Legends and Lore: Monster Creation in D&D Next

Legends and Lore: Monster Creation in D&D Next
Mike Mearls

In this system, a monster’s experience point value is the basic measure of its power. Tougher monsters are worth more XP. That’s the only number you have to worry about when building encounters and adventures.

The monster design process boils down to creating a monster’s stats and abilities, and then using the system math to determine its XP value. I’ll use a monster I created for the playtest, the minotaur, as an example to walk you through the steps of monster design.




Talk about this article here.

Wizards, shave and a haircut

I wish I could talk about the article, but I still can't get past the introduction:

"When it comes to combat, the math that our system uses assumes an adventuring day that lasts a number of rounds and involves a total experience point value for monsters based on the party’s level. Higher-level parties fight more and face tougher creatures."

Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.
I wish I could talk about the article, but I still can't get past the introduction:

"When it comes to combat, the math that our system uses assumes an adventuring day that lasts a number of rounds and involves a total experience point value for monsters based on the party’s level. Higher-level parties fight more and face tougher creatures."

Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.



It's dangerous out there.  Here, take this.  *offers anti-napalm suit, cuz you've done it now!*

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.

Not every day is an "adventuring day" - if you're playing D&D, though, the assumption is that some days will feature combat... because PC characters are good at fighting.

Remember, "role" has two definitions: an actor plays a role as in a stage production, but four characters also assume roles whenever one defends another while she picks a lock and a third strikes an opponent while the fourth inspires them all to keep going.  The latter is not less valid of a definition than the former, especially if you consider the origins of the medium.

The metagame is not the game.

Talk about this article here.


Thank you Haldrik for starting this discussion using the established format. 

I've linked it as the Official Discussion thread.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

While i like the insight on Monster Design, i am not sold on the reduced accuracy to demonstrate the monster hit harder, i hope Hill Giants don't end up with +3 to hit.

Otherwise, their seem to be some form of guidelines even though maths are still a work in progress, and while i like the Budget idea discussed, i am not sure a per-day budget is the right way to go. It forces DMs to plan the adventuring day ahead, something not everyone do, especially people prefering to DM on the fly. They will end-up under budget if the day end up having not enought encounters or over budget if they plan more encounters than the budget stated.

I really like the Bonus: Evolving Chaos article that Rob Schwalb gave us. Lots of cool advices in there. There is even a new monster and options for a dreadful disease!

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Pretty neat stuff.  This article gives me a chance to tinker a bit, perhaps craft up new monsters in anticipation (or even convert some of my 4E and 3E creations)  can't wait for the next update.  However, something feels off.  I dunno what it is...  But, something!  ya know?

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I dont like the new article. I cant point anything specific,sorry, but it feels "wrong" to me.
Maybe it reminds me too much of 4th ed monsters?.
If i'll understand what's wrong i'll edit my post.

Edit: now i got it.

Mr Mearls,while i have all the possible respect for your professionality and design capabilities (i approve almost all you have done until now about the design choices for DDN), i also strongly  believe that you are off target now.

When i was younger,i had many fun afternoons going to the beach with my friends,and while taking sun we had fun playing D&D.
My equipment was: 2nd ed DM Screen,a pencil,a set of dices and some sheets.If i had to design a monster,let'say a sewer worm, my reasoning was: hp=average hit dice?check. damage? 1d6 for wrmlings,1d6+1/1d8 sting( mature ones)? check. roll to hit?look thaco table. check. saving throws?look table. check.
Design time? 30 second or maybe less.
In the article instead,i see several problems:


  • I have to guess characteristics

  • bonuses for stats have to be added to the math

  • i have to invent "+" for proficiency

  • different sizes means different roles and math

  • different hit dices for various creatures

  • and so on..


While The system given in the article is perfectly fine imho is suitable for long term monsters,but not for "on the fly" ones.
The flavor of a monster is NOT in the math,but in the dm capability of painting a scene..i couldn't care less for a complex,overdetailed enemy. That's imo is a gamist approach legacy of more recent editions.
But i care MUCH about easy and fast play.
So,my idea is:leave that system for detailed,long term,reusable monsters, but give me also a fast system (a table maybe?) with all the math already done that i can reflavor as i see fit,and who can be inserted in a dm screen,as it was in 2ed screen.
It's a bit off? who care, they are just for fillers..and DM eventually can tune up the results.
Strive for semplicity.

I cant play with 3.5ed or 4ed on the beach with my nieces,but you could let me play with them at DDN.
Your choice.
 



DM: Products of MY Imagination ©. Since 1986.
Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.

Not every day is an "adventuring day" - if you're playing D&D, though, the assumption is that some days will feature combat... because PC characters are good at fighting.

Remember, "role" has two definitions: an actor plays a role as in a stage production, but four characters also assume roles whenever one defends another while she picks a lock and a third strikes an opponent while the fourth inspires them all to keep going.  The latter is not less valid of a definition than the former, especially if you consider the origins of the medium.





But if that day does involve fighting, it better involve at least 15 rounds of it!
For people who might not necessarily scroll all the way to the end of every article, be sure not the miss the PDF attached to the bottom of this one with some ideas for keeping Caves of Chaos fresh on repeat adventures through it.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I dont like the new article. I cant point anything specific,sorry, but it feels "wrong" to me.
Maybe it reminds me too much of 4th ed monsters?.
If i'll understand what's wrong i'll edit my post.



Meanwhile, I'm cringing at this article for exactly the opposite reason.  I've been DMing for fifteen years.  2nd and 3rd edition, DMing was a nightmare. A complete chore.  Building a single encounter took me hours.  I remember designing an 8-NPC/6-PC level 13 battle in 3rd edition that took over 8 hours to build, because I had to level up my monsters and choose spells and take notes and ... it was a completely nightmare.  I rebuiltr that same encounter in 4th edition for level 17 in 45 minutes.

D&D 4e was a Dungeon Master's dream.  It was so easy to build unique, interesting, custom monsters, because the math was all right there for you.  Monster "abilities" were easy: dream it, decide if it does damage, decide if it has any fun additional effects, give it a name.  

The more I look at D&D next, the more I am terrified that it's going to be a nightmare to design encounters for.  This article has only heightened my concerns.

 A year ago, Steve Winter asked the communit what was working for DMs in 4th Edition.  Wrecan compiled and summaried the list of responses for him.  I have to wonder if the results of his inquery are being completely ignored, as I see more of D&D Next.  Did Wizards of the Coast even listen to our responses?

Or maybe I'm just missing something, and the system is easier to build monsters for than it seems.  But right now, I am sadenned, because if I were asked to swithc to D&D Next as a Player, right now today, I'd say "Let's go."  But if I were asked to do it as a DM, I'd say "No way in hell."  And as a DM, I'm holding back 6 other players.  That's 7 people not upgrading to Next today because of the Monster design alone; 7 people that would gladly do so if Monster Design were streamlined into something very simple.

Please, WotC, make sure that Monster Design is kept simple, and that Encounter Design takes less than an hour no matter what the level! 


But if that day does involve fighting, it better involve at least 15 rounds of it!




I don't like this soultion either but still prefer it to "4 encounters per day". Though honestly I'm not 100% sure why.
Hyothetical: 2 level 5 fighters vs a minotaur.  Each fighter will have roughly 40 HP, +7 or so to attack rolls, AC of about 16, and do around 12 damage per hit (they have lowered damage and HP across the board for characters and monsters).  The minotaur has 57 HP, +4 to attacks, an AC of 16, and does around 17 damage per hit.  If we assume the level 5 fighters each have about 35 HP in reserve (from HD), then the fight against the minotaur should only do about 17 HP in damage to each fighter during the fight.  Any more and the "adventure day" is screwed (4 encounters with at level challenges per day).  This also means the damage must be spread around evenly somehow.  It takes team fighter about 5 hits to take out the minotaur.  2 good hits from the minotaur will drop a fighter (which will also mess up the "adventure day").  

The math looks off.  It also looks like the "adventure day" will be a rather poor means of determining  how many possible challenges a party can overcome.  Unless monster damage is toned way down, adventurers will face a HP 5MWD problem quite often.  It would be highly unlikely that 2 level 5 fighters could take down 4 minotaurs over the course of a day.  If some portion of HP refreshed after every short rest this might be more manageable, but as of right now the math does not work.  


But if that day does involve fighting, it better involve at least 15 rounds of it!




I don't like this soultion either but still prefer it to "4 encounters per day". Though honestly I'm not 100% sure why.



I didn't like the 4 encounters per day paradigm either. But as long as they insist on sticking with daily resources as the central structure, they will need to keep emphasizing things like this to attempt to maintain balance.
I think 4 encounters/day is a lot, but may be they are not as challenging as we expect and can instead have 1 super hard, 2 hard, 3 easy and 1 moderate or 4 very easy etc..with the same budget.

Another thing mentioned in the article that seem to transpire is that the base assumption now seems that a standard group is 4 PC instead of 5, since solos are the equivalent of 4 PC.

We have three categories, tentatively labeled mook, elite, and solo. A mook is the equivalent of one character, an elite the equivalent of two, and a solo the equivalent of four.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

...But if I were asked to do it as a DM, I'd say "No way in hell."...

Please, WotC, make sure that Monster Design is kept simple, and that Encounter Design takes less than an hour no matter what the level! 



Actually, I had the exact opposite experience with 5E, and this article did nothing to change that.  I ran my own adventure with DDN and found that I could develop monsters pretty quickly, and even generate monster stats off the top of my head if needed.  Because so much is based on ability scores, and not level, I could just come up with stats very quickly.  Is the monster strong?  If not, then his melee attack bonus probably isn't high (+0 to +4), otherwise it is (+5 to +7).  Is he agile or skin particularly tough or he's wearing armor?  Then his AC probably isn't high (14-16 level), otherwise it is (16-29 level).  The nice thing is, with bounded accuracy, these ranges shouldn't change too much as the party levels, so you won't have to take party level too much into account.  Obviously damage is a bit more of a "feel" attribute, but the article did seem to suggest level guidelines.  For myself,  I usually target roughly 10% to 25% of a fighter's hp for an average hit, based on my perception of how tough the critter is and how long he'll be around.  And in general I find special abilities to write themselves - they are, after all, always the most fun part of monster creation.

I'm generally pretty comfortable with wingning things in a session, and that includes monster stats, and DDN seems to support that better than any other D&D version I've seen.   But if you're not comfortable with it, the process still seems pretty easy to me.
The problem I'm having with Next isn't so much figuring out the numbers for basic ability scores. Calculating hit points, attacks, initiative, damage ... that's all the easy part. The problem is monsters.  If you have a custom monster with these four custom abilities, how do you know if they're balanced? Take the presented Minotaur for example: How do we know Rage and Goring Charge aren't going to completely ruint he adventurers' day?  Obviously, the answer is "Because Mike Mearls said so", but what if you designed the Minotaur?  Could you make that same claim?  "Sure, it's balanced!"  If it's your dungeon boss, you probably don't have time to playtest and tweak it. You can run some hypothetical scenarios in your head (which of course takes a lot of time, see argument above), but then you've got to account for DM knowledge of its abilities.

The problem is, there's just no way to know if that monster you're going to use once will TPK your party, or be a complete Cakewalk, until they face it.  Planning a moderately challenging encounter is, therefore, impossible to predict.  At least as it currently appears.  Maybe WoTC will release guidelines on special abilities like this like we have in 4e. Maybe we'll be expected to compare it to similar monsters for an idea of how hard it is.  But even then, how do we know how much XP to assign for our custom monsters?  Again, without VERY clear guidelines on special abilities, balancing a monster is nearly impossible, which makes encounter design very challenging.

That doesn't even get into "advancing" a monster so that it is more suitable for very high level play.  What if I want my Minotaur and his two Minotaur buddies to be a suitable challenge for a level 15 party, for story reasons?  As presented, a level 15 party is going to wax the floor with this guy.  If you say "Give him class levels", then we're back to the problem of time.  It could take hours to give him class levels. 

Definitely very leery. 
Hill giants are tough but if their attack rolls are going to be based purely on strength won't they miss the average plate-clad fighter most of the time?  And that's before we add in magical bonuses - a fighter with a measly +1 armour and a +1 large shield can only be hit on a 20?  That seems a bit off...
Hill giants are tough but if their attack rolls are going to be based purely on strength won't they miss the average plate-clad fighter most of the time?  And that's before we add in magical bonuses - a fighter with a measly +1 armour and a +1 large shield can only be hit on a 20?  That seems a bit off...



Glad I am not the only one that thinks these monster attack bonuses are way too low.

 Any Edition

These are specifically big, heavy hitters.  As a necessary drawback, anything that hits really hard is going to have fairly lousy accuracy.  Otherwise, it just goes around beating people into paste, and that's not a ton of fun.

Remember, +1 magical armor is not the assumption.  Magic armor is supposed to feel like a big advantage against anyone not weilding a magical weapon.  I suspect that they're going to back away from the stacking benefits of a magical armor and shield, simply because that lets the math get out of control way too quickly, but they may have not realized that part yet.

The metagame is not the game.

But if that day does involve fighting, it better involve at least 15 rounds of it!

Well no. The game is balanced around the average day lasting for 15 rounds. If it goes quicker then the base assumption is that was an easier day then normal. If it goes longer then the base assumption is that the day was harder then normal. Other factors (poor tactical decisions by PCs, bad dice rolls, etc) can affect how easy or hard the day was.

It gives you something to keep in mind. Not something you must mindlessly follow for every single day.

Or maybe I'm just missing something, and the system is easier to build monsters for than it seems.

I've built a monster that was quite easy to build and I feel is both thematically appropriate to the flavour of the monster and balanced against the monsters in the first playtest packet.

I didn't follow the steps as mentioned in the article. To be honest this looks like a terrible way to design monsters. Instead I went:


  • Where do I want this monster to be in terms of difficulty? My gut instinct was I wanted it around the difficulty of a hobgoblin.

  • Stats: I assigned it stats that felt right.

  • Equipment: I gave it armour and weapons that felt right. I also thought about what other items they would be carrying when they typically fight the PCs.

  • Special Traits: I thought to myself "What is THE defining trait of this creature?" and then turned it into a mechanic

  • I worked out AC, attack and damage based on what I'd just done.

  • I sanity checked the stats against hobgoblins and feel I got it about right. The defence is lower and the damage is lower, but they force disadvantage on any melee attacks which in reality boosts their AC.

  • I assigned it HP based on the hobgoblin.


All that took less than 20 minutes.


If the official guidelines are as convoluted as the article I'll simply ignore them and use the method I've outlined above.



what if you designed the Minotaur?  Could you make that same claim?  "Sure, it's balanced!"  If it's your dungeon boss, you probably don't have time to playtest and tweak it. You can run some hypothetical scenarios in your head (which of course takes a lot of time, see argument above), but then you've got to account for DM knowledge of its abilities.

Goring Charge + Rage deals 25.5 damage. Level 5 Fighter has 27.5 HP. Average fighter deals 9.5 damage. It will take 6 hits to take the minotaur down. The fighter can take 1 hit and then retreat. The Rogue can take 1 hit and then retreat. After 2 rounds the minotaur should be dead or the Minotaur has been extremely lucky and the PCs extremely unlucky. It took 4 minutes to calculate that.

That said, the idea of Rage and Gore Charge stacking bothers me. Without seeing other level 5 threats, I don't think those two abilities stacking is simply too dangerous. As such I would advise against allowing them to stack.

The problem is, there's just no way to know if that monster you're going to use once will TPK your party, or be a complete Cakewalk, until they face it.

I've had monsters from the mm 1 that have been fought for years almost TPK a party. The idea that the monsters gaming companies produce are balanced is misplaced. They're MOSTLY balanced. But even they get it wrong sometimes.

Maybe WoTC will release guidelines on special abilities like this like we have in 4e.

If they're going to produce plug and play abilities like this I very much would want guidelines before using them willy nilly.

Maybe we'll be expected to compare it to similar monsters for an idea of how hard it is.  But even then, how do we know how much XP to assign for our custom monsters?

You look for a monster that has similar HP, damage output and AC.

That doesn't even get into "advancing" a monster so that it is more suitable for very high level play.  What if I want my Minotaur and his two Minotaur buddies to be a suitable challenge for a level 15 party, for story reasons?  As presented, a level 15 party is going to wax the floor with this guy.  If you say "Give him class levels", then we're back to the problem of time.  It could take hours to give him class levels.

There's two approaches:


  • 3rd ed: Give them class levels.

  • 4th ed: give them more hit points, higher defences, higher attack and higher damage output.


Either method is appropriate and is entirely up to the DM to determine which better suits their playstyle, time and preferences.


Hill giants are tough but if their attack rolls are going to be based purely on strength won't they miss the average plate-clad fighter most of the time?  And that's before we add in magical bonuses - a fighter with a measly +1 armour and a +1 large shield can only be hit on a 20?  That seems a bit off...

Yup. This is definitely very rough stages of monster design. It's important we give the monsters they give us a go in game and then provide feedback based on how it went.


The lousy accuracy is going to make these monsters very easy to beat especially if giving disadvantage to a single attack per round is going to be easy. Even taking away the magic bonuses the hill giant is going to barely be able to touch a heavily armored PC.

I know it is early in the process but I am not liking what I see for monster attack bonuses.



This is a valid concern. However, I think that this might be precisely the reason why they came up with the rage mechanic (which I considered contrived upon first reading). I will expect a lot of low-accuracy heavy-hitters to get it (fluffwise fits with a giant too). The advantage of it is that you have pretty much 75% chance of dealing a small but significant amount of damage (and being at disadvantage doesn't count!).

Why not just increase to-hit instead? Because then the giant would pretty much paste an unoptimized advanturer party. I think it might be their internal balancing mechanism that let's more casual/story-oriented teams not get butchered by monsters, while at the same time said monsters are still able to pose some kind of threat to optimized players (who *will* find a way to max their AC and get reliable disadvantage source),so both teams can actually use standarized monster rankings (exp pool) and pregenerated adventures. Or at least makes it more probable to execute.

If that was the design plan than I must say the design team is more insightful than I gave them credit for.
On what level should it appear in a generic dungeon, Mike, really? We're really going to go back to that second-strip-in-OotS joke about levels, levels, levels, and levels in D&D? I don't entirely like the implication there that generic dungeons should be designed with multiple, one-after-another floors.

I don't like the implication that ability scores, which have probably the biggest mechanical impact in the game (i.e. whether or not you hit the monster) are determined purely on a fluff basis, and in this case, leave the monster with 3 very low defences, the lowest of which is SIX POINTS lower than the highest. So, the PC which attacks STR in this instance, is stuffed, where the PC who attacks INT is fine. TO snark a little, I wonder which PCs are most likely to attack which defence...

I don't like the equating of size with 4e role, and therefore with how many PCs something is worth. It breaks my brain a little - if whether it's a mook, an elite or a solo is how big it is, then the terms are pretty meaningless - why not just use size, and save those terms to give them a meaningful role? But if those terms are how big something is, why do they also carry across to how *good* something is at fighting, and how much HP it has (bearing in mind that HP is abstracted by RAW.  Except when it isn't...)? There is (well, there should be) no reason why you can't have a tiny solo, or a huge mook.

The attacks seem pretty random, and once more we have a thing which could have been a bloodied-save-or-die attack (a concept which actually sounds interesting to me, and sounds like an excellent way to speed up fights without entirely boiling them down to 1d20 and go home), and is now a straight-out save-or-suck (knocked prone, can't get up and, for no apparent reason, can't attack whilst prone).

Where's the actual design work, here?
Harrying your Prey, the Easy Way: A Hunter's Handbook - the first of what will hopefully be many CharOp efforts on my part. The Blinker - teleport everywhere. An Eladrin Knight/Eldritch Knight. CB != rules source.
The lousy accuracy is going to make these monsters very easy to beat especially if giving disadvantage to a single attack per round is going to be easy. Even taking away the magic bonuses the hill giant is going to barely be able to touch a heavily armored PC.

I know it is early in the process but I am not liking what I see for monster attack bonuses.



This is a valid concern. However, I think that this might be precisely the reason why they came up with the rage mechanic (which I considered contrived upon first reading). I will expect a lot of low-accuracy heavy-hitters to get it (fluffwise fits with a giant too). The advantage of it is that you have pretty much 75% chance of dealing a small but significant amount of damage (and being at disadvantage doesn't count!).

Why not just increase to-hit instead? Because then the giant would pretty much paste an unoptimized advanturer party. I think it might be their internal balancing mechanism that let's more casual/story-oriented teams not get butchered by monsters, while at the same time said monsters are still able to pose some kind of threat to optimized players (who *will* find a way to max their AC and get reliable disadvantage source),so both teams can actually use standarized monster rankings (exp pool) and pregenerated adventures. Or at least makes it more probable to execute.

If that was the design plan than I must say the design team is more insightful than I gave them credit for.



The rage helps, but I think I would prefer that not include an attack penalty and just be auto damage on a normal hit.

Also, looking at the goblin is he going to have a -1 attack bonus (i.e. just STR penalty)? How is that going to make him a threat to an armored PC?

I look forward to seeing the next round of playtest stuff.

 Any Edition

This monster design seems wonky to me. Ability scores seem to be built in as critical combat stats, yet they're basically just assigned by the guideline, "whatever feels right." I agree with the poster above that equivocating size and strength is a poor idea. I also don't like the idea that attack bonus and damage are determined by abilities. I much prefer 4e style where attack bonuses and damage values are based on level and role, while ability scores are used only for skill checks and things like that.
"So shall it be! Dear-bought those songs shall be be accounted, and yet shall be well-bought. For the price could be no other. Thus even as Eru spoke to us shall beauty not before conceived be brought into Eä, and evil yet be good to have been." - Manwë, High King of the Valar
I don't hate this article or anything, but I must admit I'm underwhelmed. The size <> role business especially bugs me.

I want to have:


  • Credible monsters that I deploy at a rate of more than one per PC. Giant rats or crawling claws, for example. Imply one mook to one PC undermines that.

  • Small creatures that fight at elite or solo weight - kobold commandoes and sorcerers, jermlaine assassins, imps.

  • Large creatures that fight at mook weight - I'd like to be able to treat ogres thiis way at mid- to high levels.

  • Huge or larger creatures that fight at elite weight - ettins, huge skeletons.


I understand the desire to carry on with 4e's monster roles framework. It's been implicit for a lot longer than it's been explicit, and I don't want to see it go. But equating it to size seems like a very poor choice.


I have no problem with heavy blows being inaccurate.


Z.

I'm a fan of 5e as has generally been revealed, but this just feels wrong to me. It bothers me on a level I can't quite articulate. I'll give it my best attempt, however.

Using Size to determine whether a monster is solo, elite, or mook is ALL KINDS OF OFF! That, I think, is my biggest beef with this. It's not the style I play. When I'm looking for a boss monster or leader, I don't want to just use a bigger monster. I run mostly city-based games, and most of my villains tend to be NPCs. I don't want to make them goliath-sized just to present a credible threat to my party. One of the things 4e did alright was monster design...this seems like a giant step back from that, and it just bugs me.

Standard Monster Powers kind of rub me the wrong way. I fear they might lead to enemies that feel kind of samey.

I agree with a previous poster that roles for monsters makes sense, and that I'd like to see monsters at various points on the scale.

When the Cat's a Stray, the Mice will Pray 

* What if I want stats for a "mook" minotaur because I wish create  PC race for Dragonlance settin?

* Can you imagine a big minotaur lower head to gore a little gobling, kobold, hafling or gnome? It would be attack opportunity, wouldn´t it?. A  humanoid with horns only would use his natural weapon againts bigger enemies like dragons (but a big battle-axe, a lance or halberd would be better and surer).

"Say me what you're showing off for, and I'll say you what you lack!" (Spanish saying)

 

Book 13 Anaclet 23 Confucius said: "The Superior Man is in harmony but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony"

 

"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of." - Confucius 

This seems like a lot of work for not a lot of benefit. Then again, maybe with a MM full of interesting monsters, their experience levels, and abilities to pull from it will be easier. I can't say. Before 4e, if you told me that reflavoring whole swathes of monsters for entire stories would be easy-breezy, I would have laughed at you as I remembered painful 3.X encounter making sessions. (Please note, this was just my personal experience and not a dig at those who love 3.X.)

The thing in the article that annoyed me was the assumption in base monster design that you will be using the Advantage/Disadvantage system. I really don't like it (for many reason already outlined in my playtest feedback) and intended just to switch to a +2/-2 system, but it seems they intend to build monster abilities around the assumption of rolling two dice for Ad/Dis.
I really like the idea of size becoming a more important factor when determining the threat level of the monsters. It has always bugged me that some small or medium solo humanoid monster should have as many hp as a dragon. However, of course I would like to see medium monsters that equals elite threat (although only in very special cases solo threat), eg an orc chieftain etc. and I can't imagine size being the only, solely determining factor on whether the monster being a mook or elite threat - more of a guideline, I am sure (especially since the general approach is to define the monster's mechanics based on the right feel of the monster - exactly the right way of doing it, I think, as opposed the 4th ed approach of 'level and role determines everything').

As for the time required to create a monster on the fly, this seems very easy to do to me: of course stats have to be assigned, but precisely the principle of assigning this as to what 'feels right' is a great strength here - simply assign whar 'feels right' ;) AC, damage etc pretty much equals the equipment or what corresponds to such equipment for natural attacks etc (taking size into account). HD requires a bit more thought, but should be handleable by comparing to existing monsters (and after a bit of playing one quickly get the feel of this as well, I think, so assigning on the fly will be quite easy).
Personally I only rarely create monsters on the fly (although it sometimes is necessary), but creating the monsters beforehand seems to be fairly easy and rather quickly to do as well, I think. 
Assigning an xp-value will probably be the toughhest part, and the design team has focus on this, so usable guidelines will be available, I think (in addition to comparing to existing monsters).
 
The 'Hill Giant-always-miss'-issue requires some further design considerations, I think. I like the concept of the big brute being poor at hitting but when it hits it really hurts (50% of more of a character's hp is fine I think - makes the combats much more exciting, with the players having to consider different tactics when facing such a monster, rather than just charge it as they are used to). It means that the low-AC wizard (I would very much like to see that int is removed as an AC-stat - otherwise it makes the Wizard as good as a decent fighter when it comes to AC, and it just doesn't seem right to me) will be hit fairly often and lose a very great deal of his hp.
The problem arises when the concept of the low hit chance of the brute collides with the way AC works in D&D: AC represents both the ability to dodge attacks altogether, but also the protection of armor when one is hit by the attack but suffers no damage due to this protecion (the 3rd ed. 'touch-AC' reflected this).
So when the big brute has a hard time hitting, it is the agile dodger he can't hit. The plate armor would, one could imagine, provide less protection against a huge (I hope giants will be huge again, and not puny just large like an ogre   ) hill giant's club than a club wielded by a goblin. So perhaps something like a touch-AC could be reintroduced, or a lowered effectiveness of armor vs. such extremely hard-hitting attacks. The trick is how to do this in a balanced, elegant and non-complex way (since or course having to pretty much roll a natural '20' to hit a well-armored fighter won't work in actual game-play) - but I have faith in the design team   They have done excellent work so far, imho.

All in all, I find the principles of monster design mentioned in the article much - much! - better than the 4th ed 'mechanical' way of doing it (where the individuality of the monster itself doesn't come to its right at all when it comes to stats - eg all soldiers have the same AC no matter whether it is a full plate-wearing knight or a medium-dex and -int, leather armor-wearing city guard (with fx a mark-power, so he fits the soldier-concept)). 
I don't get it the mook /elite/solo thing corresponding to size. When my ranger was level 16, ogres and minotaurs were mooks and I dropped them 3 at a time. But ogres and minotaurs are large and thus elite. Unless of course level 5 elites are level 16 moose. But that throws the math of and....

The 4e model was so much easier.

---

I don't get something else. If the Minotaur has a tough hide, shouldn't its AC be equivalent to hide armor and not chainmail? If ACs don't have to scale much 'cause bounded accuracy, then the Minotaur should not need arbitrary AC boosts.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I don't get it the mook /elite/solo thing corresponding to size. When my ranger was level 16, ogres and minotaurs were mooks and I dropped them 3 at a time. But ogres and minotaurs are large and thus elite. Unless of course level 5 elites are level 16 moose. But that throws the math of and.... The 4e model was so much easier.



In terms of power and threat I see no contradiction in a level 5 elite pretty much equals a level 16 moose (to use the example). It is the xp-value that determines their 'cost' (if the DM wish to use the budget-approach when designing encounters/game), not their level or moose/elite status (although that certainly will play an important factor regarding the xp-assignment). So if the level 5 elite and level 16 moose have the same xp-value, then things will should work out fine.
Indeed, the 4th ed model was very easy, but - imho, of course  - it had severe disadvantages, which by far outweighted the benefits.
I think the designers are trying to combine the best of both here (eg. the 'Next' special abilities compares pretty well with 4th ed powers), as far as possible. 
  

--- I don't get something else. If the Minotaur has a tough hide, shouldn't its AC be equivalent to hide armor and not chainmail? If ACs don't have to scale much 'cause bounded accuracy, then the Minotaur should not need arbitrary AC boosts.



Since it is the 'feel' of the monster that is important, the minotaur's hide (as I see it) doesn't need to match a hide armor worn by a character exactly regarding AC. A few points up or down is ok, I think (and taking PCs level into account isn't to bad either (ie. despite 'bounded accuracy' the PCs to hit modifier will probably scale a little bit, as they advance in levels) - is just shouldn't be the determining factor). The important thing, in my view, is that there is a significant difference in AC between two monsters having eg hide and wearing a full plate - a difference that matches a feel of internal consistency (for the DM when designing monsters) and is 'visible' for the players, so they get the experience of the armor the see the foe wearing actually means somwething, and they thus can judge the difficulty of hitting an opponent (eg the heavily armored soldier may be better taken care of by a wizard's magic missile than by the fighter's sword, while the fighter goes for the robe-wearing priest).
I understood a lot of this article to be describing the ways in which the development team is going about designing threats, not the walk through we'll be presented with whenever it comes time to turn over the reins for our own design needs.

Given that, I appreciate the insight, and I'm eager to get my hands on the next playtest packet!

Since all of this is still on the drawing board, and it seems clear that they are at least considering our feedback, then I'm happy to receive half-baked ideas that I can shape with my own experiences. -- It's the whole premise of the playtest, no?

Danny

I dont like the new article. I cant point anything specific,sorry, but it feels "wrong" to me.
Maybe it reminds me too much of 4th ed monsters?.
If i'll understand what's wrong i'll edit my post.

Edit: now i got it.

Mr Mearls,while i have all the possible respect for your professionality and design capabilities (i approve almost all you have done until now about the design choices for DDN), i also strongly  believe that you are off target now.

When i was younger,i had many fun afternoons going to the beach with my friends,and while taking sun we had fun playing D&D.
My equipment was: 2nd ed DM Screen,a pencil,a set of dices and some sheets.If i had to design a monster,let'say a sewer worm, my reasoning was: hp=average hit dice?check. damage? 1d6 for wrmlings,1d6+1/1d8 sting( mature ones)? check. roll to hit?look thaco table. check. saving throws?look table. check.
Design time? 30 second or maybe less.
In the article instead,i see several problems:


  • I have to guess characteristics

  • bonuses for stats have to be added to the math

  • i have to invent "+" for proficiency

  • different sizes means different roles and math

  • different hit dices for various creatures

  • and so on..


While The system given in the article is perfectly fine imho is suitable for long term monsters,but not for "on the fly" ones.
The flavor of a monster is NOT in the math,but in the dm capability of painting a scene..i couldn't care less for a complex,overdetailed enemy. That's imo is a gamist approach legacy of more recent editions.
But i care MUCH about easy and fast play.
So,my idea is:leave that system for detailed,long term,reusable monsters, but give me also a fast system (a table maybe?) with all the math already done that i can reflavor as i see fit,and who can be inserted in a dm screen,as it was in 2ed screen.
It's a bit off? who care, they are just for fillers..and DM eventually can tune up the results.
Strive for semplicity.

I cant play with 3.5ed or 4ed on the beach with my nieces,but you could let me play with them at DDN.
Your choice.
 




I think Mike hinted at this, though he didn't go into a lot of detail when he talked about generic stat blocks. In other words your quick monster could simply be "level X mook stat block" and that gives you a quick baseline for all the various numbers. You can simply use it as is, maybe slap something interesting on it quick, decide how to flavor the generic parts, and you should have your "30 second monster". Seems like that SHOULD do the trick?
That is not dead which may eternal lie
If all the math it's all already done,and i have just to reflavor the numbers,sure,why not?
Especially if  it is a small table who can fit on a DM screen.
I dont use that method constantly, just when i have to invent something "on the fly".
Imo nothing disrupt more the flow of a adventure than a interruption due to flipping books to find a appropriate enemy or choosing another to reskin.
DM: Products of MY Imagination ©. Since 1986.
I wish I could talk about the article, but I still can't get past the introduction:

"When it comes to combat, the math that our system uses assumes an adventuring day that lasts a number of rounds and involves a total experience point value for monsters based on the party’s level. Higher-level parties fight more and face tougher creatures."

Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.


Because describing the methodology behind determining combat statistics for monsters of course means that nothing else will be in the game?
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
The problem I'm having with Next isn't so much figuring out the numbers for basic ability scores. Calculating hit points, attacks, initiative, damage ... that's all the easy part. The problem is monsters.  If you have a custom monster with these four custom abilities, how do you know if they're balanced? Take the presented Minotaur for example: How do we know Rage and Goring Charge aren't going to completely ruint he adventurers' day?  Obviously, the answer is "Because Mike Mearls said so", but what if you designed the Minotaur?  Could you make that same claim?  "Sure, it's balanced!"  If it's your dungeon boss, you probably don't have time to playtest and tweak it. You can run some hypothetical scenarios in your head (which of course takes a lot of time, see argument above), but then you've got to account for DM knowledge of its abilities.

The problem is, there's just no way to know if that monster you're going to use once will TPK your party, or be a complete Cakewalk, until they face it.  Planning a moderately challenging encounter is, therefore, impossible to predict.  At least as it currently appears.  Maybe WoTC will release guidelines on special abilities like this like we have in 4e. Maybe we'll be expected to compare it to similar monsters for an idea of how hard it is.  But even then, how do we know how much XP to assign for our custom monsters?  Again, without VERY clear guidelines on special abilities, balancing a monster is nearly impossible, which makes encounter design very challenging.

That doesn't even get into "advancing" a monster so that it is more suitable for very high level play.  What if I want my Minotaur and his two Minotaur buddies to be a suitable challenge for a level 15 party, for story reasons?  As presented, a level 15 party is going to wax the floor with this guy.  If you say "Give him class levels", then we're back to the problem of time.  It could take hours to give him class levels. 

Definitely very leery. 

Here's the thing, you'll NEVER be sure, except by using your experience as a DM and knowing what the party can do. This was true in 4e too. There were actually no guidelines on monster powers beyond the standard damage expressions and the basic parameters of how monster powers worked (action required, recharge, general power rules).

The main point is that the toughness of monsters is PRETTY MUCH determined by their hit points, defenses, and basic damage output. Special abilities and synergy CAN make an important difference, but 4e gave you a set of target numbers to set for a given type/role/level of monster so chances were things would not be too far out of whack.

We obviously haven't seen these standard numbers yet for DDN and the implication is perhaps that monsters are built less on the basis of numbers and more 'organically', but the thing is you have to pretty much either accept that monsters numbers are largely determined by balance considerations or they aren't. If they aren't then the encounter building system WILL be less reliable. It sounds like Mike is talking about XP value being a sort of point system, so monster level is just a sort of starting point and you can then 'buy' better than baseline numbers or maybe get a discount if a monster has some weak defense or whatever. IMHO this can work up to a certain point, but D&D has too many variable factors for it to be a super reliable approach.

I'd also like to just posit that to a large extent the details of defense numbers and such are not a huge big deal. Monsters don't stick around long in general. It is good to be able to vary them to create different tactical challenges, but players honestly don't generally have time to stop and spend a lot of thought on exactly what a given monster's numbers MEAN. Yeah, high level 4e monsters have high defenses "just because", but frankly the whole combat system is still pretty abstract. As long as the slow ponderous monster's reflex rating is its weak point the absolute number isn't terribly important. The end result is people find it easy to hit it with reflex based attacks, which is how it should be.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
I dont like the new article. I cant point anything specific,sorry, but it feels "wrong" to me.
Maybe it reminds me too much of 4th ed monsters?.



that cant be it. this looks nothing like 4e monster creation. in 4e, you can give me a monsters level (apparently saying 'monster level' is not allowed in 5e, kind of like healing surges) and i can derive almost every basic statistic from it. level 2 monsters will average 16 AC, 14 NADs, +7 to hit AC, +5 to hit NADs, 1d8+6 average single target damage, etc etc.

here i have to contemplate, then create, a Minotaur's ability scores, a process i find so soul-killing that i blogged about it last week frothsof4e.blogspot.com/2012/07/a-new-wa...  , literally doing it the long, hard, complicated, boring way, just so we can derive its AC and to hit numbers, saving throws, etc like a PC would do it. we can only assume this is for nostalgias sake, bc it sure isnt for the love of simplicity or clean design. THEN, as if i wasnt having enough fun already, i have to take the Minotaur shopping for axes. god forbid you use average damage, no, we need it all to be different. then, if you dare, you get to experience d&ds equivelent of a root canal: calculate all of the xp for the creature (no doubt complete with dreary formulas dictating the xp bonuses for special abilities, and all those other fun nostalgic xp minutae to pour over). now, we have a reaaaaly accurate number to balance against....wait for it...a full day of adventuring! bc doing it by encounter would look too much like 4e. cant have that.

yeah, that is about as far from 4e as it possible to get. the way this is shaping up, id personally rather bang my head into a wall than create a 5e monster. back to the old drawing board mearls.
frothsof, the fact that people confuse this process with 4e monster creation is I think at the heart of why there is so much disagreement here.

It's pretty hard to come to common ground when people have no clue whatsoever where the other side is coming from.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
On what level should it appear in a generic dungeon, Mike, really? We're really going to go back to that second-strip-in-OotS joke about levels, levels, levels, and levels in D&D? I don't entirely like the implication there that generic dungeons should be designed with multiple, one-after-another floors.

I don't like the implication that ability scores, which have probably the biggest mechanical impact in the game (i.e. whether or not you hit the monster) are determined purely on a fluff basis, and in this case, leave the monster with 3 very low defences, the lowest of which is SIX POINTS lower than the highest. So, the PC which attacks STR in this instance, is stuffed, where the PC who attacks INT is fine. TO snark a little, I wonder which PCs are most likely to attack which defence...

I don't like the equating of size with 4e role, and therefore with how many PCs something is worth. It breaks my brain a little - if whether it's a mook, an elite or a solo is how big it is, then the terms are pretty meaningless - why not just use size, and save those terms to give them a meaningful role? But if those terms are how big something is, why do they also carry across to how *good* something is at fighting, and how much HP it has (bearing in mind that HP is abstracted by RAW.  Except when it isn't...)? There is (well, there should be) no reason why you can't have a tiny solo, or a huge mook.

The attacks seem pretty random, and once more we have a thing which could have been a bloodied-save-or-die attack (a concept which actually sounds interesting to me, and sounds like an excellent way to speed up fights without entirely boiling them down to 1d20 and go home), and is now a straight-out save-or-suck (knocked prone, can't get up and, for no apparent reason, can't attack whilst prone).

Where's the actual design work, here?

Yeah, except even in 4e it was not a good idea to make a tiny solo for instance. It didn't 'feel' right. You COULD do it, and you CAN apparently do it in DDN as well, but the point is that IN GENERAL it feels right to have big tough monsters and small weak monsters. You may of course make the NPC halfling thieve's guild master an elite stat block. He's a big story element that is meant to have a substantial impact and if done right it works fine. OTOH making him a solo in 4e really didn't work that well, even if it fit in OK with the encounter building concepts. Having a halfling with 500 hit points just kinda didn't go down well... A 500 HP dragon OTOH? That worked fine, thematically.

Anyway, you certainly should be ABLE to make a small solo, you just need to actually think hard about the feel of that monster. You will want to build up the player's image of it and expectations of it with story so that when they fight it this feels natural enough to them. For instance a halfling guild master that is possessed by a demon and starts growing weird tentacles and whatever as the fight progressed could be a fine solo of small size. It is just not TYPICALLY the case that solos are small creatures.

Remember, any monster design system will be guidelines. It is going to tell you what generally works well. It isn't going to force you to do things a specific way.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Can someone bring me around to understand they're building a roleplaying game? Because this reads like a tactical combat simulation to me.

Not every day is an "adventuring day" - if you're playing D&D, though, the assumption is that some days will feature combat... because PC characters are good at fighting.

Remember, "role" has two definitions: an actor plays a role as in a stage production, but four characters also assume roles whenever one defends another while she picks a lock and a third strikes an opponent while the fourth inspires them all to keep going.  The latter is not less valid of a definition than the former, especially if you consider the origins of the medium.





But if that day does involve fighting, it better involve at least 15 rounds of it!



Why?  Why can't there be an easy day of fighting of say 5 rounds, followed by a day with no fighting, followed by a day that has 18 rounds of fighting, followed by ones of 12, and 20?  It's okay to have easy and hard days.  The DM can design his encounter days to be as long as he wants.