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D&D 5E Monster Entries, what stuff do you want?

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
So here's a (very) rough mock up of a monster entry (so ignore grammar issues; the text is just placeholder). What things do you want included beyond the typical stuff? A rumor table on what PCs might know about it? Behavior/combat tactics? Ideas/Flaws/Bonds?

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GlassJaw

Hero
Beyond the obvious stats, I always want rumors, adventure hooks/ideas, what lore the PCs can learn (with skill check DCs), and variations ranging from simple changes (like a new ability, swapping one ability for another, alternate spells, etc.) to some variant stat blocks.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I think the top two things:
  • Lore: What is a party expected to know about this creature, assuming certain knowledges?
  • Combat: How does this creature fight (which should be factored into its CR). Does it run as soon as its hurt, fight to the death, put one creature unconscious and drag it away, etc. Of course the DM can always change the monster's behavior, but this is the standard behavior, and the CR should be based on that

I will also say that I polled Enworld a while back about what monsters they found "hardest to run", and overwhelmingly it was spellcasters. The big list of spells is just not an efficient statblock when a DM is under pressure, trying to decide what to do. This is ESPECIALLY true with reaction type spells....I can't tell you how many times I forgot a shield spell or something because its just listed in the statblock, with no reminder that "hey that's a reaction you can use it with your regular stuff".

So consider rethinking spell lists if your trying to be creative.


Just taking a look at your statblock, Heart of Ice....I like the flavor...but when I'm in combat I don't want to keep glancing over flavor text, I want my mechanics, and I want em now. So move that bit into your general flavor section, and leave Heart of Ice as pure mechanics (also just on a power nitpick.. I feel like any ability for a CR 20+ should be doing an average of 10 damage or more.....else its so piddly its barely worth the time to remember, so I would make Heart of Ice 2d10, and then readjust elsewhere if you need to).
 
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loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
Also, legendary actions look kinda boring, honestly. Consider merging Move and Attack into one, or adding additional effects.
 

not-so-newguy

Adventurer
How the monster typically interacts with the environment. Which environments do they thrive? Do they avoid certain environments? Do they cooperate well with certain creatures while avoid/hating others?

Edit: It doesn't have to be comprehensive. Just enough to spark the DM's imagination.
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
How the monster typically interacts with the environment. Which environments do they thrive? Do they avoid certain environments? Do they cooperate well with certain creatures while avoid/hating others?

Edit: It doesn't have to be comprehensive. Just enough to spark the DM's imagination.

Habitat/Society/Ecology. I think those could be a single section rather than divided into two sections like in 2e, though.

Both of these, but don't want them to be any more than a line or two at most. Oh and add #appearing like back in the day.

So for Bullywugs for example
# Appearing: 10-80
Habitat/Society: Temperate or warmer Swamps and Marshes / Tribal (up to 200).

(my main thing is I think stat blocks and monster entries should be much more compact, two per page is a good thing to aim at in my view, less is more - let specific settings or adventures tell us about more specific and detailed stuff if relevant)
 

Faolyn

Hero
Both of these, but don't want them to be any more than a line or two at most. Oh and add #appearing like back in the day.

So for Bullywugs for example
# Appearing: 10-80
Habitat/Society: Temperate or warmer Swamps and Marshes / Tribal (up to 200).

(my main thing is I think stat blocks and monster entries should be much more compact, two per page is a good thing to aim at in my view, less is more - let specific settings or adventures tell us about more specific and detailed stuff if relevant)
Well, I think it really depends on the type of monster. Some of them don't need more than a sentence or two of detail. 2e, my go-to edition for creature lore, would often write large entries for creatures that are basically animals, or for creatures like mindless undead that really didn't have any habitat, society, or ecology.

For others monsters, I think more detail is warranted.

For instance, with Bullywugs, here's the 2e info:

Habitat/Society: More intelligent than frogs, all bullywugs live in organized or semi-organized socially fascist groups, cooperating for the purpose of hunting and survival. They live primarily on fish and any other game, preferring a diet of meat. They are adept hunters and fisherman, and skilled in the use and construction of snares and nets.

Bullywug society is a savage one. Males are the dominant sex, and females exist only to lay eggs. Though females and young make up about one-half of any tribe, they count for little in the social order. The only signs of respect that bullywugs ever bestow are toward their leader and their bizarre frog god. The race is chaotic evil, and totally lacking in any higher emotions or feelings.

The leader of a bullywug community is a large individual with 8 hit points. Communities of 30 or more bullywugs have five subleaders (8 hp each) and a powerful leader (2 HD, 12+ hp, +1 to damage). Communities of 60 or more bullywugs have a chieftain (3 HD, 20+ hp, +2 to damage) and five subchieftains (2 HD, 12+ hp, +1 to damage).

All bullywugs favor dank, dark places to live, since they must keep their skin moist. Most bullywugs live in the open and maintain only loose territorial boundaries. Ordinary bullywugs do not deal with incursions into their territory very efficiently, but they kill and eat interlopers if they can. They hate their large relatives (advanced bullywugs, see below) with a passion, and make war upon them at every opportunity. Bullywugs prize treasure, though it benefits them little. They value coins and jewels, and occasionally a magical item can be found amongst their hoard.

On an individual level, bullywugs lack the greed and powerlust seen in the individuals of other chaotic races, such as orcs. Fighting among members of the same group, for example, is almost nonexistent. Some would say that this is because they lack the intelligence to pick a fight, and not from a lack of spite. The tribes are lead by the dominant male, who kills and eats the previous leader when it is too old to rule. This is one of the few instances when they fight among themselves.

Ecology: Bullywugs tend to disrupt ecosystems, rather than fill a niche in them. They do not have the intelligence to harvest their food supplies sensibly and will fish and hunt in an area until its natural resources are depleted, and then move on to a new territory. They hate men, and will attack them on sight, but fortunately prefer to dwell in isolated regions far from human beings.
Which is a bit more than is actually needed.

So, I would start with what you said (Temperate or warmer Swamps and Marshes / Tribal (up to 200).), ignore the bit about leaders and subleaders, and go with the following info: Bullywugs are typically very patriarchal, with females being relegated to reproduction and tending the young. Additionally, older members of the group, as well as slow or unfit young, are often eaten; bullywugs have no taboo against cannibalism. They live primarily by fishing, gathering, and scavenging, but will steal food--particularly red meat--whenever they can, as few bullywugs have either the desire nor patience to raise animals for meat or other by byproducts. They are typically disruptive to their territory and will overfish or strip their land bare of natural resources, then move on. While bullywugs value treasure, they do so for how pretty the treasure looks, not its gold piece value.
 

Zaukrie

New Publisher
good thread, as I'm currently working on a monster book.....I've tried condensing spells to powers, but some buyers have really hated that (most, of course, don't give feedback.....).

I want to know where they live, how they generally live (of course, many intelligent creatures live more than 1 way, like humans), how they react to combat (do they fight to the death, run away at the first sign they are overmatched), what PCs know about them (skill checks)
 

Jeff Carlsen

Adventurer
As a GM, there are a couple things I would find useful:

  1. A table for "what are they doing". The blog d4 caltrops has been building d100 lists for this, and they're awesome.
  2. For monsters that are likely to appear in groups or often in an adventure, a table of distinct features I can use to distinguish among them. These can include physical features (e.g. hair, scars, dress) or behavioral. That way, instead of orcs 1, 2, and 3, I can have the short orc, the orc with the broken tusk, and the cowardly orc.
 

Campbell

Legend
Lore that's actually useful (instead of just being interesting to read or find out about). How it relates to the outside world in like actionable ways. Stuff that helps bring the monster to life at the table.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
ignore the bit about leaders and subleaders, and go with the following info: Bullywugs are typically very patriarchal, with females being relegated to reproduction and tending the young

Funny, I'd do the opposite. I would include the info on various types leaders, brutes, etc. . . and cut the stuff about patriarchy and the female bullywugs and let the gender politics be decided on a game by game or setting by setting basis. The former is potentially useful crunch, the latter is lore that doesn't really matter one way or another except for outside of combat use - which the more general the better.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Okay, some will think this is silly, but...

Whenever it's not obvious, I find it helpful to have a rough pronunciation for names derived from languages other than English. It's especially nice in bestiaries containing critters from a variety of real-world mythologies, with names in languages for which the pronunciation rules change depending upon traditional transliterations.

(I say this only because, given my limited experience with Gaelic languages, I'm pretty sure what I'm hearing in my head for "Cailleach" bears little resemblance to the actual spoken word!)
 

Faolyn

Hero
Funny, I'd do the opposite. I would include the info on various types leaders, brutes, etc. . . and cut the stuff about patriarchy and the female bullywugs and let the gender politics be decided on a game by game or setting by setting basis. The former is potentially useful crunch, the latter is lore that doesn't really matter one way or another except for outside of combat use - which the more general the better.
Yeah, I was just adapting from the 2e stuff. I don't mind getting rid of the gender politics.

The other stuff, like how they're environmentally unfriendly, is good--because I dislike alignments and so that's an important bit of lore that would help to run them in a way that differentiates them from other creatures of the same type or who live in the same area. Although that being said, it's not that bullywugs have to be environmentally unfriendly; it's that that is the level of information I would want from a Monster Ecology section.

I don't know if referencing leaders and the like is necessary because the current trend is to have completely different statblocks for each type, whereas in 2e they were mostly like regular creatures but with more HD and occasionally better AC and weapons. So when I say I would ignore that section, I mean more about ignoring bits like "for every 30 bullywugs you get 5 subleaders," because you don't need that level of mathematical precision. You just need stats for tougher bullywugs (which currently exist, but in Ghosts of Saltmarsh) or a DM willing to do the math needed to up its Hit Dice.
 

aco175

Legend
I could use some help adding the monster to make encounters more balanced. If one troll is a CR5, what makes a CR7 or 10. What about 2 trolls and a pair of worgs? Just tell me that is a CR8 instead of me looking it up. This way you give some examples of other monsters that they hang out with.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
(my main thing is I think stat blocks and monster entries should be much more compact, two per page is a good thing to aim at in my view, less is more - let specific settings or adventures tell us about more specific and detailed stuff if relevant)

Stat blocks as used in an adventure should be brief, because the adventure should give me the situation and behavior information.

In a manual of monsters, through which I may be flipping for inspiration to use in my own designs, I want rather more.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Hey,
I don't know if referencing leaders and the like is necessary because the current trend is to have completely different statblocks for each type, whereas in 2e they were mostly like regular creatures but with more HD and occasionally better AC and weapons. So when I say I would ignore that section, I mean more about ignoring bits like "for every 30 bullywugs you get 5 subleaders," because you don't need that level of mathematical precision. You just need stats for tougher bullywugs (which currently exist, but in Ghosts of Saltmarsh) or a DM willing to do the math needed to up its Hit Dice.

Hey, if instead of two different monsters per page, we could get two to five different variations per page I'd be okay with that too.

I also think stat blocks have a lot of unnecessary repetition that could be cut while keeping clarity and leaving more room on the page.
 


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I'd love it if some creatures had harvestable components, or at least a handful of ideas for them.

It doesn't have to be crunchy with rules, either. Just a little blurb or two in the description like "this creature's talons are prized by alchemists," "the meat of this fish is considered a Triton delicacy," or "the scales of this beast can be collected and fashioned into armor" would be excellent. Just a little something to get the creative juices flowing.
 
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