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Dungeons & Dragons Essentials: Monster Vault (4e)


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

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.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (4)
Discussions (7)
Customer avatar
Jason P August 22, 2023 12:37 am UTC
why does it say multiple formats and just show one? LOL
Customer avatar
Benjamin K April 01, 2024 9:07 pm UTC
It includes the PDF of the monster book, PDF of the adventure, PDF of the maps, PDF of the tokens, and VTT tokens. So, different formats of files.
Customer avatar
boris P May 10, 2023 6:04 pm UTC
Any chance of having the core-book Monster Vault as print on demand? I know it has the maps and the tokens in the set, but i dont really care for having those printed- the book would be an insta buy though :)
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 05, 2022 4:30 pm UTC
The only negative, I didn't care for softcover and how it was made so small, and yet so thick.
As a pdf, I suppose it can be printed out differently.
Customer avatar
Lily G November 12, 2021 11:24 am UTC
Can we use it with core handbook for players instead essentials ?
Customer avatar
Timothy B November 30, 2021 9:13 am UTC
Yes, the monsters in Monster Vault are compatible with player characters that were created using the core 4e materials. The math that was used to build these monsters is slightly different, as they use the updated math from Monster Manual 3, if I remember correctly.
Customer avatar
Ismael A July 18, 2018 4:16 pm UTC
Can the tokens easily be converted for use in VTT, or would it take work to "uncouple" them?
Customer avatar
Timothy B November 30, 2021 9:15 am UTC
If you use a tool like Token Stamp 2 (a free, online tool), it's easy to convert the token images into VTT tokens.
Customer avatar
Royden C October 14, 2016 6:19 am UTC
is this just the pdfs or is the the tokens ?
Customer avatar
Timothy B November 30, 2021 9:16 am UTC
The tokens are included for download. The maps are, too.
Customer avatar
October 06, 2015 5:12 pm UTC
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
I'm glad to hear it!
Customer avatar
Henrique C April 05, 2018 12:43 am UTC
What is the resolution of the tokens and maps? Do you think they are scanned or all digital?
The adventure is scanned or digital?
Customer avatar
April 10, 2018 2:16 pm UTC
Sorry for the late reply. The files are definitely digital.
I can select text from the adventure within Adobe Acrobat. Looks really clean and crisp on screen.
A random check of the JPG files says the tokens and maps are 96ppi. Again - look clean on screen.
I don't have the ability to print and confirm printed resolution (and don't have any kind of pro printer at home anyway), but I'm assuming it will look very good.
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File Last Updated:
August 08, 2022
This title was added to our catalog on October 06, 2015.