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3rd Party Review: Top 5 5e Bestiaries

Updated: Oct 25, 2022

"Demigorn" by Pawel Parol

One of the most exciting aspects of playing D&D as a player is encountering a brand new monster. I'll never forget the thrill and terror of first encountering a Rust Monster, a Wraith, or a Grick. But as a GM, once you've run through a campaign or two using the Monster Manual, it can start to feel like there's nothing new under the sun. Your players are likely to remember to use fire attacks against Hydras, to cast Sunlight against Wraiths, and to avoid making eye contact with a Basilisk. Luckily, there are some great resources out there to keep that thrill and excitement alive in your game. We've read through 18 bestiaries published by 3rd Party publishers to bring you the best of the best.

Top Five (Not in Any Particular Order)

This is such a cool 5e supplement that even though it isn't a traditional "bestiary," I really want to recommend it to you because it's loaded with great content. I first picked it up in 2019 at GenCon at the Jetpack7 booth. This book essentially offers 16 unique "bosses," each with its own unique minion that the boss can command and dispatch during battle. These pairings are not just interesting but well thought out and make for some interesting combat encounters. The minions make scaling the bosses to different parties ridiculously easy. There's plenty of flavor text to help with running and roleplaying the different bosses and they are well suited for dropping into almost any fantasy setting. My personal favorite is Thalin, the Forest Master, a mercenary who has been driven mad and delusional and who was the perfect centerpiece for a "Apocalypse Now" style story arc in one of my campaigns.

While I was researching this book, I happened to see that there is actually a revised and updated version of this book on Kickstarter right now. You can check out that campaign, which ends on November 11th, 2022 HERE.

Quick Aside

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Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press

If your only bestiary at your disposal is the official Wizards of the Coast Monster Manual, do yourself a favor and grab Tome of Beasts. This hefty book contains 400+ new and original monsters for 5th edition. While made for Kobold Press' popular Midgard campaign setting, the majority of the monsters in this book can easily be added to most settings with few - if any - tweaks. There's too many great monsters in here to choose a favorite but the most memorable experience I had with this book was throwing some Amphipteres (swarming tiny wyverns with poisonous stingers) at a party of brand new players. If you're on a budget, this Bestiary is both the most versatile and will give you the most bang for your buck.

BattleZoo Bestiary by Roll for Combat

The story behind this project is pretty cool. held an open contest for people to submit their best monster ideas and a panel of judges selected their favorite 137 monsters. Professional artists (the artwork is GORGEOUS) brought each monster to life and they were compiled in this book, funded by Kickstarter. The monsters here are eclectic, imaginative, and so much fun. As a fun bonus, the book also includes a system for collecting monster parts to use for crafting and also includes a bunch of new "monster hunter" themed character options. With 137 new monsters, this isn't the most expansive bestiary but it just might be the most fun.

Grim dark fantasy is quickly growing in popularity in tabletop roleplaying games and there are some really cool campaign settings in that genre like Nightfell and Symbaroum, each with its own accompanying bestiary. My favorite of this genre, though, is the Monster Grimoire for the Grim Hollow setting. This one is not only bursting with 400+ monsters, but the artwork is fantastic. The monsters range from fantastical and bizzare like the Epachrach (think fey-twisted wooly mammoth) to terrifying like the Lyfaren (part monster from Tremors and part Ankylosaurus). If you are looking for some baddies to haunt your players' nightmares then look no further.

This is probably the most niche of the bestiaries listed here as Monsternomicon caters to Privateer Press' Iron Kingdoms setting, a unique blend of fantasy, steam punk, and black powder firearms. The Monsternomicon definitely has a healthy of assortment of constructs that you would expect from a steam power setting but it actually has a ton of cool monsters that would have broad appeal in most fantasy games like the Bog Trawlers (monster from the black lagoon meets the Hulk) or the Dreggs (terryifying chaotic evil subterranean humanoids). If traditional high fantasy monsters are leaving your game feeling stale, check out this bestiary where I guarantee you'll find something new to breath life into your campaign.

Honorable Mentions

This was a really difficult list to compile because there are some really great bestiaries available. Here are the ones that deserve a look even if they didn't make my top list.

Incredible Creatures by MAD Design - This project has such a cool premise. Funded by Kickstarter, the idea was that 32 artists would make 32 unique monsters based off of their own ideas. And then, each art piece was used as inspiration by a team of writers. In the end, each art piece is used for 4-5 unique monsters. It's really neat to see how one piece of art can be interpreted so differently.

Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde by Nord Games - Rather than developing new monsters, this handy book dives DEEP into some of the most popular D&D humanoid monsters like goblins, gnolls, and orcs, providing tons of flavor text, lore, random tables, and variant stat blocks. If you are running a campaign featuring one of these races as the central antagonists then this book is required reading.

Themed Monster Series by Legendary Games - These slender books have around 100 pages each but they are loaded with a fascinating assortment of monsters, often themed around the lore of a real world location, such as Latin America and Asia. They do a great job of working with creators from each project's respective culture to ensure authenticity and a respectful approach. There are several bestiaries in this series available now with a Fey-themed bestiary planned to launch on Kickstarter soon. These are all well made with great art and only didn't make the cut because of their narrow focus. I would definitely encourage you to check them out though.

Did I leave out your favorite bestiary? Let me know in the comments below!


Bestiaries Considered for this Blog Post:

Legendary Dragons by Jet Pack 7

Masters and Minions by Jet Pack 7

Iron Kingdoms: Monsternomicon by Privateer Press

Incredible Creatures by MAD Design and Alan Tucker

Tome of Beasts by Kobold Press

Creature Codex by Kobold Press

Boricubos by Legendary Games

Sea Monsters by Legendary Games

Mythos Monsters by Legendary Games

Monsters and Treasure of Aihrde ny Troll Lord Games

Battlezoo Besitiary by Roll For Combat

Grim Hollow: The Monster Grimoire by Ghostfire Gaming

Ruins of Symbaroum: Bestiary by Free League

Nightfell: Bestiary by Mana Project Studio

Creatures by Studio Agate

Ultimate Bestiary: Revenge of the Horde by Nord Games

Revilo Bestiary: Boheum's Guide to Monsters by Creature Curation

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