Virtually all of the monsters that appeared in TSR's 1993 AD&D product line, plus many of those that appeared in the 1993 issues of Dragon, Dungeon, and Polyhedron magazines, are brought together in this first release in an annual series of Monstrous Compendium supplements. This book is crawling with more than 100 denizens of the land, sky, sea, and underdark, waiting to creep into the nearest adventure.
Creatures within these pages have appeared in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Al-Qadim world of adventure, the Ravenloft world of horror, the Dark Sun game world, and even the Outer and Inner Planes, but they've been reorganized, updated, and edited so they can be used in any campaign. An introduction explaining how to breathe life into random encounters is included too. Every illustration is brand new and presented in full color, so these monsters are more lifelike than ever before!
This is a must-have item for all serious Dungeon Masters.
Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One (1995), edited by David Wise, is the first of four annual collections of AD&D monsters. It theoretically contained all the new AD&D monsters from 1993. It was released in January 1995.
Many Monsters. The AD&D 2nd edition era (1989-2000) was the most monstrous time ever for the D&D game. Over 30 separate, official monster manuals were released in just over a decade - a huge step up from the three official monster manuals of 1e.
This rapid-fire publication was made possible in part by TSR's creation of a new style for their manuals, beginning with Monstrous Compendium Volume One (1989). The new books were printed on perforated pages, meant to be separated and placed in binders that were also sold as part of the Compendium packages. The low printing cost of this format was probably what encouraged TSR to publish monster books so frequently in the early 2e days.
Unfortunately, many fans hated the original Compendiums because the pages were ugly and easy to tear, and - despite being looseleaf - they were impossible to keep in alphabetic order because different monsters were often printed on the fronts and backs of pages. (Comparatively, the actual content of the Compendiums was very well received, since it included detailed ecologies for every monster.)
After publishing 15 looseleaf Compendiums, TSR reformatted their monster books in 1993 with the release of the Monstrous Manual (1993), a hardcover book that thus presented monsters in a much more standard (and well-loved) format. After that, they found a compromise format for additional releases: square-bound paperback books.
TSR afterward published many setting-based "appendixes" to the Monstrous Manual in the final years of 2e. In addition, they came up with a new sort of Monstrous Compendium following the release of the Monstrous Manual: the yearly Monstrous Compendium Annual, which collected the monsters published in adventures and other supplements during the previous year. Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume One was, self-evidently, the first.
Sources. The sources used to create Volume One do a great job of showing off the settings in vogue at TSR at the time. There are a ton of Forgotten Realms critters in this book, with sources including Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1993), FR16: "The Shining South" (1993), FRM1: "The Jungles of Chult" (1993), FRQ3: "Doom of Daggerdale" (1993), and Ruins of Myth Drannor (1993).
The Arabian Al-Qadim setting similarly gets a lot of air time, with monsters drawn from Assassin Mountain (1993), City of Delights (1993), and ALQ4: "Secrets of the Lamp" (1993).
Finally, a smaller number of Ravenloft critters originated in "Castles Forlorn" (1993), "The Created" (1993), "Dark of the Moon" (1993), and "Van Richten's Guide to the Lich" (1993).
Dragon also contributes a large number of monsters - some originating in 1990-1992, slightly violating the book's premise - and Dungeon adds a few more - some dating back to 1992. The only other setting-generic books that offered up monsters are Dragon Mountain (1992) and HHQ2: "Wizard's Challenge" (1992) - showing how setting-heavy TSR tended to be at the time.
Monsters of Note. The most famous monster in this book is probably the gibbering mouther, which originated in C1: "The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (1980), but which hadn't appeared for 2e until some of the 1993 releases. The winged cat is another surprisingly popular critter, having appeared in a half-dozen books over the years (both before and after this release), most of them for the Forgotten Realms.
This first volume of the Annual also includes a surprising number of monster variants. The dragons are the most prolific, with over a dozen appearing. The "electrum" dragon is one, and a rather amusing addition of a "missing" metal. Meanwhile, the Norse linnorms appear for the first time in a rulebook - following their previous appearance in Dragon #182 - #183 (1992).
The neutral dragons - who come in jacinth, jade, and pearl flavors - similarly appear for the first time in a rulebook, following an article in Dragon #158 (June 1990). The first true neutral dragon may have been the brown dragon, created by Len Lakofka way back in The Dragon #38 (June 1980).
Volume One also contains five elementals (including the sandman), four golems (including the brain golem), two lyncanthropes (including the werebadger), three trees, one troll, and four wolves (including two undead variants for Ravenloft).
About the Creators. Wise is probably best-known as an editor at TSR in its later days; he most famously edited the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994), around the same time he was working on this Annual. Besides his editorial work, Wise also did a bit of writing for TSR, mostly for the Ravenloft line.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.