D&D 5E Let's talk about monster design philosophies, by way of examples.

Reynard

Legend
Monster deign is near and dear to my heart. I am an occasional freelancer for RPGs, including 5E 3PP content. Of the mechanical aspects of the job, my favorite is monster design and if I do say so myself I am pretty good at it. But that is not terribly difficult to say, at least compared to things like classes or even feats and spells, since you are designing for individual units of fun (encounters) rather than much longer periods of play like whole campaigns. Anyway, I digress.

I would like to discuss that monster design in 5E, both as participants and, if applicable, as designers. I would like to use examples, too, in order to keep it out of pure vague theorycrafting. Those examples can be homebrew, official content, 3PP content or stuff you found on reddit.

I want to start by looking at the lowliest of creatures: the ggoblin. I will be using three sources for goblin examples: the 5E Monster Manual, the LevelUp Monstrous Menagerie, and the Flee Mortals! preview from MCDM. There are many other sources out there, of course, and feel free to introduce goblins from them. But just to be clear: this thread isn't about goblins, it is about monster design and we will be ranging far and wide, Mordenkainen willing.

The 5E MM goblin can be viewed here at 5esrd.com and it's pretty basic: it has a melee attack, a ranged attack, and an ability to take the Disengage action as a bonus action. Since it has no other possible bonus action available to it, the goblin should never be standing still. Of course, it does not have any extra movement, so its movement won't amount to much unless the GM builds the encounter to reward mobility. This goblin is our baseline.
EDIT: I apparently misread the MM goblin entry. It has Hide as part of its Nimble Escape.

The LevelUp goblin can be found at A5Etol.com (which as of this writing is not loading for me so i can't link it.) The LevelUp goblin is nearly identical to the MM goblin except it can choose between Hide or Disengage as a bonus action -- and the goblin gets a bonus to Stealth rolls. This ostensibly makes the goblin more versatile, but it should be notes that again without additional movement even this requires the GM make sure the environment is set up to take special advantage of the ability. Moreover, the LevelUp goblin comes with an explicit number of variants that use different equipment and tactics (but retaining the Nimble Escape bonus action).

MCDM's "basic" goblins are a little harder to pin down: there are two different CR 1/4 goblins in Flee Mortals! The goblin minion is sort of analogous to the MM goblin although it behaves a little differently. First of all, it is a minion that dies when it takes any damage at all, and only does 1 damage. However, the minion does not have a nimble escape bonus action. Rather, it's movement simply does not provoke attacks of opportunity (which, ultimately is functionally the same as the M goblin since it has no other use for its bonus action). It also has a feature where any creature that starts its turn next to a goblin minion may take a point of damage. It isn't much but it can certainly break concentration! This makes the goblin minion's freedom of movement more useful without necessarily requiring the GM to build the environment to that end.

Flee Mortals! also has a goblin warrior that is not a minion. This one is mechanically very similar to the base goblin from the MM with the addition of an important synergy with the movement not provoking ability: a reaction allowing the goblin warrior to move if an enemy misses it.

It should be noted that there is some minor variation between the different goblins with respect to AC, hit points, skills and ability scores. At the very lowest levels these might have an impact but should disappear shortly even while goblins are still useful threats in numbers.

The reason I chose the lowly goblin to begin this discussion is that, mechanically speaking, they have a schtick (moving without provoking) and we can easily see how the different sources tried to utilize that schtick. LevelUp diversified it, while MCDM tried to make it more valuable through synergy. Both of these are solid iterations on the MM goblin, and it is almost certain that the One D&D goblin will come with some new way to use that schtick.

Of course, each source also has other goblin types. Just as a quick survey, the MM has a Goblin Boss. LevelUp also has a Boss, as well as a spell casting Warlock -- which like the base goblin has a few variants built right into it. Flee Mortals! includes the highest number of statblocks with variable CRs, which is in line with Colville's appreciation for 4E's monster methodology.

I won't belabor the point by going through every type of goblin, but I wanted to mention the Goblin Boss because it is present in all the sources. In the MM in addition to just being tougher, it can sacrifice one of its underlings to take a hit for it as a reaction. The LevelUp boss trades this reaction (which it hands to the goblin Warlock) for the ability to give underlings an attack with their reactions. The Flee Mortals! boss is a full CR tougher than the other two (probably because there are a wider range of goblin underlings for it to command) and has the most tools: it keeps the sacrifice ability, can also allow underlings to attack, and on top of it can grant allies advantage to attacks (if they take advantage being attack themselves as a consequence) as a recharge 6 bonus action. Since Command and "Get Reckless" are an action and a bonus action respectively, this is a potentially very effective combo -- especially early on while the Boss has enough foot soldiers around to keep one nearby to protect him as well. As a recharge 6 ability, though, it is a one time synergy which keeps it from being overpowered for a CR 2 enemy, I think.

That's a long winded introduction to what i would like this thread to be about. What are your preferences for monster design? What monsters do you think are well designed -- and what are some you think are poorly designed?

Thanks.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
I really enjoy monsters where the fiction and the mechanics are mutually reinforcing, there's a "tightness" / economy of words, and encounter ideas spring off the page.

Using the 5e goblin as an example, a couple things come to light...

Nimble Escape. The goblin can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of its turns.
Nowhere are goblins described in the fiction as favoring ambushes nor what a goblin ambush looks like. That's a glaring omission, and would be very helpful to designing an encounter (e.g. Keith Amman recommends staged retreating to a choke point with more goblins lying in ambush). So I'd want to see that in the flavor text.

Malicious Glee. Motivated by greed and malice, goblins can’t help but celebrate the few times they have the upper hand. They dance, caper with sheer joy when victory is theirs. Once their revels have ended, goblins delight in the torment of other creatures and embrace all manner of wickedness.
Their malicious glee is left as a roleplaying note, but including something like a d6 victory table of random wicked celebration a goblin might engage in after defeating a foe would be really interesting. Maybe that could be mechanically implemented as a sort of "universal goblin lair / warband trait" that appears in the fiction rather than the stat block... goblins are pushovers unless you get ambushed OR they manage to start getting the upper hand, when things can snowball out of control. That would inject this flavor more directly into goblin encounters, and make it less something that a GM could easily overlook.

Leaders and Followers. Goblins are ruled by the strongest or smartest among them. A goblin boss might command a single lair, while a goblin king or queen (who is nothing more than a glorified goblin boss) rules hundreds of goblins, spread out among multiple lairs to ensure the tribe’s survival. Goblin bosses are easily ousted, and many goblin tribes are taken over by hobgoblin warlords or bugbear chiefs.
What does a Neutral Evil follower look like? You know those nature videos of a penguin pushing a fellow penguin into the water first? That's how I think of goblins. While this is left as a roleplaying note, it could be leveraged to augment or even replace Nimble Escape. Some kind of a reaction to, say, an area effect to hide behind another goblin or duck for cover makes a lot of sense – not just for Goblin Bosses either.

Rat Keepers and Wolf Riders. Goblins have an affinity for rats and wolves, raising them to serve as companions and mounts, respectively. Like rats, goblins shun sunlight and sleep underground during the day. Like wolves, they are pack hunters, made bolder by their numbers. When they hunt from the backs of wolves, goblins use hit-and-run attacks.
This is a really strong statement... without any mechanical implementation (not even Animal Handling proficiency). What if some goblins had a worg-rider trait that (at a minimum) helped them avoid opportunity attacks when mounted on a worg? That would reinforce the fiction nicely.

Goblins are small, black-hearted, selfish humanoids that lair in caves, abandoned mines, despoiled dungeons, and other dismal settings. Individually weak, goblins gather in large — sometimes overwhelming — numbers. They crave power and regularly abuse whatever authority they obtain.
With enemies that can be encountered in "overwhelming numbers", it would be nice to the GM if some kind of horde stat block – or appropriate adjustment to the baseline statblock – were provided to make it easier than rolling dice for 20 goblins. That's more of a usability issue, but if the core mechanics make it unwieldy to run 20 goblins – while the narrative is saying "oh yeah, you could totally get jumped by 20 goblins, that's their style" – then the fiction and the mechanics are at odds. When the reverse should be true – the mechanics should be encouraging the GM to run goblins en masse.

My "hack" for this has been to use a combo of the DMG mob rules (rewriting the stat block essentially) & adding Lair Actions for the entire goblin lair/warband.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Rather than get to deep into the specifics, I prefer to step back a bit and look at the general principles that govern my monsters.

My fundamental design philosophy on monsters tends to be "defenses are better than offenses". Monsters as encounters need to last long enough that player's felt they made some choices, but not quite so long that the players felt that it became a grind. I hate designs that are glass cannons, of which one of the worst is the 1e D&D Death Knight. I'm looking for 3-5 rounds of combat on average, with the expectation that I can make epic fights more epic if basic fights can give me that in some fashion.

I likewise hate designs that are just bags of hit points. I like monsters to do things, and often different things in different rounds or different circumstances.

I also like a design to a monster that suggests that they exist outside of combat. Give me skills and abilities for the monster it uses when it's not fighting things, especially if the monster is alive and somewhat intelligent. Not every spell-power needs to be a combat power. Explain how the monster lives and thrives in the world. @Quickleaf above talks about how "rat keepers and wolf riders" is given no mechanical force or implementation to support it. This is exactly what I don't want to see. Tell me how goblins can treat wild rats an wolves as domesticated animals for the purpose of animal handling checks or whatever is needed for that flavor to happen, and so forth.

As the monster gets higher level, I tend to like designs that deal explicitly with the action economy. An example of this is that my version of the Ankylosaurus has both a bonus against ranged attacks from its armored shell, and "attacks back" anyone that attacks it in melee with its array of defensive spikes. This partially negates the advantage that a party has in actions versus a single foe and stops the otherwise simple creature from being a "bag of hit points" And again, this follows from the "Defenses are better than offenses" principle.

Finally, I prefer write ups that stress the individuality of the monster. Yes, tell me what the most common sort is like, but also what other common and even a few uncommon variations are like. Tell me or at least inspire me a bit on what the monster is like when it's not just a combat obstacle and is an NPC.
 
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Reynard

Legend
Generally speaking I prefer a design paradigm where every creature has traits, actions, bonus actions and reactions and some have special/lair/legendary/villain actions. Traits are passive, things that are just true. Actions are offensive, and multi-attack is common for enemies that have a cool thing they can do once versus a couple of whacks with the standard things. Most of the time I put movement and/or crowd control under bonus actions, and defensive (and maybe movement) under reactions. This is the result of a lot of playing and testing and it is the best action economy balance I have found. That isn't to say some creatures don't break those "rules" but by and large I think it works best set up that way. "Boss" monsters that get special actions are a little different and their special actions can be any sort of thing as is appropriate to their fiction, but the primary goal of those special actions is to mitigate the overwhelming force of asymmetrical action economy between a boss and a party of PCs. Sometimes that means those special abilities are tied to hordes of minions, and sometimes it is just more stuff to do not on its turn.

I am only just now beginning to experiment with "elite" designs (monsters that "transform" at bloodied) and I like the idea but haven't perfected any design yet.

On another note, my copy of Monsters of the Multiverse just arrived and after I have some time to digest it I will comment on a creature that strikes me as particularly good or bas design.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Finally, I prefer write ups that stress the individuality of the monster. Yes, tell me what the most common sort is like, but also what other common and even a few uncommon variations are like. Tell me or at least inspire me a bit on what the monster is like when it's not just a combat obstacle and is an NPC.
I cannot stress how much I love this comment. Yes, 110% this.

I also like a design to a monster that suggests that they exist outside of combat. Give me skills and abilities for the monster it uses when it's not fighting things, especially if the monster is alive and somewhat intelligent. Not every spell-power needs to be a combat power. Explain how the monster lives and thrives in the world. @Quickleaf above talks about how "rat keepers and wolf riders" is given no mechanical force or implementation to support it. This is exactly what I don't want to see. Tell me how goblins can treat wild rats an wolves as domesticated animals for the purpose of animal handling checks or whatever is needed for that flavor to happen, and so forth.
There's a cut-off point where the designer needs to decide "ok, this is getting mechanical representation, and this is not." Because the stat block needs to be manageable for the GM. And it's really something that needs to be felt out per monster / per adventure. Worg-riders and rat-mongers as fiction text and/or as stat text. Both ways are totally legitimate.

What I would like to see – just judging by how often 5e monster stats are replicated (e.g. in adventures, across different websites), and how little their lore is replicated – is judiciously bringing some of the more narrative non-combat elements into the stat block itself, or some kind of ancillary / sidebar representation right there with the stat block. I think that's a really really helpful thing for the GM to have immediate access to without having cross-reference anything.

This is getting a little further afield, but my ideal "stat block" would compress a lot of the stuff that's a bit spread out in the 5e stat block and would include narrative stuff like sample names for individual goblins. It's recognizing that the way stat blocks are being replicated in modern D&D is losing out on something that we don't want to lose, and that we should design course-correct to deliberately include their existence outside of just combat parameters.
 

Voadam

Legend
I am a big fan of a couple dimensions of 4e monster design that I have applied to 3e/Pathfinder monsters and now to 5e ones.

1 minion/standard/elite/solo design. Mechanically simple minions who can be plowed through quickly if the PCs focus on them. Give elites double hp and twice the standard action economy (two attacks instead of their normal one, twinning spells, etc.) for a monster that is designed to take on two PCs instead of one. Give solos x4 or x5 hp, area attacks (whirlwind strikes or turn ranged attacks like magic missile into areas or target everybody) and some reaction type effect and defense against being locked down as they are designed to take on a whole group at once.

2 monster roles. Brutes who hit hard and have a ton of hp but are easy to hit. Skirmishers with mobility who are comparatively fragile. Artillery who can be messed up in melee. Lurker glass cannons. This gives a different feel to different opponents and engages different tactics.

3 A few powers per monster. Lots of movement, forced movement, and condition activities to make things more than just hp slug fests.

4 Everything on the sheet and easy to use. If you have to flip around to get to the description of forcecage versus polymorph in the PH to decide on the next monster action it can bog down the combat and be a choke point on pacing, or you might maintain the pacing but forget about key stuff the monster can do. Keeping stuff visible to the DM while keeping the pace quick is a virtue.

5 One common theme for the monster type (gnolls, efreeti, etc.) and then something for their combat role (skirmisher vs. brute).
 

Reynard

Legend
I am a big fan of a couple dimensions of 4e monster design that I have applied to 3e/Pathfinder monsters and now to 5e ones.

1 minion/standard/elite/solo design. Mechanically simple minions who can be plowed through quickly if the PCs focus on them. Give elites double hp and twice the standard action economy (two attacks instead of their normal one, twinning spells, etc.) for a monster that is designed to take on two PCs instead of one. Give solos x4 or x5 hp, area attacks (whirlwind strikes or turn ranged attacks like magic missile into areas or target everybody) and some reaction type effect and defense against being locked down as they are designed to take on a whole group at once.

2 monster roles. Brutes who hit hard and have a ton of hp but are easy to hit. Skirmishers with mobility who are comparatively fragile. Artillery who can be messed up in melee. Lurker glass cannons. This gives a different feel to different opponents and engages different tactics.

3 A few powers per monster. Lots of movement, forced movement, and condition activities to make things more than just hp slug fests.

4 Everything on the sheet and easy to use. If you have to flip around to get to the description of forcecage versus polymorph in the PH to decide on the next monster action it can bog down the combat and be a choke point on pacing, or you might maintain the pacing but forget about key stuff the monster can do. Keeping stuff visible to the DM while keeping the pace quick is a virtue.

5 One common theme for the monster type (gnolls, efreeti, etc.) and then something for their combat role (skirmisher vs. brute).
Do you have any specific statblocks you can share?
 

Voadam

Legend
Do you have any specific statblocks you can share?
It was fairly basic.

Turning something into a minion just give them 1 hp.

I ran a ghost bard from the conversion of the Carrion Crown adventure path and turned him into a boss solo or maybe an elite as he could summon monsters. Mostly I remember turning his focused dirge powers from affecting one person to affecting more and increasing his hp.

I don't have the stats on hand, it was a custom stat block to start, but I wanted it to be a bigger boss fight so I adjusted him.

I have found I was much more willing to adjust monsters to custom stat blocks in face to face DMing but since I went online from the pandemic I use statblocks as is in Fantasy Grounds with a lot more narrative reskinning for what I need.
 

Reynard

Legend
A quick note: I was casually flipping through MotM last night and noticed that there are new Kobolds and Hobgoblins 9I didn't check orcs or gnolls) but there are no new goblins. That feels weird to me.
 

Agametorememberbooks

Explorer
Publisher
I very much liked how the 4e MM was organized. The start of a section would offer up some lore as an intro for the DM. The stat blocks were very easy to run for a DM. Minions! Each would have some suggested combat tactics, and at the end would be some lore based on the DC of a die roll by the players.

Knowing that a monster’s offensive style was based around brute, controller, skirmisher, lurker would absolutely help a DM know how that particular creature might also behave in a role-play situation.

In fact, if you wanted to emphasize lore/role-play style alongside the stat block…why not add a line out to the side with 3-5 keywords that emphasize the personality style of the monster? Something like:

Over-bearing, abusive, disrespectful
Cautious, sneaky, opportunistic
Voracious, predatory, lurking
Social, cunning, predatory
Daring, intelligent, tactical
Cowardly, brazen in numbers, selfish

FFE511A9-601D-4231-85DB-900828C234B4.jpeg
 

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Reynard

Legend
I very much liked how the 4e MM was organized. The start of a section would offer up some lore as an intro for the DM. The stat blocks were very easy to run for a DM. Minions! Each would have some suggested combat tactics, and at the end would be some lore based on the DC of a die roll by the players.

Knowing that a monster’s offensive style was based around brute, controller, skirmisher, lurker would absolutely help a DM know how that particular creature might also behave in a role-play situation.

In fact, if you wanted to emphasize lore/role-play style alongside the stat block…why not add a line out to the side with 3-5 keywords that emphasize the personality style of the monster? Something like:

Over-bearing, abusive, disrespectful
Cautious, sneaky, opportunistic
Voracious, predatory, lurking
Social, cunning, predatory
Daring, intelligent, tactical
Cowardly, brazen in numbers, selfish

View attachment 259052
I think the strongest part of the entire 4E design was the monsters.
 

Voadam

Legend
A quick note: I was casually flipping through MotM last night and noticed that there are new Kobolds and Hobgoblins 9I didn't check orcs or gnolls) but there are no new goblins. That feels weird to me.
Volo's had new statblocks for hobgoblins, kobolds, orcs, and gnolls, but no new goblin stat blocks. MotM was redoing stuff from Volo's and Mord's (and others) so it traces back to Volo's. Volo's and MotM do both have nilbog entries.
 

delericho

Legend
That's a long winded introduction to what i would like this thread to be about. What are your preferences for monster design? What monsters do you think are well designed -- and what are some you think are poorly designed?
In many ways, I thought 4e had the best approach - by clearly specifying the monster roles they helped construct easy encounters, and the minion/elite/solo thing was really useful.

I do think there's a bit of a problem in D&D in that the classic humanoids are all so very low level, which means there's not a great deal of room to move with them - like @Celebrim, I'm inclined to think that each monster should try to have a unique 'thing' that sets them apart (so fighting a goblin feels different from fighting a dwarf), but at those low levels that's tricky.

I also think the CR system is a massive problem, largely because it is too granular, and therefore gives the illusion of a control that the system just cannot possibly deliver. It would probably be better just to label monsters by tier (so a standard goblin becomes a tier 0 minion, or something). By not pretending it's too exact, they forewarn the DM that more care is needed.

Combine the loosely defined tiers with the better-defined and stated roles, and you potentially get something very powerful.

Oh, and to finish with an example that I really do like, but feel falls somewhat flat in 5e as implemented: Lair Actions. I like them, and I like the monsters that have them. The problem, for me, is that they're almost always tied to upper-CR monsters, but the majority of games take place in levels 1-10, which means they barely get a chance to be used. (Indeed, I've only ever managed to get one 5e campaign to double-digit levels, that one ended at 10th level, and there was therefore one monster that had Lair Actions.)
 

Reynard

Legend
Oh, and to finish with an example that I really do like, but feel falls somewhat flat in 5e as implemented: Lair Actions. I like them, and I like the monsters that have them. The problem, for me, is that they're almost always tied to upper-CR monsters, but the majority of games take place in levels 1-10, which means they barely get a chance to be used. (Indeed, I've only ever managed to get one 5e campaign to double-digit levels, that one ended at 10th level, and there was therefore one monster that had Lair Actions.)
Lair actions for lower CR things should definitely be a thing. Just as an example, I would be inclined to give an Owlbear encountered in its cave a couple cool lair action:

Deafening Hoot (Recharge 5-6): The cries of the owlbear reverberate off the walls of the cave. Enemies inside the lair take 2d6 thunder damage and are stunned. Those who make a successful DC 13 Constitution saving throw take half damage are are not stunned.

Awful Offal: All the fighting has kicked up the ages of bones and spore left by the owlbear. Enemies must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or be poisoned until the end of their next turn.
 



The 5E MM goblin can be viewed here at 5esrd.com and it's pretty basic: it has a melee attack, a ranged attack, and an ability to take the Disengage action as a bonus action. Since it has no other possible bonus action available to it, the goblin should never be standing still. Of course, it does not have any extra movement, so its movement won't amount to much unless the GM builds the encounter to reward mobility. This goblin is our baseline.
There are, to me, two key elements of the 5e MM goblin that is a failure of the system that isn't being talked about but makes 5e combat far grindier and more boring than it would otherwise be. The relevant stats that to me make the goblin a problem are below.

Hit Points 7 (2d6)​
  • Scimitar: Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) slashing damage.
  • Shortbow: Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, range 80/320 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Hit Points 7 is IMO a sucky number. It's too high to be a minion; the low level non specialists aren't going to reliably one shot it (the fighter and barbarian almost certainly will - but the cleric doing 1d6+3 damage with their mace and the wizard doing 1d10 damage with a firebolt really won't). I don't want to track four wounded goblins (I'd rather have minions with a damage threshold so e.g. 8 damage one shots or two hits of any strength; less bookkeeping).

The far more important part is the scimitar and shortbow stats. They are exactly the same (and they are close to the same for most other archers who all carry finesse weapons) meaning that there is little margin in e.g. a monk diving the back line to force the archers into melee. It's not that this is impossible to work tactically (in 4e this would be one of the two types of Skirmisher*) but on its own it's not very interesting. It's especially uninteresting if this is the main type of monster there is.

* For all Skirmishers were officially one monster role in 4e in reality they were two. The first was boring "balanced" monsters (as in the Goblin Warrior above) with no real strengths or weaknesses, and the second was for monsters with situational damage such as Sneak Attack that would do little damage if they couldn't do their thing and a lot if they could.
 

Reynard

Legend
The far more important part is the scimitar and shortbow stats. They are exactly the same (and they are close to the same for most other archers who all carry finesse weapons) meaning that there is little margin in e.g. a monk diving the back line to force the archers into melee. It's not that this is impossible to work tactically (in 4e this would be one of the two types of Skirmisher*) but on its own it's not very interesting. It's especially uninteresting if this is the main type of monster there is.
I think this view represents a failure to recognize that damage isn't the primary driver here, range is. If all your goblins do is stand there are fire arrows until a melee PC rushes them, sure, they are the same. But your archers should be moving in and out of cover and firing on the casters and opposed archers in the process. Monster design informs us what their use is -- although monster entries could do better about explicitly talking about tactics. Ranged plus Nimble Escape = opportunist snipers.
 

I think this view represents a failure to recognize that damage isn't the primary driver here, range is. If all your goblins do is stand there are fire arrows until a melee PC rushes them, sure, they are the same. But your archers should be moving in and out of cover and firing on the casters and opposed archers in the process. Monster design informs us what their use is -- although monster entries could do better about explicitly talking about tactics. Ranged plus Nimble Escape = opportunist snipers.
I think that this fails to recognise just how easy cover is to obtain in 5e. Because you can break your move if there is cover (and you're not just fighting in a white room) no caster PC should either start or end their turn out of cover. Either you need to not nimble escape but instead ready actions (which is a very different feel from the one you want), to take disadvantage from cover, or to attack the melee PCs anyway.

And I think this also fails to recognise that goblins are far from the only offender. Even an ogre is minimally different at range from in melee. You use strength to hit and damage in melee and with thrown ranged weapons - or dexterity to hit and damage at range or with finesse weapons.
 

Reynard

Legend
I think that this fails to recognise just how easy cover is to obtain in 5e. Because you can break your move if there is cover (and you're not just fighting in a white room) no caster PC should either start or end their turn out of cover. Either you need to not nimble escape but instead ready actions (which is a very different feel from the one you want), to take disadvantage from cover, or to attack the melee PCs anyway.
Sure but ostensibly the goblins have home field advantage or set up the ambush most of the time. They (and by that I mean the GM) should certainly be maximizing their strengths and minimizing their weaknesses in any given encounter. But I mentioned that in the OP regarding MM goblins.
And I think this also fails to recognise that goblins are far from the only offender. Even an ogre is minimally different at range from in melee. You use strength to hit and damage in melee and with thrown ranged weapons - or dexterity to hit and damage at range or with finesse weapons.
Well, that's design as intended, I guess. 5E chose to make everything flat, so our design has to pull away from that. I think throwing rocks by ogres and giants should be saving throw based and result in damage and conditions (6d6 and prone, save means no prone and half damage or whatever).
 

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