D&D General In Search of "the" Ideal Monster Presentation

Quickleaf

Legend
This arose in a conversation I shared with @dave2008 and @Whizbang Dustyboots regarding The Monster Overhaul (recently released by Skerples) and my ideas for my "ideal monster book."

What does your ideal monster presentation look like? Does it synch up to a product you have? Maybe a personal notation style? Or something that you can imagine but haven't found/made yet?

To facilitate conversation, here are some of the things I want in my ideal monster book:
  • OSR tables specific to the monster like in The Monster Overhaul
  • Name lists for monsters when appropriate
  • Some "new school" cool combat stuff
  • Treasure & monster ecology a la AD&D / Dragon magazine
  • Monster track and sign pictures (like the Hackmaster Hacklopedia)
  • Exploration & interaction stuff front and center - potentially even in the stat block
  • A willingness to break the mold when it suits the particular monster.
sample page from The Monster Overhaul
b6517b2ec180ef9cbe0b85cf57b0442b000de330.png


sample spread from the Hacklopedia
251170_1654657140896_1671099902_1152377_5692860_n.jpg
 

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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
The entire point of me buying a book of monsters, is so that I can do less work prepping or running a game. So to that end I want:

  • A place in the world for the monster. Like seriously, how do these things exist, or even why do they exist?
  • Novel tactics for monsters beyond "They move and attack, the big ones go in front, the squishy ones in the back." Like how Star Spawn Seers will friendly fire a Star Spawn Hulk ally in order to trigger a psionic explosion.
  • Novel tactics for defeating monsters. Clear weaknesses that function as a mini-bonus you can use as rewards for players that spend time researching or investing their skills into (and not total shut downs like "stay away from the melee units and shoot them with longbows").
  • Alternate win conditions with even simple monsters. Wolves just want something to eat, they don't need to kill everyone, just like one target for a meal. You could distract them with some fresh meat.
  • Easy customizability. If I am making a fire cult temple, I should just be able plug in a minimal effort template to have monsters shoot fire without having to reverse engineer the secret monster damage formulas, which the designers are privy too.
  • And finally, super quick and compact combat stat blocks. I know that might seem contradictory with everything I just posted. But most of that information should be displayed outside of the stat block for easy reading anyway.
 

Clint_L

Hero
This arose in a conversation I shared with @dave2008 and @Whizbang Dustyboots regarding The Monster Overhaul (recently released by Skerples) and my ideas for my "ideal monster book."

What does your ideal monster presentation look like? Does it synch up to a product you have? Maybe a personal notation style? Or something that you can imagine but haven't found/made yet?

To facilitate conversation, here are some of the things I want in my ideal monster book:
  • OSR tables specific to the monster like in The Monster Overhaul
  • Name lists for monsters when appropriate
  • Some "new school" cool combat stuff
  • Treasure & monster ecology a la AD&D / Dragon magazine
  • Monster track and sign pictures (like the Hackmaster Hacklopedia)
  • Exploration & interaction stuff front and center - potentially even in the stat block
  • A willingness to break the mold when it suits the particular monster.
sample page from The Monster Overhaul
b6517b2ec180ef9cbe0b85cf57b0442b000de330.png


sample spread from the Hacklopedia
251170_1654657140896_1671099902_1152377_5692860_n.jpg
Ohmigosh that is pretty much the opposite of what I want. I want 5e stats and a very brief description focused on their abilities, and enough colour to give them flavour without being too prescriptive. Plus a nice piece of art.
 

dave2008

Legend
This arose in a conversation I shared with @dave2008 and @Whizbang Dustyboots regarding The Monster Overhaul (recently released by Skerples) and my ideas for my "ideal monster book."

What does your ideal monster presentation look like? Does it synch up to a product you have? Maybe a personal notation style? Or something that you can imagine but haven't found/made yet?

To facilitate conversation, here are some of the things I want in my ideal monster book:
  • OSR tables specific to the monster like in The Monster Overhaul
  • Name lists for monsters when appropriate
  • Some "new school" cool combat stuff
  • Treasure & monster ecology a la AD&D / Dragon magazine
  • Monster track and sign pictures (like the Hackmaster Hacklopedia)
  • Exploration & interaction stuff front and center - potentially even in the stat block
  • A willingness to break the mold when it suits the particular monster
I appreciate the separate thread @Quickleaf, I think this is an interesting topic. I will also summon @Sacrosanct as well. If memory serves me correctly (and it rarely does these days) they did some similar research into this topic in preparation for their Twilight Fables book. I believe there was even a thread about it. With that out of the way...

I'm of two minds about this topic. I see the benefits of in-depth lore and information and keeping it as generic as possible. For a monster book tied to a specific setting, lots of lore and hooks tied to the setting make sense. However, for book intended to cover many, any, all settings it should be generic. I am not sure there is a simple / happy medium. However, I think there is some things I would want in either option.

Here are my first draft thoughts:
  • The entire monster entry should be understood to describe the monster, not just the statblock
  • The statblock should be focused on combat options/information needed to run the monster.
  • Non-combat, but still relevant or possibly "encounter" relevant items should be in the monster entry, but not the statblock. This includes descriptive traits like: Immortal/Unusual Nature, Angelic Weapons, Divine Being, etc.; and actions like: change shape, time gate, and spells that take longer than an action to cast.
  • Customization tables/information. could be useful
  • a brief physical description that should match the art (got to have art)
  • a size chart is good too
  • brief description of tactics and motivations (will it flee or surrender or fight to the death)
  • possibly a brief description of tracks/signs
  • possibly harvesting information
After that, it really depends on the role of the book. Is it generic or specific. I think those require different types of monster entries.
 
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aco175

Legend
I would like it to fit on one page for nearly all monsters. Have a decent statblock to use or snip to DM notes, but keep the lore and background separate from it so that I have what I need to run my game and not be cluttered. I like the idea of sample names and groups like in the Mercenary picture above. Maybe a list on powers (random?) if there are fire mercenaries and lightning mercenaries.
 


dave2008

Legend
Honestly I just want the 4E statblocks back.
Tell me the "role" that the monster excels at, put 3-4 interesting skills that the monster can use, and then a short lore, tactics, and treasure write-up.
There is a lot to like about the 4e statblocks, but I don't really care for having 10 different orc statblocks. I would rather one with a table or two of some ways to modify it. Maybe templates too?

I also think the 4e statblock has some areas for improvement too
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I appreciate the separate thread @Quickleaf, I think this is an interesting topic. I will also summon @Sacrosanct as well. If memory serves me correctly (and it rarely does these days) they did some similar research into this topic in preparation for their Twilight Fables book. I believe there was even a thread about it. With that out of the way...
Indeed! Here is what a monster spread looks like in Twilight Fables. Somethings I wanted because I felt they were important (like the Quirks section, size icon comparison, pronunciation guide, and lore table) and some were ideas others had mentioned, like removing spell lists a monster might have and instead list out every spell ability.

monsters.jpg

Cailleach3.jpg


That all being said, I think it really comes down to the game style you're playing. The statblock should reflect the overall game theme. If players are playing 5e, it's way easier for the DM to pick up a monster book where the monster stat blocks are familiar with what the DM already knows. For example, the above are clearly in the style of 5e, while the below is for a new system I'm currently working on. I think it should look cleaner, with the really important bits called out and up top (the part in the green box). And every monster fits on 1 page (with rare exceptions for very powerful ones).

domovoi.jpg
 

Clint_L

Hero
Can we avoid making this yet another thread about 4e? Yes, there are good things to take from that edition, but it seems like a lot of threads lately have been really dwelling on it.
 


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