no, use THIS Monster Manual index by Challenge Rating

I have a new index for your Monster Manual. Here’s why it’s useful.

So every review of the Monster Manual that I read – EVERY review – said, “Great book, but why is it missing a monster index by Challenge Rating??”

In his review on Critical Hits, Mike Shea not only noted its absence but provided one, building on Mouseferatu’s sortable monster list. Mike’s list was especially cool because it fit on one page, so you could tape it inside your Monster Manual’s back cover. Sweet!

A few days later, WOTC released its own MM index by CR. This one was cool because it included XP values and used shorter and more wieldy monster names. However, it was several pages long, so it was a little harder to keep with your Monster Manual.

Both indexes shared a problem: it was hard to look up some monsters because you weren’t sure where they were in the book. Is Awakened Shrub alphabetized under “Awakened Shrub,” or “Blight,” or “Treant” maybe, or is it in the Animals appendix?* Which of the following monsters get their own entry and which are in the Animals appendix: Blink Dog, Death Dog, Displacer Beast, Winter Wolf, Worg?*

I’ve made a Challenge Rating index that brings it all together: it
a) includes XP so you can budget an encounter without looking up the monsters
b) includes monster page numbers so you can actually find the Awakened Shrub entry
      but it all still
c) fits on one page so you can tape it inside your Monster Manual
      all while
d) having a much larger font than the one used in the actual Monster Manual index!

Here is the monster manual CR index! Clip and tape.

*Awakened Shrub in the Animals appendix.
**Displacer Beast gets its own entry; the rest are in the animals appendix.

7 Responses to “no, use THIS Monster Manual index by Challenge Rating”

  1. 1d30 says:

    How about an index that assigns actually difficulty-appropriate CRs to the 5e monsters?

    For me, an optimal monster book would contain, for each monster, a one-page writeup of stats and ecology on one side of a sheet and a one-page illustration on the back, each sheet a sturdy cardstock page with a 3-ring punched edge. The strength of this format is that the DM can construct his own MM based on what monsters he will use in that setting, creating his own easily in the same format to supplement what the game company isn’t creative enough or willing to publish (including 3rd party supplements). If the DM wants to file Winter Wolves and Blink Dogs under Animals he can do that, hopefully following his own convention and filing all undead under Undead and possibly fretting over the difference between Animals and Vermin. All the other DMs can stick those two under W and B respectively where they belong.

    This method also allows for minipurchases in the form of MM supplements from WotC, giving DMs more monsters at the minimum price per monster while preserving the same profit margin for the company. With this in mind, the primary reason to sell a monster book is to use a dozen good monsters to help sell six dozen lame ones.

    I understand they tried this with the Monstrous Compendium stuff but for some reason it never took off. Do you happen to know why?

  2. 1d30 says:

    Formatting note: I would suggest aligning all page numbers in a column to make reading easier, with a faint dotted line connecting the monster with its number. I would also get rid of the long monster names by abbreviating, for example “dragon” to “D.” which is easy enough to understand since there’s no such thing as a White Displacer Beast Wyrmling.

    Secondly I would add a half line space and maybe a 1 pt black line separator above each CR section in the list. Just makes the delineation clearer. Finally, your margins are standard and you might be able to stretch things and make them more readable with 0.5″ margins.

    For example, this might give you enough space to include a single custom font character before each monster that shows its terrain, for example an arch for a dungeon, a couple stalactites for caves, a wave for ocean, a little house for civilized, etc. It might also be nice to color-code for element type, so people can easily spot all the plants, the fire-dwellers, etc. But that adds a lot of clutter to the index, potentially making it less enjoyable to use.

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  4. Mike Monaco says:

    1d30 — I think there were several problems with the Monster Compendium. For one thing, IIRC they did not keep one monster per page (or leaf, technically, I suppose) so you’d have some bits where perfect alphabetization was impossible, and moreover you would have problems arranging them by anything but name, since half a listing might be on a totally different page.
    Another thing was the 3 ring binder wasn’t made very well.
    On the plus side they did give you extra dividers with great art, so I guess they intended you to arrange to taste.
    But I think the problem was mostly that they did not give you many monsters in the packs that were not already in a bound book, and they were pricey, so everyone I gamed with used 1e monster manuals or the bound 2e manual. I only knew one guy with the looseleaf and he never DMed, it was more a collectible for him. (He also had all the plastic D&D toys!)
    Given the wase of electronin publishing, I think WotC could reintroduce a loose leaf format, if there is demand. Or at least license a 3rd party?

  5. 1d30 says:

    @Mike Monaco: I think the success of the One Page Dungeon contest suggests that even creative people who aren’t in the business can stick to a format, that it works, and it’s wonderful when it works 😛

    I figured everyone would just use their own binders since it was a 3-ring standard rather than some proprietary ring distance format. If you don’t like the official one, you go to an office supply place and throw down $30 on a really quite nice one.

    Issues of material quality are totally legit, though – again I was suggesting doing it on cardstock. My alternative would be to use normal paper but stick each one in a plastic sheet protector, which altogether would have the same thickness as cardstock. With the plastic protector method, though, you could double up to hide the monster art on the backside of the page if you wanted, and the page is protected from spills and marks, and you can draw little mustaches and eyepatches on your beholder without marking the page.

  6. Just wanted to let you know that I had written about the Blog of Holding on EN World. You can find it here:

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