When they announced One D&D, the next edition that is beyond editions, I was skeptical. I started calling it 5.5e, because it was supposed to be “backward compatible.” However, now seeing the playtests, and the directions they are wanting it to go, it already does not seem to be backwards compatible, because of the different bonuses from races, backgrounds, how abilities work, etc. In that case, let’s just make the game the Sixth Edition, and be willing to change more.
This is the final article, the Monster Manual, find the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide for more.
There should be a given way to modify monsters for your game. There are a few moments where there is a variant of the monster, and so you can look and figure out how to turn other monsters in that way, but I wish it was more standard.
One place it does this well is with the Dracolich and Shadow Dragon templates, where it literally just tells you what to add. But then in the zombie section, it shows you an Ogre Zombie and a Beholder Zombie, but you would have to put the two next to each other and play a game of I, Spy to find all the differences. Just have a Zombie template like they did with the Dragons. Have a Boss template to show how to make a leader of a group, instead of just the Goblin Boss or a Grick Alpha.
NO MORE ALPHABETICAL ORDER
It makes no sense to order monsters alphabetically, unless the ONLY goal of the book is to look up highlighted words from published adventures.
Instead, break it down by Type first, Environment second, Subtype third, Challenge Rating fourth, Alphabetical last. This book is only for the Dungeon Master, to find what kinds of threats they should throw at the players. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to order the monsters by name, because you don’t know what monsters you should use yet, that’s why you have the book.
This will also help if a DM wants to take an adventure that is meant for a different level group, and make those adjustments. Does the story call for a bunch of Ghouls, but you are higher level? Look at the next monster in the book and find a Wight! If you are a lower level, look at the previous monster in the book and find a Zombie. It just makes it easier to scale every combat and keep a similar flavor.
If you start with type, that is usually determined by the style of play you are looking for. The categories below are based on frequency in the Monster Manual:
Now I wouldn’t order it that way exactly, but that certainly would make more sense to me than straight alphabetical. After that, then I’d go in by environment, which really only applies to Beasts and Monstrosities, but they should absolutely be split up.
Again, that order can be shifted, but the point remains. Subtypes are super popular in these Creature Types:
- Humanoid – Any Race, Human, Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Goblinoid, Orc, Other
- Fiend – Demon, Devil, Other
- Undead – Corporeal (Intelligent, Unintelligent), Incorporeal (Intelligent, Unintelligent)
- Elemental – Water, Earth, Fire, Air, Other
- Dragon – Chromatic, Metallic, Other
If you think about it, the Demons, Devils, Dragons, and Giants are already grouped like this. Why stop there? Then, you can list them by Challenge Rating, but have support monsters under their prime types. Again, this is already present sometimes.
- Death Tyrant
Many people already know that an Intellect Devourer serves a Mind Flayer, even though it’s not listed together, but did you know that a Piercer grows into a Roper? Did you know that goblins ride on worgs? These ideas would be so much more common if they were listed together in the book, without you having to read all the lore of every monster to learn it.
I want to bring Tactics back in the game. This can sound silly, because to some, D&D is already one of the most tactical TtRPGs on the market. However, 4e’s amazing tactical combat got so overshadowed by their “gamifying” language, that we lost a lot of great combat design.
First, I want Spellcasters and Martial classes to have inverse paths. Martials should go from generic to specialized, and spellcasters should go from specialized to generic.
When you start as a Level 1 Martial character, it should feel like you can swing a weapon around decently enough, but that you are pretty generic. Then, by the time you reach the endgame, it should feel like you are the greatest combatant with your chosen weapon and fighting style the world has ever seen. You have become so specialized, that no beast can best you, so long as you have your preferred weapon and fighting style.
When you start as a Level 1 Spellcaster, it should feel like you just finished your first round of classes, where you learned a specific school and style of magic, but outside of that environment, you really don’t know what to do. Then, as you grow, you become more adaptable, and learn how to borrow from multiple schools of magic, into being someone who can be placed in any situation, and you know the spell to get out safely. You go from a Transmutation novice (for example), to the Ultimate Magus.
I want environmental features to be a more prominent part of combat and tactics. Maybe on Initiative count 0, a “random” event happens that alters the playing field. Perhaps this could include weather, or involving bystanders or another group, or that everyone is slowly shifting toward a more diverse battlefield, in order to find cover. Random tables for the win.
I want to bring back the Bloodied condition from 4e as well. When anyone reaches half health, something happens because of it. Some creatures, like the Gnoll, when bloodied gained a bonus to damage rolls, as part of their “Blood Fury” trait. Or a Barbarian’s Rage can only activate once they’ve reached Bloodied, but then the Rage is even stronger. In my game, I use a “Fight or Flight Reaction,” where once anyone becomes Bloodied, they can use their reaction to either Fight (free Attack of Opportunity) or Flight (Move action without provoking and Attack of Opportunity). This allows the fight to become more dynamic as well.
In fact, just more reactions. Combat should have an element of Chaos to it. It also helps players from “checking out” when it’s not their turn. There could be a reaction anywhere during someone else’s turn, so it incentivizes paying attention.
The monsters should also have tactics on their page. When there is a 3rd party source that becomes as popular as The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, you know that the community is looking for that content. So bring Keith Ammann onboard to help design monster tactics.
Lastly, one of the biggest jokes is that the game assumes that you’ll have six to eight medium or hard encounters in an “Adventuring Day.” This so rarely happens, unless you are doing a dungeon crawl, and even then the party might decide to just take a Long Rest after four fights, so they can get full health and spell slots. Well, what if there was an incentive for having more combat encounters in a day. Special abilities that only become available when you are on your 3rd/5th/7th encounter. Maybe Spellcasters are granted a single spell slot from the level above their standard maximum (so a level 4 Wizard gets a single Level 3 spell). Maybe Martial characters get a free Action Surge. I don’t have specific answers, but I want there to be a mechanical reason to keep fighting, keep pushing yourselves, only take a Short Rest and open up the next room. It is dangerous, but your characters wouldn’t want to spend as much time in a dungeon as players are willing to, because they aren’t the ones sleeping on the cold hard ground tonight. Make players want to go faster.