Volo’s Guide to Monsters is the second non-adventure guide for the 5th edition of Dungeon and Dragons and acts as a supplement to the 5th edition Monster Manual and the Players Handbook, The book contains a ton of interesting lore, spectacular artwork, maps, and mechanics.
Now, the real question is, is this relatively slim sourcebook really all it’s hyped up to be? Time to find out!
Volo’s Guide to Monsters is divided into three main sections, Monster Lore, Character Races, and Bestiary along with three Appendixes. It clocks in at 224 pages, a whopping 128 pages less than The Monster Manual, but is the same price. However, for those of you wanting a taste, WotC has released a free pdf version of Volo’s Guide to Monsters which is available for download here.
There are a few entries here and there from Volo and Elminster but it’s generally a straightforward book written in a similar fashion and tone as the other guides.
Chapter 1: Monster Lore
Perhaps the best chapter of the book overall as it expands on some of the greatest D&D monsters we all know and love.
Gnolls, Beholders, Giants, Goblinoids, Kobolds, Hags, Mind Flayers, Orcs, and Yuan-ti all get detailed origin and background information such as biology, specific content on lairs and tactics as well as some wonderful lore. My personal favorite section is the one dedicated to Mind Flayers, absolutely enthralling.
However, it was surprising to find out that WotC failed to include some D&D classics such as dragons, fiends, and the undead, I mean shouldn’t a guide to monsters include the most important ones?
Chapter 2: Character Races
This section includes some new heroic character races and different options for the ones we already know such as Enku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, Firbolgs, Goliaths, Aasimar, and Tritons.
As for monstrous ones, there are Bugbear, Goblin, Hobgoblin, Kobold, Orc, and Yuan-ti. There is a warning within the guide that these six are not created to be balanced with the standard player races, and may be stronger or weaker, so a DM has to be more cautious about their use.
Although the shortest chapter of the book, only about 20 pages, it’s pretty useful.
Chapter 3: Bestiary
Notable mentions include The froghemoth, a huge amphibious monster that lurks in the shadows of swamps, The vargouille, a horrible bat-winged creature, and the neogi, ruthless spider-like monstrosities.
This chapter also expands on some of the monsters from The Monsters Manual for instance, The Monsters Manual has a winged kobold along with the regular kobold but this sourcebook includes a kobold scale sorcerer, a kobold dragon shield, and a kobold inventor. There are also variations on other specific creatures such as the Annis Hag and Bheur Hag for the Hag creature.
Volo's Guide to Monsters
First and foremost, Volo's Guide to Monsters enables Dungeon Masters to create more engaging villains with elaborate motivations. Although personally, as a DM, I don't have much use for the new player races at this point, it's a praiseworthy act by WotC to include something enjoyable for the Players in a primarily DM focused book. Unlike some of the other must-have sourcebooks that have been released for the 5e of Dungeon and Dragons (looking at you Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) Volo's Guide to Monsters is not a necessity, however, it is a fascinating read and an excellent resource for a deeper insight into monsters, lore, in-depth guidelines on lairs and to give your campaign that extra spark all DMs strive for.