New Races, New Creatures with D&D 5e’s ‘Volo’s Guide to Monsters’

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Volo Feature

Dungeon Masters (DMs) and players of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition can begin their happy dance now. The latest resource book from Wizards of the Coast is the much-anticipated Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and I’m happy to say that it delivers the goods. The book has been released with two different covers (limited edition variant cover here), but the 224 pages inside are identical and include the following:

  • Welcome letter from Forgotten Realms’ explorer Volothamp Geddarm with some editor remarks from Archmage Elminster Aumar. There’s some obvious history between these two, so it’s left to the reader to determine what information contained in the tome should be taken as fact or fiction.
  • Monster Lore—97 pages provide a much deeper examination of nine different creatures that have a tendency to cross paths with wandering adventurers. These include beholders, giants, gnolls, goblinoids, hags, kobolds, mind flayers, orcs, and the Yuan-ti. With each creature type getting between 10-12 pages of supplemental material, you’ll find details about culture, births, combat, minions, and much more. In some instances, Volo has provided valuable maps that further one’s knowledge of these monsters. And in some instances, additional charts have been provided for roleplaying some of these creatures. Sidebars contain details such as confronting these creatures, major cities, key individuals, and deities… plus many more secrets
  • Character Races—A total of seven new races (although Goliaths were introduced in the Princes of the Apocalypse resource) are provided for players to try out—Aasimar, Firbolgs, Goliaths, Kenku, Lizardfolk, Tabaxi, and Tritons. Matching the level of details found in the 5e Player’s Handbook race descriptions, players will find ability score mods, special abilities, class suggestions, and other details for roleplaying these new races.
  • Monstrous Adventurers—Should a DM allow it, the book also includes the basic traits for the bugbear, goblin, hobgoblin, kobold, orc, and Yaun-ti so that players can create a character from one of these creature races.
  • New Monsters—With over 120 new monsters (some of them are variations of a particular creature — an example is the Hag creature that provides two new variants called Annis Hag and Bheur Hag), DMs will have some new challenges to toss at players. The back of the book contains a number of helpful charts that break up the new creatures by creature type, challenge rating, and environment.
  • New Non-Player Character Stats— Appendix B contains 23 new non-player characters that include Apprentice Wizard, Blackguard, Diviner, and Swashbuckler among others.

From a DM’s point of view, I have to say that the additional information on creatures is very valuable. I do love mind flayers, but the extra variants of kobolds and gnolls and goblins really opens up a lot of opportunities to renew lower-level adventures with some new surprises. Obviously, the new creatures are a welcome addition, but those new NPC options are going to be very helpful.

firbolg     mindflayer1

I don’t play as a character that often, so it’s unlikely I’ll ever play all of these new races. That said, the Kenku and Tabaxi races fascinate me, and I’m giving serious consideration to re-configuring my current Adventurers League character using one of these races.

There’s a strong hint in the book that Volo may tackle additional creatures and races in a future volume. For now, however, Wizards has almost doubled the number of races available to players, and DMs are getting a 40+% increase in creature options. Not too shabby.

And things get better if you’re a Roll20 DM or player! A digital version of Volo’s Guide to Monsters is available online for Roll20 players who purchase the new resource. From Roll20, the purchase includes:

  • Brand new entries within the current D&D 5th Edition Compendium, unlockable upon purchase. The Compendium is available both on the Roll20 site and in-game.
  • Over 130 statted Tokens, featuring original artwork from Dungeons & Dragons
  • Players can delve into the belly of the beasts with all 7 monster lair Battle Maps from the book, set up in the included module. The module is advanced feature-enabled, with Dynamic Lighting on all 7 Maps.
The most exciting part of the Roll20 adaption of Volo’s Guide to Monsters is that users can access the Compendium tab on the Roll20 tabletop to find entries on these deadly monsters and drag & drop them into their pre-existing adventures! The monsters will be integrated into games, complete with with fully statted tokens and Journal entries, creating a seamless way for gamers to spruce up their dungeon delves or castle creeps. 
Volo’s Guide to Monsters releases on November 15, 2016.

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