What other word is there to say? Monster Manual Expanded III is the worthy successor to round out the Dungeon Masters Guild's bestselling trilogy to date. There is much to examine here, as this tome is similar yet dissimilar to the previous two installments. I will be dividing my review into four sections, with the final rating being the average score. Note that some of my opinions will be based off the previous two installments, but all in all the three books/pdfs themselves are similar enough in execution to warrant likewise scores.
Score : 5/5
Mark my words, I doubt that you will find better looking art anywhere else on the Dungeon Masters Guild. Should I say it? The art contained within rivals even that of WotC in quality! Author Andrew "Dragonix" Mannix has set the bar near the ceiling with the masterful composition of his newly comissioned art. The previous installments of MM often contained exceptional works on their own, but were usually limited to unique and rare threats that deserved the extra touch. But now, nearly every monster in the book has its own accompanying piece, with not even the standard orc variant lacking a fine sketch. Such a feat is incredibly rare, and deserves an immediate star from me. And also a word of applause for the exceptional artists!
Score : 4.8/5
In addition to this, the editing has vastly improved over PDFs I and II. I have not noticed a single spelling error yet, although the previous files originally contained quite a few. Kudos to the editors, because they often go unsung for their critical work!
Score : 4.5/5
This installment continues the streak of MMI and II by providing a wide array of templates as well as updated creature types from bygone editions of D&D. Humanoid creatures and NPCs take up the majority of the stat blocks, with dragons in a close second. My personal favorite inclusions were both the Nagas and Guardinals, because both groups of monsters managed to scratch an itch in my already gigantic bestiary that I never knew I had. The three-headed dragon and two-headed dragon templates will undoubtedly be integral to my current campaign, which is a real treat considering that my characters aren't too intimidated by standard reptilian damage sponges anymore. A two-headed menace will certainly make my rogue angry for his decision to optimize his build specifically for beheading every boss that I throw at him. One group that also should not go unmentioned is the inclusion of new plants. Unsurprisingly, the original Monster Manual by WotC had the awakened shrub, the awakened tree, a few blights, the treant...aand that was about it for plants. Even in Volo's Guide to Monsters and Mordenkainen's we got only three plants. Three! Thankfully, this book contains a full batch of ten interesting plants. Great! Now my land druid's capstone feature will feel just a little less neglected. But genuienly, the plants are a welcome addition to round out the trilogy, adding almost double the amount that the core sourcebooks added.
But the reason I subtracted half a star from the final rating is a bit more of a personal decision rather than of a critical examination: Not every monster was given new options! I would have loved a new type of lich or mind flayer. But unfortunately, they were not present in the PDF. If you ignore this personal bit though, the content remains as good as ever, and would warrant a full 5 stars.
Score : 3.8/5
I'd hate to admit it, but I did actually pause for a moment when I glanced at the $35 price tag. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not much of a penny pincher, but I was briefly concerned that the price of the PDF was comparable to WotC hardbacks, which I have since ignored for their hefty price tags supplanted by paper-thin streams of fluff. However, unlike those hardbacks, MMEIII provides the exceptional stream of content which I rambled on about above. On the other hand, installments I and II can be purchased individually for 55% of the cost of the third installment. But I understand, owning such a higher-quality book than the first two expanded manuals does indeed permit a higher price. With this in mind, I'll let my wallet suffer just a little to scare my players into finally giving up their standard power plays.
Overall Score : 5 Stars
Although the average of the above scores would typically add to roughly 4.5 stars, I feel nostalgic enough to give in the full score. In summary, the MMEIII is the odd one out of the previous two MMEs, with its own strengths and weaknesses. But when the trilogy is viewed as a whole, I can definitely say that this is the essential DMsGuild product, one that would be impossible to pass up! If you come to the DMsGuild looking for anything but monsters, I will assure that your shopping cart will have the complete collection sooner or later. Congratulations to all who worked on the project, because you've made something special!