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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yet Another Lame Legends & Lore Column - A Walk Down Monster Lane (D&D 5e)


(It gets harder and harder to read these columns, because there is less and less being said of any import.  Monte used to give us "Marketing Hype" and Mike was giving us "Mike Mearl's Houserule Collection", but Greg is giving us "Bleh!")


A Walk Down Monster Lane
Legends and Lore
Greg Bilsland
Mike's out on vacation (just a quick thought, but these columns are getting shorter by the week and saying less on top of that.  Couldn't Mike just have put a column or two into the hopper?), so I'm taking over Legends & Lore this week to talk about monsters. As a producer in D&D R&D, I'm less involved in the design and development of the game, and more in charge of planning and developing product ideas (translation - I think up more shit to separate you from your money). As a result, I'm hoping to use this opportunity to gather feedback on what people would like to see in the way of monsters for the next iteration of the game—whether it comes in the form of a Monster Manual®, or something else entirely. (hey, lets do the AD&D 2e idea again.  You know, the oversized binder that completely took over the gaming table and had pages that started falling out after the third use, because the paper was cheap and never meant to be used constantly in a 3 ring binder.  Lets do something like THAT again!)
"Outlandish Kobold"
by Ryan Sumo

The original 1974 "white box" included around fifty different types of monsters (not including mundane animals), many of which had a few variations. Most of the monsters didn't have illustrations, nor did they need them. Nearly all of the monsters were recognizable, inspired either by classic myth or fantasy literature. Some of the most outlandish monsters that appeared in the white box are now staples of D&D—oozes and slimes, purple worms, and, of course, kobolds. (kobolds outlandish?)

The basic set in 1977 provided a much more robust creature selection, adding to the core of the game many creatures that had appeared in supplements, including such iconic specimens as the mind flayer, the umber hulk, the beholder, and the rust monster. The AD&D Monster Manual consolidated hundreds of monsters into a single book, delivering to Dungeon Masters a seemingly endless supply of threats. (yep, with just enough text to set the flavor, and just enough art to visualize what needed to be visualized)

If you're a Dungeon Master, and you're like me, then you can never have enough monsters. I must have the Monster Manualand its sequels. In fact (and at the risk of showing my youth), the Monstrous Manual from 2nd Edition was the first D&D book I ever bought, even before I knew how to play D&D (that was the book to correct the binder that came out previously.  the fucker should have been given out for free to the suckers that bought the POS binder upon release). I simply wanted the book because I was fascinated by the monster lore. Even though I had no idea what the statistics meant—I still hadn't figured out THAC0—I could tell from reading about the tarrasque that it was a badass.

So why the trip down monster memory lane? For me, the playtesting process is as much about figuring out the best D&D product offerings (listen, i know D&D is a business, and the hope on the WotC side is it becomes a big business again, and there is something kinda refreshing to be asked "what can we offer you so you will give us all of your cash" but shouldn't you be working towards a working game system first?) as it is about getting feedback on the rules and mechanics of the game. We aim to meet the desires of the D&D community (we desire your money.  please desire our products). Although it's still too early in the design and playtesting process to discuss product X or Y, we'd like to start collecting some general sentiments, such as what monsters are essential to D&D, how many monsters you need if you're a beginning or advanced Dungeon Master, and so forth.  (i'm going to toss out a novel thought - how about including a system {in addition to a Monster Book} about designing your own monsters?  nah, wtf am I thinking?  there's no money in that)

insert survey link - not!

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