, the monster and faction write-ups are all filled with information on how they fit into the history and ecology of the Nentir Vale. Just as Greyhawk was once primarily defined by D&D's oldest adventures, now the Nentir Vale was largely described through these monster encounters (and the core 4e adventures).
Monsters of Note. There are about 200 monsters in Threats to Nentir Vale, and the vast majority of them are for the Heroic Tier. Less than 20% are Paragon Tier monsters, and there are no epic monsters at all. The toughest monster in the book is Shadowmire, at level 19, which is probably why he's on the cover.
Though most of the monsters are unique builds that are part of organizations, there are also a few classic monsters making their reappearance in 4e as standard monster blocks. This includes the boggle, the felldrakes, the hound of ill omen, the penanggalan, the peryton, and the vampiric mist. There's also an entry for the new abyssal demons, who exist mainly to support Wizards' "Abyssal Plague" crossover event (2011-2012).
About the Creators. Sterling Hershey, Brian R. James, Matt James, and Steve Townshend all contributed to Threats to Nentir Vale. Hershey has written mainly for a variety of Star Wars lines; this is his only D&D work. The two James each worked on a couple of other D&D 4e books from 2010-2012, while Townshend worked on about a half a dozen projects in that time period.
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 email@example.com.