I'm aware that you all have not gotten to the point of playing with monster design and such, but I wanted to put in my 2 copper on what I would like to see in the iteration of D&D next, from a DM's perspective
Things done right
XP budgets: I started DM'ing 4e, and the concrete XP monster system was perfect. There was no guessing, and it provided what I needed to know for encounter design as a new DM. Those who are more experienced will tweak differently and can ignore suggested budgets, but as it is, it's perfect
Monsters work differently than PC's: I know in 3e, the monsters (like dragons) worked the same as PC's as far as spells cast, and basic attacks. I like how in 4e the monster may have completely different design than the PC's that cut the complexity way down
Treasure system: Treasure system was great. It broke down how much the PC's should get and what their items were. Again, a new DM didn't have to do nearly as much guesswork.
Solo monster design: Solo design is now fantastic. Any solo from the monster vault provides a threat, feels like a solo, and avoids several mistakes of early (MM1 early) design.
Things to improve
Simplify monster design more: The monsters are still far easier to understand and use compared to 3e, but they can still be made better. For one, I think the number of abilities for standards and elites needs to be cut down. Monsters should be designed with 2-3 abilities, 1 or 2 of which give it a unique mechanic or flavor (like the kobold shifty power). This will demand some good design choices to make monsters dynamic but simple. As a DM, I may only use a monster one encounter and never see it again. I don't have the luxury to learn and master the tactics of a monster, so I need to be able to use all it's abilities right off. And if I have 3-4 different monster types, then I should be able to understand how they work together quickly.
For example, artillery need a way to disengage melee characters. You can add another ability, or allow their basic attack to grant them shift 1 before the attack. This satisfies their ability to deal with melee without adding another ability for the DM to consider.
Elites and Solos (or whatever their next incarnation is) should be more complicated and allowed more abilities.
Provide an monster algorithm: This one is a bit controversial but here is my thought. In Castle Ravenloft and the D&D adventure board games, each monster had a specific algorithm so the person controlling it didn't have to think. Now, DM's can think, but having suggested algorithms will make us much more effective at using monsters, or giving them an "AI" that gives them a certain feel. For instance, let's say a zombie's algorithm is just, "attack closest enemy, move directly toward enemy to do so," but the necromancer will move away from enemies, summon zombies between himself and others.
Consider this, what if you had 1 monster but allowed DM's to chose different algorithms? One that is more risky, or provides more support. I know this could get tricky, and DM's can use their judgement for algorithms, but as a DM you probably will just default to what you would normally do instead of providing a dynamic encounter. This is already done with adventures and suggested tactics, but since combat is already mechanic heavy, how much would it hurt to give DM's another tool to add flavor and dynamics to a fight
Make traps more threatening: As it stands, few traps are an equal threat to a monster of the same level. Traps are usually immobile, and unlike monsters may not discriminate friend vs. foe. Either reduce the XP value of traps or (better) find some way to make them more threatening, such as more damage or worse effects. A minion in a fight can't be ignored because it will seek and attack the PC's but if there is a ward minion trap, the PC's may never even walk into it.
Whatever high tier is, make sure monsters can threaten players: In 4e epic tier, the game simply breaks down. PC's have so many exception based powers that throwing 2 level 21 solos at a level 21 party provides a moderate threat despite the XP budget. My experience may have been unique, but my first epic tier DM was disenchanting.
If blind becomes a status effect, please find some way to simplify and balance it better: In one of my games, a player played the essentials ranger who could blind someone until end of turn twice a turn. Unless I gave the monsters blindsight, it was nearly the same as stunning them, and it added extra rolls and math. Effects like daze, slow, and weaken require no extra rolls and little extra math. For blind, I had to decide which player to look for, roll their perception (which is a minor trait that I had to hunt for), and when it failed, I basically went, "well crap" because they were useless unless they had a blast/burst power, which most monsters don't. I would suggest blind just giving an automatic -5 to attacks and consider them slowed. In this case the DM does not need to make any extra rolls, or spend time deciding whether the monster is smart enough to look for the least stealthy character, and when designers give something the ability to blind the automatic effects make them realize it is the 2nd worst status effect (below stun or incapacitated). I realize this is specific, but that status effect caused me more frustration and extra work than any other one.
These are just suggestions from my viewpoint, and anyone is free to take them or leave them.
Cool deal, I hope you get what you want. Lets see if the designers can satisfy us both.
XP budgets: I utterly don't care, but rather, want a more naturalistic random encounter table approach. Seems straightforward to include both encounter budget rules and random tables.
Monsters work differently from PCs: I prefer monsters to pretty much follow the same rules as the PCs. The use of identical attack forms heavily reinforces my learning of said attack forms. No idea how to square the difference between our preferences.
Treasure system: I have zero use for wealth by level guidelines. I do like random treasure tables. Seems straightforward to include both methods.
Solo monster design: I'm relatively ambivalent on this one. Satisfying your needs should not particularly bother me any. So I guess, full speed ahead on solo design.
Simplify monster design: I pretty much agree. Running a battle with 10 different unique monsters in 4e could become a pain when they all had multiple abilities; simplification would be good in my book. Though, I don't necessarily believe monsters should have abilities to compensate for their weaknesses (artillery having a way to disengage from melee), but that is a mere quibble.
Provide a monster algorithm: I don't care what the suggested monster tactics are, but rather, will use monsters as I see fit at the time (why would the red-bottomed kobolds follow the same attack patterns as the head crest kobolds?). On the one hand, it would seem simple to include the suggested tactics and accept that I will ignore them while those that find them useful will use them. On the other hand, I find the Monster Manual to be by far the most used DM book at the table. The more space used for combat tactics, the less space for including more monsters in a single tome, hence the more likelihood I will have to switch between multiple books during the same combat, slowing down play and taking up valuable table space. Probably best to include include a standard algorithm for those that use them with an eye toward making sure they are curt and to the point.
Make traps more threatening: I've never really enjoyed traps. What I do use are made up on the fly with no reference to guidelines. I don't care what they do with them.
Whatever high tier is, make sure monsters can threaten them: Never played 4e at epic tier, but this issue seems heavily tied to encounter budgets. For that, I agree that if the game includes encounter budgets, such should work as advertised.
Blindness: Cannot say blindness ever caused my table any issues. No opinion.
Doesn't seem too difficult to satisfy us both. Here's to hoping we're both happy.
XP budgets: The 4e system is the best yet, but really could use some fine tuning. In particular, handling multiple waves, and other factors which modify a fight needs to play into the budget.
Monsters work differently than PC's: It simplifies things at the expense of immersion and depth. I don't really want to go back to the complexity of 3e, but I'm hoping that monsters follow the same model as player characters a bit more in 5e. Treasure system: I really dislike the 4e treasure system. It doesn't adjust to varying party size well, it doesn't handle magic items well and generally feels awkward.
Solo monster design: For the most part I have no problem with the later solo monsters. I would like to see solo broken up into two categories though. True solo monsters that are meant to fight the party by themselves, and powerful monsters that can face 4 or more heros but are not meant to face the party on their own. The first can be detailed up even a bit further, with more optional and conditional powers.
Simplify monster design more: If anything elite and solo monsters need more. Regular and minion monsters should only have a couple of simple useful powers and no more then one that requires tracking, but the leaders need more depth and options. That might mean they have powers they don't use often or against a particular party, but some of that is fine. Just don't clog up the list with a bunch of powers the monster will never use.
Provide an monster algorithm: I play live RPGs to get away from that sort of thing. More space for monster tactics would be nice, particular for the monster that require complex tactics and creatures that normally fight in groups should have some mention of group tactics. Nothing so rigid as a fixed algorithm though.
Make traps more threatening: That one I agree with. The traps are mostly weak, the perceptions to find them trivial and the DC to disarm are not challenging.
Whatever high tier is, make sure monsters can threaten players: The higher tier monsters should be a bit tougher, but really there is only so much the game can do at that level. Epic level characters, by definition, have so many special powers and abilities that all challenges need to be customized to the party. This was true in 3e, and in 4e, and will probably be just as true in 5e. Once you get to the level of permanent stealth and teleport as a move action, there is no such thing as a expected set of powers for the party.
If blind becomes a status effect, please find some way to simplify and balance it better: I think your applying blind wrong, but I don't have the compedium in front of me to check.
The OP above is well thought out, nicely put and relevant. My good judgment tells me to support you even before I read you well thought post.
Now, I can't say I see every point you mention as a problem. Like, I don't see the need for mob algorithem with less monster abilites. I mean pick one. Yet, you've highlighted nicely some concerns. Kudos
Concerning monster algorithms, I view them as a tool to be used or discarded at DM's preference. It would be the same as the treasure table and XP budget. They are meant as guidelines, not hard and fast rules.
Like all people, I am busy. I have also learned through life experience that attention is a limited resource. If I use all of my attention at school (or work or family depending on who you are), I may not have as much left over for parts of the game. Things like story are really fun to me, but things like using the msot effective tactics may not be something that comes naturally to me, or I may doof it up on an off day. If a monster algorithm is included, it is a tool, just like a treasure or XP budget chart to guide me when I don't really know what I am doing. Unless I make the monster myself, the strategy of the monster may not be obvious to me just from reading powers. However, I agree with Bronzebeard that monster simplification would remove the need for my suggestion, but it might be a good idea for solo's that require more effective use of tactics. Again, this is just a discussion not a demand.
For blind, I could be reading it wrong, and I also know my experience is more unique, but it is a status effect that most people do not know completely off the top of their head. Dazed, we know is 1 standard action and you grant combat advantage. Blind, we can understand conceptually, but we may not know all the rules surrounding it. It also seems to have more rules and rolls than other conditions.
Which segways into another request that came to my head
Timing effects so that they don't slow down play: Conditional effects can occur at different parts of a player's turn. "Enemies that start their turn in this aura take 5 damage," "Enemies that end their turn in the aura are slowed". Now, I understand that tactically, something ocurring at the beginning vs. end of someone's turn can be a large difference. However, whenever I have a monster that has an aura or effect that does something to the player at the beginning of their turn (e.g. ongoing damage), slows them down, even if for 5 seconds. I notice this happens plenty of times when players have to do crunch on their turn, and if we were able to move it to the end of their turn, then you could move onto the next player while they are doing the crunch. It is not a matter of removing or mitigating effects, but changing their timing so that more crunch happens outside the players turn. It would speed up play, and engage players outside of their turn.
I don't know how much thought they put into the timing of these kinds of effects (monsters abilities seem to have them in every possible timing), but with some forethought I think they could design them to speed up play.
However, I agree with Bronzebeard that monster simplification would remove the need for my suggestion, but it might be a good idea for solo's that require more effective use of tactics.
The problem is that solo monsters can't be tied to fixed tactics and be effective against smart players. The players are going to know the tactic charts just as well as you and use it against the monster. Complex monsters should have a tactics section on how the creature fights, but a solo monster needs to adjust what it does on the fly to the party it is facing. If the party is loaded down with ranged combatants, the monster may need to stay under cover, if the party is mostly melee, then flying overhead and bombing the party is better. The tactics for a complex monster can't be boiled down to a simple algorithm in something as complex as a RPG. Only the simplest of monsters could use a fixed algorithm in combat, and those are the ones that don't need it anyway.
Yep, they are a bit of a mess. Even worse they subtly changed them in the rules compendium. They took out a few redundant and/or rarely used points where interrupts could occur, without cleaning up all of the powers. This creates a few powers that work in odd ways or seem to do nothing now. Focusing on a handful of consistant timing for these things, along with some better terminology, would help speed things up a little.
Solo monsters can afford to have powers with oddball timing and weird effects, but standard soldiers and such need to be simple and fast.
I almost completly agree with what the OP liked, and see the reason for a few of the changes presented. Among them is not, however, monster simplification; the most complex of monsters, Solos who are gods, have at max 14 powers, few of them being used more than twice in a battle. The common power amount for monsters, including traits, standard/minor/move/free/triggered actions, and other actions, are somewhere between 6 and 9. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.
"I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." --Bill Cosby (1937- )
Vanador: OK. You ripped a gateway to Hell, killed half the town, and raised the dead as feral zombies. We're going to kill you. But it can go two ways. We want you to run as fast as you possibly can toward the south of the town to draw the Zombies to you, and right before they catch you, I'll put an arrow through your head to end it instantly. If you don't agree to do this, we'll tie you this building and let the Zombies rip you apart slowly. Dimitry: God I love being Neutral. 4th edition is dead, long live 4th edition. Salla: opinionated, but commonly right. fun quotesShow