D&D 5E Should Explicit Monster Roles Return?

Should Explicit Monster Roles Return?

  • Yes

    Votes: 58 58.6%
  • No

    Votes: 41 41.4%

I was checking out the new monster statblocks for Vecna: Eve of Ruin last night and, to my surprise, discovered that my favorite new monster was a chandelier.

I was initially looking for the hertilod, a new monster of the Astral Plane that I'd seen interesting artwork for. Upon looking at the hertilod's statblock I was disappointed to see it was basically just another monster that can swallow creatures, no new bells and whistles to accompany the illustration and concept I'd likes.

Then I saw the best new monster statblock in the book: the whirling chandelier.

I almost skipped it, assuming it would probably just have a simple melee attack that dealt some bludgeoning and fire damage. The whirling chandelier turned out to be quite an interesting statblock, coming equipped with a fiery aura that damages adjacent creatures, chains with a 15 foot reach that can pull targets adjacent, and a rechargeable blazing vortex AoE that deals fire damage and blinds.

I had come to the book to check out a huge Astral beast with the intention of using it in my game and instead had been wowed by a piece of animated home decor. But why?

The whirling chandelier's mechanics imply a role in battle to draw enemies to it, damage them with an always-on aura, and potentially blind them. Basically, it locks down the party. Give it a different name and description and I could easily see it as a war machine that drags melee characters to it while mechanically simpler enemies target the party ranged attackers and spellcasters.

The recent Flee, Mortals monster book for 5E and the monsters of 4E feature statblocks designed to fill a role in combat. While not explicitly stated in the statblock for the whirling chandelier, it's abilities make it well suited for the soldier monster role, which is described in a recent D&D Beyond article promoting Flee, Mortals as intended to draw the party's attention and attacks to divert damage to it.

I believe explicit monster roles should officially return to the game for three reasons: it provides a goal for the design of the monster that can encourage creating unique abilities to fulfill that role, it gives an additional design framework for creating monsters and giving them memorable things to do, and it gives a DM an indicator of how to run the monster in combat.

I'll post examples of existing 5E monsters with role-fulfilling abilities, but for now I'm interested in seeing others' thoughts.
 

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J-H

Hero
It may be hard to categorize some monsters, but I think it would be helpful for both new and veteran DMs to have these tags on monster entries.
A) For new DMs to get an idea as to how to use the monster
B) To pair with an index or search tool to help with encounter building.

I wouldn't hold out hope for WOTC to do it. They can't even make a usefully broad NPC section in their MM.
 



Staffan

Legend
I'm not sure I like a single role being assigned in the MM. A cr6 creature can be anything from a solo to a mook depending on the PC level. If anything there should be like a role per tier (i.e. the cr6 gets tier 1:solo, tier 2 elite, tier 3 soldier, tier 4 minion)
That's not how monster roles worked in 4e. 4e had those things, but role was something different (except minion that is). Roles are things like Brute (easy to hit, many hp, hits hard), Soldier (defensive melee), Lurker (sneaks around and hits really hard but not super often because of setup), Skirmisher (mobile melee or short-range), controller (moves people around or controls the battlefield in other ways), Artillery (ranged, glass cannon), and Leader (buffs allies, usually added on top of another role).
 



Clint_L

Legend
I like that chandelier monster too, because it's effectively a trap. Sometimes, yeah, it's super fun to have a monster that is essentially a puzzle that the party has to work out. A classic example for low level parties is the rug of smothering - how do you kill it without also killing the person inside it, before the ticking clock runs out and they are smothered?

You don't want every monster to be like that or it gets kind of video game-y: "what's the secret to beating this mob?" But I agree that a very narrowly defined role sometimes works great, especially for non-sentient monsters.

For my BBEG-type mobs, it's cool to have an element of this, but I don't think you want them too narrowly defined. The beholder is the classic example - its anti-magic cone will define a lot of the battle, but it has enough other options to really keep the party on their toes.

I don't really understand the poll options, though, since explicit monster roles have never gone away (e.g. rug of smothering). Is it asking whether we think all monsters should have explicitly defined roles, like the chandelier mob? My answer to that would be "no."
 
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I believe explicit monster roles should officially return to the game for three reasons: it provides a goal for the design of the monster that can encourage creating unique abilities to fulfill that role, it gives an additional design framework for creating monsters and giving them memorable things to do, and it gives a DM an indicator of how to run the monster in combat.
Using it for design purposes is like leaving a stencil or mask on something you painted afterwards. Things that you use for design or production are not something you leave around for consumers. IMO the only valid reason to give a monster role out of these is to make combat easier for DMs.

And then I think fixing a role to an NPC is limiting. I get how it makes things easier for a DM who is learning, but it also places them in a box. A box that many DMs will allow to constrain themselves. I'd rather see a list of typical roles etc than actually put the value in a stat block.
 

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