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

Faolyn

(she/her)
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.
For me, the primary problem with those abbreviated traits is that any special abilities or defenses have to get spelled out in the text, which can be hard to find if they're not neatly labeled. I love the AD&D 2e monsters--those MCs are still my favorite monster books--but it can be a real pain trying to figure out exactly what each creature's special qualities actually do. Often abilities were never fully explained for the sake of brevity (there's plenty of monsters that are given a ranged attack but no range was ever given, or given spells but no listing of how often they could cast them). Compare to the way 5e has resistances, immunities, traits, etc., each bolded and its own line, and spells were neatly divided into number of times per day they can be cast. It takes up a lot of space, but it's easy for me to find what I want to know.

Beyond that, though, I do agree that the half-page statblocks are often annoying. It's nice when a monster has a bunch of interesting abilities, but sometimes it's too much.

I'm sure there's some compromise. Bolded words in the four paragraphs of text, perhaps. Since I'm doing the "Vote Up a 5e-alike" threads, I'll think about how the monster stats could be shrunk.
 

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Retros_x

Explorer
The statblock should be as concise and precise as possible, with good usage of layout, keywords, text formatting etc. In my personal notes I use a really abbreviated form of official statblock and only note what I need for the encounter. Mostly HP, AC and the attacks and feats in a real short form. For HP I often use little squares that each represent 5 HP and I cross them through.

In a monster book I expect actionable resources that I can use in my game. I really like when I have fitting little bits that help me. Like having 2-3 riddles in the "Sphinx" article and similar stuff.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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!
The post quoted referenced the stat block (posted) plus four paragraphs of text (not posted); it's those I was referring to.
 

Lidgar

Gongfarmer
Four pages in and no reference to this yet? Huh.

1697748742364.png
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The statblock should be as concise and precise as possible, with good usage of layout, keywords, text formatting etc. In my personal notes I use a really abbreviated form of official statblock and only note what I need for the encounter. Mostly HP, AC and the attacks and feats in a real short form. For HP I often use little squares that each represent 5 HP and I cross them through.

In a monster book I expect actionable resources that I can use in my game. I really like when I have fitting little bits that help me. Like having 2-3 riddles in the "Sphinx" article and similar stuff.
Fair enough. My priority, though, is getting the monsters - all of 'em! - all into one book in DM-usable form; and not have that book be the size of a transit bus.

There's three monster books in 1e - MM, FF, and MMII - and I'm constantly looking through more than one of them to find some monster or other as (except for the real basics) I can never remember which monster goes in which book. There's been dozens of monster books since, each introducing at least some new ones.

Put 'em all in one place - please! :)
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Fair enough. My priority, though, is getting the monsters - all of 'em! - all into one book in DM-usable form; and not have that book be the size of a transit bus.

There's three monster books in 1e - MM, FF, and MMII - and I'm constantly looking through more than one of them to find some monster or other as (except for the real basics) I can never remember which monster goes in which book. There's been dozens of monster books since, each introducing at least some new ones.

Put 'em all in one place - please! :)
This is exactly why I went to a monster one sheet. I have level appropriate AC, HP, damage, saves, etc all in one place. I just use that and improv the actual monster description and abilities when necessary. I don't need to know exactly what the ogre's stats are from the MM2. I just describe the thing and give it a level and the corresponding stats. It's almost always close enough, i.e. within 5% either way. So much easier. I don't know about you, but I don't need to look up a goblin to see if they're officially wearing this armor or that, have a shield or no, or which weapons they're carrying. They get what I want them to have. I know that a dragon breathes fire and a beholder has various eye beams. The rest is details and more often than not the details don't matter.
 

dave2008

Legend
We'll have to agree to differ on this one, I suppose; as for a DM-side stats book, art (along with nearly all "white space") is 99% of the time just wasted space.
I disagree. I could run a monster with a good piece of art and the improv rules in the DMG, no statblock needed! Personally, I prefer to have both.
 

Deadstop

Explorer
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.

I love the DCC/OSE stat-paragraph-thing for inclusion in a module or other writeup (i.e., for use at the table), but also love extra bits and bobs like signs of presence, behavior tables, monster knowledge difficulties, and variant monsters in a full monster book.

I do regret that recent editions, while they have greatly improved the "technology" of the readable, usable statblock, have made them much larger than those older ones, to the point that from late 3e-5e they've been putting them in a separate section of a module rather than right in the encounter writeup.
 

Retros_x

Explorer
Fair enough. My priority, though, is getting the monsters - all of 'em! - all into one book in DM-usable form; and not have that book be the size of a transit bus.

There's three monster books in 1e - MM, FF, and MMII - and I'm constantly looking through more than one of them to find some monster or other as (except for the real basics) I can never remember which monster goes in which book. There's been dozens of monster books since, each introducing at least some new ones.

Put 'em all in one place - please! :)
This will never happen though, because that would mean someone needs to write all the monster and than stop being creative and writing new ones.
But your wish is fair, I rarely use monster books as reference books as in "I want to have a sphinx, in what book is it" for me its more like "ok what monster is fun and fits to the next session / campaign" and I just flip through it to get inspiration.

But what might satisfy us both a bit is sorting the monsters in books like "scary monsters", "draconic" etc. so at least you should have a clue in what book to look for the one you are thinking of.
 

MGibster

Legend
Am I the only one who opened this thread in the vain hopes that it had something to do with the old television series In Search of... hosted by Leonard Nimoy?
 

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