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

dave2008

Legend
One touch I really like on your Deep One write up are the “Monster Signs” that a GM can use to foreshadow / hint at / build suspense for the monster. That’s a great inclusion!
LevelUp did this as well. Actually they do a lot of what has been discussed. However, I don't like how the statblock blends into the page/text. It doesn't stand out enough for me.
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dave2008

Legend
For me, old-school D&D and its clones have nailed the monster presentation format.

DCC RPG is my favorite in this regard.

View attachment 312512

That's everything you need to run that ghoul. Except the paralysis save. All you need is "DC 14 Will save or be paralyzed, unable to move or take any physical action for 1d6 hours" from the description and you're set. The full description is one paragraph of stats (above) and four paragraphs of text.

As much as I love D&D 4E's monster design, I don't need or want a stat block that takes up half a page.

I love the D&D 2E monster ecology and more in-depth descriptions, but I don't like the stat block format used. It eats up way too much room. Gimme the above condensed stat block and the better descriptions.

For me, art is extra. If you need art, make it black & white line art like old-school D&D and its clones. Again, DCC RPG is my favorite of them for this.

Old-School Essentials gets an honorable mention as it's very close to the top of my list.
One of the reasons I can't get into the OSR movement is the old school format of monster statblocks. I do agree they work in a pinch for running an encounter, but thy ere so uninspiring I would never buy a book that was just that. Also, the single-line/paragraph format is difficult to quickly use the relevant information IMO.
 

The art would be in the other book. The assumption is you'd buy both.
I stand my statement. I don't want a book without art, and I don't to have to buy a second book to get it.
I could see that working as a two-book box set. But I think the method @Sacrosanct suggested is the way to go: access to an RTF with stat blocks only for copying at need. For a book that one is paying good money for, I just don't think you can get by without art (at least). An all-purpose rulebook, like the OSE Basic Fantasy (which contains player character options, rules of play, gear, spells, magic items, and monsters) can get away with cutting monster lore down to the bone, but a monster-specific book can't, to my mind.

One touch I really like on your Deep One write up are the “Monster Signs” that a GM can use to foreshadow / hint at / build suspense for the monster. That’s a great inclusion!
Thanks! It's an idea I've seen in OSR sources and ENWorld's A5E, and I think it's a great thing to include - especially if you're inclined to run an open-world game where player characters can get in over their heads if they aren't paying attention to these signs.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For me, old-school D&D and its clones have nailed the monster presentation format.

DCC RPG is my favorite in this regard.

View attachment 312512

That's everything you need to run that ghoul. Except the paralysis save. All you need is "DC 14 Will save or be paralyzed, unable to move or take any physical action for 1d6 hours" from the description and you're set. The full description is one paragraph of stats (above) and four paragraphs of text.
And those four paragraphs of text could probably be knocked down to two, or even one; with the rest - plus artwork - going into a different book.

And as the paralyzation condition is (I hope!) already defined elsewhere there's no need to repeat it here. Under SP, simply add "(1d6 hours; DC 14 Will to prevent)" after the word paralyzation.

And if the system is using 1e-like saves where the type of effect determines the saving throw, you can even leave out the "DC 14 Will to prevent" piece; as paralyzation will already either have its own save matrix or will be covered by another.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I could see that working as a two-book box set. But I think the method @Sacrosanct suggested is the way to go: access to an RTF with stat blocks only for copying at need.
Could do.

Thing is, with my idea the condensed-stats book would ideally be able to cover every monster the game has ever seen; while the art-and-lore book might only cover some of the key ones*. With an RTF that's tied to the book, my guess is it would only cover those monsters included in that book, which won't be all of them.

* - and those not covered in the art-and-lore book could be left for each DM to flesh out, or could be covered in subsequent books if there's enough demand.
For a book that one is paying good money for, I just don't think you can get by without art (at least). An all-purpose rulebook, like the OSE Basic Fantasy (which contains player character options, rules of play, gear, spells, magic items, and monsters) can get away with cutting monster lore down to the bone, but a monster-specific book can't, to my mind.
That's just it - after 50-odd years of this there's enough monsters out there to fill a monster-specific book even if you only give the stat lines for each one. Having them all together in one place is worth it.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
One of the reasons I can't get into the OSR movement is the old school format of monster statblocks. I do agree they work in a pinch for running an encounter, but thy ere so uninspiring I would never buy a book that was just that. Also, the single-line/paragraph format is difficult to quickly use the relevant information IMO.
Sorry, can't agree.

I'd much rather a half-page total monster write up than 2 1/2 pages including a stat block that's almost a full page (like the aboleth you posted). It's all about intended use for me. That single sentence, one paragraph stat block fits on the back of an index card. I can write or print that out and just have it handy. Not so much with the full page stat block that's spread across three columns and two actual pages.

I don't want to have to reference a book while I'm running. Printing that one monster on one page is also a waste of paper. I can fit 8-10 monsters on that same page with the DCC RPG stat block or work up a one-page monster stats reference sheet and be done with it.

If the stat block can't fit on an index card, it's too big. If it can be condensed to that size, it already should be. You don't need all the redundant language crammed in there. As pointed out just above, even that ghoul stat block could be condensed. All the extra description etc is great for prep, but it's an absolute nightmare to deal with in play.
 

dave2008

Legend
Sorry, can't agree.
I am not asking you to, nor do I need or want you too. People having different opinions and desires is a good thing!
If the stat block can't fit on an index card, it's too big. If it can be condensed to that size, it already should be. You don't need all the redundant language crammed in there. As pointed out just above, even that ghoul stat block could be condensed. All the extra description etc is great for prep, but it's an absolute nightmare to deal with in play.
I do want to touch on this a bit. This thread is about "Monster Presentation." Which to me covers more than the statblock. I agree that a statblock, in general, should fit on a index card. However, a monster entry (Monster Presentation if you will) in a bestiary should do more than provide combat information IMO.

That being said, a would prefer a simple statblock to be presented in a manner that is easier (ie quicker) to read than the DCC format you posted. Do that and we are pretty good to go. I still prefer my monsters do more interesting things, but that is a different discussion.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Yeah, when it comes to a stat block - which I think we’re defining as “bare essentials necessary to use the monster in a combat” - I really prefer them to be half a page or less. More than that and I feel I’m losing the ease-of-use that the stat block is supposed to provide with dense info that should be easy to scan and find what the GM needs fast. When the stat block gets too big, it slows down my rushed scanning of the page.

Like the example from A5E, I love the “Signs of the Monster” and the “Behaviors” are a great inclusion! However the exceedingly long stat block is hard for me, especially with it spanning multiple pages.
 

dave2008

Legend
And those four paragraphs of text could probably be knocked down to two, or even one; with the rest - plus artwork - going into a different book.
It is not 4 paragraphs. The fact that it is only one paragraph (actually just on sentence) is one of my biggest problems with it. I have to search for the information and that gets more and more difficult as my eyes age!
 

dave2008

Legend
Yeah, when it comes to a stat block - which I think we’re defining as “bare essentials necessary to use the monster in a combat” - I really prefer them to be half a page or less. More than that and I feel I’m losing the ease-of-use that the stat block is supposed to provide with dense info that should be easy to scan and find what the GM needs fast. When the stat block gets too big, it slows down my rushed scanning of the page.

Like the example from A5E, I love the “Signs of the Monster” and the “Behaviors” are a great inclusion! However the exceedingly long stat block is hard for me, especially with it spanning multiple pages.
Yes, I generally agree. However, there are times when it is just not possible without a lot of cross-referencing. I don't think that is a better option personally. There are also times when it is not possible at all. But that should be reserved for final boss type monsters that should require some prep to run correctly IMO.
 

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