5e Monster Manual – Before the Monsters

mmAt Gencon, WOTC had some advanced copies of the Monster Manual, and they were kind enough to provide me with one.  I won’t be sharing any images or anything from it (which is a shame, because the art is amazing) but I may have a few words to say about it.

 

Before anything else, I’m going to get my one big complaint about the Monster Manual out of the way so I can get on to the enthusiasm.

It is annoying that there is no table of monsters by Challenge Rating (CR). When I actually sat down to use it in play, I quickly discovered that I had no real way to go “I want to put together a challenge for a party of 3rd level characters. What are my options?”.

This is frustrating. And just as people have already done with the spells-by-class, sometime after release an enterprising soul will no doubt  put this information into a google spreadsheet, but it is not a good thing when we are driven to data entry. I sincerely hope that when this book hits the market and WOTC puts up electronic support docs (which they have been really great about so far) this might be on their list.

There’s a smaller annoyance that the encounter construction rules are held off for the DMG, but that is more a matter of impatience than a real problem. it does suggest that the DMG is going to be more than just the book of hacks[1], but given that it’s also going to have the rules for magic items, I guess that’s no surprise.

The exterior of this book is designed in the same fashion as the PHB, including the lovely mix of gloss and matte finish on the back that makes the PHB so pleasant to pick up. The fire/banner on the spine is thankfully the same size as the PHB, despite the MM being a thicker book (352 pages, vs the PHB’s 316), but this is accomplished by leaving a bit of space to the sides of the image (some of which is necessary, and would probably not merit mention if I were not already looking).

The cover illustration is less painted than the PHB, but it has a clear sense of action and (surprisingly for a monster book) has characters placed more prominently, albeit running from a quite terrifying looking beholder.

Like the PHB, the range of colors of this piece is rather limited, but where the PHB was lots of red, this is lots of blue-grey. It struck me that if this was intentional, it’s a good trick to differentiate the three core books at a glance. Is it red? PHB. Grey-blue? Monster manual. So, of course, I went online to check out the preview images for the DMG and I guess it looks kind of purplish? Different, I guess, but probably not different enough to suggest the intent that I was looking for.

The trade dress and presentation is identical to the PHB, so I won’t go over that territory again. That said, the interior once again contains the full image used on the cover, which reveals something that maybe I don’t get, lacking any real training in the arts. There seems to be a point that draws the eye, which is basically the lightning strike in the middle of the piece. Looked at as a whole, that is the first thing you see, not the Beholder. Once put on the book, the cover centers on the beholder, and that works, but from that perspective, the lightning (which is close to the spine) distracts more than anything else. It also means we have a situation similar to the PHB where the image on the back cover is something interesting rendered dull by having no color contrast with anything around it.

But lest that sound too picky, let me restate: The Beholder on the cover looks scary as all heck. If it’s not going to be a dragon[2], then the Beholder is probably the second best choice.

The non-monster content in this book is pretty brief. Title, Credits, Contents, 8 pages of rules and 2 pages of (delightfully illustrated) index. And since most of the rules revolve around how to read a stat block, that seems just about right.

It actually opens with a nicely evocative introduction and explanation of the book which includes an acknowledgment that capturing the history and nature of the game is a “warts and all” kind of process. That may sound critical, but it actually warms my heart, because the simple reality is that monster books are weird, and full of crazy stuff that sometimes makes no sense, and that’s part of the fun[3].

The section on how to use this book is straightforward enough, but the small bit on “what is a monster” is a nice up front acknowledgment that not everything in these pages is necessarily monstrous, but that they are providing stats for things which potentially can be fought or killed. There might be a bit of an implicit comment in there, but they seem decently straightfaced about it.

The next section is roughly a page about where monsters dwell. It’s nice because while it starts with dungeons and the Underdark, it also includes wilderness, towns & cities, underwater and even the outer planes, offering a handful of colorful examples of dangerous places. This is evocative, and one could absolutely mine it for ideas, but I think it serves a rather different purpose.

4e was very focused on the return to the dungeon, and was at its best when an environment could be represented by a bounded, gridded surface. It was not monomaniacal in this focus – there was still lots of other fun stuff – but it spoke to what the game was good at. This description is basically planting a little bit of a flag in the ground and saying “Dungeons are important, sure, but it’s about the broader sense of wonder. This game might be more about the fact that the dungeon is in the skull of a dead god than the specifics of a particular encounter.[4]

After this we get into the actual stat block information, opening with size. I admit it’s pretty weird that a game which has otherwise moved away from grids describes size in terms of squares. It would be funny if it weren’t actually kind of a pain, because it’s not actually informative in some contexts. Setting aside the fact that it makes horses (and centaurs) square, it means I don’t have a context for how big something oddly shaped like, say, a carrion crawler really is. I guess they did this in the PHB too, but I cared less at the time since I wasn’t trying to actually imagine the monsters just then.

There’s a nice sidebar here about modifying creatures that suggests that we’ll be seeing variants and templates in this book. This intrigues me. Variants are straightforward enough, but templates are a whole other thing – are they talking 3e style templates, where I could turn a kobold into a killing machine by making him vampiric, fiery and arcane? Or something else? I am not sure what to hope for – the old templates were neat, but they totally went weird places, and not always in a good way. We shall see.

Types are general monster categories (Beasts, Constructs, Dragons and so on) and while they have short descriptions, in practice these are keywords to hang other mechanics off of. Clerics and turn undead. Druids can transform into beasts. These categories also can have tags, which are effectively subcategories, so goblin might be a tag on humanoid. These just extend the keyword functionality, so that your dagger of goblin-slaying knows what to slay.

Alignment in the stat blocks is explicitly called out as the default, with the DM free to tweak it as needed. This is nice, and goes hand in hand with the fact that some alignment entries may reflect tendencies (or no tendency at all) rather than just assigning a value. This isn’t something that makes a big difference from scene to scene, but it explicitly opens a door into a more nuanced playspace for players who want less clear cut alignment in their opposition.

Armor Class is what it sounds like, but I admit this is the one thing I skipped ahead on, and checked if the game put its money where its mouth is regarding AC, and it seems it did. The Tarrasque has a 30 and a few powerful extraplanar beings have low 20s, but by and large, ACs remain under 20. So, clearly, there is something to this whole bounded accuracy thing.

Hit points are similarly straightforward, save for one fun gimmick – hit die now correlates directly to size. Tiny creatures roll d4, gargantuan ones d20. I admit, I dig this a lot – a large number of rules to reflect the nuance of size have been stripped out of the game (and rightly so) but this rule provides a simple way to reflect the potency of big creatures (and the relative fragility of pixies and the like) without a lot of extra bookkeeping. Very nice.

Speed is as expected, with notes on other modes of movement (flight, burrowing and so on). No maneuverability classes for flyers, and that’s just as well. I did not need that particular throwback.

Creatures have stats, as they did in 3e, and it’s definitely a convenience (since it allows easy inference of values for ad hocrolls), but this also reveals something very interesting and telling about stats – they seem bounded in a manner similar to armor. That is, the highest stats I’ve seen are 30s, and those are for things like the strength of the Kraken or Tarrasque (Storm Giants are a 29). Scores over 20 are more common for strength than they are for AC, but that feels right, since it’s largely things like the Elephant having a 22 strength. That should be superhuman, but importantly, it’s not vastly superhuman. Bears have a 19 strength, for example – your fighter may literally end up stronger than a bear.

I love this for the simple reason that this actually supports the idea that stats other than 18s might matter. In a universe where a bear has a 19 strength, starting with a 15 or 16 feels a lot less crappy than it does in one where you know your only path to success as a fighter revolves around finding a girdle of giant strength.

The saving throw section is interesting because, as described, it’s not about the bonus but is rather about any modifiers the creature may have. What it says is that in the absence of any information, monster saves are always Stat + Proficiency. This is a little nasty, since it means monsters are better at saves than characters (who only get proficiency for a couple saves).

In fact, it was nasty enough that I looked ahead at the monster entries, and I admit to some confusion. Some monsters list some of their saves, and when they do , they’re in keeping with that rule (stat + Prof), but what’s weird is that they don’t list all of their saves in those situations, and I have no idea what that means.

For a quick illustration, look at the Beholder, whose save entry is “Int +8, Wis +7, Cha +8”. Those numbers are correct for stat+prof, but I don’t know why the others aren’t mentioned. Is it implicitly supposed to not be getting proficiency with the ones not listed? That seems at odds with this paragraph (and the fact that many monsters list no saves, as this describes), so I’m definitely confused.

EDIT: I misunderstood something in my read of the saving throws section. Good clarification is in the comments. 

Speaking of proficiency bonuses, yes, monsters use them too, and they use the same table as characters, albeit extended up to level 30 (interesting, that). This is relevant for saves, skills (yes, monsters have skills) and attacks, but I appreciate it most as a multitool. When in doubt, if a monster is doing something appropriate to its monster-ness, it’s good to have a general bonus to apply.

Monster senses are what one might expect. Blindsight, darkvision, tremorsense and truesight. If anything, the list seems short. Languages are also self-explanatory, though there’s a nice note about telepathy here.

Challenge Rating was the part I was most curious to see, but it turns out it works almost like it previously did. The baseline is similar – 4 characters of level X compares to CR X – but the difference seems to be resources. Where previously it seemed to say that an equivalent CR encounter should burn about 20% of your resources, 5e seems to suggest it’s a bit tougher than that, with the yardstick being “not deadly”.

To me, at least, that suggests the cost may be rather more than 20%. It’s also consistent with my general sense of CRs being more potent at lower levels, as well as my sense that it’s not quite so precise a game of resource management anymore.

Also, if there’s an underlying math to the XP reward by CR, I admit it eludes me. But more is better, and that’s what counts.

Now we start getting into the special stuff. Spellcasting and powers, distinguishing innate spellcasting from actual magic use, which largely follows the casting rules that players use. There’s a fascinating little note about psionics – it’s just a tag on other spellcasting abilities with no mechanical impact (except removing the need for material components) but I know many of us are curious what’s behind that door.

We also get the basics of attacks, including multiattacks and ammunition. There’s a very interesting distinction made between a “creature” and a “target” which is apparently relevant for some attacks, but I’ll have to see the critters to really get that one (though I assume it’s related to property damage).

There are also sraightforward rules for powers limited by X/day or Recharge X (roll as d6 at star of cycle, if you roll X, power recharges). I admit, I’m curious if any monsters have exclusive recharge values (so death ray recharges on a 3–4, flame blast on a 5–6) but I guess I’ll have to see.

There are also some notes about equipment, but I breezed by them because the next section looks really interesting. It’s about Legendary creatures, and it looks to describe legendary actions and lair actions. These had been obliquely mentioned in the PHB (largely as things you could not replicate with spells), so I was super curious.

Legendary actions are, apparently, a limited set of actions that a legendary creature can take outside of their normal turn, explicitly after another character has taken a turn. This seemed interesting, but hard to envision, so I looked at a few legendary critters to get a sense of it. A dragon, for example might have three legendary actions – make a perception check, attack with his tail and buffet with his wings. He takes his action during the fight, then Mindy the Mighty whacks the dragon with his sword. At the end of Mindy’s turn, the Dragon might opt to buffet Mark, knocking him away. Next, Sam the Swift plants a few arrows in the creature. At the end of her turn, the Dragon can take another legendary action – it can make a tail attack or take a perception check, but it can’t do another wing buffet until it’s taken another turn

Obviously, this is very powerful. Any kind of extra action can substantially impact a fight, so at first glance, this seems very whoah. But the trick is in the timing. This is not – in total – many more actions than creatures like ancient dragons got in past editions, but previously they were all front loaded, so the dragon’s turn was just a big explosion of dice rolling which was lethal, but sometimes cumbersome. Spreading these things out throughout the fight keeps the dragon dangerous, but prevents that moment of “ok, it’s the dragon’s turn, I’m going to get drinks”. And as a bonus, by spreading it out throughout the fight, it makes the initiative order still feel dynamic because even if it’s a party up against a single enemy, the action remains in motion.

All in all? Great tech. And flexible. For all that it’s applied to huge creatures, there’s nothing to keep it from being used at lower levels to reflect interesting and dangerous adversaries, especially if the legendary actions aren’t attacks. This is tech I really look forward to seeing deployed in interesting ways.

And speaking of tech, I am even more intrigued by the legendary’s creature’s lair, which has two elements: Lair Actions and Regional Effects.

As described, they sound quite dry. On initiative count 20, the legendary creature can use some magical feature of its lair, presumably to do something cool. Hard to say exactly what those look like from this description, but I’m flashing back to Vesicant (one of my favorite Dungeon adventures) and thinking about how it might apply, and the prospect intrigues.

Regional effects seem to be a mechanization of something that was already part of the color of some creatures – when a Green Dragon sets up camp, its corrupts the forest, etc. Again, hard to see what’s exciting about them from this description, but I’m curious to see some examples.

And, I should not (to look ahead a bit) having seen examples of lair actions and regional effects, all I can say is HOLY CRAP, AWESOME. But for that, we need to actually get to the monsters, and that is something for tomorrow.

Now, all that said, it’s worth noting what’s missing from these rules – standard elements. There is no page of rules for comon effects like regeneration or specific flavors of damage resistance, no default skills for particular creature types, not even default rules for types (like undead being immune to charm or sleep).

If you’re used to the 3e manner of creating monsters, this seems unintuitive and wasteful. Standardizing monster abilities allows you to streamline monster creation and balance by just cranking out templates, and without that standardization, each monster needs to have everything written in from scratch. That’s a lot more work.

However, one could make the case that the downside of the template model is that it can be a little bit dull – the value of consistency makes it hard to make a monster that deviates from the norm. If monsters are built as one-offs, then you need to make each one interesting, and while that’s more work, it can produce unexpected results (hopefully, in a good way).

Which approach is better is largely a matter of taste, but the absence of standardization is a really interesting decision and an explicit step away from 3e and, arguably, an explicit step towards the 2e model (one could argue that it’s in the direction of 4e, but 4e had its own flavors of standardization).

Still getting my head around the implications of this, but this is something that I’m going to keep in my back pocket as I read through the monsters and look at recurring patterns to see just how standard or non-standard this really is.


  1. I know there’s actually a preview of some DMG content up online, but I have not yet looked, and won’t until I finish the MM. Because reasons.  ↩
  2. Huh. In fact, no dragons on any of the core 3 books (unless there’s one on the back cover of the DMG). That’s a curious choice.  ↩
  3. And here I note: The first D&D product I ever bought for myself was a copy of the Monster Manual at Waldenbooks. I had gotten the red box as a gift, but knew that there was also an “advanced” dungeons and dragons, and I wanted to get me some of that. But having no idea where to begin, I bought the one that looked cool. And I loved it.  ↩
  4. Yes, maybe I’m reading a bit too much into it, but this is definitely in line with my play so far too.  ↩

30 thoughts on “5e Monster Manual – Before the Monsters

  1. Carl Cravens

    Probably worth noting… the beholder is one of the few creatures WotC retained as a trademark when they released material under the OGL. Anybody can put a dragon on their book’s cover… only WotC can put a Beholder on it.

    I find that odd, that the iconic monster for Dungeons & DRAGONS isn’t the dragon, but the beholder.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Definitely odd, but a better choice than if it had been something obscure, like a Behir. Even if you don’t know what a beholder is, it looks pretty impressively monstrous.

      Reply
    2. Fred Hicks

      Dungeons and Dragons is the secondary branding at this point. The topline above the title doesn’t read Dungeons & Dragons, it reads D&D. My read is that they’re distancing themselves from both dungeons and dragons in order to suggest that D&D serves a broader range of fantasy than that.

      Reply
  2. Jon

    “The saving throw section is interesting because, as described, it’s not about the bonus but is rather about any modifiers the creature may have. What it says is that in the absence of any information, monster saves are always Stat + Proficiency. This is a little nasty, since it means monsters are better at saves than characters (who only get proficiency for a couple saves).”

    I believe this is incorrect. I don’t have the MM, but the Basic Rules for Dungeon Masters (p. 4) says:

    “The Saving Throws entry is reserved for creatures that are adept at resisting certain kinds of effects.
    For example, a creature that isn’t easily charmed or frightened might gain a bonus on its Wisdom saving
    throws. Most creatures don’t have special saving throw bonuses, in which case this section is absent.”

    I think that when there IS an entry in the Saving Throws section, it is the addition of Proficiency to the monster’s attribute modifier.

    “A saving throw bonus is the sum of a monster’s relevant ability modifier and its proficiency bonus, which is determined by the monster’s challenge rating (as shown in the Proficiency Bonus by Challenge Rating table).”

    This passage is directly under the former, right? And it implies that when there IS a saving throw entry, it is calculated as described. But otherwise, you use their attribute modifiers. An Adult Red Dragon gets its +6 Proficiency in Dex (+6 with 10 Dex), Con (+13 with 25 Con), Wis (+7 with 13 Wis) and Cha (+11 with 21 Cha) saves, but its Str save is still just +8 (27 Str) and its Int save is +3 (16 Int).

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      You may well be correct, and I might have been thrown off by the reference to charm and fear. As I read the entry, it sounded more like it was supposed to me information specific to effects like those (so, advantage on saves vs charm, for example). However, if we accept that charm and fear were just mentioned as examples, not in their mechanical sense, then your read makes sense (and certainly accounts for the entries). In that case, the rule would appear to be, that they only get proficiency bonus when the save is mentioned.

      If so, that’s a little weird, and makes me really wonder about the monsters with no save entry, because now the reverse seems true: many monster saves are now kind of crazily low. However, there are fewer of those, so having looked it over, I think you’re read is the right one. Thank you.

      Reply
      1. Jon

        I agree! PC save DCs are standardized at 8+Proficiency+Stat mod. So at level 1, they’ll be 13, and they’ll go up to 19. Monster saves, even with a 30 stat, are going to cap at +16 (30 stat and Proficiency) and generally hover between -1 and +4. At level 1, this makes spells about 50-60% accurate, but it’s going to climb as those wizards jack their Int to 20 as soon as elvishly possible!

        It seems like monsters are meant to go down hard against spells unless they’re iconic badasses (dragons, giants) or it makes sense for them to have a higher save (Mummy Wis, Flying Sword Dex). I’m doing a very careful read of the PHB and finding a lot of spells that used to be “save or lose” in 3rd edition, and entirely eliminated in 4th edition, to be back, but weakened.

        For instance, Suggestion – a classic save-or-lose against anything not immune to it in 3rd edition – is back, but it’s been “nerfed” by making it “Concentration (up to 8 hours)” duration. You can get an ogre on your side, but the ogre’s allies don’t have to attack their former ally – they just have to disrupt your concentration. This enhances the “aggro on the wizard” dynamic nicely, especially because the wizard can’t be concentrating on any awesome buffs (like Invisibility) while sustaining it! And naturally they’ll know who enchanted their friend — you held out a snake’s tongue and an oily honeycomb, consumed them with magical energy, waggled your fingers, and TOLD their friend to fight on your side. Ogres aren’t THAT stupid 🙂

        So I think monsters (except iconic badasses) are going to get hit with spells a heck of a lot; but I think spells are weaker than they were in 3rd edition. I think it’s still going to shift things so that save-or-lose casters will start to grow in power relative to non-casters at higher levels. But it might take longer than 3rd edition for the quadratic wizards and druids to outpace their fighter and rogue companions.

        It seems like a good trade off: Some people couldn’t stand playing save-or-lose casters in 3rd edition even though they were probably the most potent characters in the game, simply because 30% or 40% of the time, your turn was a whiff. So it seems like 5e fixed this: Most of the time, save or lose casters are going to be “hitting” with their spells, but even the classic save or lose spells aren’t so much “instant lose” anymore.

        Reply
        1. Rob Donoghue Post author

          There’s also a fair amount of non-spell stuff that leans on the saves. The beholder came to mind in this regard – its strength save is something like -5, which means that knockback effects are largely able to knock beholders around like whiffle balls, which is awesome, but also is only going to help you so much!

          Reply
          1. Jon

            Oh true; Battle Master fighters do a lot of “save-or-suck” attacks that damage and also disarm or prone enemies. So maybe the Battle Master will “age” better than the Champion at higher levels.

            Great discussion!

      2. Jon

        Oh, and magic resistance grants Advantage on saves. Some people conceptualize it as +4 (since that’s what it’s equivalent to), but I like to remind people that Advantage means “only rolling under 11 25% of the time.” I would guess higher level monsters are a lot more likely to get magic resistance. But then, you have the MM, not me 🙂

        Reply
        1. Rob Donoghue Post author

          And oh, ye gods, as we’ve been dealing with MR in my 1e game, I cannot express how happy I am with a nice streamlined rule for this.

          Reply
    2. James

      This helps clarify a few things. However, I guess I have to assume the MM has typos then as this formula doesn’t work for the Kraken for example which, despite being CR 23, has a +8 proficiency bonus (vs. +7 according to the chart on pg. 8).

      Reply
  3. Kurt Rauscher

    Great observations as always! I was curious about lair actions, they sound neat. . The legendary actions seem like they’ll keep “solo” monsters interesting and keep the action flowing in a fight.

    Your comments about standard elements fits with what I’ve read in the PHB and online documents. It seems that effects on specific “types” are detailed in the spell or ability’s effect, right down to comments in Cure Wounds about it not affecting undead.

    Reply
  4. Paul (@princejvstin)

    The old 3E templates were neat in theory, but like giving monsters class levels, it was an awful lot of work to add to a monster without a lot of payoff.

    Reply
  5. Jon

    “However, one could make the case that the downside of the template model is that it can be a little bit dull”

    I would say the downside of the template model is that all the rules for a monster are not there on the monster’s page. In 3rd edition, you had to look up the Undead creature Type, and also the Mindless trait (for a Zombie) or Incorporeal subtype (for a Shadow) and maybe also the template (for a Lich of Vampire), or, often, more than one of these. A Ghost had energy drain, a template, undead type, incorporeal subtype, spell-like abilities, and class levels – ug! All in all, the number of words of rules for a Ghost could easily be more than this blog post! 4th edition put all the rules on the stat block, so a ghoul (for instance) had “Immune disease, poison; Resist 10 necrotic.”

    5e continues this trend, but brings back a lot of the immunities undead and other non-living creatures used to have.

    In 5e, some spells say that they don’t work on undead — so the player knows this. (E.g. from Command: “The spell has no effect if the target is undead…”) And undead seem to be immune to other spells (e.g. from the Ghoul: “Condition Immunities charmed, exhaustion, poisoned”).

    Charmed is a condition in 5e, so Dominate and Charm spells key it, and spells that don’t exactly charm, but come close, say “Creatures that can’t be charmed are immune to this effect” (from Suggestion; it also appears in Irresistible Dance and some others).

    So it could be that there is standardization, but it’s not the kind of 3rd edition standardization that requires the DM to look up rules in three different places to know how to run an encounter with a ghoul or the 4th edition standardization that erased a lot of “hard control” like Suggestion entirely (a lot of 4e battle charm spells just had a monster make move or make one attack against its ally, and that was it).

    If there is standardization, it could be that all undead get “Damage Immunities poison; Condition Immunities poisoned.” I’m a little shocked that monster creation rules aren’t in the Monster Manual. I assume they’re in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, then — Mike Mearls said there would be monster creation rules like 3rd and 4th edition.

    Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      I think there’s definitely a lot to be gained from moving the cognitive load for certain things onto the player, if only to simplify bookkeeping, but you’re right that it’s not entirely willy-nilly. I just don’t know what the underlying pattern is yet (though I hope the DMG will shine some light on that).

      Reply
  6. Bryant

    Despite the rumor that 5e is ignoring everything 4e did, it’s interesting to see some of the lessons of 4e applied — legendary actions weren’t called that in 4e, but they were a key development in later 4e design for epic play.

    Reply
  7. Zooroos

    Excellent conversation! This whole DnD series reads like a “D&D Next for Dummies” to a newbie like me (new to DnD, mind you, I have my years in this hobby too!). I keep repressing many “Ahhs” and “Oh, I get it” while reading the whole thing. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Hans

    …The encounter construction rules *aren’t* in the MM? Other than having monsters, to be honest, that was the killer app of the book for me. Very strange.

    Reply
    1. Alex

      To be fair though, I don’t think that the MM has ever had encounter construction rules. From what I recall they have been in the DMG since 1e. Unless there was a reason for expecting them in the MM?

      Reply
      1. Rob Donoghue Post author

        I’m actually ok with the bulk of it being in the DMG, but a little more of the logic behind challenge ratings would have been handy. Are two CR3 creatures a CR4 encounter? Four CR3 creatures? Just stuff like that, since it’s an attribute on the monsters.

        Reply
        1. Alex

          Did you ever come across the MonsterMark? Invented by Doug Turnbull in early White Dwarf magazine for 1e and earlier D&D, it was a standardised way of determining the threat capability of a creature – you calculated a value based on the average damage which it would do against an AC 5 (chain) fighter during the time it would take a 1st level fighter with a sword to kill it. It was a useful way of determining just how dangerous monsters were in those days, and was fun to calculate too.

          It would be interesting to see whether it would be practical to do this again for 5e (the ‘bounded accuracy’ might make it a meaningful option again). I might have a play around with it once I’ve got MM, and see how the results compare with the CR.

          Reply
        2. Saul

          That stuff is in the free Basic rules, so it’s pretty trivial that it’s not in the MM. One reason is probably space limitations. They already had to increase the page count of the book just to fit all the beasties in!

          Reply
  9. Mark S.

    Thanks again for doing this series!

    Regarding your footnote about purchasing the MM at Waldenbooks (RIP) – I think the Monster Manual was the first AD&D book to be released by TSR. Unlike today’s planned staggered releases, TSR did not get the AD&D PHB out the door until the next year!

    Reply
  10. Destrachan

    “Definitely odd, but a better choice than if it had been something obscure, like a Behir. Even if you don’t know what a beholder is, it looks pretty impressively monstrous.”

    D&D can’t put copyright on the Behir, as they are taken from mythology, Celtic myths have the behir (more often called beithir) in their free-to-use library.

    Same with Ettercap (Arrach) and some other monsters people probaby think are from D&D themselves.
    They based the Bulette on a mixture of myth-monsters and the Destrachan has much links to the Bukavac from Slavic mythology.

    Reply

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