D&D 5E Encounters > Monsters?

Ratskinner

Adventurer
So, maybe I'm crazy here...

Having read the article about Legendary Creatures and its attached PDF, and now reading about Monster Mashups...

Are we witnessing a shift away from designing (or at least articulating) monsters as individual units and towards viewing monsters as components of encounters (perhaps encounters++) or chapters of the story.* That is, I could certainly see advantages to using the format we see with that black dragon writeup as a template for things like a Goblin Warren, Orc Tribe, or Ettercap...lair? hive? I also don't think this would be a terrible divergence from a trajectory starting back at the beginning of the game and continuing through 4e.

Would a monster manual that is organized by encounter be more or less useful than the traditional simple list o' critters?

*Possibly only in emphasis.
 

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I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
In some ways, the pre 3e MM's were organized more as "encounters." When you rolled up a bugbear, you determined if it was wandering, who its allies were with, whether or not it was in a lair, where its lair was located....all really useful details for making a bugbear encounter.

I'd be very pro this kind of move in 5e, since it makes turning a monster into an encounter much easier than it has been for the last decade or so. Combined with something like 4e's spot-on estimation of monster power and math, we'd be getting the best of both worlds, I think.
 

Blackbrrd

First Post
I am not so interested in having monsters presented as encounters, but I think 5e is going in the right direction - with lairs and so on. The reason I am against the "encounter" mindset is that the players should be able to carve up a lair into multiple smaller fights if they are resourceful.

In other words, if you just rush into the dragons lair, you encounter it with all the minions. If you are smart, you instead ambush some of the minions, pull some other ones away on a wild goosechase and hit the dragon all alone in it's lair (or even better, alone, outside of the lair).
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There's almost a sense of irony in how the game started as a wargame, where groups of individuals were represented as one mechanical entity, which then became having each such mechanical set of stats represent a single creature, to now going back to using a single set of mechanics to present tactical groups of creatures.
 

Are we witnessing a shift away from designing (or at least articulating) monsters as individual units and towards viewing monsters as components of encounters (perhaps encounters++) or chapters of the story.* That is, I could certainly see advantages to using the format we see with that black dragon writeup as a template for things like a Goblin Warren, Orc Tribe, or Ettercap...lair? hive? I also don't think this would be a terrible divergence from a trajectory starting back at the beginning of the game and continuing through 4e.

Would a monster manual that is organized by encounter be more or less useful than the traditional simple list o' critters?

*Possibly only in emphasis.

I disagree that WotC is moving in that direction. More like the opposite.

I don't know about 3.0, because I can't find my old Monster Manual, but in 3.5 monsters such as orcs had an organization entry. It was less complete and certainly had less flavor text than the 2e entry, but it was still there.

In 4e, there was even less of an organization entry. In fact, nothing but implications. Much like 3.5's Monster Manual V, 4e's MM and Monster Vault gave "classed" or "variant" monster entries that you could construct an entire encounter with. In 4e it got more explicit; here's a controller, here's a brute, here's a brute (leader) that you could use as a chief, etc. Although there tended to be too much level variance for some humanoid monsters.

MM3 had some flavor text organization, for instance, a battle with frost giants would probably have two "waves", presumably with a short rest in between, but if the DM wants to bump up the challenge level, no short rest for you. The first wave consisted of regular level 17 brutes, and the second consisted of the chief (a 20th-level controller) and several guards (I forget the level, but they're soldiers).

Threats to the Nentir Vale had at least some organizational flavor text (some got a lot) and included numerous "monster" types of around the same level for each group. For my own purposes, I often found mixing monster sources worked best, although I feel the need to convert all those MM1 and MM2 monsters that I intend to use to MM3+ standard.

D&DN is certainly putting work into some sorts of monsters. Presumably every legendary "solo" is going to be supported by lots of flavor and off-books mechanical text like the legendary black dragon (I expect to see the same thing for monsters like the medusa), but most monster entries just have a regular monster type and a "leader", and some, such as the bugbear, only have the basic monster. At least kobolds have some variety. A lack of defined monster roles means WotC sees little need to create so many monster types.

This is based on the June Bestiary, and of course WotC might come up with a bunch more monster types in the future. There's little organizational flavor text yet, but that's not a surprise, as that's not really stuff you playtest.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Organised by common terrain,, along with organisation notes and with some notes on lairs would be more modular and thus more useful than per encounter
 
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Ratskinner

Adventurer
I disagree that WotC is moving in that direction. More like the opposite.

I don't know about 3.0, because I can't find my old Monster Manual, but in 3.5 monsters such as orcs had an organization entry. It was less complete and certainly had less flavor text than the 2e entry, but it was still there.

In 4e, there was even less of an organization entry. In fact, nothing but implications. Much like 3.5's Monster Manual V, 4e's MM and Monster Vault gave "classed" or "variant" monster entries that you could construct an entire encounter with. In 4e it got more explicit; here's a controller, here's a brute, here's a brute (leader) that you could use as a chief, etc. Although there tended to be too much level variance for some humanoid monsters.

I do think that 3e is probably the "weak link" in the trajectory, because it relied on the DM to "level up" many monsters to create a diverse encounter. So it was far less explicit in its advice on building the encounter. However, I see that as 3e falling back on a perceived strength of the stacking multiclassing to give the DM what he needed to diversify those encounters. In 4e...well, I look at my 4e MM and see several pages of orcs all together with their various roles delineated and all I see is the components to the rather general "how to build an encounter" instructions in the DMG.

This is based on the June Bestiary, and of course WotC might come up with a bunch more monster types in the future. There's little organizational flavor text yet, but that's not a surprise, as that's not really stuff you playtest.

Correct. My supposition (given the recent Wandering Monsters articles) is that they would later be adding in all that flavor and encounter information in a grand re-formatting.
 

Ratskinner

Adventurer
I am not so interested in having monsters presented as encounters, but I think 5e is going in the right direction - with lairs and so on. The reason I am against the "encounter" mindset is that the players should be able to carve up a lair into multiple smaller fights if they are resourceful.

I understand. That's why I hinted at encounter++. (Maybe an adventuring "day"?)
 

Stalker0

Legend
I think that 4e really nailed down the concept of monsters as a part of an encounter, rather than the encounter themselves. 4e's mechanics realized that is often takes a party of monsters to challenge a party of adventures.

That said, while it had the mechanics, 4e didn't focus as much on the flavor element. Sure i can throw a rakshasa, a were tiger, a nymph, and a dire snail at a party....but how do you explain that?

With these flavor groupings, it creates natural groups of monsters that a dm can use...flavor already prepackaged. Of course he can always create his own, but it gives a good starting point.
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
There are monsters, there are encounters, and then there are set pieces. An encounter can have multiple monsters, and a set piece can have multiple encounters.

The black dragon lair is a set piece. While individual monsters should give guidance as to how they are organized and how to use them in adventure building, there's room for an entirely different set of information regarding set pieces. Goblin encampments, giant ant nests, and a swamp with will o' wisps are all possible examples.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
That said, while it had the mechanics, 4e didn't focus as much on the flavor element. Sure i can throw a rakshasa, a were tiger, a nymph, and a dire snail at a party....but how do you explain that?

Bengal the rakshasa had forsworn his evil ways, although it was a daily battle, for the love of the were tigress Shandra. Together in his castle, they fought to forge a life of their own. With the help of their water nymph friend Brook, they tried to become one with nature and the forest, tending to the natural order of things.

Alas, adventurers, sworn to right wrongs and claim vengeance for the evil Bengal had committed before turning to druidism, stormed the castle and fought their way to the edge of the inner moat. Defenses broken, and seemingly no hope of continuing their peaceful ways, they reverted slightly to evil and anger, and prepared to defend their home. Horrified, Brook joined her friends at the moat's watery edge, where she summoned a dire snail to the defense of true love.
 

Stalker0

Legend
Bengal the rakshasa had forsworn his evil ways, although it was a daily battle, for the love of the were tigress Shandra. Together in his castle, they fought to forge a life of their own. With the help of their water nymph friend Brook, they tried to become one with nature and the forest, tending to the natural order of things.

Alas, adventurers, sworn to right wrongs and claim vengeance for the evil Bengal had committed before turning to druidism, stormed the castle and fought their way to the edge of the inner moat. Defenses broken, and seemingly no hope of continuing their peaceful ways, they reverted slightly to evil and anger, and prepared to defend their home. Horrified, Brook joined her friends at the moat's watery edge, where she summoned a dire snail to the defense of true love.

I smell a new iron dm coming on!
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
I smell a new iron dm coming on!

Oooo! Yes! Unfortunately, I am a week away from going on holiday so would be unable to judge or participate...but they're always great fun to read!

Where/in what forum would one go to get that giant iron ball rolling?

@SkidAce , that deserves XP but alas I cannot bestow any upon you.

I already did, but for myself, so unfortunately I can't cover you. Someone else care to pick up the XP baton? Definitely deserves some more. :D
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Thanks for XP and thoughts.


I have considered Iron DM but rarely have the time.


It's ongoing right now isn't it?
 
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steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
Epic
Thanks for XP and thoughts. I have considered Iron DM but rarely have the time. It's ongoing right now isn't it?

AH! So it is!

http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?337990-Scheduling-for-IRON-DM-2013!

Who knew? Started almost a month ago. Already in round 2. Cool!

EDIT: I need to get out [of the D&D/PF forum] more. hahaha./EDIT

EDIT2: Annnnnd here's the most important bit...

http://www.enworld.org/forum/showth...-Entries-Judgements-Commentary-amp-Trash-Talk

/EDIT2
 
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howandwhy99

Adventurer
Encounters don't even require combat. Meeting with Monsters could be as simple as spotting them first, hiding, and escaping away when not looking. Or it could be you performing an ambush, subduing the first few surprised goblins, and the rest take off running. On the other hand you could send up the white flag. You could deliberately wait to see if you might be in a stand off or not. You could just walk up to them and ask if they have anything on sale (this happens in urban areas quite a lot). Conversation might start an encounter, but it could lead to threats of and actual violence. And violence could end in conversation, though I think this is harder to pull off and often done with more threats (hostages for instance).

So all kinds of stats that commonly aren't assessed for should be for encounters. Movement speed really matters, at least if you care to get away. But so does the ability to hide, sense the world around you, interpret the signs of what occurred before you, your ability to win over others, the monster's learning from its youth, culture, & previous encounters, what they remember from their travels including what they believe as true and what they hold as false, who they are allied to, who they travel with and how they do so, and even marching order (how you array yourselves).
EDIT: And that's all before you account for location and equipment.

All these kinds of stats can be applied to monsters depending upon culture, intelligence, and ability. Kobolds can be a serious threat without increasing their To Hit bonus or applying Class levels to them. Of course a gimpy, hibernating Owlbear isn't quite the same threat as a healthy and hungry one on the prowl at night.
 
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