D&D 5E How I prep monsters in 5E D&D.

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
How I prep monsters in 5E D&D (a 7 and a half step process ;) ).
1. I choose the appropriate monster based on the scenario, terrain, my understanding of its relative power throughout my time running D&D of various editions, etc. . .​
2. I look up the monster in the 5E Monster Manual or other 5E book that might contain it. I might also google it.​
3. I inevitably find it unflavorful and mechanically dull and/or not the power level I want.​
4. I look to see if I can find it in MCDM's Flee Mortals
5a. If it is in there, I inevitably quibble with their thematic take but take note of what abilities they give it.​
5b. If it isn't there, I look at similar monsters, if present, and take note of their abilities.​
6. I look up the monster in the 1E and/or 2E (rarely, 3E) MM and read about it and see how its powers worked (however vaguely written) back then.​
7. I make my own version, taking/tweaking powers from Flee Mortals or other sources and/or making them up using the older edition versions as a guide.​
7a. If necessary, I peek at @SlyFlourish and Co's Forge of Foes and do some very rough monster math - mostly to have a CR I can use to award XP for defeating it (though this is a new thing, and I am just as likely to just eyeball it).​

Basically every time. Today I did it for the Black Pudding. This is not a complaint, tho.

It work for me and I am not sure that even if I found the 5E MM to be a better book, that my inclination to tweak would not lead me down the same basic path. For me, it feels like the culmination of an approach I started doing in 3E (customizing monsters) but not as fiddly.
 

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Quickleaf

Legend
I have a similar problem with tinkering with monsters. ;) It can be a time consuming process in my experience.

Can I ask how much prep time your seven and a half step process took for the Black Pudding? Was that the typical amount of time you invest in your monster process during session prep? Do you play the typical 3-4 hours every other week?
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
It can be a time consuming process in my experience.

Can I ask how much prep time your seven and a half step process took for the Black Pudding? Was that the typical amount of time you invest in your monster process during session prep? Do you play the typical 3-4 hours every other week?

I only have a very vague sense because I didn't plan to do it or look at the clock - but based on other stuff I have been doing today, I'd say 15 to 20 minutes (as a high-end guess)

Edit: I run two games and do my best (sometimes failing) to have overlapping prep - I am running the two different and separate games in the same area, one about a year behind the other. One is an in-person game for 4 to 5 hours every 3 to 5 weeks. The other is remote game (over zoom w/some owlbear rodeo) that has a hard end time of 3 hours, also every 3 to 5 weeks.
 
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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
I've actually been starting with Forge of Foes lately, as I've come to realize that I don't much like most published 5E monsters after running Shadowdark a bunch. I don't want or need every non-combat ability spelled out, I can figure out languages and such on the fly. I'd much rather just create a simple monster in a few minutes instead.

I'm sure there's probably a better 5E core monster book out there that I'd prefer, but I'm waiting to be able to compare the 2024 Monster Manual, the Monstrous Menagerie and Kobold Press' Monster Vault head to head to head before picking one to lean on.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I don't want or need every non-combat ability spelled out, I can figure out languages and such on the fly. I'd much rather just create a simple monster in a few minutes instead.
I am kind of the opposite and tend to want to make note of that stuff for my own purposes. I also do stuff like, if an ogre has "Javelin" as an attack action, I might jot down in the stat block "(3)" next to that, so I know if it runs out of them. I like to know if a monster/NPC might have some other resource to call on outside of combat.

I am not against improvising, but I'd rather improvise off my prep, so I can fall back on it or use it as a guide, if necessary.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Seems like you should just skip to step 7 first... ;)

Personally, I have no qualms about using the monsters as written in the 5E MM. I don't need a bunch of one-shot gimmicks or complexity in the stat block, if there's going to be anything special in the combat it's usually going to deal with the circumstances of the encounter itself (terrain, context, RP or mix of combatants).

I've put together two MM's for my own 5E game (conversions of my unique monsters from 3E), so I find myself pretty satisfied with the layout of the default 5E monsters. Something like MCDM's Flee Mortals is overwrought, in my opinion.
 

aco175

Legend
I find that I tend to guess more at things. I might have an ogre going against a 2nd level party. If I do not add a few more minions to the bad guy list, I'll just boost the HP to about 75% and add a cool recharge power that lets him attack everyone in a 10ft burst. I try to think about if it is cool for the players first.
 


Voadam

Legend
I am running a Paizo Pathfinder AP converted to 5e on fantasy grounds so I have a few different concerns and procedure as I am not really good at inputting new monster stuff into FG beyond reskinning names of existing monsters and abilities.

1 see the monster for an upcoming challenge in the module and see if I want to change it narratively to a similar CR different thing.

2 Look at if there is a roughly equivalent 5e monster in the FG monster books I have (most end up being MM or Kobold's Tome of Beasts or Creature Codex) based on CR and usually type.

3 Copy the monster to the combat tracker.

4 Rename monster and some abilities as needed in the monster tracker.

5 Think about the original pathfinder monster and other edition versions of it so that I have a good rounded narrative sense of options and hooks for running it at the table narratively.

6 Review the 5e mechanics so that I remember its options like multiattack when running it in a fight.
 

RoughCoronet0

Dragon Lover
I wish I could say my monster creation/prep was simply and easy, but it’s probably the furthest away from it, primarily because I tend to get inspired to make a monster for my sessions based on the media I’m consuming at any given moment. At which point I’ll create some lore for it and then either create that monster stat block from scratch, or cobble together said stat block from various other monster stat blocks into a strange chimeric abomination.

A good example of this was from a couple of sessions ago where I threw what was essentially a Mega Sableye at them. I generated a picture, created a little bit of lore that they were the souls of Deep Gnomes that became so greedy for magical gems that they were driven mad and became these little ghostly gremlins after death. Then I got to work on creating their stat block using a couple of homebrew stat blocks I found for a normal Sableye and my understanding of how Pokémon stats and moves work.

It was so much fun throwing him and some little Sableye minions at the party, stealing one of the party’s magic shield with the Thief action that let’s them equip the item as if they attuned for a hour, a Dig attack that had them pop in and out of the ground, and the Mega Sableye had a powerful recharge attack called Foul Play that on a failed save did 2d10 + a number of d10s equal to the targets strength modifier worth of necrotic damage. Gave the Barbarian a bit of a scare since he had a +7 Strength Mod (he resists necrotic damage though so it wasn’t so bad). They had a blast with them though.

It can be hectic doing this for many of my monsters, but honestly I love it.
 

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