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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
is the GM losing valuable information?
I can't speak for online play (because even when I run a game online I still have everything printed out in front of me in my note) but I tend to embed the stat block in a word doc I then print out, so the text around the block has the specific info I need to run that creature within the context of the specific adventure/scenario. The exception to this is a random encounter - but for those, I am either making up the context in the moment or using general notes about the adventure/encounter site to influence how I run it.
 

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dave2008

Legend
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.
I think there is a happy medium. I am also fine with supplements (like Volo's) expanding the options for a monster type. But I would rather a comprehensive monster book have more different types of monsters than the same type with many roles. I think you can cover a lot of variety with some tables, optional actions and traits, etc. rather than a whole new entry.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Two books.

One book is nothing but stats, for as many monsters as the designers can think of and each statted up in as brief and efficient a manner as possible. Each write-up includes a line or two (maximum!) on tactics, morale, etc. Should be able to get several monsters per page for the simple ones, and at absolute most a full page for a complex monster. Don't bother with art, it just takes up space that could be better used to write up more monsters. Ideally this book is for DMs only; perhaps titled something like "DM's Guide: Monsters".

The other book, covering the more commonly-seen monsters plus some iconic and unusual ones, is all lore all the time. Here's where the art goes, along with the lore, backstory, and everything else except the stats...and as there's no stats, you've got more page space to delve into the lore etc. Players can freely read this one without worry about their learning too much about the numbers.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
Two books.

One book is nothing but stats, for as many monsters as the designers can think of and each statted up in as brief and efficient a manner as possible. Each write-up includes a line or two (maximum!) on tactics, morale, etc. Should be able to get several monsters per page for the simple ones, and at absolute most a full page for a complex monster. Don't bother with art, it just takes up space that could be better used to write up more monsters. Ideally this book is for DMs only; perhaps titled something like "DM's Guide: Monsters".

The other book, covering the more commonly-seen monsters plus some iconic and unusual ones, is all lore all the time. Here's where the art goes, along with the lore, backstory, and everything else except the stats...and as there's no stats, you've got more page space to delve into the lore etc. Players can freely read this one without worry about their learning too much about the numbers.
Gotta have art, or we have no idea what some things look like. I gotta say, this is my least favorite approach, but I get why you typed this.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
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).
I really like what you've done with the Afanc block, especially the Habitat and Behaviour lines, size comparison and adventure hooks/incorporation. Kudos to you

I still thing I prefer the CR and XP at the top though (next to monster type) and AC HP and SPD to be on one line rather than a vertical list
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I really like what you've done with the Afanc block, especially the Habitat and Behaviour lines, size comparison and adventure hooks/incorporation. Kudos to you

I still thing I prefer the CR and XP at the top though (next to monster type) and AC HP and SPD to be on one line rather than a vertical list
CR and Prof is at the top, though. Or were you referring to something else?
 



Clint_L

Hero
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?
Yes - I do not want to be told much of anything about the creature's alignment, for example. Habitat and general behaviours are fine, but let me interpret the creature as I need to for my story. I am constantly reminding my players that just because some behaviour has traditionally been true of monsters in other settings, or the MM, doesn't mean it is true at my table.

For example, one party attacked a hag on sight on the principle that she had to be evil, when her motivation was a lot more complicated than that (and a lot more benevolent than the folks who had hired them). This wound up biting them in the butt.
 

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