Continuing my review of the monster books of my youth with what can be called the most polished of all the AD&D/D&D monster books, the AD&D Monster Manual II.
This was the first book to feature the new "orange spine" and Jeff Easley cover art. It is also one of the larger AD&D first ed books at 160 pages. Sometimes I wonder what an old-school cover would have looked like, something drawn by Tramp maybe. That all aside, the cover of this book is great, but it doesn't quite grab you the same way that the MM1 or the FF did. But inside is more than makes up for this "perceived" slight.
For this review, I am as usual considering the original hardcover and the newer PDF from DriveThruRPG. There is no Print on Demand option yet for this title, but as a special feature, I'll also have a look at the miniature book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i.
The book(s) and the PDF have full-color covers featuring art from Jeff Easley. Inside is all black and white art from Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Dave Sutherland, and Larry Elmore. No slight to the previous book's artists, but the style and quality here is more consistent. Some might see this as an improvement (I do) but others will point to this as a sign of the change from the Golden Age of TSR to the Silver Age. Of course, it features the byline of Gary Gygax, though we now know that some of them were created by Frank Mentzer and Jeff Grubb. In some ways, you can see this change in tone and feel that is happening at TSR in this book.
The Monster Manual II was the first hardcover after a year hiatus. The book is better organized and layout than most of the AD&D hardcover books. I have to admit I always credited this to TSR finally moving over to computer layout, but I have nothing to support this claim save for how the book looks.
There is a lot to this book too. OVer 250 monsters there are a ton more demons, devils, and more from the outer planes, like the daemons, demodands, modrons, and even good-aligned creatures like the devas and solars. We get a few more dragons and some giants. We get a lot of monsters that feel inspired by the first Monster Manual. There are also many from previous adventure modules. This book also gave us the Tarrasque, the Catlord, the Swanmay, the Wolfwere. and more.
This book also has nearly 30 pages of encounter tables at the end that covers all three books, very useful to have really and a selling point for the PDF. Get the PDF and print out the tables.
The Monster Manual II is still by all rights a classic. While I don't get the same thrill from it as I do the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio, but the monsters individually are great.
It remains to this day a lot of fun and a book I still get great enjoyment from.
[5 of 5 Stars!]