Yes, finally AD&D is here!
Well almost. Still have to wait for the actual rules. But it makes all kind of sense to publish this first, as it could be used by existing players regardless.
The Monster Manual is definitely a step up in quality – being hardback is the most obvious thing – a first for the role-playing industry, let alone TSR.
Then there’s all the illustrations and the general layout with nice use of white space Also the organisation and comprehensiveness. It’s kind of funny that being Alphabetical is such a feature!
Shannon points out some interesting stuff on DriveThruRPG. In particular, I never realised the Monster Manual doesn’t even include the XP worth of each monster! I think that’s because, funnily enough, we didn’t have the Monster Manual growing up, only the list of monsters in the back of the DM’s Guide, which has the XP amount.
I like the occasional whimsy, eg the Tom Wham illustration of the Lynx. Also the Leprechaun – not only is one riding the nearby Giant Leech, one of them has tilted the organising title found at the top of each page on its side.
As I read it, I was constantly struck by how few monsters I’ve actually encountered while playing. And I’m not just talking about the zillions of dinosaurs like the Archelon Ischyras. I’m talking about things like the Floating Eye, not a Beholder or Eye of the Deep, just an eye that hangs out in water. Or the Masher. Or the Baluchtherium.
Whereas the descriptions in Holmes basic are often straight copies of the text in OD&D, a spot check of the descriptions in the Monster Manual against OD&D shows them to be completely reworked.
So, anyway, yeah, being a reference work, reading through every entry was at times a bit tedious. However, in amongst the boring stuff, there’s quite a lot of good flavour text.
Of special note are the occasional hints at lore yet to be discovered/published. For example, under Elf, the Drow are mentioned in a very brief paragraph that says they’re “only legend. They purportedly dwell deep beneath the surface in a strange subterranean realm”. And likewise, Mind Flayers “are rumored to have a city somewhere deep beneath the earth”.
Left is a first printing, middle is a UK soft cover, right is a more ubiquitous 4th (gamma) printing.
David C Sutherland III, David A Trampier, Tom Wham, and later additions by Jean Wells.
Acaeum states “The first print was intended to be released in Sep 1977, but due to delays at the printer, was not released until after Christmas 1977 — possibly even Jan 1978”.
Obviously it was in the December Dragon magazine – both an ad and two editorial pieces saying it would be available soon. The February issue of the Dragon says it out in the shops.
Further, in the May Dragon issue, Gygax says the Monster Manual “… was anticipated to be ready prior to Christmas. (As usual, there were delays, mainly from the printer and the binder.)”
So really it was probably January but I’m still going to go with December – especially considering the copyright page says 1977.