Monster design is still poor

WotC,

If you are going to save just ONE thing from 4th edition to bring into the next edition of D&D, please carry forward Monster design.

The concept of AEDU works EXTREMELY well for the monsters because they aren't facing 4-5 encounters per day; rather the encounter with the PC's is THE ONLY encounter so issues of verisimilitude and explaining it all away do not come into play with monsters. All of the red flags and hand wringing that crops up on the player side do not exist on the monster side because the pieces the DM places in front of the characters have to interact with the players in a meaningful and uniquely memorable way. Nothing is more boring than being magic-missiled to death by an ancient red dragon with regular arcane spells from the PHB.

Monsters should all have their unique abilities. Nobody wants to see a retread of PC spells/powers and abilities. Monsters are different and should play by different rules. The design of the monsters in 4e was excellent because you gave each monster their own unique abilities that WEREN'T player abilities (although sometimes they mimic'd them)

The only area where monster design fell short was a description of how the powers worked and a "graphic" description for the DM to imagine how the power actually comes into play (and if something unexpected a PC does can counter or disrupt it)

No one wants to go back to the bad-old-days of building class levels into monsters, rather 4e got it right by having different "iterations" of monsters with unique abilities to denote spellcaster, ranged, clerical etc... And no one wants to go back to the bad old days of searching through the PHB for the rules to a myriad of spells the monster can cast. Just make up an ability, give it a usage of AEDU (or ADU -really) and put a description in fleshed out text similar to format of 4e monsters.

PLEASE GIVE US DM's back simplified meaningful, unique monster design.
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson
I agree +1
Nobody wants to see a retread of PC spells/powers and abilities.


Speak for yourself.  I want monsters to use PC abilities.  I don't want some goblin backbiter ability that is really similar to sneak attack but just a tad different.  I want them to just give the goblin sneak attack identical to the rogue and be done with it.  It is far easier for me to learn sneak attack once and apply it to every monster that would be appropriate than to learn a dozen different similar-but-not-quite sneak attack abilities across a dozen different monsters.
I want both. I have played all editions except for 4th, and there are a lot of things I expect about my monsters. However, even though I never played 4th ed, I do like some of the abilities for some of the monsters. I do want to add in some simplified monsters, simplified stat blocks, different than the PCs, etc.


No one wants to go back to the bad-old-days of building class levels into monsters, rather 4e got it right by having different "iterations" of monsters with unique abilities to denote spellcaster, ranged, clerical etc...



I want to go back to the good old days. In fact, I'm still in those days in the 3.5 games I run. I would like some 4th ed style monsters to add in, but my main monsters are going to be like what they are adding in the playtest currently. While I don't build class levels into everything, I do into most monsters and villains that will be recurring. If I built levels into a monster/villain, he will be back.
  
And no one wants to go back to the bad old days of searching through the PHB for the rules to a myriad of spells the monster can cast. Just make up an ability, give it a usage of AEDU (or ADU -really) and put a description in fleshed out text similar to format of 4e monsters.



Why was this necessary? If I have a monster that can cast spells, I'm probably turning to the PHB considerably less than I would when characters cast spells because I already know what to expect the monster to cast. It's not so easy to predict PCs behavior.



I do agree with you on some things, but also I want the old style too. I want to add in both. With both, I can add a much more varied experience than with only one or the other. Plus, while we don't have many AEDU style enemies yet, I'm pretty sure it's coming. They've stated they aren't focusing on the monsters that much at all at this point in the playtest.   
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I have to side with OleOneEye on this one.  I don't want to need to look at a monster's entry in some book in order to know how it works.  It should be immediately intuitive by its description and simple mastery of how system represents abilities.

Sneak attack is sneak attack.
The metagame is not the game.
Nobody wants to see a retread of PC spells/powers and abilities.


Speak for yourself.  I want monsters to use PC abilities.  I don't want some goblin backbiter ability that is really similar to sneak attack but just a tad different.  I want them to just give the goblin sneak attack identical to the rogue and be done with it.  It is far easier for me to learn sneak attack once and apply it to every monster that would be appropriate than to learn a dozen different similar-but-not-quite sneak attack abilities across a dozen different monsters.



+1

You can probably make a pretty strong case that 4E monster design should be the favored option (it seems to me, based entirely on anecdotal evidence, that it's more popular, which probably means more class/template based design should be the modular option.) But when people assume their side is the only side, they undercut a lot of the value of their own argument.
I agree and disagree.  I do generally like the 4e monster design.  However, I do miss the old days of creating monsters by adding class levels (so the statement no one wants to go back to those days, is now inaccurate).  I think the new system should incorporate both camps.  Default 4e design should dominate the stat blocks with a generic entry that a DM can build on in a more "traditional" way. 
The information they've given us about monster design implies we will have both styles. We can add PC levels if we want, or we can have a simple monster with stat blocks, or we can add on unique abilities, etc
Do you have an opinion on what campaign settings should be printed in D&D Next? If so, please cast your votes in this poll! Poll: What campaign settings do you want to see printed in D&D Next?
Well, one monster design has to be default with options added onto that.  I don't think it's the 4e version.  However, I'm interested on how this thread unfolds (other player's views) if it actually takes off with some posts.
I like the monster designs. It's unique, it's new, and I want to see where it goes from here. 

I like the low hitpoints as it make the combat more faster.  
My concern with the monster design is the number of variables they have introduced. In 4E, we had 2 variables: level and role. Everything else was determined from this (except for which NADs were high and low, but their average should stay the same).

In D&DN, we now have multitudes of variables. AC is determined by it's nature and what it's wearing, not it's level. HP are determined by gutting a chicken and reading it's entrails ... I mean you pick them based on how tough you want it to be. You pick attack bonuses and damage bonuses, then reverse engineer it's level before determining it's XP value ...

Now we have things like a human commoner being worth more XP than a goblin even though the goblin seems to be tougher ... and many other issues. Some look like typos, but you can't be certain.
Well, one monster design has to be default with options added onto that.  I don't think it's the 4e version.quote]

You may be right. But, they may have multiple styles. They may have 4e type monsters intermixed with some old styles, and some things with PC levels.
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I would say that monster design is now bad, because I thought the first packet monsters were great and this second packet I hate.

But I'm the guy that hated running 4e and hated the monster design with a passion, and this second packet felt a lot more like 4e monster design to me.
My concern with the monster design is the number of variables they have introduced. In 4E, we had 2 variables: level and role. Everything else was determined from this (except for which NADs were high and low, but their average should stay the same).

True enough, except for their special abilities.  Those were designed to be fun, unique, evocative, and completely different in functionality from every other ability that a monster could have.  It was a nightmare to play it by ear.

The metagame is not the game.
I'm just starting to get into 4E, and I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with the OP.  4E monster design is clear and predictable.  You determine the monster's role and level and you have most of the stuff done for you.  And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  With 4E's design, all you need is the stat block - you're not looking anything up in any other book.  The other really nice aspect to 4E's approach is that since the rules for building monsters are very clear, it's easy to automate with computer tools.  Even if WotC doesn't develop an online tool, you can build a spreadsheet that would allow you to build a monster in minutes and scale it up or down to as high or low a level as possible.  As a DM, it's one of the things that's most impressed me about 4E.
My concern with the monster design is the number of variables they have introduced. In 4E, we had 2 variables: level and role. Everything else was determined from this (except for which NADs were high and low, but their average should stay the same).

True enough, except for their special abilities.  Those were designed to be fun, unique, evocative, and completely different in functionality from every other ability that a monster could have.  It was a nightmare to play it by ear.




I used the NPC design guidelines, 1 encounter, utility, and daily (translated to 1 recharge, 1 utility, and 1 encounter) for heroic, +1 encounter (recharge) at paragon and +1 daily (encounter) at epic, as guidelines for monster design. I didn't give all monsters these abilities, but it gave me a baseline to keep with.
And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.
And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.


But PC abilities are often quite a bit more complex than monster abilities, and thus tend to be difficult to fit into a monster statblock efficiently.
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And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.


But PC abilities are often quite a bit more complex than monster abilities, and thus tend to be difficult to fit into a monster statblock efficiently.



Please give an example or two from the playtest.
I want monsters to be like the Joker - They just DO.

They just need to have simple abilities that just occur seamlessly in play that the players cannot go into the PHB and Rules Lawyer. Also, you don't have to sit there and figure out how many dice for X caster level and figure out a myriad of save DCs.
4e just took monster design and made it simple and fun. No more hours designing monsters like PCs , rAther they play by their own set of rules.
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson
I want monsters to be like the Joker - They just DO. They just need to have simple abilities that just occur seamlessly in play that the players cannot go into the PHB and Rules Lawyer. Also, you don't have to sit there and figure out how many dice for X caster level and figure out a myriad of save DCs. 4e just took monster design and made it simple and fun. No more hours designing monsters like PCs , rAther they play by their own set of rules.



That's cool. I hope they support your preference.

But clearly other people like the opposite point. I prefered the connection between player/monster abilities- it made the world feel consistent and emphasized it when a monster had an actual special ability. It also helped to have universal rules for some abilities. The issue with typing everything out is that you end up re-inventing the wheel constantly, or, worse, end up with very minor variations on the wheel (that are still just different enough to force the DM to juggle one more thing in his head). It's a matter of personal preference, and should be treated as such- there's no a right answer.
There's no juggling with 4e monster abilities. Look at monster, choose power, invoke power, done

They don't have to reinvent anything either. Just port over the monsters from 4e, tweak them a little and bam! Tons of already defined powers!
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson
I personally don't mind if monsters use PC abilities. It's fine if a monster casts a fireball or uses a sneak attack. What I don't want however is for monsters to be built like PCs, where they have to use PC classes and it takes forever to write one up. If done properly using PC abilities can simplify a monster's statblock, which is a good thing. If you can just write Sneak attack +3d6, that's a lot fewer words than the 4E equivalent where you have to redefine the whole ability. And a big emphasis should be put on having fewer words. A monster description should be a paragraph not half a page like it was in 4E.

However, monsters (and NPCs) need to be able to constructed quickly. If you can't construct an NPC in a few minutes, then the rules need simplification. I will never go back to the 3E equivalent where you had to do all these creation backflips to make NPCs liek choose a bunch of minor magic items, select feats, etc. That was such a chore and exactly what we shouldn't do.


And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.


But PC abilities are often quite a bit more complex than monster abilities, and thus tend to be difficult to fit into a monster statblock efficiently.



Please give an example or two from the playtest.



Any spell that is more than 1 paragraph long.
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1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
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The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
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There's no juggling with 4e monster abilities. Look at monster, choose power, invoke power, done



An argument that could easily be translated into any edition. "You don't need to juggle spells! Just select a spell and use it!" In fact, given that every edition has mechanical rules for abilities (defined broadly), the argument applies to everything ever.

In bigger combats with a lot of different types of monsters, most of whom have some sort of off-turn action with different trigger mechanisms in every case, I very much remember struggling to remember stuff. Like which monster's "Area Burst 1 within 10 with recharge 5-6 that creates a zone that is difficult terrain and does 10 [element] damage" triggered on the end vs. the start of the PC's turn.

A lot of these powers are basically redundant- not all of them, or even a majority, but enough that the game could've saved space with more unified rules for common powers like "Immediate Interrupt to shift away when PC moves adjacent", above "Standard AB attack w/ zone", or "Move [speed] squares, attacking along the way, not provoking OA from the target of the attack." That's what I mean about re-inventing the wheel.
WotC,

If you are going to save just ONE thing from 4th edition to bring into the next edition of D&D, please carry forward Monster design.

The concept of AEDU works EXTREMELY well for the monsters because they aren't facing 4-5 encounters per day; rather the encounter with the PC's is THE ONLY encounter so issues of verisimilitude and explaining it all away do not come into play with monsters. All of the red flags and hand wringing that crops up on the player side do not exist on the monster side because the pieces the DM places in front of the characters have to interact with the players in a meaningful and uniquely memorable way. Nothing is more boring than being magic-missiled to death by an ancient red dragon with regular arcane spells from the PHB.

Monsters should all have their unique abilities. Nobody wants to see a retread of PC spells/powers and abilities. Monsters are different and should play by different rules. The design of the monsters in 4e was excellent because you gave each monster their own unique abilities that WEREN'T player abilities (although sometimes they mimic'd them)

The only area where monster design fell short was a description of how the powers worked and a "graphic" description for the DM to imagine how the power actually comes into play (and if something unexpected a PC does can counter or disrupt it)

No one wants to go back to the bad-old-days of building class levels into monsters, rather 4e got it right by having different "iterations" of monsters with unique abilities to denote spellcaster, ranged, clerical etc... And no one wants to go back to the bad old days of searching through the PHB for the rules to a myriad of spells the monster can cast. Just make up an ability, give it a usage of AEDU (or ADU -really) and put a description in fleshed out text similar to format of 4e monsters.

PLEASE GIVE US DM's back simplified meaningful, unique monster design.


+1 

I love monster design, and i love how monster design works in 4e. I want D&D Next to be at least equal to 4e in this regard, or I won't DM it. It's probably my only deal breaker.
And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.


But PC abilities are often quite a bit more complex than monster abilities, and thus tend to be difficult to fit into a monster statblock efficiently.



Please give an example or two from the playtest.



Any spell that is more than 1 paragraph long.



Yes, I agree that some may be too long.  Avoid using those for monster abilities.  To use that as an excuse to use no PC abilities for monster abilities is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I like my monster statblocks consice, informative and short.

Monster ability design should not be coupled to PC design rules in that monsters need special monster-feats to just do what they can do (like the mutiattack and flyby attack that monsters like hyppogriffs needed in 3.X). Some monsters can do stuff PC's can't and these abilities don't have to be justified with feats or skills or any PC building rules.

On the other hand if a PC ability excists that describes what the monster can do I prefer a unified description. If monster do extra damage if they attack with advantage they do sneak attack damage and I prefer that this term is used in stead of calling it something monster specific (like the mentioned backbiter or bushwacker). If the monster or npc has spells the attack spells can be mentioned in the attack line:magic missile (spell), autohit, 120', 1d4+1 damage or fireball (spell), 5d6 fire damage, 120'(20'radius blast), DC 14.

I would propose 2 statblocks per monster, one "monstermanual" statblock that will be shown above the text about ecology, organization, combat abilituies and tactics, non-combat/utility abilities spells etc. and another module/appendix statbox which is more like the statblocks found in the pre 3 rd edition modules and the appendix in the 1st ed DMG.

As a last niggle; humanoids can have AC and attack damage according to equipment, I would like stuff like AC 6 (or by armour) damage 1d8(or by weapon) back. This might screw with the whole encounter design and xp worth of monsters but there is no reason you can't equip standard orcs with platemail, longsword, h crossbow and shield without needing to give them moet HD or change their attributes.
At the Gen Con panels they were quick to say that monsters need a lot of work and are far from finished. 
And it actually does help to NOT use PC abilities, because then you can put the monster's ability description right there in the stat block.  


If a monster uses PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.
If a monster does not use PC abilities, the mechanical description can be in the stat block.

Whether or not a monster uses PC abilities has nothing to do with whether the mechanical description is in the stat block.


But PC abilities are often quite a bit more complex than monster abilities, and thus tend to be difficult to fit into a monster statblock efficiently.



Please give an example or two from the playtest.



Any spell that is more than 1 paragraph long.



Yes, I agree that some may be too long.  Avoid using those for monster abilities.  To use that as an excuse to use no PC abilities for monster abilities is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.



I don't object to the idea of using PC abilities, and if they can be expressed in a stat block, then go for it, as far as I'm concerned.  But one of the strengths of 4E monsters is that a DM can run a monster without ever having read it before (i.e., rules not overly complex) and without having to refer to the PHB or any other book for power/spell descriptions.  As long as that's maintained (and the monster stat block doesn't start scrolling into multiple pages), I'm happy.  I'm just dubious that this can be achieved using PC abilities.
Having an ability that duplicates Sneak Attack is fine.  Or even CS dice or spells.  But don't just write "SLA Magic Missile" in the block, spell it out for me.  Because I don't want pages and pages of notes for one spellcasting enemy, and I sure don't want to be flipping through the PHB looking up spells, I just want to run my damn combat and get back to the game.
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