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

overgeeked

B/X Known World
All of those examples are monsters that you, I, and any other experienced DM have probably run dozens if not hundreds of times; and thus we've largely memorized what makes them tick.

If I've ever run a Yellow Musk Zombie, though, I don't remember it; and I'd have to check all three books to find its write-up and stats. Or a Fog Giant - there's Giants in all three books but after the basic Hill-Fire-Frost-Storm, which one's in which book? Or an Yrthak, which isn't in any of the 1e books but is in the original 3e MM.

If there's to be a new monster book, it's an opportunity to tighten up and consolidate the stats for all of them - as in, every monster D&D has ever had - in one place; specifically intended to make it easier for a DM to find and run any given creature during play. Leave the fluff and lore and fancy art for other books.

Do it!
I mean…just make it up. That’s how you get new monsters. It doesn’t matter what the books says. Make your Yellow Musk Zombies different. Or just name them something else.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Would that book have statblocks for every edition of the game?! You would need at least:
  • 1e / 2e
  • 3e/ 3.4e
  • 4e
  • 5e
I was assuming just 5e; conversion isn't that hard to anything other than 4e.
I found 7,102 entries in the online 2e Monstrous Index. That would give us 28,406 stat blocks + any new ones (x4) since 2e. I don't think that fits in one book!


Heck, if I just assume a 4e style statblock covers, on average, a 1/4 page (and I round the total monsters to 7,500) I get a 1,875 page book with just 4e monster stats!
Yikes - that's even more than I thought! :)
EDIT: There are 2,713 official statblocks on D&D Beyond. So a long way to go still ;)

EDIT 2: If I assume you can get 10 1e/2e statblocks on a page that puts the total for all statblocks at approximately 6,375 pages.
The stats for a lot of monsters wouldn't be more than a couple of lines of text, assuming extraneous information is left out. But the 5e format is inefficient. A hypothetical example of a functional short stat block (using probably inaccurate numbers):

Goblin (small humanoid): HD 1/2; AC 11 or by armour; att. 1; dmg. by weapon; SQ* darkvision 30'; St 8, Dx 12, Co 10, In 8, Wi 8, Ch 6.

That's all I want to see in the stat block book for a standard Goblin. The Str-Dex-etc. numbers are a suggested average and might even be left off. For 5e, maybe toss in the CR as well, if that system is to be kept. Separately statted would be Goblin Chieftain, Goblin Shaman, and maybe Goblin Archer. I can get a whole lot of those on a page. :)

And sure, some of the more complex monsters will take more space, but even an Aboleth or a Beholder can be written up in under half a page if you stick to the facts and keep it short.

* - SQ = "Special Quality(ies)", as opposed to SA Special Attack(s) or SD Special Defense(s).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I mean…just make it up. That’s how you get new monsters. It doesn’t matter what the books says. Make your Yellow Musk Zombies different. Or just name them something else.
For my home game, I could of course do this. Organized play DMs don't have that luxury, however, nor those trying to run a canned module as written.
 

cbwjm

Seb-wejem
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.
Not really, the art helps me visualise the creature the party is going up against. It helps me describe it to the players and now, with more digital releases, it means I can load up the image and show it to the players. If anything, the art helps with immersion in the game. A book without at least some art, is bland and of no interest to me.
 

dave2008

Legend
Goblin (small humanoid): HD 1/2; AC 11 or by armour; att. 1; dmg. by weapon; SQ* darkvision 30'; St 8, Dx 12, Co 10, In 8, Wi 8, Ch 6.
That format would be mostly useless to me. I can't efficiently process that information in a string of text like that. So you have to better than that.
 

aco175

Legend
I tend to just Google a monster if I need stats and cannot just modify an existing monster. There seems to be sites with older edition stats and pictures and such. It is a bit more work, but then I have it in my monster Word doc for future play.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Not really, the art helps me visualise the creature the party is going up against. It helps me describe it to the players and now, with more digital releases, it means I can load up the image and show it to the players. If anything, the art helps with immersion in the game. A book without at least some art, is bland and of no interest to me.
All I really want from art is to show me what something looks like. I get far more information and inspiration from text.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I tend to just Google a monster if I need stats and cannot just modify an existing monster. There seems to be sites with older edition stats and pictures and such. It is a bit more work, but then I have it in my monster Word doc for future play.
Doing that also provides all the art you'll ever need.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
The stats for a lot of monsters wouldn't be more than a couple of lines of text, assuming extraneous information is left out. But the 5e format is inefficient. A hypothetical example of a functional short stat block (using probably inaccurate numbers):

Goblin (small humanoid): HD 1/2; AC 11 or by armour; att. 1; dmg. by weapon; SQ* darkvision 30'; St 8, Dx 12, Co 10, In 8, Wi 8, Ch 6.
Not gonna lie. I am partial to your position here. Way back in 2012/2013 when the playtests came out and I started writing Depths of Felk Mor, this is how I put the stat blocks into each encounter area. In full disclosure, I came from 1e to 5e, having skipped 3e and 4e. I do very much like having important bits in the encounter area so I don't have to turn pages.

1697812001938.png


Even when I did Twilight Fables last year, this is how I did them in the included adventure:

1697812087863.png


And my most recent project, Mirrored Mountain (converting Mountain of Mirrors book to an adventure), this is how it looks:
1697812219010.png
 

Quickleaf

Legend
@Sacrosanct Nice! Something slim like that for a simple monster makes sense and I like how you’re paying attention to accessibility / readability. While I’m accustomed to reading those condensed AD&D in-line style stat blocks, I don’t think they’re intuitive for newer players & definitely not great if you have dyslexia or other challenges with “grokking” condensed technical writing.

I actually did a similar take on a faerie goblin… using a five line model:
1-NAME
2-Immediately necessary stats roughly in order of appearance during play
3-Combat action
4-Exploration trait/note
5-Roleplay trait/note

GOBLIN
Perception 9; Initiative +2; AC 13; HP 6; Spd 30’; Save -1
Combat: Shortsword/bow (60’) Hit +4, Dmg 5 (1d6+2), and it Disengages or Hides (+4)
Exploration: Tracks obfuscated to seem like 1/4 or 4x number
Interaction: When PC fails Wis or Cha roll vs goblin, it learns their heart’s desire

I know this sort of thing isn’t “nuts & bolts” enough for 5e which favors tiny adjustments to the odds, and it’s not “cool moves” enough for those enjoying a very tactical 4e play style. And it requires all kinds of GM interpretation too, which goes against the grain for players enjoying more rules codification like Pathfinder. So I’m not sure who would really enjoy that style besides the odd duck like me with a foot in the 5e and OSR worlds.
 

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