D&D 5E New Spellcasting Blocks for Monsters --- Why?!

Dausuul

Legend
A little OT - Unless I'm missing something in the stat block, Vecna can cast his "Rotten Fate" ability without limits. IMO, that is OP.
He's a CR 26 monster. He's supposed to lay down a ton of hurt. Rotten Fate is pretty reasonable for his CR--in fact, it's on the lowish side.

Compare Vecna's raw damage output to what Zariel (also CR 26) can dish out, and Vecna comes out distinctly behind. He makes up for it with his defensive reactions, his self-heal, and his ability to shut off PC healing. Zariel hits you like a freight train; Vecna grinds you steadily into dust.
 

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Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
All you really need in the stat block is what he can do in combat. If you want him to do other stuff outside of combat… Just have him do it.
To be useful to me personally as a DM, an NPC statblock needs to reflect the NPC's actual stats. Combat-only statblocks that are a subset (or, in some cases, a superset) of what the NPC is capable of out-of-combat don't do me any good, because it is important to me that how an NPC fits into the setting reflect their capabilities. If I need to determine the out-of-combat capabilities of a printed NPC spellcaster before I can use it, then using the printed NPC doesn't save me any time or effort.

Yes, my insistence on harmonizing NPCs' mechanical abilities with their role in the setting is idiosyncratic. And yes, 5e has always had lots of NPC entries that I find less than useful. But WotC's increasing use of the types of statblocks I find least useful means 5e is drifting away from supporting my playstyle. For what is ostensibly a big tent edition, that's disappointing to me. I'd prefer they find ways for the edition to support a wider range of playstyles over time, and make the tent even bigger, rather than shrinking it.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
To be useful to me personally as a DM, an NPC statblock needs to reflect the NPC's actual stats. Combat-only statblocks that are a subset (or, in some cases, a superset) of what the NPC is capable of out-of-combat don't do me any good, because it is important to me that how an NPC fits into the setting reflect their capabilities. If I need to determine the out-of-combat capabilities of a printed NPC spellcaster before I can use it, then using the printed NPC doesn't save me any time or effort.

Yes, my insistence on harmonizing NPCs' mechanical abilities with their role in the setting is idiosyncratic. And yes, 5e has always had lots of NPC entries that I find less than useful. But WotC's increasing use of the types of statblocks I find least useful means 5e is drifting away from supporting my playstyle. For what is ostensibly a big tent edition, that's disappointing to me. I'd prefer they find ways for the edition to support a wider range of playstyles over time, and make the tent even bigger, rather than shrinking it.
Every decision will appeal to some players and be unappealing to others. They wouldn’t make a change like this without good reason to believe it will bring in more players than it chases away. I do sympathize if you’re in the latter group.
 


Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
As a player, I really don't know what to do with the setting implications of PC and NPC spellcasters using different types of magic. If I'm up against a Rakshasha or an Abjurer, does my PC spellcaster know that NPC spellcasters have primary attacks that trivially bypass those foes' anti-spell protections? Is it good IC strategy to go hire or dominate an NPC spellcaster to trivially deal with these enemies, or am I supposed to play my character as unaware of the differences? When my character sees an Abjurer's Globe of Invulnerability stop my cantrips, but my Globe of Invulnerability doesn't stop NPC spellcasters' "cantrips", what sort of IC conclusion is my character supposed to reach about what the Globe of Invulnerability spell actually does?

The answer to these questions are going to be up to how an individual table views the relationship between the mechanics and the game world. I don't see any way around sitting down with each new DM and asking them whether/how they use old-style vs new-style spellcasting NPCs, how they conceive of the nature of spellcasting in their game world, and the extent to which they expect PCs to have an IC awareness of the differences.
 
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Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Every decision will appeal to some players and be unappealing to others. They wouldn’t make a change like this without good reason to believe it will bring in more players than it chases away. I do sympathize if you’re in the latter group.
Much appreciated! I hope that the changes do indeed bring in more players than they chase away.

I'm skeptical on that count, particularly since the changes seem to be alienating entire playstyles without appealing to previously un-included playstyles, but I will readily admit my own frustration with the changes makes it hard for me to consider the question dispassionately.
 

Because it is more interesting and easier run than a list of spells.

I think I missed the first round of this discussion, so I'd be interested in hearing more about this. I can definitely see why it's easier, and why Wizards might prefer this approach as a result, but how is it more interesting?
 

dave2008

Legend
I think I missed the first round of this discussion, so I'd be interested in hearing more about this. I can definitely see why it's easier, and why Wizards might prefer this approach as a result, but how is it more interesting?
Well, obviously interesting is subjective., so this would be what I find interesting. There a few points of comparison, using the Vecna example;
  1. I am not likely to use spells from a spell list unless I know them well and can run them on the fly. So a list of things I don't know what they do is not interesting to me.
  2. Spells are less interesting than unique magical abilities because the player knows what they are and what they can do. Everyone knows what a fireball is, that is not very interesting.
  3. Vecna has 5 unique magical abilities that do things the players don't know. Unique and unknown abilities are more interesting to me than common and known abilities.
 

dave2008

Legend
A little OT - Unless I'm missing something in the stat block, Vecna can cast his "Rotten Fate" ability without limits. IMO, that is OP.
Since he doesn't have legendary actions, then assuming he can get all three of his reactions in, his DPR is only 158 (max and could be much less). A straight up CR 26 monster could have a DPR in the 231-236 range. So not really OP per the DMG. What is different is that a big chunk of that damage is in one attack.

It seems more people thing he is underpowered than overpowered in the Vecna thread.
 

Synthil

Explorer
For me this is great. I view monster an PC stats more like scientific models. Tools that help calculate things, not 1:1 representations of reality.

Otherwise you end up with weird stuff like devils, angels, fey and Cthulhu giving out the exact same cantrip. One that weirdly no other spellcaster can access. That's breaking versimilutude more than viewing Eldritch Blast as a modell for a variety of spell attacks. That also leaves options to refluff your spells.
 
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