Now that the Monster Manual 2 has been out for a little bit, I figure it’s good to continue my more detailed looks at the monster inside it in case any DMs out there have put off buying it and still aren’t aware of exactly what it contains.
I also highly recommend you check out Wyatt’s “review” of the MM2 at Spirits of Eden because it made both Dave and myself laugh quite a bit!
Fey Lingerer – This is one of the inclusions in the book that surprised and confused me a bit. Lingerer’s are Eladrin whose strong willed spirits have continued even after death. They are very interesting paragon level threats in two varieties, the Knight and the Fell Incanter, both of which transform into insubstantial vestiges when reduced to 0 hit points. Essentially they count as 4 separate monsters, because you could include the vestiges on their own, but they are really designed to be used as follow ups for once a lingerer’s body has been destroyed. While the Knight is a soldier and the Fell Incanter is artillery, they both lean strongly towards controller with their auras and a large selection of powers. The vestiges have the rather surprises ability to Dash and shift up to six squares as a recharge move action.
Firbolg - I’m very happy to see that this monster has not transformed to look like the bear-creatures that you see called Firbolgs in World of Warcraft, rest assured they are still very much the classic large-humanoid hairy creature! This is a great step towards filling in what I saw as a void of many fey creatures in the first MM, filling up the paragon tier with many different kinds of Firbolgs to enforce their strongly middle ground perspective. The common aspect of all firbolgs is their regeneration and vulnerability to necrotic damage, in addition to the moonfire ability that negates invisibility and concealment. Probably the coolest of them are the Bloodbear and Ghostraven, both of which have alternate animal forms that make them very tough foes to mess with.
Fomorian - This expanded entry from the first book provides five new types of giant fey tormentors, all of which are elite monsters in the upper paragon tier. Including the Ghost Shaman (level 16 elite controller), Cackler (level 17 elite lurker), Totemist (level 18 elite skirmisher), Blinder (level 20 elite artillery), and the Butcher (level 22 elite brute).
Genasi - I think that Genasi make some of the best adversaries, so I was very happy to see them included in this book. The Genasi Elemental Dervish is a level 18 elite skirmisher that changes its manifestation at the start of each turn, making double sword attacks and a Primordial Storm power that changes depending upon which element it is currently using. The Genasi fireblade is the standard brute of the group, but can add on to already ongoing fire damage and even reduce a character’s saves versus fire damage, when combined with other elemental creatures this could prove quite deadly. The Genasi Hydromancer is a water based controller, while the Stoneshield is an earth based soldier that uses stone roots to reduce push/pull/slide effects. My favorite of them is the Genasi Skyspy that can make double short sword attacks, use a whirlwind to push foes, and can fly its speed as a recharge power.
Ghost Legionnaire - A level 13 soldier, but when encountered in a group all of the ghost legionnaire’s hitpoints are added together in one sum and none of them disappear until that total is reduced to zero. The Legionnaire has the ability to deafen and dominate creatures, but any character may make history checks to learn about the ghost’s history and if successful the legionnaire becomes vulnerable 10 to their next attack. Seemingly a random addition to the book, but it really uses some interesting mechanics and can provide some great roleplaying combat experiences!
Giant – The Giants in this book are all welcome additions to the original monster entry, starting with the Eldritch Giants of the feywild with one of the best pieces of artwork in the whole book (naturally by Francis Tsai). The Eldritch giant uses a force blade while the titan has a force hammer, but both have the nasty ability to consume magic which destroys a conjuration or zone and adds a huge amount to the Giant’s next attack. Both can also generate an Eldritch Field which is difficult terrain and they deal more damage to enemies within the zone.
Finally Frost Giants are back in the game, and really you should always use them unless you’re adventure is in a volcano or something, that might be hard to pull off. Not only is there a Giant and Titan variety, but we also get the bonus Frost Giant Ice Shaper that uses ice slides, walls of frost, and can cast ice armor on its allies.
The last type of new giant is the Stone Giant, where we are also presented with an additional type along with the giant and titan, the Stone Giant Runecarver. These giants are extremely tough and can resist a lot of damage while doing significant damage in melee or at a range, but probably most surprising is the Runecarvers ability to slow and then petrify opponents and to do bonus damage to slowed or immobilized creatures.
Gnoll - As if these creatures weren’t vicious enough, now we are introduced to the Deathpledged Gnoll (level 5 brute), the Fang of Yeenoghu (level 7 skirmisher leader), and the Gnoll Gorger (level 7 brute). The Deathpledged exhibits one of the new rules being used in the MM2, the ability for creatures to gain action points throughout a combat, using its Claws of Yeenoghu power just before it dies to deal out some extra devastation. The Gnoll Gorger really brings out the disturbing aspects of the race when it uses its gorge power to literally feed on its allies to gain back hit points. Again, vicious! Oh and the Fang of Yeenoghu introduces a new disease called Slavering Canker as well.
Gnome - Denied the PHB race status, and then mostly overlooked in the first MM with only two varieties, now the Gnome entry is rightfully expanded. The Gnome Mistwalker (level 5 lurker) uses invisibility and shiftiness to disrupt enemies, while the Gnome Entropist (level 8 artillery) lays waste to enemies from a distance with a variety of magical powers. Most intriguing of the new Gnomes is the Gnome Wolverine (level 9 skirmisher) that essentially looks and acts like a barbarian, combining its racial stealth with high damage and disrupting melee/charge attacks.
Goblin - While Gnomes were mostly overlooked in the first MM, the Goblin entry was rich with different types of Bugbears, Goblins, and Hobgoblins to throw at a party. The MM2 introduces the Bugbear Wardancer that seems to be a quicker variety for the race, the Goblin Acolyte of Maglubiyet that is curiously a new level 1 controller, the Lolthbound Goblin (level 3 soldier) and Lolthbound Goblin Slaves (level 13 minion skirmisher) both of which can increase any ongoing poison damage a character is taking, making their understandable teaming up with spiders all the more deadly. Also both of the Lolthbound goblin types gain bonuses when fighting within short range of drow, all the better to serve their masters I suppose. Last is the Hobgoblin Fleshcarver (level 6 elite controller) that uses specialty weapons like toxic darts and a glaive to cause all kinds of havoc.
Golem - Another one of the original MM entries that seemed a bit short, now we get to try out the Bone Golem (level 12 elite brute), Chain Golem (level 22 elite soldier), Clay Golem (level 15 elite brute), Iron Golem (level 20 elite soldier), and the Iron Golem Juggernaut (level 26 elite soldier). The Bone Golem has a damaging aura of bone spikes and several powers that spray bone fragments out at various times. Surrounded by an aura of entangling chains, the Chain Golem goes berserk if it is attacked while bloodied, can pull targets to it with its chains, and can drag creatures that it has grabbed as it moves. The Clay Golem prevents nearby enemies from shifting and its basic attack causes wounds that prevent a character from healing, but perhaps most interesting is its Hasty Reaction ability to roll iniative twice and use the higher of the two rolls. Both varieties of Iron Golems can cleave with their iron blades and use their fists to daze creatures, plus they still retain the classic appeal of having a poisonous breath weapon and even begin to leak noxious fumes while bloodied.
Goliath - Introduced as a playable race in the PHB2, here we see the Goliath Sunspeaker (level 7 artillery) and the Goliath Guardian (level 9 soldier). The Guardian is pretty much what you’d expect it to be, but with the bonus Warrior’s Leap that lets them jump without provoking attacks. The Sunspeaker actually uses some very cool natural/primal influence in its powers such as Solar Sphere and Flaring Leap, which creates a zone of fire where the Goliath leaps from. Oh and the Sunspeaker has a power called Call Down the Sun which is essentially just a badass radiant fireball.
Gray Render – Described as killing everything in its path, the Gray Render (level 19 elite brute) is a stand alone monster from previous editions. It is particularly deadly once it grabs a creature because it reacts if hits by using the grabbed creature as a weapon, or even more so because it can deal a lot of damage by biting creatures that it has grabbed and goes on a rampage while bloodied.
Half-Elf - One of the original playable races that was missing from the first MM, the Half-Elves in the MM2 represent the unique nature of the race with the Bandit Captain (level 6 skirmisher leader), the Con Artist (level 7 controller), and the Baleful Thaumaturge (level 24 artillery). The Con Artist is a bit silly, using silver to dominate characters and pathetic appeals to prevent attacks against it, but the Baleful Thaumaturge is a very deadly adversary with powers such as Mouths of Hell and Wall of Shadow Teeth that create hindering areas on the battlefield.
Half-Orc - Another PHB2 playable race, the Half-Orc Hunter (level 5 skirmisher) is particularly good at drawing first blood and damaging uninjured creatures. The Half-Orc Death Mage (level 6 controller) is a very interesting take on the standard mage with powers like Rotting Touch and Swarm of Flies, which creates a zone that does damage and blocks line of sight until the end of the encounter. The ritually scarred Half-Orc Scarthane (level 7 brute) is a very fearsome opponent that can heal himself and do extra damage when fighting bloodied enemies.
Hawk - One of the few basic animal entries in 4E and specifically in the MM2, the Blood Hawk (level 1 skirmisher) is your standard low level hunting companion with a flyby attack. The elemental Frost Hawk (level 7 skirmisher) does cold damage with its talons and has a freezing screech attack, but most importantly its claws are adept at shattering creatures that are slowed.
Homonculus - The Stonefist Defender (level 2 skirmisher) and Arbalester (level 4 artillery) are excellent additions to this monster entry from the first book. The Stonefirst Defender is adept at flanking enemies with its master and tumbling through combat, while the arbalester is a living ballista that can fire twice in one round especially against enemies within its guarded area.
Human - Probably the longest entry that is also an expansion from the first MM, the MM2 contains 14 new varieties of humans to use as NPCs and excellent villains. The Human Cavalier (level 7 soldier leader) is great addition to the game because they are adept at mounted combat, something I certainly hope to use more of in the future. The Human Diabolist (level 20 artillery) is very much like a warrior-warlock that very surprisingly gains temporary hitpoints when he takes fire damage. Other types include the Dire Beast Hunter (level 9 artillery) who hunts with poisoned crossbow bolts and a trapping net, the Dread Assassin (level 22 lurker) that can do massive damage to a single target in a very short time, and the Human Gladiator (level 14 elite soldier) which has a nice list of short and simple powers like Knock to the Dirt and Sand in the Eyes like any good gladiator should. The Human Hexer (level 7 controller) can actually turn characters into tiny animals, the Human Insane Noble (level 23 elite skirmisher) is possibly one of the most ridiculous monsters in the book but also has the best irony power called Ignoble Fury. Not done yet,we have the Human Javelin Dancer (level 6 skirmisher), the Human Knife Fighter (level 7 elite skirmisher), the Human Mystagogue (level 20 controller leader), Human Noble (level 5 controller leader) that can actually urge hesitation in a character and prevent them from using standard actions, the Human Pirate (level 9 skirmisher) because it was necessary, the Human Pirate Captain (level 10 soldier leader) duh, and lastly the Human Slaver (level 8 brute) who is there just to increase the number of whip wielding monsters in the book.
Hydra - The final monster for this in depth review of the MM2 is the herculean classic, expanded from the excellent varieties in the first MM we now have the Razor Hydra (level 16 solo brute), the Heroslayer Hydra (level 20 solo brute), and the aptly named Chaos Hydra (level 22 solo brute). The Razor and Heroslayer Hydras are my favorites not because of how ferocious they are, but because when they lose their heads as they take damage they regrow two heads to replace them and gain more attacks as they do! The Chaos hydra is born from the elemental chaos and has varying elemental damage bite attacks in addition to bites that daze, paralyze, and poison characters. Oh and as it takes damage it actually grows MORE heads to do the various attacks that it has. I see these three hydras as being some of the most fun monsters to fight in 4th Edition, and a fitting end to my third in depth review!