These books aren't sacristan but there is a certain level of respect I've got for them on many levels. The Monster Manual isn't any exception. You can find a whole history of the Monster Manual and differences in editions, printings etc here.
Instead today I'm going to concentrate on some of the applications and actual uses for this classic book at the table.
First of all Monster Manual provides a baseline statistic for many of the iconic monsters of the game. They are so iconic that many times players don't read or haven't read the Monster Manual in many years and that's often a DM's in on creating their own backgrounds, histories, etc. for these horrors within their own campaign worlds and settings. Don't be afraid to make these monsters your own despite the fact that so much fluff and verse has been heaped upon them. In point of fact the book not only encourages but expects you to do exactly that.
If you don't believe that this book still has use at the table right along with OSRIC and other emulators of the original mater then don't forget that in 2012 Wizards of the Coast reprinted it along with all of the other original AD&D books;"The 1st edition Monster Manual was reproduced as a premium reprint on July 17, 2012" The fact is that the Monster Manual is still one of the fastest, and easiest ways for populating not only your dungeon but wilderness adventure settings in your world from the ground up and has been cited numerous times for DYI Advanced Dungeons and Dragons adventure construction. In point of fact the Monster Manual was offered smack in the middle of the original TSR catalog.
Here are my ten reasons why the Monster Manual is still one of the cornerstones of not only AD&D but also our hobby.
- Every AD&D player has read and memorizes the 1st edition AD&D Monster Manual or do they. Memory is a very funny thing and often times players will forget a detail or two from a monster entry. DM's should pull this tome from its place on their shelves and reread the entries not only to fall in love all over again with the monsters but to brush up on certain details. There has been so much fluff heaped upon these classic and icon monsters that details are often lost to time. Use that to your DM advantage. Separating player and PC knowledge is often very helpful as well.
- Iconic monsters are dangerous monsters and they can appear in very unexpected places. The MM's monsters can easily be used in a post apocalyptic or a science fantasy world. This can be more then a little jarring for players who weren't expecting this sort of thing to happen. Wastelands and alien planets can be very funny places especially with wizards releasing their favorite pets for mayhem.
- The monsters in the Monster Manual can be and should be used as templates for you as the DM to twist these creatures to suit your game and world. Don't be afraid to do this time and again, just because it says XYZ doesn't mean its gospel, this is a game and your in charge of your world.
- Use the unexpected and lesser known monsters for the exotic and alien as needed but take the normal and expected dungeon monsters in new and interesting ways. The Monster Manual has so much room for expansion and adaption of its creatures this fact often seems to get over looked. Don't let the weigh of Dragon magazine or chapter and verse of AD&D keep you from getting the most out of these monsters at your table top. This is one of the vast strengths of the Manual.
- Use the guidelines, treasures, tables, etc in the book to your advantage to help build your world. The Monster Manual is as much a world book as it is a monster book. The monster's ecology is built right into the monster entry. This fact enables a DM to quickly and easily place not only the monster but design its habitat from the ground up around it. Use that fact to populate your campaign settings.
- Monsters do not exist in isolation and the Monster Manual often has an over looked stat and that's a monster's intelligence. Social monsters are going to cooperate and build upon one another in dungeons as well as wilderness a key fact of the old Trampier cartoon Wormy. Yeah its a really funny and iconic comic but it also taught me a few things about monsters they're intelligence is often a good indicator of their social pecking order within an environment.
- The AD&D Monster Manual shouldn't be put upon a pedestal with its iconic table top gaming history. The book should be in your hand and at your table getting used over and over again to design dungeons, adventures, etc. that's the way that Gary Gygax wanted it.
- The Monster Manual has some great treasure tables for its monsters and the fact that it lists exactly what might be found gives a base line and bench mark for the placement of items and artifacts. This is one of the most overlooked plot hooks for DM's! Yes I said it. Do you have a major plot hook in your campaign world or an artifact that you want your players to find? Slip it into the major loot that your PC are going to find. Where the hell does a treasure like so and so come from? Make it a lost part of your world. The treasure tables in the Monster Manual are as much a world and set building tool as the monsters.
- The monsters of the Monster Manual are timeless and can be used to build any time period or world setting as needed. Do you want to create a new campaign world but a gaming article or something is holding you back as a DM? Throw those preconceptions & hang ups out the window and go with the background in the original source material. The AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual has tons of room for your take on the game. This fact also allows it to be used with many of the major emulators and retroclones of today especially OSRIC and even OD&D.
- Take the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual and make it your own. This I can't stress enough, the book is a primer on the placement of monsters and treasure. Its iconic for a reason but don't let that stop you from using it at your table for everything from adventure construction to world building from the ground up.
The bottom line is that the AD&D 1st edition Monster Manual is a great book and remains one of the cornerstones of the hobby. The fact is that you as a DM should dust it off and give it a read. Fall in love with the game all over again and take a look at the Monster Manual again. You might be inspired to run a classic adventure or create your own.