Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Source material: the Monstrous Manual

One does not simply become weird overnight. I have cultivated my taste for the bizarre for my entire life, developing my peculiar and particular sensibilities through the consumption of a wide array of counter-cultural artifacts. This entry is the first in a series cataloging my most beloved of those books, films, television shows, and other forms of media.

My parents have played Dungeons and Dragons since before I was born. When I was growing up, they were playing AD&D Second Edition; I never actually played much of it myself until middle school, but that didn't stop me from being obsessed with it. I always knew it had to be pretty awesome, because I wasn't allowed to tell the super-conservative family across the street that my parents played it. These neighbors viewed such activities as satanic. Now, I'm not exactly into Satan, but: righteous.
More specifically, I was obsessed with this book: the Monstrous Manual, released in 1993. I didn't really care that much about the PC races or player classes, or spells, or any of the various settings. No-- they were all much less interesting than the monster manual. I stole this book from my parents in fourth or fifth grade and hid it in my bedroom. It was my precious. Neither of them was DMing at the time, so I guess that's why they didn't notice for a while.
I was not just in it for the pictures, although I admit that was probably what got me hooked in the first place. (They are amazing.) I actually read all of the text for all of the creatures, explaining their habitats and their social customs and so forth.
I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have read this book. Keep in mind that it is a reference guide for dungeon masters, and not really designed to be read cover to cover; whatever. This mattered little to elementary-school Sara.

The section about dragons was always my favorite-- it is enormous, exhaustive, and, naturally, full of awesome pictures of dragons. I was enamored with the metallic dragons, not only because they were of various Good alignments, but also because they were the most intelligent and many of them could assume human forms. Did I, perhaps, imagine that I was, secretly, a dragon in human form? Perhaps. (yes.)
What I didn't realize at the time was that many of the creatures described in the Monstrous Manual are heavily based on (and at times, just plain stolen from) mythologies from around the world. Without knowing it, I was educating myself in that lore-- which ended up helping me later in high school and college!-- while other little girls were playing with Barbies and reading Baby-Sitter's Club or whatever.
PARENTS: Dungeons and Dragons is educational, and great for kids. Especially kids that would rather read Dungeons and Dragons supplements than have a normal social life. Buy them a book today!


  1. My favorites were always the different elemental creatures because for some reason I thought they were cute. Also, blink dogs!

  2. I stumbled on this post while looking for a picture of the mercury dragon from the monstrous manual (my favorite!)
    I too read that book cover to cover... I had purchased it a few years after its release and was actively playing d&d. Just wanted to say this made me smile and its good to know that I wasn't the only person to read that thing like a novel.