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I own the 5E Monster Manual. I also have the Monster Manual I, code number 2009 from 1E.

I can see the difference between these two versions but I don't know what the other editions' Monster Manuals have to offer that's different.

As a DM or game designer, if I wanted to use the lore of monsters that existed in earlier versions of D&D (regardless of their stats since I can update those), is there any value in purchasing the Monster Manual for other editions?

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If you are interested in monster lore, rather than simply stats, I would strongly recommend getting Monster Manuals from 2nd edition AD&D. The 2nd edition Monster Manuals all include sections on Activity Cycles, Diet, Environment and Ecology of the various creatures presented.

They also include information on what kind of organization they are likely to be encountered in (ex. Dragons tend to be solitary, Goblins tend to be in clans of 10-40, etc.) The environment and ecology sections give you an idea of where you might find the creature, but also of what it does in that environment, whether it be a herd animal, an apex predator or an unholy abomination that has no place in any natural order.

From my experience with the other editions, all the rest have similar levels of detail to what is found in 5th edition. Acceptable, but not nearly as obsessive as 2nd editions was.

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    \$\begingroup\$ 2e's monster lore was first class - Having an idea how a monster fits into the world makes them way more believable, and having access to that information makes it much easier for a party to come up with creative ways of dealing with them. +1. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jan 20 '16 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer, but it doesn't address any of the other editions. A quick line like "the other editions have as much info as 5e" would be sufficient. \$\endgroup\$ – Thunderforge Jan 21 '16 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Thunderforge At least one other edition varied how much lore it provided about monsters over the course of its lifetime. The early 3.5e monster manuals were more rooted in Gygaxian naturalism than the later ones, which tended to focus more on the details that would be interesting during a combat encounter and less on background and context. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jan 21 '16 at 23:40

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