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Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (3e)
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Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (3e)

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Mighty heroes deserve wicked foes

Demons and half-demons, dragons and dragonkin, animated corpses and restless spirits, wielders of magic and eaters of spells: These are the creatures of Faerûn, the monsters of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.

Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn contains scores of new monsters for use in Dungeons & Dragons adventures. From the aarakocra to the Tyrantfog zombie, these monsters present a whole new range of challenges.

Although usable in any campaign, these monsters are especially suited for the Forgotten Realms setting -- a world of great magic, terrible villains, and high adventure.

Product History

Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (2001), by Rob Heinsoo and James Wyatt, was the first Forgotten Realms sourcebook for D&D 3e. It was published in February 2001.

About the Title. Monsters of Faerûn is labeled a "Monster Compendium". This was a callback to AD&D 2e (1989-2000), where extensive Monstrous Compendiums detailed the beasts and brutes of the many worlds of D&D. Perhaps Wizards originally intended to do the same with 3e, supplementing the core Monster Manual (2000) with Monster Compendiums for individual settings … but this would be the only one.

Intriguingly, this book doesn't advertise it as a monster book for the Forgotten Realms, but instead for "Faerûn". That's the name of the subcontinent where most of the action occurs in the Realms, but this was the first time that it appeared in a product name. The prominent use of the name Faerûn would continue throughout the 3e Forgotten Realms line.

Beginning the 3e Forgotten Realms (Again). The Forgotten Realms was released for 3e in a rather unusual order. It started with a pair of adventures followed by Monsters of Faerûn, all of which preceded the actual Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2001) — which appeared four months later. Because of this ordering, Monsters of Faerûn doesn't have the white trade dress of the 3e Forgotten Realms line. Instead the book is a close match for the 3e Monster Manual.

About the Book. Monsters of Faerûn is a 96-page softcover book. The soft cover had been typical for the older AD&D line, which had only used hardcovers for its most important rulebooks. However, the 3.0 era of D&D (2000-2003) was a transitional period; many major books still appearing in softcovers, but an increasing number of hardcovers also snuck out. By the time D&D 3.5 (2003) was published, the softcovers would be gone. Today, 3e's softcover rules books look like a weird aberration compared to the rest of the line.

The price point for Monsters of Faerûn was $21.95, which turned out to be somewhat troublesome — primarily because it was competing with the Monster Manual, a much longer hardcover book that sold for just $19.95! Wizards belatedly explained that they were discounting the early printings of the D&D 3.0 core books to aid the transition, but this still left a bad taste in many fan's mouths. A short time later, when the core books jumped to $29.95, Monsters of Faerûn looked much more reasonable.

Expanding D&D. Monsters of Faerûn is clearly an early D&D 3e release, because it doesn't fully match the trends and tropes of the updated game. The biggest divergences center on class levels for monsters. Monsters of Faerûn tries to place limits on this mechanic — restricting what classes, abilities, or spells certain monsters can acquire. This sort of restriction-based design was more in tune with the 2e AD&D game, but relatively anathema to the 3e D&D design. There were also quirks here and there where Monsters of Faerûn departed from standard 3e rule systems rather than embracing them.

As a monster book, Monsters of Faerûn largely matches the format of the 3e Monster Manual. This means terse, non-page-aligned monster descriptions, which fans of AD&D 2e's extensive monster write-ups weren't fond of. There's was one difference: each monster contains an extensive "In The Realms" section that talks about its place in Faerûn. These descriptions didn't entirely replace the lost ecologies of AD&D 2e, but it was a move in that direction.

Monsters of Note. There are about 100 monsters in Monsters of Faerûn, 18 of them brand-new. Though it's theoretically a Realms monster book (and though it reveals how every monster fits into the Realms), Monsters of Faerûn is actually surprisingly generalist, featuring numerous monsters that could be of use in any D&D game.

A lot of these monsters predate the Realms, and could be found in AD&D 1e's three core monster books. The two most generic monsters are the leucrotta and the peryton, both of which originated in the AD&D 1e Monster Manual (1977). The AD&D 1e Fiend Folio (1981) contributes the aarakocra, the bullywug, the firenewt, the fog giant, the giant strider, the gibberling, the meazel, and the quaggoth. Finally, the abishai devils, the shadow dragon, the hybsil, the wemic, the wereshark, and the yochlol all come from the AD&D 1e Monster Manual II — though the handmaidens of Lolth of course previously appeared in Q1: "Queen of the Demonweb Pits" (1980).

Monsters of Faerûn also reintroduces a few monsters from the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994). Most notably, it brings the planetouched genasi and tieflings to the Realms. Like many of the more general creatures appearing in Monsters of Faerûn, these races would become deeply integrated into the Realms in the years to come — and the tieflings would become an increasingly important element in D&D generally, until they appeared in the core rules for D&D 4e (2008). Monsters of Faerûn even introduces two tiefling variants: the elfish fey'ri and the orcish tanarukk.

Overall, Monsters of Faerûn introduces lots of monsters to D&D 3e, though it generally sticks to the lower half of the level range. The lowest level monsters are the CR 1/3 crawling claw and gibberling, while the highest is a single CR 14 monster, the tomb tapper. There are plenty of one-off monsters, but also variations of classics, such as a number of beholderkin (including a beholder prestige class), some gemlike golems, and a bunch of variant dragons. The dragons have become some of the most identifiable monsters of the Realms. They include the brown dragon (sometimes called a sand dragon), the deep dragon (sometimes called a purple dragon), the fang dragon (sometimes called a grey dragon), the song dragon (sometimes called a weredragon), and the aforementioned shadow dragon.

To support D&D 3e's new mechanics, Monsters of Faerûn also features a number of templates: beasts of xvim, the curst, ghosts, liches, good liches, lycanthropes, revenants, and yuan-ti.

Future History. Author James Wyatt also sketched out several monsters for inclusion in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, which were then finalized by developer Richard Baker. They include some entries that were notably missing from Monsters of Faerûn, such as the dracolich and the death tyrant beholder.

Even after the publication of D&D 3.5e, Monsters of Faerûn continued to be a core Realms book. To aid in its usage, a web enhancement for the Player's Guide to Faerûn (2004) updated all of the monsters in Monsters of Faerûn to 3.5e.

About the Creators. Monsters of Faerûn was a first project for Wizards' two newest D&D hires: James Wyatt and Rob Heinsoo. Wyatt got started first, and didn't know who his coauthor would be until Heinsoo was hired as well.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on March 08, 2016.