The new Monster Manual II joins the original Monster Manual and Fiend Folio in the AD&D series of books. In his preface, Gary Gygax expresses a wish to eventually have several volumes of monster, a wish that seems to be shared by the rest of the hobby, judging by the number of new monsters that appear in the pages of nearly every hobby magazine, professional or amateur.
In the by now familar format of the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio, the new book maintains the standard of clear presentation. Each monster is introduced by its statistics, which are fleshed out by a paragraph or more of description and most of them have been illustrated. However, some unsightly gaps have been left, looking as if illustrations had been planned for and then not included. This is particularly noticeable in the dinosaur collection. Overall, the artwork is, if anything, better than the previous books, with some particularly fine examples by Harry Quin.
The range of monsters presented is wide - birds, insects, humanoids, undead and more. Some are developments of previously published creatures; for example there are two new types of elf, a large number of dinosaurs, four more dragons and enough devils to make Asmodeus himself nervous, ranging from the Dukes of Hell to the meanest Least Devil (as the hordes of devilish minions are called). As well as the Devils, who of course live in Hell, the inhabitants of various other planes are described, both the great lords and their minions - such as the Devas from the Outer Planes of Good, and the Modrons of Nirvana - along with the Elemental Grues, a collection of terrifying beasties from the Elemental Planes. There is also a selection of Demons, including some of the Demon Princes and, interestingly, the semi-demons produced by the mating of human beings with demons and succubi... which might give some chaotic evil DMs a few ideas! For botanical DMs there's a fine army of fungal monsters, while MUs had better check their spell books carefully for the Bookworm. And if you've ever wondered what a Will o'the Wisp looks like when at home try looking up the Boggart.
At the back of the Manual is a complete alphabetical list of all the 'official' monsters to be found in the MM, FF and MMII. Each is provided with a volume and page reference. There are also detailed breakdowns of this complete monster list by level and by native terrain; in each case sub-divided by their frequency of occurrence.
Also supplied are a large selection of random encounter tables covering dungeons by level, the out of doors by terrain type, water by type (salt, fresh, tropical etc) and by depth, and the Astral and Ethereal Planes. An extremely useful feature for the DM who prefers some control in what 'randomly' appears in his world is a brief guide to the mechanics of creating random encounter tables, in the same format as the published ones.
There are too many high level monsters for my taste and too many are overly deadly. On the other hand there are many interesting ideas and several well-developed tribes and huerarchies.
Overall Monster Manual II is a good, well presented addition to the AD&D series, with some very useful creatures, and is probably worth buying, particularly if you like a wide range of monsters in your game.