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


Also, every monster books should have rules on how to create new monsters on your own and variations.




log in or register to remove this ad


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.

View attachment 311808
View attachment 311809

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).

View attachment 311810
Spellcasting monsters are hard. I personally don't want all the spells spelled out in the statblock, just a few key ones and then a list of others (possibly not in the statblock itself).


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 do not mind having the 10 different statblocks if the monster is a different role or strength. An orc archer might have a cool power that differs from an orc smasher. I like to clip or cut/paste monster blocks to my notes pregame so having them listed out like this helps me and not having them just means that I need to write them myself.

I seem to recall 5e starting off with just an orc basic and telling us to max its HP to make it a leader type. Kind of like 1e.


Moderator Emeritus
First of all everything for a monster should either fit on one side of one page or a two-page spread. While I like the idea of eliminating the irrelevant from a stat block, what is relevant really depends not only on the monster, but the scenario, the game style, etc. .. so what I am proposing is in addition to the combat stat block there is a small block (or table or chart) with supplementary info that can be optionally cut and pasted into a DM's notes or whatever and this would include the abilities or qualities that may not come into play during combat, but might be important to know for an encounter or any interaction.

I have my own personal way of including info on a stat block that is meant to compress 5E stat block as much as possible - but in general since my point of comparison is 3E stat blocks I am yet to encounter a 5E stat block that compares in complexity and occasional difficulty to read.

As for the examples above, that mercenaries page has some cool elements, but I wonder if it may be too proscriptive a description for me and my style.


I appreciate the detailed responses. Great feedback!

@dave2008 That's a useful distinction you made between monster books designed for generic fantasy vs. specific fantasy setting having different lore needs.

One thing I've been wondering is – in the face of more digital play where during play GMs only have the monster stat block in front of them and not the entire entry (such as with D&D Beyond, GM snapshotting and pasting the stat block like @aco175 and @el-remmen describe ), is the GM losing valuable information? Is that affecting the way we GM or which resolution methods we favor (i.e. combat)? I know D&D is already a combat heavy genre, and my play style has diverged far from mainstream in that I favor less combat-centric play, but this might dovetail into @Leatherhead 's comment about wanting "alternate win conditions."


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.

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.

I thought it was interesting that even though you both are advocating different edition monster presentation (5th and 4th editions, respectively) as the "gold standard", you actually share common ground in that you prefer shorter flavor/lore sections that don't prescribe to the GM too much. In other words a more "generic fantasy" lore monster book, if I'm understanding you correctly?


New Publisher
I released two products with alternative statblocks....
In one, I put all the spellcasting stuff under a separate scrub section called spells. It was close to want WotC is doing in that I made them effects, basically, but it was clear they were spells. It sells well.

In another, with the description of the plant monsters, I put a summary statblock that had the minimum you needed to run the monster, and an appendix with full blocks. I would change that some, but it's a lot of work to do statblocks once, let alone more than once. It does not sell, and I have almost no feedback on it.

I have dmd a long time, and for complex monsters, 4e was the easiest block to read and run. I think we could have much simpler blocks for skeletons and basic creatures....

I think A5e has some great presentation and additions to the entry. I think mcdm has great ways to add things to monsters. Nord games has nice presentation on what a creature might have on them.

Remove ads