Twitter, at times, is what happens when you take the Wild West and apply "Survival of the Fittest/Rules of Nature**" to said Wild West. Because some of the comments and views people can have on there can be straight up Merciless.I'm not sure it's possible to have anything approved on Twitter. It's a cesspool.
To quote Red vs Blue:Twitter, at times, is what happens when you take the Wild West and apply "Survival of the Fittest/Rules of Nature**" to said Wild West. Because some of the comments and views people can have on there can be straight up Merciless.
*Not the Song.
Thank you for all your hard work and time putting this together. It was an enjoyable read.
250+ monsters, 89,000+ Words (give or take, thanks to editing the posts before submission), in the span of 7 months. That was an effort. And I would like to thank all of you for coming along for the ride, even if you found what I was typing to be questionable at best.
So now we have seen the changes in this monster book. And I will touch on the common threads.
They busted up the entries for fiends, but not much else. And honestly the book is worse for it. I get that they were trying to avoid the meme of having a massive “D” section (20% of the monsters in the book are fiends of some kind, and that's not including the Drow or Duergar who would have padded that out more!) But I honestly think their reasoning is wrong. They argued “But what if you didn’t know Zuggtmoy was a Demon? How would you know to flip to the D section of the book?” I will counterargue: What newish player even knows what a Hezrou is? Who specifically goes looking for that creature without knowing it to be a demon? Can the average person even spell that off the top of their head? The way a player is going to find that creature is by thinking “I need to use a Demon. Lets see, that big frog-looking guy seems dangerous, I will go with that!” If you need to search a creature by name, that’s what Indexes are for. And lets not pretend that the D&D Beyond doesn’t exist, they can simply search by typing the name, let the monsters be grouped together for ease of finding monsters that might work together.
And that is the second point. Monsters do not live in a vacuum, a list or even a reference to common allies is a great thing to have for anyone, but especially new DMs who need to learn how to build encounters. Some of the monsters in the book are great at this (Starspawn!) Even going so far as detailing a clever tactic that the monsters can use thanks to their mechanics.
Monster Tags have taken a big step backwards in this book. They are not arbitrarily applied, they are frugally applied. I get that books are paid by the word, but tags work better when they are universally applied. Especially in digital databases, I know the D&D Beyond acquisition was sometime after this book was started, but I can assure you it will help WotC, and the fans who use these book, immensely to standardize these tags going forward.
That, of course, is ignoring the mechanical implications that tags can be used for. Since they are a thing, you can use them to inform rules. I know that “rulings, not rules” is a guiding principle, but that principle does not make it easy for a New DM, or even an Experienced DM, to adjudicate with confidence. Removing the Shapechanger Tag from the Yuan-ti was a bad idea. Yes, you can infer “They can change into a snake, therefore they must be a shapechanger!” But why are you purposely making your system harder to run when you absolutely don’t have to?
The Lore changes.
At first, I was a bit confused over the changes, due to the seeming lack of consistency. But realistically that was me overthinking.
The simple rules are:
“These descriptions are the default, and exceptions are available if you want them. If you want a good Devil, have at it.” Which has been a thing DMs could have always done. Heck, Planescape Torment famously did it in a video game format decades ago.
“Humanoids have free will and can do whatever despite their background.” Which has always been the case even if it wasn’t explicitly stated.
“Monstrosities could have been humanoids at one point. But now they unnaturally tend to act like this due to forces beyond their control.” Again, you can still ignore this, but Monstrosity is now a creature type that is intended to be free of moral conflict when you fight them, so they wanted to keep the ideas behind them mostly in-tact.
CR is solely a function of DPR, we now know this to be true, and monster defenses and attacks have been normalized to match this. CR does not explicitly take into account any form of control that a creature has, any super-deadly effects (like stat drain), or even the mobility of the monster in question (Hi to you Flail Snail). In fact the major change to CR was accomplished by the Caster changes, and CR is still kind of hard to use. I don’t know if I have a perfect solution to this. It seems the best way to denote outliers is to use tags like the <Legendary> or <Mythical>. Perhaps a tag is in order for monsters that can bypass HP mechanics. I know <Elite> was a tag used in 4e to denote a monster that wasn’t a solo encounter, but still deadlier than a normal monster, perhaps that tag can be used again? <Deadly> is another option but a bit of a misnomer if the monster in question just puts targets to sleep. Also, there are still monsters that are quite vulnerable to the “Move and Shoot” tactic. Slow, ground-bound melee units can be used, but require extra effort on DMs to put them in encounters. Be it in the form of narrow combat maps, supporting monsters, hazards, and/or traps. Given that this seems to be the default setting on monster design (especially for older monster designs) I don’t know if this can be tagged out. Maybe the best way to solve this problem is to give out as many ranged attacks as possible and include an “Encounter Workshop” in the next printing of the DMG, which goes over how to mitigate these problems in detail.
The book didn’t go far enough on this, but the monsters that had this idea were generally from the later books to begin with, so I consider that a good sign. There are numerous entries that have basic combat tactics for the monsters, and I love it every time it shows up. For the other monsters, I have to admit, sometimes it took me two or three readings of a stat block to get what the monster was supposed to do. The Phoenix, for instance, I didn’t even think of just setting the area on fire at first, and even then I had to ad-hoc the rules from the hazard rules.
The Magical Weapons Change.
I feel sorry for non-bear totem Barbarians, you didn’t deserve this, at all. Hopefully all barbarians in 5.5 will have resistance to most forms of damage to compensate for this. I totally understand this was a Monster VS Monster change, but Monsters are fighting the PCs most of the time.
The Keen Senses Change
Folding the Keen senses trait into ability scores saves on word count, but makes it harder to understand why this monster suddenly has a random+5 bonus in perception when that doesn't match their stat block. This makes it harder for a DM to reverse engineer monsters, a task that is already far harder than it needs to be.
The Caster Changes
The big change in the book was the Caster Changes, and I have to say it is a mixed bag, but it didn’t have to be. There are a lot of good changes to casters in the book. But then again there are casters who got raked across the coals like the Archdruid.
Right off the bat, the “Counterspell change” is a bit overblown. Most of the spells that got changed into abilities started out as Direct Damage spells to begin with, which are low priority Counter targets anyway. The fact that Counterspell was removed from nearly every spell list and occasionally replaced with Negate Spell is a far bigger deal. Negate spell is an absolute counter with less counterplay, and is extremely harsh to face down. Arguably, it is worse to face than Counterspell was in terms of the action economy, which is where fights are won or lost.
The mechanics of the changes.
Speaking of the Action Economy, in general, Caster-focused monsters tend to break it in order to be effective. This comes in the form of swapping out an attack for a spellcast, using legendary actions to cast spells, using bonus actions to mimic spells, or using special actions to mimic spells without having to use concentration. I consider these changes to be good, as I am not one of those people who thinks that NPCs and PCs have to use the same rules for everything. They are designed for different purposes, let them be different if it makes running the game better, even if that makes creating an NPC from scratch using the PC rules harder.
I want to emphasize once again: The casters that suck because of these changes didn’t have to suck. There are multiple examples of great caster NPCs and monsters in this book, and those could have been extrapolated into the weaker offerings.
The default spell attacks.
Most of the attack spells in a stat block were removed, and the “most common” damage spell was reworked into an attack. The major deal with most of the default attacks is that they target AC as an attack roll. I am not quite a fan of this on most casters. Attack Rolls can Crit (which is an added extra lair of danger) but they also, imo, feel slightly less “magical” than targeting a save. The other problem with default attacks is that a lot of them share the same name, despite providing different effects and damage types, which makes it slightly more confusing to read a stat block than it has to be.
Out of Combat spell lists.
The spell lists for out of combat spells have largely been gutted, because a lot of those spells had casting times of longer than 1 action, making them useless for any kind of combat. I, for one, would love to see an out of combat spell selection on appropriate casters (like Clerics) who have spellcasting duties that aren’t simply fighting everything.
Now for the casters themselves.
Innate Casters run the gamut of “This monster can also cast a spell for flavor and we are saving text by referencing the spell” to “This is a spellcaster that casts spells because of their nature”. The former are not significantly impacted at all, while the latter tend to get cool attacks to use. My major issue with them is the fact that most of them don’t require foci or material components, making disarming them ineffective (Which in turn, makes Martial Characters slightly worse off)
Blasters in general
Blasting is largely unaffected by the changes, save for targeting AC, which I have gone over previously.
Healers in general
Combat healing is a sore spot in 5e. But any caster that depended on being a healer was overhauled into something else, which was often detrimental to the caster in question. The loss of spell slots was another huge blow, no more upcasting hurts the viability of spells like Healing Word and Cure Wounds in the hands of NPCs.
Controllers in general
Controllers have never had it better in 5e. The Action economy changes really do wonders for their threat level.
Bards have not fared as well as other casters in this change, mostly because the core identity of the bard is “Jack of all Trades” while the design principle behind the changes was “Trim the fat: Get rid of everything outside of the one thing that the caster is good at”
Clerics and Priests
I like the fact that Clerics and Priests have different default approaches to combat. It was always a bit weird that all Cleric PCs used the same tools despite having wildly different doctrines. That said, healing is a bit more harsh now, so alternative means of support should be considered moving forward.
Druids got the short end of the stick. Wildshape being totally dependent on another creature's stat block really hurts Druids in terms of prep and playability. It would be far better if they had a predetermined list of generic stat blocks to pick from, which included magical attacks as appropriate.
Paladins and Rangers were barely touched in this book. The Blackguard does, however, work well enough to serve its purpose. There is also one example of a ranger I can remember (the Grung Wilding) but even then it wasn't particularly egregious.
Sorcerers also got kind of a bad deal in this book, though they didn’t have to. Aside from various creatures having the tag for strange reasons (Skull Lord~) the new casting mechanics can mimic various metamagics extremely well, and all a designer would have to do is lean hard into that fact. Sorcerers could also benefit from copying the Warlocks homework, and having unique default attacks for more flavor.
Warlocks are really the poster children for the caster changes. Getting rid of Eldritch Blast did wonders for making every Warlock Pact feel unique, and the removal of spell slots is only a boon for them. I honestly hope that PC warlocks get this level of care in the 2024 books.
Npc Wizards are either really cool, or suffer from trying to stay too close to the PC wizards. They are also the most egregious users of Arcane Burst, which is the most unnecessarily reused attack name in the book.
And that brings this Let’s Read to a close, hope you all had fun with it.
Thanks for bringing us along for the ride.
And that brings this Let’s Read to a close, hope you all had fun with it.
What a ride it was! Thank you for your hard work, really! Still thinking that mechanically a good errata would have fixed the original books stat blocks, maybe telling for every spellcasting monster a "signature spell" that is the primary attack source for easier running on the table, or directly the magic attack. This without making a new book.
Your third time beating this drum, despite two warnings already, in the last 3 days. You're done in this thread; we'll discuss whether you're worth the effort of keeping around on the boards/They made all the races homogenous. Changed the lore and descriptions of races so they're Twitter approved now.
1: When they want more monsters. Normally around the time they have done a campaign or two and are ready to start fully creating their own adventures.Thanks for bringing us along for the ride.
- When should a DM get either the new book or the old ones, in your opinion?
- What was most surprising out of all of this?
- What is something you wished/expected would be changed, but did not?
- What if your favorite changed monster in the book?