Monster Manual III

A Walk Through the Planes – Part 98: Monster Manual III

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I know, I know, new planar monster listings aren’t terribly interesting. The reason why Planescape’s world—and any other worthwhile interplanar setting, for that matter—is fun to adventure in has to do with the way it screws with typical fantasy conceptions and clichés. If traditional fantasy cribs repeatedly from Tolkien and Moorcock, planar fantasy at its best should feel like China Miéville and Neil Gaiman. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that most monsters in traditional D&D are simply statblocks of obstacles for players to bash their way through, and this was even more the case in third edition due to far less space being given to these beings’ lore. Meeting new creatures is part of the fun in journeying to new worlds, but rarely are they strange enough to warrant notice in their slapdash, third edition write-ups. Unfortunately, the Monster Manual III isn’t going to shake up this format, and is far more akin to the Monster Manual II than it is the Fiend Folio. Were I to skip this book entirely, I’m not sure that anyone would actually care or, for that matter, notice. 

Even so, there are an absolute ton of new planar monsters in this book. It’s just that, on the whole, they’re unmemorable and kinda suck. I’ll do my best to cover a few worth noting, but frankly these new creatures do little to change the landscape of the planes, and in most cases were never seen again in D&D, with the exception of its then-new setting Eberron. 


Oh yeah, that’s the other oddity of the Monster Manual III. Most entries include a paragraph explaining where said monster fits into the Eberron and Forgotten Realms settings. Given that neither of these settings uses the core cosmology (Forgotten Realms suddenly and inexplicably dropped it with its third edition source book in a messy way that caused a lot of retcon-based issues), that means that effectively the book needs to situate these monsters in three different universes. As such, a lot of space is devoted to these varying explanations, which means even less of the book is devoted to more useful and universal descriptions of the monsters themselves. It’s not a bad book when looking for a new swath of higher-level monsters for players to fight, but if your hope is to find well-rounded creatures to interact with in any other manner then I suggest looking elsewhere. 

The chraal’s art is fittingly undistinctive.

Ok, below is a list of its planar creatures, divided in the same manner that I used with the Fiend Folio. It’s impossible not to note how many of these listings are new, which is par for the course in this book, which consists largely of new creations. Also impossible not to note is how few of these monsters even veteran players will have heard about. 

New Planar Creatures:

  • Astral Stalker
  • Chraal
  • Cinder Swarm
  • Demon – Sorrowsworn (another non-tanar’ri one)
  • Dread Blossom Swarm
  • Dust Wight
  • Storm Elemental – legally distinct from Lightning Elementals
  • Ephemeral Swarm
  • Planar Golems – including Shadesteel, I don’t care what he authors intended
  • Gulgar
  • Justicator
  • Lumi
  • Mivilorn – mistakenly labeled in the statblock as being from Acheron, though they’re from Pandemonium in the description. This error is noted in the book’s errata.
  • Necronaut
  • Odopi
  • Omnimental
  • Plague Brush
  • Rakshasa – Ak’Chazar & Naztharune
  • Rejkar
  • Shrieking Terror

Planar Creatures from Previous Editions:

  • Demon – Arrow (well, from Dragonadmittedly some of the monsters listed above might also be from the magazine or even from Dungeon, I don’t plan on checking. Even I have too much of a life for that.)
  • Trilloch
  • Visilight – Under a new name, see below
  • Yugoloth – Canoloth, Mezzoloth, Nycaloth, Ultroloth

As I said, it’s enough new planar monsters that I don’t want to skip the book entirely, though at the same time very few are noteworthy. I’m going to cover these listings alphabetically, as any other method is going to make this take longer on my end. My apologies to people who care more about this book and think it warrants more time and energy spent on it, as I’m simply not one of them. 

Most of the drawings in this book were middling, but the dread blossoms really stood out. Rarely are plant-monsters so well-visualized.

One of the book’s oddities is that it features a few creatures, such as the chraal, who would be great in the Planescape cosmology… and don’t work great with the third edition core cosmology. “When a particularly evil and hateful being perishes on either the Elemental Plane of Air or the Elemental Plane of Water, its life force is sometimes captured by the planar powers and coalesced into a chraal. The chraal retains no knowledge of its past life and exists as a radiant cloud of cold energy trapped inside a monstrous shell of hard, bluish-black ice.” I.e. they’re evil black ice, and so should exist on that paraelemental plane… which no longer exists in the multiverse, so instead they’re awkwardly on Air and Water. Ugh, no wonder these things never caught on.


Dread Blossom Swarms hail from the Beastlands and are a weird, blood-drinking plant that’s surprisingly deadly. They actually fit right in with that plane, and while there isn’t too much else to them—their name really says it all—I’m still happy about their creation. 

Dust wights are a lot like the chraal in that they really feel out of place in this cosmology, while storm elementals are just rebranded lightning elementals now stuck in the Plane of Air. *sigh* Going through these even in this half-assed fashion is making me tired.

The Gloom Golem did stand out as extremely cool, and featured the most memorable art in the whole book. Makes you wish all the planar golems had drawings of their own, or at least statblocks.

Planar golems are just what they sound like, composed of a planar spirit trapped in the matter of an Outer Plane. Which in some cases feels like it shouldn’t even be possible, as it requires the creator to be the same alignment as the golem, but trapping a spirit from, say, Mt. Celestia is rather antithetical to being, you know, a good person. Anyhow, once you get past this illogical backstory, ones from Hades and Elysium are given full statblocks while ones hailing from the other Outer Planes are mentioned as part of a sidebar. Oddly, there’s also a shadowstuff golem, the Shadesteel Golem, that works pretty much the same way but isn’t considered planar because, ummm… I have no idea why, it just isn’t. Maybe it’s because they’re made out of metal from the Plane of Shadow? Whatever. 


Gulgars are actually no longer from the Plane of Earth, but I’m including them here anyhow because at least they have something of a backstory compared with everything else in MMIII. Unfortunately, that they were driven out of their home plane is the only detail of note about them, and mostly they seem like an excuse to shoehorn more sonic weapon-using enemies into the game. This edition really tried to make sonic happen, and never really succeeded.

Justicators are one of the few new creations I like. They’re basically lawful neutral warrior angels with an absolutely warlike disposition. I prefer them to Inevitables, perhaps because they hang out in Acheron in order to fight as much as possible, and perhaps because they seem like people you can actually interact with whereas the Inevitables are more just obstacles in the PCs’ way. Their entry could use more information about their culture in order to understand their philosophy, decisions, etc., but at this point that really goes without saying.

And now we’re back to art mediocrity for the lumis. At leasst they’re still a cool people.

My favorite new monster in the entire book is the lumi. “The lumi are a race of warriors and healers who live on the Positive Energy Plane. There they build towering cities of glass and light that are protected from intruders simply by virtue of the plane’s dangers to nonnative life.” While their existence is a little antithetical to Planescape’s version of this plane, at the same time I appreciate there being something of interest there, and it always felt weird that there are so many undead in the Negative Energy Plane and sheer nothingness in the Positive one. They’re actually lawful neutral and not good, because though they hate Negative Energy creatures, they have no other real morality and kinda seem like dicks. There isn’t enough space devoted to their entry to make them truly interesting, but there’s still the spark of something here. They also have heads made of light floating above humanoid bodies, so I give them some extra points for looking unique, especially by humanoid standards. If there’s one ignored creature from this book that I’d like to see return to the game, this is it. 


Lastly, the odopi is part of the surprising effort MMIII puts into adding monsters from more obscure planes, as they hail from Carceri. However, they’re basically just Hecatoncheries with a different name. For some reason, I found the decision to create them entertaining, perhaps because the write-up seems to think they’re far stranger than they actually are.

And, well, that’s it as far as noteworthy new monsters go. Originally, I had a section about visilights, but apparently they’re just a rebranded version of paraii from Planes of Law, which is one of those changes that just adds more confusion to the game. We’ll see whether the next two Monster Manuals from this edition get covered in this column as well, since it should be quite obvious already that there’s decreasing returns with each book in this series. On the one hand, they definitely keep growing the planes, but on the other hand it wasn’t in a way that anyone, including me, really cared for. 

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