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5E As a DM, what monster abilities do you find difficult to run?

Stalker0

Legend
Sometimes, a thing that looks perfectly good or innocent on paper, actually becomes quite annoying for a human DM to manage in an actual combat. So what monster abilities do you find that are actually very difficult for you to run as the DM.

I'll start off with:

Reactions
In general, I find reaction abilities are so easy to forget as a DM when I'm running a combat with a number of monsters (aka most combats). I already have a ton of things to keep track of on my turns, let alone thinking about having to react to players turns!

With legendary monsters, they are special enough that its usually ok, but I tend to dislike reactions on normal monsters.

Parry
While I dislike reactions in general, I forget about Parry all the time.

Beyond just the normal forgetfulness of reactions, in order to keep my large combats moving quickly, my players will often roll their attacks ahead of time, especially when they have summons and the like. But that means temporary AC bonuses get muddied, and again makes it even easier for me to forget. But I WANT my players to do that, it makes the combat go so much quicker.... so the reality of speedier combat interferes with the one paper theory of what the monster should do.
 

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Spellcasting for me too.

It isn’t hard to use per se, but I find it difficult to use NPC magic efficiently without me spending some serious time before the battle to come with anything that resemble a strategy that the creatures would likely have with access to those spells.
 


ART!

Adventurer
Yup: spellcasting!

I've got enough to keep track of without all that fruffery. I've run 5E enough now that I tend to just look at their list of spells and come up with a few quick-and-dirty features that emulate the more useful ones. 9 yards and a cloud of dust.
 

dnd4vr

The Smurfiest Wizard Ever!
I don't have any issue with spellcasting except it takes a bit of time deciding what to cast--especially for high-level casters.

The thing I forgot the most in the past was Legendary Actions. They are listed at the end of most creatures and I have to remind myself to double-check, especially if I am running multiple monsters (some with them and some without).

I wish they were put ahead in the stat block so they were a bit more prominent. Of course, I don't have as much trouble with them now as I did at first. shrug
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Spellcasting. Though it's not too bad since I run on Roll20 and it's easier to view spell details than flipping through a book. Still, I'd much prefer spell-like actions in the statblock a la D&D 4e, particularly as the spellcasting monster/NPC isn't likely to get many spells off before buying the farm.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Another one for spellcasting. I don’t remember off the top of my head what every spell does, and I don’t want to have to choose which spell to cast from a big honking list every time. Just give the monster two or three abilities that replicate the effects of spells you want them to cast and give them each recharge 4-5 or whatever. Or heck, give it a number of uses per day if you want, but put all that stuff about it being an Xth-level caster and the full spell list in the notes and leave them out of the stat block, please!
 
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J-H

Explorer
Spellcasting. I put summaries in my spell list, ie:
Hold Person (C, 1 target, wis or paralyze, upcast +1/lvl), Fireball (150', 20' radius, 8d6 fire, Dex half)
It helps a lot to have pre-done tactics for the casters listing 1-3 top choices for each round of combat & who they will target.
 

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
Spellcasting. Though it's not too bad since I run on Roll20 and it's easier to view spell details than flipping through a book. Still, I'd much prefer spell-like actions in the statblock a la D&D 4e, particularly as the spellcasting monster/NPC isn't likely to get many spells off before buying the farm.
I’ve started transcribing combat spells into my stat block summaries, it’s helped a lot. But then I don’t use Roll20.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Low intelligence monsters vs high intelligence ones, particularly low-to-mid level. If a truly intelligent monster is facing the PCs, how do you handle it?

I mean, a monster can have a 20 intelligence, how much can I "cheat" to emulate that they're thinking 5 moves ahead even though I can't? A truly intelligent monster should have contingencies and plans particularly if they are forewarned and have had time to prep. On the flip side if running ogres, which are barely above animal intelligence, I need to remember how stupid they are and minimize tactics. Although depending on the week I've had at work sometimes playing dumb is not that hard.

For spellcasters, I don't worry about their entire list, I just jot down the spells they're likely to use in the first few rounds.
 


Benjamin Olson

Adventurer
I'd like to single out npc/monster spellcasting as not only something that still makes things radically more difficult for me for the reasons others have outlined but also something that was the single most daunting thing about DMing for me period when I first DMed since I did it before I had actually played the game as a player and knew what any of the spells were. Spells are a system of rules so vast that designers of the game still sometimes have to look them up when they DM, and really you only learn them by experience. Just throwing a whole list of them of a monster stat-block is a burden on any DM and about the least beginner friendly thing you can do.
 

Spellcasting is #1, obviously not because it's intellectually difficult to understand, but it's hard to remember what spells any given monster has, even if you prep really well, and sometimes it's hard to remember what those spells do. More than once I've been about to have a monster cast a spell, when I realized it already had a concentration spell up, for example.

Spellcasting for monsters in 5E is way too widespread. It needs to be cut down. I get that it was some sort of throwback "this isn't 4E" thing, but guess what? 4E did a better job here, 5E - learn from it. Some monsters having spells is fine, but too many have them in 5E, and they're too fiddly to use.

After that definitely reactions which only do something minor and defensive.

I mean, a monster can have a 20 intelligence, how much can I "cheat" to emulate that they're thinking 5 moves ahead even though I can't? A truly intelligent monster should have contingencies and plans particularly if they are forewarned and have had time to prep.

I think this is a misapprehension. Does an INT 20 PC have layers of contingencies and plans? Do really smart people IRL have layers of contingencies and plans? I say not to both. This is a weird trope. INT 20 does not automatically mean "Xanatos from Gargoyles". That's a personality AND intelligence thing. Not every smart monster will have great plans. Not every smart monster will be a tactical genius. I'm pretty sure Einstein might have screwed up big in a fight.

So the real answer is don't try to play them like that unless they're the rare sort who is like that (the Xanatoses of your world).

Yes, if they're forewarned and have time to prep, they may have more fallbacks/plans, but then it's all about intelligence in the other sense - i.e. knowledge of your enemy. How much do they really know about the PCs and their methods and why they're here and so on? If it's very little, but enough to be scared, if the monster has any common sense at all, they're going to leave, perhaps leaving behind some sort of way to observe. Or they'll mount an ambush that hopefully leaves them relatively unegaged and able to flee. Or if they're arrogant, they'll do something dumb like trying to overawe the PCs. But you look at the whole of the personality. The idea that 200 IQ or whatever means they'll always have good plans is a complete denial of the reality of smart people.
 

Vision, Movement, and Languages are all a pain for me. I often don't have the direct stat block in front of me, and having to remember if they understand a language, have a special move speed (especially swimming and climbing). A creature with darkvision will act differently than one without it, staying to the shadows until ready to reveal itself. Languages don't come up as often, but sometimes the party wants to parlay, surrender, or offer surrender and I have to look up if they can do so.

As for spellcasting, a common complaint above, the only issue I've had with it is setting up macros for it (we play in Roll20). I almost never have the party face a spellcaster in combat outside of a planned encounter in a specific location. This allow me to review the casters spells in advance, and put the order of operation in my notes. Obviously some things will not go as planned, and a backup plan is usually noted as well. I do the same with Lair and Legendary actions.
 


Ace

Adventurer
Spells can be a bit of trouble.

When things get to be a nuisance what I do is get some 3x5 cards and write out what moves I expect the monster to use, usually 5 or so and just play the cards more or in order with some deviation if the critter needs to run away or adjust tactics.

A card might be say "cast magic missile" with stats, "attck with sword.: retreat with a note may provoke AOO and that sort of thing.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Spell casting.

What a huge misfire the MM was for 5th ed while a better way was right on the shelf. In the last 2 years I have not used a 5E monster as-written.
Tweakin them to suit your needs is more prep work, but it’s more rewarding and makes for a smoother experience at the table IMO.
 


Halloween Horror For 5E

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