It’s taken some time, but I’m glad to finally offer this review of Keith Ammann’s “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters.”
This book (or should I call it a tome? Seriously, this thing is massive!) has quickly become an indispensable resource in planning encounters for my groups.
I’ll go ahead and say it now, any Dungeon Master absolutely needs to add The Monsters Know What They’re Doing to their bookshelf.
Let me explain why!
As always, these reviews are based on three criteria: Usefulness, Quality, and Value.
Usefulness details the impact that the thing being reviewed has had on my games.
Quality measures how well-made the thing is.
Value determines the “bang for the buck” of the thing being reviewed.
Star ratings don’t mean much practically, so Final Verdicts are given as follows:
“Get It Now!” – This is a Must-Have.
“Get It On Sale!” – Solid choice, but doesn’t have the “bang for the buck” at full price.
“Pass!” – Don’t bother with this. (Poor value, not useful, and/or low quality)
What Is “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing”?
Keith Ammann is the writer behind the incredibly popular blog of the same name as this book.
The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters lays out tactics for nearly every single monster in the 5e Monster Manual.
Bandits, Kobolds, Gnolls, Zombies… they’re all in here!
He has crafted a resource that is invaluable to Dungeon Masters looking to create new challenges for their players. By delving into the behavior and psychology of enemies, Ammann breathes new life into every one of these creatures.
Whether showing clever ways to use favorites like Beholders or giving often-neglected creatures like Kuo-Toa time in the spotlight, TMKWTD opens up a well-thought out world of tactical opportunities.
Few resources have had the impact on my games that TMKWTD has. It’s difficult to tell whether my players love or hate it, but our combat game has greatly stepped up.
This book sits comfortably on my desk at the top of the pile (which is honestly quite an accomplishment…). Every week when I’m prepping for our game, I make it a point to read over the section covering whatever enemies my players will be facing that week.
It’s also worth mentioning that Ammann includes some optional additions to some creatures. Adding new levels of potential to creatures like the Nothic is a fantastic choice and something that should be considered!
Whether you’re a new Dungeon Master or you’ve got a few decades under your belt, there is something for everyone in this book.
The book is a perfectly bound hardcover and the cut of the pages gives it a fitting air of importance.
Ammann’s writing is fun to read and clearly communicates his points without being boring. Having a resource that is informative and able to be read and understood quickly is a high mark of quality in my book.
Most reference books seem to suffer from being too cumbersome, but TMKWTD is well laid out with the monsters sorted by creature type. Of course, there’s also the index in the back if you need.
Many creatures also include tactics that go round-by-round which shows a level of attention to detail that I honestly did not go in expecting to find. I was pleasantly surprised to see this kind of breakdown when I only expected general tactic advice.
From the writing to the art to the printing, TMKWTD is an example of what I look for in a book’s quality!
Remember how I called this thing a tome?
There are 535 pages of crazy-useful information in this bad boy!
This is clearly a labor of love and TMKWTD delivers value like few other books I’ve encountered.
Seriously. Every single page is useful!
I ordered the book without seeing the size of it and was shocked when it arrived. It’s thick and packed with all kinds of nerdy goodness!
Final Verdict – “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing”
The final verdict on The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters is…
“Get It Now!”
Keith Ammann’s labor of love deserves every ounce of praise that it gets!
There are tons of great DM resources out there, but TMKWTD has raised the bar.
There’s a reason it made it on to the Tabletop Joab 2020 Holiday Buying Guide!
There’s a type of frustration that’s still fun, if that makes any sense. Using these tactics is a great way to create that emotion in combat for your players. They’ll need to start playing tighter and anticipating their enemies’ actions more.
Even the good old-fashioned slugfest between the party and some brutes can turn into something so much more. Adventuring is risky business that can lead to great rewards, especially when The Monsters Know What They’re Doing!
You can get The Monsters Know What They’re Doing on Amazon by clicking here.