Monster Manual II

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 80: Monster Manual II (Third Edition)




I only decided to cover the Monster Manual II because of our previous article dealing with planetouched people. Sure, there are a handful of other planar beings in the book, from new demons and devils (which are weird given the strict hierarchy we had before—from here on, new devils will arrive willy nilly) to the return of a handful of celestials and yugoloths to bringing the teratomorph into more prominence than an obscure article in Dragon, but most of its planar content is perfunctory. There are a few creatures I like here, particularly the ethereal doppelganger and the fiendwurm, and a few things that cause me to ask further questions about the multiverse like those new devils and the glimmerskin, but there’s a reason skipped this book entirely when I was in high school, as I found it rather uninspired compared with the Monster Manual and the Monsters of Faerun compendium (which despite its name is very universal and fills in a lot of the more well-known creatures better than this volume). Even this book’s art was a step down, with more than a handful of pieces seeming dashed off in ways we hadn’t really seen in this edition before. 

The fact is, while there are a few new choices for demons, and I’m happy to see the bladeling be statted for third edition and to receive a bit more information about the gem dragons of the Inner Planes, returning to this book now did nothing to convince me I was wrong in ignoring it. We’ll get to my favorite collection of third edition monsters soon enough, but for now I think it’s safe to say that the only lasting effect of this volume on the planar landscape—and yes, I know that a couple of these creatures would crop up again, but fewer than you’d think—was those new planetouched. And really, they were mostly forgotten as well.

Even the art for these planetouched, which I believe is by Michael Dutton, is pretty damn weak.

In “Children of the Cosmos,” the chaotic and lawful planetouched were named the axani and cansin. Most interesting about them was that they could result from fiendish or celestial heritage, as devils or archons, for instance, are just as much lawful as they are good/evil. Conversely, the two new planetouched of the Monster Manual II, the chaonds and zenythris, only come from slaadi heritage and “mysterious beings of law whose identity is only guessed at.” Needless to say, as well as having stupider names than the planetouched we met in the Dragon article, the chaonds and zenythris are far sillier than their earlier cousins/counterparts/whatevers. They’re also only secondarily about being character races, even though really that’s their primary purpose, and are instead stated and explained like monsters. Which I suppose isn’t a surprise, given the source, but still feels more than a bit off. 


Perhaps part of why none of these planetouched took off was that within a couple months we had two competing pairs (and counting…), neither of which were particularly compelling, though I think the MMII‘s ones are worse for pushing the idea of planetouched in a generally less interesting direction. While I wouldn’t really offer any of these planetouched as a default option, if a player asked about playing as a lawful/chaotic one, I’d show them the Dragon article instead and pretend these don’t exist, though of course the choice is up to you.

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