Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual alt cover features Baldur’s Gate 3 star

Noelle Corbett
D&D Monster Manual alt cover

Dexerto is able to exclusively reveal the alt cover art for Dungeons & Dragons’ upcoming Monster Manual revision.

Dungeons & Dragons is in the midst of a very busy year as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. Part of this celebration includes the long-awaited revised core rulebooks releasing between Fall 2024 and early 2025.

The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual will all be getting glow-ups that include rule changes, fresh content, and lots and lots of new artwork.

Wizards of the Coast has given Dexerto an exclusive first look at the alt cover for the Monster Manual – which will be available to purchase from local games stores on February 4, 2025, two weeks before the book’s wider release on February 18, 2025.

The alt cover’s design is pretty simple, focusing on a single mind flayer reaching towards the viewer and offering them a tadpole. But within that basic concept is plenty of detail. For one, the detailing on the mind flayer’s forehead looks regal – like the gold framing around the image, but it also resembles a brain, making it a great fit for a mind flayer.

Josh Herman, Head of Art for D&D, discussed the inspirations for the artwork, which was created by Olena Richards with gold framing by Simen Meyer.

Herman shared the unique challenge the Monster Manual alt cover posed for the team. While it was an easy decision to focus on heroes for the Player’s Handbook and villains for the Dungeon Master’s Guide, deciding how to express what a monster is proved more difficult since “there are so many [monsters in D&D] and they can be doing so many different types of things.”

The team’s choice to focus on a single creature led them to consider several options before settling on a mind flayer. Longtime D&D players will, of course, recognize these otherworldly psionic creatures, making it a fitting choice.

As Herman says, “The mind flayer is a really great villain that’s super classic to D&D in every possible way. It’s great in combat, it has great lore, it has really great roleplaying opportunities.”

That the mind flayer’s profile has been so greatly raised by its inclusion in Stranger Things and Baldur’s Gate 3 certainly didn’t hurt either. And while the team may not have specifically chosen to put an illithid front-and-center because of Larian’s acclaimed CRPG, it was definitely on their minds.

An illithid in Baldur's Gate 3

This made the Monster Manual alt cover art a way to entice gamers who are new to D&D.

“If you said 12 months ago ‘Have you heard of a mind flayer?’ I don’t think everybody would have, but now I think a lot of people do,” Herman said. “We wanted to put that out there as a ‘this is also the same game as Baldur’s Gate 3’ to help create that extra connection with fans that this is sort of the same thing.”

That welcoming feeling extends to the artwork itself. “The subject matter and even the pose was a welcoming in – but with a mind flayer, that’s not always genuine,” Herman explained, “It’s certainly a little tongue in cheek.”

All in all, Herman says the Monster Manual art cover is meant to be a book for book lovers. Since these are exclusive to local game stores, the team wanted to “pay respect” to fans who visit these kinds of shops and purchase physical products.

Dungeons & Dragons’ 2024 Core Rulebooks will be available to preorder from the D&D Beyond Marketplace on June 18, 2024.

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