Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Many Monsters

Allow me to propose a heretical thought: Dungeons & Dragons has too many monsters . I think, deep down, we all know this is true, but let's consider it more carefully.

The first AD&D book I bought, shortly after Christmas 1979, was the Monster Manual. I ordered it from the Sears catalog, if you can believe it. Talk about a different world. And, of course, I loved the book, spending hours and hours reading and re-reading its entries and poring over its illustrations (and not just the succubus). In many ways, it was probably the singlemost important D&D book I ever owned.

Yet, if I were to go through the book systematically and check off every monster within its 112 pages that I'd ever used in an adventure, I conservatively estimate that it'd be no more than half of them. If I expanded my search to include both the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II, I suspect that percentage would drop well below 50%. Why is this?

Part of it is that, even in my younger days, my conception of the D&D "world" was always a measured one. That is, I strove for some degree of plausibility and that meant I had to reject the inclusion of certain monsters, either because they were simply too outlandish for me or because I already had more than enough monsters in a given ecological niche.

As you can see, Gygaxian naturalism isn't something I just made up for a blog post, but something I intuited from reading D&D itself, including the Monster Manual. In the breadth and depth of its entries, the Monster Manual gave me the tools to be able to create a coherent world, at least within the bounds of the shared fantasy of the game. I had a full array of predators, prey, and scavengers to build multiple fantastic ecologies and indeed did so.

Now, one one level, that's a wonderful thing, because it meant the Monster Manual was a true "toolkit" book, providng referees with a wide array of tools for almost any job, including many jobs they'll never undertake. Had the Monster Manual been the only monster book for AD&D, I probably wouldn't have proposed my heretical thought. The problem only really becomes clear once you start adding more and more monster books to the game, the end result of which is a rising tide of incoherence, at least if you try and find a place for all the monsters in these books.

More than that, though, I think a smaller selection of monsters provides a stronger foundation for building a fantasy setting. Including too many monsters is a great temptation, even for experienced referees; doing so runs the risk of overwhelming the "groundedness" that I feel is vital to a good fantasy. Likewise, monsters, like magic items, lose much of their appeal when they become merely entries in a catalog rather than occasions for wonder. As D&D acquired ever more monsters in hardcover format, this became a problem I encountered often, both in my own campaigns and in those of my friends and acquaintances.

For myself, I must admit to preferring the smaller monster lists of the three little brown books, Holmes, and Moldvay/Cook. Their listings are broad enough to give a lot of variety and deep enough to challenge characters of many levels of experience. To these lists can be added individual "specialty monsters" on an adventure-by-adventure basis rather than in the more magisterial approach favored by the AD&D hardbacks. I personally think this approach is more easily manageable, leads to greater coherence, and contributes to that sense of wonder that the best fantasy engenders in us.

Lest there be any misunderstandings, I am most emphatically not saying I hate monsters, monster books, or the original Monster Manual. Judging from past experience, some people take what I say in my musings to be dogmatic statements when they are in fact tentative thoughts expressing my current (often incomplete) feelings on a given subject. In this case, my feeling is simply that, far from losing anything, D&D would probably gain a great deal in terms of focus, consistency, and fidelity to its pulp fantasy literary forebears, if it pared down the list of its monsters to something much smaller than the bloated mess it acquired over the years.

Am I wrong to think this?

71 comments:

  1. I'd agree that it has too many standardized monsters, yeah. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Since there's no requirement that all of the given monsters in a book be used in a single campaign, I'm actually fine with the current amount of monsters. I can be selective and maintain feel--but then in a subsequent campaign I can use an entirely different palette of monsters for a different feel.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I don't agree at all. I don't look at the Monster Manual, etc. as telling me what monsters are in "the D&D world"... and surely not "my D&D world". I don't take the Monster Manual to imply a setting or world at all. It's just a bunch of critters than I can use or not depending on if I like them.

    The more critters you give me, the more chances that I'll find things that I actually like.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm more of a hardcore Runequest fan than an OD&D'er, but one of the things I've always liked about RQ was the lack of endless monster supplements. Like you with D&D, I never ran short of monsters to use.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree completely. When I was still playing AD&D, deep into the 2E days after Monstrous Compendium had come out, I had decided that the various monster lists represented a catalog of what was possible, but that it was up to the GM to pick and choose what really existed in his or her setting. I liked this because it forced me to think about why the critter was there, which added to the believability of the campaign world.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree. There was a good article waay back in Dragon #100 or so which reminded DMs that common monsters are common. Most encounters should be with orcs and wolves. This makes the rare encounters much more exciting.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think that Holmes has the most concise yet complete monster roster of any edition of the A/D&D game.

    In terms of AD&D, I think the Monster Manual is great, and that the Fiend Folio is additional greatness. With Monster Manual II it became too much, however.

    Rough statistics:
    We've used 90% of the monsters in MM.
    We've used 50% of the monsters in FF.
    We've used maybe 20 (not 20%, just 20) monsters in MMII.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I own, between the different editions of D&D that I play, a whopping 11 books full of monsters. Interestingly, I would have to say that well over 50% of the creatures that I include in the games that I run are of my own creation, despite the plethora of pre-made choices available to me. I think the reason is similar to what you are getting at in this blog post - I don't use most of the creatures because they don't fit into the worlds I have created, they don't make sense and they don't feel like they have a history or real niche in the ecosystem of whatever area I am fleshing out. Interestingly, even when I recently ran a bunch of sessions in a god-forsaken, high plateau overran with orcs, I ended up creating two new versions of orcs to use because the standard D&D depiction of these standby monsters did not match the image I have of orcs in my imagination. I am not sure if I agree that there are too many monsters in D&D; as people have mentioned above, you don't have to include all of them in your game. But for me personally, a custom-made monster will always be a better fit than a cookie-cutter version from a book.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I own dozens of monster books, I'll never use everything in them, and I never really wanted to. I just love reading about 'em, and I'm glad there are always more because sometimes there's a really good idea that gets introduced in a later book.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm not really following you.

    1. Even when given a single monster book, you select a subset of monsters that appeal to you.

    2. Have more monster options is a problem if you try to include all of them incoherently into your game world.

    But #1 immediately solves the "problem" of #2.

    And the more monster options you have, the more likely it is that you can both (a) find what you personally like and (b) find new and interesting selections when you go to design a new world/continent.

    Likewise, monsters, like magic items, lose much of their appeal when they become merely entries in a catalog rather than occasions for wonder.I'm also somewhat skeptical of this: If you're just using the same monsters over and over again, there's very little wonder to be had.

    In general, though, I agree with your approach. In crafting my own campaign worlds I tend to be exceedingly sparse in my selections of "core creatures" -- particularly when it comes to humanoids.

    OTOH, I will regularly troll through the dozens of monster tomes I own looking for "one-off" creatures that can be used for sorcerous creations, aberrations of chaotic energy, interplanar incursions, and the like.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like the rare monsters to be rare, so if I roll one on my random encounter tables - I'll probably never use it again, I don't want it to be a recurring race. So I get through a lot of monsters. When I game using the Holmes monsters, it feels like a shared generic gameworld and my players know what they need to do to defeat them, so it loses a little of the 'What the hell is that biting me?' terror.

    Also, I feel inspired by the new ways people find to examine, subvert and celebrate the tropes of D&D by creating new monsters, reaffirmation as much as evolution.

    But having loads of communities of different monster races living alongside each other in the same region turns me off - "dude, it's like Caves of Chaos to tha Xtreme!!!"

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm with Justin Alexander on this one: having a large number of monsters available is great, because you can take the set of monsters published for AD&D and come up with a subset of them which is perfect for your campaign world.

    And then dig out the flumphs and the gas spores when the party strolls onto another plane.

    Favourite case of D&D monster synergy: if you had the Monster Manuals (I and II) and the Fiend Folio, you could get monsters from them that look like the ceiling of a room, the floor of a room, the walls of a room, and a treasure chest sat invitingly in the middle of a room. The Room of Death is brilliant as far as traps go, and implies some hilarious things about the ecosystem (namely, that incautious adventurers are common enough that such a feeding arrangement is a good idea).

    ReplyDelete
  13. In my opinion there doesn't really need to be seperate entries for (for example) orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and trolls.

    It leads to a strange situation where the characters are confronted by a group of ugly human-like creatures and, in a few seconds and by torchlight, can tell that they're hobgoblins rather than orcs or goblins, and thus present such-and-such level of danger.

    I'd prefer a 'construction kit' kind of approach, rather than lists.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think there's something valid in your observation. As Jim says the prevelance of standardised monsters is perhaps the problem rather than having those creatures exist at all, and I'll certainly agree that tryign to squeeze them all in as full civilizations is madness. That's not to say there isn't a purpose to those monster manual entries, but they should be interpreted as monsters and oddities rather than a sort of biology textbook.

    Certianly, OD&D, Holmes and the like have far smaller monster lists which hit all the "biggies" - and I can't deny that I tend to use only a smallish set of recurring beasts in any given world. (In fact, I was recently commenting on my own blog that I've hardly used any of the D&D-specific monsters, tending towards the Goblins and Hydras more than Rust Monsters and Beholders.)

    Considering that lots of monsters in myth were played up as unique beasts rather than a sampling of a whole kin with ecologies and the like, perhaps the approach mentioned by Sean is a good one - and certainly, inventing your own or customizing existing monsters lets you bring back the "wonder" when players seem to know all the classics backwards and forwards. (In modern editions, I think this would be asier in 4E than 3E, since the former's approach to monster design is some ways simpler and easier to tinker with.)

    I dunno if I'd really want to scrap thsoe esoteric monster entires, even if I rarely use them - because the ones I have used have given me interesting encounters, and having the capacity to fill dungeons, countries and planes with non-standard but pre-made critters is fun.

    (Actually, this has got me thinking about something I think I read on RPG.Net or ENWorld before - designing a D&D setting without a single typical race, possibly without any MM or PHB races. )

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'd definitely agree, but I think, for me, the problem really lies with the humanoid variants - goblinoids/orcs etc, trolls, giants, and so on. After that you've pretty much only got quirky one-shots or 'animals' (and by this I would stretch to griffons, rhemoraz, etc).

    The exception, of course being the endless variety of dragons... *sigh*

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have to laugh every time I see the table for stocking castles, p15 Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. It is surprisingly likely that a greedy wizard might dispatch four Balrogs to retrieve
    tasty magical items from a wet-panted party passing by.

    The monsters in OD&D are clearly presented with a coherent feel or tone, almost as if they have been granted honourable discharge between wars, and so campaigns will not vary as much between DMs as campaigns built on Early AD&D MM which is more encyclopedic.

    It might be easier to learn the ropes with fewer monsters which fit together well but possibly harder to create a distinctive lasting campaign from them.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well we could have done without the Flail Snail.

    I more or less agree James. We've always made a good amount of our Monsters up.

    Even at the age of 10, much of MMII felt like filler.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Maybe we are all missing the point James is trying to make. In terms of the development of the game, too many monsters may very well have been detrimental. I remember when Monster Manuel II came out and how frustrated it made me. Suddenly, everyone at the table had lore about all these strange creatures that were suddenly popping up everywhere. Because they were new and had the stamp of official approval, brand and use, we felt the need to somehow stuff all these extra oddities into our existing campaign. Instead of being a buffet in which we got to pick and choose, it felt like these monsters were being imposed upon our world. This was especially true if you were running your own Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, etc. campaign and you were told by TSR that these monsters exist in your campaign world, whether you like it or not (as was implied by the Monstrous Compendium).

    From this perspective, yes, there are too many monsters. Their creation, their marketing, and the way the community ended up using them pushed the game away from Gygaxian Naturalism into a more autocratic juxtaposition of creatures that pushed fantasy toward the ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  19. If that's heresy then I'm a heretic too. Especially when it came to the proliferation of variant humanoid types (gnolls, fine, but do we really need flinds too?) and dragons and dragon-like creatures, the dungeons I played through (rather than DMed) BITD started seeming a little like the menageries of mad archmages. I cried basta when the MM2 was released, and though I've read through it I've never used a monster from it (unless you count some of the 70+ beasties from it that appeared previously in various modules).

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think this is true only in so much as that many of the monsters are incredibly dull. I recently went through my monster list and cherry picked all the ones that are interesting (e.g. exploding dragon men - oh yes!) and now only use this much smaller list.

    I think more HD with a different head is actually very dull (e.g. orc->gnoll, or orc->orog or orc->ogre; but orc->troll is much better).

    ReplyDelete
  21. I'm in the "all the 'extra' monsters are optional" camp. It's nice to have all those 'extra' monsters if you're ever running a world or plane hopping campaign, though. They help you quickly flesh out new planes or worlds just by choosing different dominant species.

    ReplyDelete
  22. One of the reasons I think that Burning Wheel's Monster Burner is the best monster book ever is that the book is largely devoted to explaining *how to create your own* monsters and races. The number of creatures actually statted is pretty small. The intention is that monsters are ideally created to fit a given campaign.

    That said, I agree with other folks here that you can always pick and choose. But I fully sympathize with the idea that monster books are part of the supplement treadmill, and pretty much every edition of D&D has published way more creatures than anyone was ever going to use.

    Honestly, I have a much bigger beef with D&D's insistence on monster ecologies. I.e., that everything from aboleths to zombies are *species* with complete biological profiles.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm with JimLotFP and FrDave: yes, the DM can be selective, and the unique monster is a wonderful thing, but the books suggest a gonzo ecology and set player expectations (FWIW I think this problem is much worse in CoC, even though the number of monsters is very much smaller: they simply shouldn't have gone with a bestiary presentation, but rather a suggestions, thoughts and presentation notes kit).

    OTOH, if you all recognise that monster compendia are common in your world and PCs might have access to them I think you can have fun with that, in a 17th century half-informed kind of way. I rather like the idea of having the party taxonomist, overloaded with information, trying to make best guesses from footprints, teeth marks and growls from behind the door. Was the MU bitten by a dog, a wolf, a werewolf, a gnoll or one of those things from supplement XXI?

    In my ideal unicorns-and-rainbows world, the rulebooks are slim on monsters but the magazines and message boards are heavy with monster ideas. This gives your monsters a backstory filled with rumours and doubt, rather than stat blocks and TM logos.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Although I see both sides of the argument, I'm with James on this one. TOO MANY MONSTERS.I cherry pick monsters from the books anyways, but I just find that too many of them would be so difficult to realistically fit into a game world, even if this IS fantasy gaming. I like that there's lots of ideas for creatures, and lots of them I would use once and never again, but I also find a lot of the stuff is the same stuff with a new color, or new power, or new name, attached. Undead tend to perturb me especially in this regard. I get it. It's undead... it's either insubstantial, possessing only a skeleton, or in various stages of decay.

    ReplyDelete
  25. To answer your question from a "preserving D&D's pulp roots" perspective, no, I don't think you're wrong. From that perspective, "pulp" D&D is probably best served to have a limited scope of monsters.

    To answer your question from purely a gamer's perspective, I think you're right for your campaign and wrong for everyone else's campaign. If you enjoy OD&D/Holmes types of succinct lists, then you've got what works. I like having a limited list as well, and using the more rare monsters or weird monsters as horrific one-offs. That's why Raggi's RECG (I ain't typin' the whole things James, deal with it! :P) is always a close companion when I'm plotting out new areas. With MM, FF and RECG, I can't really imagine needing another monster book.

    So from a third perspective, I don't mind the publishers churning out endless books/supplements. I have what works for me.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Eh?

    The more information, the better. It allows each GM to pick the material that best suits his campaign and ensures variety between campaigns. I have no problem with splatbooks because I have the option to ignore them entirely (the same can be said for Unearthed Arcana, if you so choose), or pick through them for juicy bits. It's like Egg Shen says, "We take what we want and leave the rest. Like your salad bar!"

    ReplyDelete
  27. I get it. It's undead...Somehow I forgot to mention that that's the principal problem for me: when you know there's a series of 225 different undead it's hard to get excited about any one of them. Part of the cure is to insulate your campaign from the published material, but that insulating seems to give many, many people problems, and isn't/wasn't always an obvious part of the DM's task.

    ...actually, I think the problem of de-glamouring is much deeper and broader in D&D (and in games in general), but the MMs have been a contributing factor working against mystery and wonder in the whole hobby. It seems to me that undead monsters should be "filled with the awfullest liveliness"... and I've never seen that in D&D, though I have in other games. Maybe it's a question of individual DMs btu I can't help feeling the presentation of the game itself has some effect.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I think a key here, touched on by many already, is that there are "too many" monsters if one looks at the published lists and thinks that they're all present all the time. By selecting what's available in any given campaign, if there are "too many monsters" it's completely the DM's fault.

    As for FF and especially MMII feeling like "filler," I think that's because so many of the monsters in those books (particularly MMII) were straight out of modules. Some of those things were nice changes of pace for a certain location, but publishing them in the big books gave a sense that they they were no different than orcs and trolls when they were supposed to be specialized for a limited purpose.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I agree, and would prefer fewer and more useful creatures with a mind toward them meeting ecological zones of habitation, or other niche purposes.

    Something designed in that fashion could serve the more important function of stimulating the Referee's imagination, and truly custom-crafted creatures could cunningly commence carnivorous cavorting.

    err...> gets a cup of tea <

    ReplyDelete
  30. BOY DO I LOVE MONSTER! I WISH THERE WAS MORE MANUELS. INSTEAD OF 'OKAY YOU GET ATTACK BY 12 GOBLINS" I TELL MY PLAYER THAT 'THIS ROOM IS FILLED WITH A GANG OF ENEMEIS- THERE IS 3 KOBOLDS, A XVART, 2 LARVA, 2 DROW ELF, AND 4 HUGE RATS! IT JUST SEEM TO SPICE THINGS UP A BIT, AND THEN PLUS IF WE ARE DOING BATTLES ON THE TOP OF THE TABLE I DO NOT HAVE 12 GOBLIN MINATURES, BUT I DO HAVE A BUNCH OF DIFFRENT ONES LIKE RATS, ELF, ORC, ETC............

    ReplyDelete
  31. From a DM/world builder point of view, yeah, I agree with you James, too many monsters for my game.

    However, not everyone plays like me, and I've no problem with the other monster books, or the number of monsters in the MM.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hmm. I agree with the folks saying that the numbers aren't a problem as long as they're treated as options rather than as definite parts of the gameworld. I agree even more with what Sean said above - if any given monster only appears the once, and is expressly presented as a unique or extremely rare creation, it feels fine in-game. The impression is less 'gonzo ecology' in that case and more 'damn those dark sorcerers who are out there creating these unholy terrors.' Pulp heroes encountered bizarre creatures all the time; it would be running into the same exact Being That Should Not Be twice in two different demon-haunted ruins that would throw off the flavor. So in my game, more options for monsters is not bad. In some cases it's even a definite good - having zombies be zombies is fine, but being able to treat every devil the party meets as a unique being feels more true to me than having only one variety with one set of abilities.

    But taking it from the perspective of what message it sends about how a D&D world 'should' work, I can understand the argument against how the pile of books and parades of monsters are presented as all but necessary to people entering the hobby. I think that's more of a marketing issue than a problem with the books themselves, though.

    ReplyDelete
  33. The problem with the Big Long Catalog approach to monsters is not just that it leads to a incoherence, but that it's a published, accessible catalog familiar to most experienced players. "Hmm...an Ogrillion...should have about such and such number of hit dices."

    Further, the exhaustive nature of the three books combined tends to discourage GMs making up their monsters. Why make up your own version of a Barsoomian white ape, Deep One, or Sleestak when you can already find a stand-in flipping through the book? (I, like many of you fine folks, do anyway, but I'm referring to the general tendency out here.)

    ReplyDelete
  34. I basically agree with James. One of the great reliefs of playing OD&D is having a concise, manageable set of monsters that makes sense as some kind of world ecology.

    Part of the problem is how this fed into the commerce-vs-art machinery. New "monsters" became one of the very easily producible "new things to buy", along with spells and magic items. If at one point they should have made sense in terms of (a) a particular ecology, (b) a unique adventure, or (c) DM selection for a unique world, all that stuff got jettisoned as both harder to support and harder to sell. Therefore we ended up in a decadent phase with more monsters in the core rulebook than anyone could use.

    "Since there's no requirement that all of the given monsters in a book be used in a single campaign, I'm actually fine with the current amount of monsters. I can be selective and maintain feel--but then in a subsequent campaign I can use an entirely different palette of monsters for a different feel."

    I'll pick on Rob's comment here, because it's common and seems to make sense (and he posted it first). Sure, the large numbers work if the DM is selective and only uses a subset of them. But that is _NOT_ how they are presented in the books themselves. No such language appears that "these are meant as a menu for world-building"; in fact, exactly the opposite. What no one's pointed out yet is that with every monster book, Gary felt compelled to update all of the dungeon/wilderness encounter lists with ALL of the new monsters (see MM/DMG, FF, etc.). Hence each new book, as officially written, had the implication of changing the base D&D's world ecology by way of its new encounter tables.

    For me, that was the most enormous frustration of the proliferation of monster books.

    Of course, this happened all over again in 3E with the proliferation of "prestige classes". At first a good idea (IMO), prestige classes were supposed to be one of a small number hand-chosen by the DM and tied into their specific campaign (see 3E DMG). But that limitation was quickly abandoned when it became seen as a barrier between DMs and new product sales. End result: A monthly flood of new published "prestige classes", hundreds or thousands by the end, with the system again collapsing at the end and being stricken out of the 4E game.

    The first thing that I've ever agreed with Buzz is this: The very-rare monsters should not all be ecologically-defined species. That does cause much mischief. But the alternative (unique creature tied to a certain adventuring site) is a barrier to monster-product sales, which is why you're not going to see that as a matter of policy.

    ReplyDelete
  35. As a 4E player/DM, though, I don't have to deal with encounter tables--so there's no implicit ecology at work in my game before I put one in there. The closest 4E comes to an encounter table are the "Encounter Deck" rules on pp. 194-95 of the DMG--and these are nothing like the regionally-based encounter tables of older editions.

    I'm also not convinced this is really a problem in 1E to 3E. Many of the arguments stating that it is an issue seem to me to reek a bit of "think of the children"--i.e., we were not tricked by the nasty rulebookses into believing that we had to use them as written, but other gamers were/are/could be and therefore must be protected.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm pretty much working out of the B/X toolbox at the moment (with the occasional stand-in from MMI), and even based on the list presented there, in an admittedly over-the-top megadungeon setting, I find myself segregating certain monsters to certain areas just to cut down on the signal-to-noise ratio.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Agree with Justin and Kilgore. The books give you a big range to draw from, but of course you need to exercise discretion in what you use. I don’t agree that the books forced the DM’s hand, or made the world seem like a menagerie unless the DM just failed to read, and failed to exercise good judgment. Look how many monsters in FF and MM2 are listed as “rare” or “unique”. Lots of them, IIRC.

    So the idea isn’t that the world is overridden by an unending profusion of redundant beasties, but that there’s a big toolbox to draw from. Additionally, if there are more monsters out there, it’s harder for the players to memorize all of them. And the DM has more data to draw from and compare to when designing his own beasties.

    I do think, though, that the books could have been even better if they included more instructions for tailoring monsters to taste. And for the old simple “file off the serial numbers” trick of using a given monster’s stats straight, but totally changing the appearance to fool metagaming players. In a game I DMed a few years ago the players were investigating an old wizard’s tower and I had them run into living statues of the wizard, which threw a bunch of attacks with their fist and staff, and were impervious to normal weapons. They were just gargoyles minus the flight. I knew I was using a tried-and-true monster, with balanced stats. But the players had no idea; it was something totally unfamiliar as far as they were concerned.

    ReplyDelete
  38. too many monster books <> too many monsters

    I remember resenting buying a module that referred to several monsters from MMII (which I didn't own) or otherwise seemed oriented toward promoting tie-in sales.

    I agree with those who suggest that guidelines for creating new monsters would be really useful-- and maybe the number of monster books discourages DIY?

    My younger brother, who's barely looked at single rule book, designed an adventure around a family of harpies which included a male. The male couldn't fly, but his vestigial wings were like a pair of bony sickles. He didn't sing either, but instead was very, very quiet.

    I've been playing around with replacing monsters with monstrous humans. A troll is scary, but how about a man who keeps fighting after you've severed his head?

    ReplyDelete
  39. I find it a little strange that people are saying "Gygaxian Naturalism" says that there should not be a lot of monsters. Especially since he wrote MM2.

    In fact, I'm surprised at the MM2 dislike. The Fiend Folio was a lot worse in terms of Monster Logic. Ed Greenwood wrote a good article in Dragon magazine about how some of the monsters seemed ill-used--like the CIFAL which was named using a military-like Acronym (something that argueably should not exist in a middle-ages type setting). EGG uses some in Forgotten Temple but I know he hated some like Needlemen.

    MM2 had more logical monsters than FF, and if you consider how expansive the multiverse is, a lot of them were from alternate planes and spheres, so it doesn't make sense to limit those variety of beasts. (For instance, Slaad, to me, don't seem like good denziens of the realms of Chaos).

    MM2 also had rules that explained the Frequency tables and how to make your own.

    I find it somewhat fascinating--if a bit irritating--that terms like "Gygaxian Naturalism" are used but rather than defining how Gary did things it seems to be used more towards defining how the old school was setup rather than how he created things later.

    For instance, if you read Dangerous Journeys or Lejendary Adventure, you'd see that in his post-Greyhawk settings, Gary defined earth as having a normal ecology, but other beasts coming from either a well-thought-out subterranean ecology, or from alternate worlds such as the realm of fairy or sylvian creatures--all the demi-humans emigrated from those older worlds, and were never native to this land, and many of those kingdoms were in the alternate dimension.

    In short, nothing in "Gygaxian Naturalism" precludes a ton of monsters. You just need to know WHERE they come from.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I enjoy monster books and the choices that they provide people on the fly. I also agree with the way entries were presented otyugh and neo-otyugh as separate entries? Is that necessary? Monsters, for the most part, should have a purpose, but then sometimes you just want to throw a forlarren at the party just because.

    As buzz said, the Monster Burner for the Burning Wheel is an amazing in approach and with the monster burning sheet for creating monsters it is a pretty flawless system. Too bad the Burning Wheel itself is as complicated to play as it is.

    Please excuse me while a slip off to add one more monster to the pile for S&W.

    ReplyDelete
  41. (quote) "BOY DO I LOVE MONSTER! I WISH THERE WAS MORE MANUELS. INSTEAD OF 'OKAY YOU GET ATTACK BY 12 GOBLINS" I TELL MY PLAYER THAT 'THIS ROOM IS FILLED WITH A GANG OF ENEMEIS- THERE IS 3 KOBOLDS, A XVART, 2 LARVA, 2 DROW ELF, AND 4 HUGE RATS!" Apart from the typing in caps and assorted spelling and grammatical errors, I have another problem with this quote from Joeskythedungeonbrawler posted above which I think relates to a lot of what is being said here. Part of the problem of monsters losing their mystique is referring to them by species name, even if the players have encountered others of their ilk before. I never say, "You see two orcs", but rather describe them ("A thickly muscled brute leans against the table, idly twirling a rusty blade in his massive hands. Long greasy black hair obscures his features, hanging down in mats past his shoulders. Crude tattoos cover what you can see of his green skin from behind his studded leather armor. Behind him, a skinny figure dressed in tattered clothing several sizes to small ravenously chews on a hunk of some meat, juices dripping off of his porcine snout. A spear leans against the wall beside him.") While this takes much more work and preparation, it forces you to think about every creature encountered as an individual and not a cookie cutter example of a species. It also prompts you to make the creatures statistics reflect their description. I would give the thickly muscled brute a couple of more hit dice and an extra point of damage or two with his sword, while the skinny one would probably just have standard orc stats. The party might guess they were orcs, or they might not. They might ask questions (does the skinny figure have green skin as well?) to try to figure out what they were dealing with. And next time I described a skinny green skinned figure it could be a small troll. This is especially true with more terrifying creatures like dragons and devils; you should never tip your hand and reveal what the creatures are. Describe them in a way that even experienced players will not just think to themselves; "Oh that is a such and such from page x of book y and we can't cast spell z because it is immune to it."

    ReplyDelete
  42. Yes James, you are totally off your nut on this one.

    Just kidding. I think it's a good point. In 30 years of gaming, I have mostly only used things from the MM and the occasional dip into things like the Fiend Folio. The first few years of "kiddie D&D" was fun for monster experimentation, but at some point I didn't seem to need a constant supply of "fresh" monsters.

    I think my focus on things other than monster-filled dungeons kept me from using the same monster too much, plus I began at some point having lots of bad guy NPC's for the danger I presented players.

    I see a lot of blogs out there focusing on new monsters, and I have to say - some of the creations are pretty lame.

    As a kid playing at the local hobby shop, fellow player and shop lurker Paul Crabough (sp) submitting an article on random monsters ("no, not wandering monsters, RANDOM monsters). Just roll on various tables and you'd get some new, poisonous, lobster-clawed beastie for your game.

    But I never got tired of existing monsters to need something like that.

    ReplyDelete
  43. @Carl: I agree with your approach to a point. When my little whelps start off everything is described rather than named, yet in time an orc will be more familiar to the party and will be described as "a heavily armored pig-faced orc" or something to that effect, leaving a little mystery as to what that orc is packing.

    ReplyDelete
  44. If there's a monster in the manual, do you *have* to include it in your world? Authentic Old School gaming says "No."

    So what is it to me if they come out with Monster Manual XXXIV? I don't have to buy it or use it. I decide which critters go in my world.

    The more monsters to choose from, the more intersting ideas you have to play with and the more "extra-planar" or "otherworldly" things you can throw into an encounter as a curveball.

    Like, who says there have to be Blue Dragons in your world? It's your world. You get to decide if there are blue dragons. Who says that Minotaurs have to be a race? Maybe there are no minotaurs, maybe there is only one minotaur, or maybe there are a bunch of minotaurs. That's why you're the DM/Judge/Referee: you make that call.

    Do you really need a monster book to make that call for you? Because if you're fine with ignoring elements of the monster book then what you're saying doesn't really make sense to me.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Maybe we are all missing the point James is trying to make. In terms of the development of the game, too many monsters may very well have been detrimental.Precisely.

    ReplyDelete
  46. I'm with JimLotFP and FrDave: yes, the DM can be selective, and the unique monster is a wonderful thing, but the books suggest a gonzo ecology and set player expectations (FWIW I think this problem is much worse in CoC, even though the number of monsters is very much smaller: they simply shouldn't have gone with a bestiary presentation, but rather a suggestions, thoughts and presentation notes kit).

    Yep -- and I think you're dead right about CoC as well, but that's a topic for another day.

    In my ideal unicorns-and-rainbows world, the rulebooks are slim on monsters but the magazines and message boards are heavy with monster ideas. This gives your monsters a backstory filled with rumours and doubt, rather than stat blocks and TM logos.

    Very much agreed. My feeling is that new monsters, magic items, and spells belong in the realm of house rules and unofficial periodical material rather than in game manuals.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Maybe it's a question of individual DMs btu I can't help feeling the presentation of the game itself has some effect.

    I think so as well FWIW, but clearly we're in the minority on this score.

    ReplyDelete
  48. What no one's pointed out yet is that with every monster book, Gary felt compelled to update all of the dungeon/wilderness encounter lists with ALL of the new monsters (see MM/DMG, FF, etc.). Hence each new book, as officially written, had the implication of changing the base D&D's world ecology by way of its new encounter tables.

    Correct. This was true even in OD&D, so it's a long-standing feature of the game, albeit one I don't much like.

    ReplyDelete
  49. I find it somewhat fascinating--if a bit irritating--that terms like "Gygaxian Naturalism" are used but rather than defining how Gary did things it seems to be used more towards defining how the old school was setup rather than how he created things later.

    Gary's later design work, even at the tail end of AD&D, diverged considerably from what he'd done in earlier years. A significant portion of old schoolers don't much like what he did after about 1983 or so, with Unearthed Arcana being a particular object of opprobrium.

    Gygaxian Naturalism is called such because it's based heavily on how Gary presented the "world" of D&D in late OD&D and early AD&D. It's a kind of "plausible" fantasy in contrast to other more freewheeling presentations of the same material. That Gygax himself diverged from it later doesn't make the term useless in my opinion.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Quote:

    Gygaxian Naturalism is called such because it's based heavily on how Gary presented the "world" of D&D in late OD&D and early AD&D. It's a kind of "plausible" fantasy in contrast to other more freewheeling presentations of the same material. That Gygax himself diverged from it later doesn't make the term useless in my opinion.

    End Quote:

    But Gary did always stick with plausable fantasy, in fact, my point was that his later work actually stuck with this, and actually increased over time, if you study the works he did. And my response was that Gygaxian Naturalism was the key thing he always stuck with.

    The term isn't useless, the problem I see is that you are attempting to define a neologism that is based on a designer's output and style of writing, and something you clearly define, and then (from my perspective) ignoring it in certain cases where you believe it conflicts with "old school" sensibilities.

    Having large amounts of monsters doesn't negate the term Gygaxian naturalism, if you study his complete output.

    I'm not arguing you don't have a right to your opinion. ;) What I am saying however, is, if you coin a neologism about a particular individual's writings, which is based in fact, you're going to have to stand up to that yardstick. I had no objection to your opinion about too many monsters, but if you bring EGG into the equation, using his writing to back up your POV, you may get called on any errors.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Depends on whether you read the book as a rulebook or as a resource. I agree that common monsters should be common. But I'm hearing everyone say that yes, there should be unique and/or unusual monsters that surface in the unique and unusual places of the world. Okay, whence does the referee generate this monster? Sure, he can do it out of his own head ... or if he's not in a creative mood, he can pull something from one of the books. It's all a matter of the psychology with which you approach a book of resources - if you feel the need to throw it all into your campaign, you're using a dictionary of ingredients as a single recipe, and you're going to be mixing grape jelly with curry powder.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I had no objection to your opinion about too many monsters, but if you bring EGG into the equation, using his writing to back up your POV, you may get called on any errors.

    If it's an error to claim, as I do, that the introduction of (to cite but one example) so many humanoid races into late AD&D is contrary naturalistic principles, then I readily concede the point. But I'm not sure why it's controversial to argue that the inclusion of so many monsters stretches the limits of naturalism to the breaking point, all the moreso if one has to employ alternate worlds/realities as a means of justifying their existence.

    ReplyDelete
  53. @ Matt Finch
    " if you feel the need to throw it all into your campaign, you're using a dictionary of ingredients as a single recipe, and you're going to be mixing grape jelly with curry powder."

    mmmm, my favorite, curry and jelly sandwiches! Yummy. Good analogy, and it got a chuckle out of me.

    ReplyDelete
  54. "Many of the arguments stating that it is an issue seem to me to reek a bit of 'think of the children'--i.e., we were not tricked by the nasty rulebookses into believing that we had to use them as written..."

    Straw man. No one has argued any such thing. In fact, I'll come up out and admit to exactly the opposite:

    I _WAS_ tricked by the rulebooks into believing that we had to use them as written. (Rulebooks, introductions, plus Gary's articles in Dragon.) It actually, literally, broke my attempt at a campaign in college.

    Call it OCD on my part, or being younger, or less creative, or whatever. But when the books say "X" in multiple places, it's a pretty weak argument to claim that "the books don't have to say not-X, only a fool would believe X anyway". It's an argument that fails for lots of claims in D&D, and it fails here as well.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Delta - I'm not going to get into tit-for-tat argumentation here, citing various quotations and such. After all, I'm talking about a connotation, an implicit suggestion that post-OD&D versions of the rules stifle creativity. It's something I often see lurking in posts and comments here: i.e., things were more open/more free back in the OD&D days, whereas gamers nowadays must grapple with oppressive heavy rulesets, etc., etc. I see it in, for example, the (usually) unspoken assumption that 3E/4E players are unable to move beyond the rules. I'm sure some are, but I'm not in their games: they may be perfectly happy playing inside their box. What I have seen over 30 years of gaming is a constant amount of creativity and game expansion/modification, something that no edition change has diminished. The direction of such modifications has varied, of course, leading people like James to write ubi sunt posts. But then I don't think it's a secret to James that I read his blog less for his lamentations about fallen creation a la modern D&D and more for his creative work in actually playing the game and for his excellent historical research into the past of the hobby.

    ReplyDelete
  56. I love a good monster book. I collect them in fact. The best I've ever seen is the Monsternomicon. hands down the finest monster book that has ever seen print. Great illustrations, interesting monster lore and best of all, plot hooks.

    And that is where I think many monster books fail, plot hooks. The monsters just seem to float around in the campaign setting without being properly grounded.

    I'm not bothered by lots of monsters. The real world has a HUGE number of plant and animals types. I like variety.

    What bugs me is the number of *intelligent* races, particularly the number of humanoid races. Way, way too many 'men in suits' walking around.

    ReplyDelete
  57. "Delta - I'm not going to get into tit-for-tat argumentation here, citing various quotations and such. After all, I'm talking about a connotation, an implicit suggestion..."

    Fine, choose to avoid the point of this thread if you like. But on the specific topic of "are there too many monsters in AD&D?", your initial solution was, "I'm actually fine with the current amount of monsters. I can be selective and maintain feel...".

    And I'm just pointing out that that's the opposite of how the AD&D monster books are written. If they're written the opposite of how you have to use them, then we can agree that the AD&D monster books were written wrong and could have been improved in this key way.

    ReplyDelete
  58. FOR CARL......

    EVEN IF THEY'RE ARE FIRST LEVEL MY PLAYERS ARE FAMILIAR WITH WHAT A ORC IS. THEY HAVE HEARD OF ORCS, THEY HAVE MAYBE HAD FAMILY WHO FIGHT ORCS, MAYBE AS CHILDS THEIR VILLAGE WAS ATTACK BY ORCS, AND ONE OF THEM MIGHT BE A HALF OF A ORC. WHY PRETEND TO HAVE A MYSTERY? "YOU SEE A LONG PEICE OF METEL IN FRONT OF YOU WITH A HANDLE' OH THIS IS A SWORD!!! "THERE IS HERE A SORT OF LARGE BOX MADE FROM WOOD WITH A LOCK- PERHAPS IT CONTAINS A TREASURE?" AH THAT IS A TREASURE CHEST! TOO MUCH DELAY FOR ME!

    MY PLAYERS WOULD NOT STAND STILL FOR ME TO READ THEM A BEDTIME STORY LIKE THAT ORC DESCRIPSION, WHEN THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO CHOP IT IN HALF AND STEAL IT'S STUFF !!!! BUT I UNDERSTNAD MAYBE YOUR GAME IS LIKE THAT AND YOUR PLAYERS ARE ENJOY MORE ATTENSTION TO DETAIL AND TO DISCOVER WHAT THEY FIGHT. THAT IS COOL TO!

    ReplyDelete
  59. I'm not going to say yea or nay, only add some remarks from outside the D&D tribe.

    When I grew up and started playing RPGs, we were the second wave of gamers. Our older brothers were playing D&D, and we were playing the stuff that was available in our native language, Swedish. Oddly enough we didn't look up to the older gamers as role models. They all played AD&D, and since we all started with MERP we were doing "serious" roleplaying. More literary and refined. Laughable attitude 20 later, I know.

    Anyway. We saw all the big books of monsters, especially for 2nd edition, and figured that the "monster of the week" games they were playing was because they were playing the obviously inferior D&D system.

    20 years puts everything in perspective, I think.

    Well, some rambling remembrances that might or might not have something to do with the original post. Enjoy.

    ReplyDelete
  60. @joeskythedungeonbrawler

    Yeah, I think we must have very different groups of players. I think you are probably exactly right when you wish there were more monster books, because if the main purpose of your game is to hack things into pieces, it does get old pretty quick to just hack the same things into pieces over and over. The mystery, or sense of discovery that your players do not have the patience for is the main thing I play D&D for, and the look of terror on the players faces when they realize that they had no idea what they were up against is priceless! A few sessions ago I described a gelatinous cube as a clear crystal outcropping filling a small alcove off of a passage, and the players inquisitively started examining it. They noticed some objects that appeared to be suspended inside the crystal, and one even stuck their face up next to it to try to figure out what the objects were. When I told them that the cube suddenly lurched out at them, their screams were golden. After letting out a genuine cry of panic, one my players collected herself, then calmly told me, "My character screams exactly like I just did."

    ReplyDelete
  61. Regarding introduction of intelligent humanoid races. Well, I'd agree with that. But, one of the things I was targeting (which wasn't against you) was some fans saying FF was "excellent" and MM2 less so.

    MM2 didn't have as many humanoid species as FF. MM2 from what I can go from memory (the book is in my collection somewhere), seemed to have few "new species". If you discount stuff that Gary didn't write--those creatures taken from other modules, such as the mongrelman, then there are few new races akin to an "orc", "bugbear", etc. Most of the humanoid species tied to the material plane were what 3e classified as "monstrous humanoid".

    In fact, MM2 was the first book to say create your own custom encounter tables, and didn't force you to assume all species were integrated. So I have trouble understanding some of the complaints against MM2 and praise for FF. I'm just wondering if nostalgia is making people praise that inferior work and eunni set in by the time MM2 came out.

    Now, as far as other planes go--that's the ultimate evolution of Gygaxian Naturalism. Based on his post D&D work, Gary was a bit more realistic and logical and based his campaign settings on the following precepts.

    * The core world is mostly human, evolving as it did.
    * Some species never went extinct and slightly altered versions of normal animals would be in the world.
    * Humans are the dominant species and other intelligent races will be in the minority, otherwise either history would be very different or one or more species would have been wiped out.
    * The Subterranean world has an alternate ecology that is very plausible.
    * The sylvian and faerie races, including most demi-humans, giants, dragons, the stuff of legend, the stuff that represents the fantastical and the stuff that might make science purists cringe a bit, originate from an alternate dimensional matrix. We assume that either many were imported in a long time ago (but not so long ago as to affect long-term evolution).
    * Magic allows for chimerical hybrids such as the owlbear, and such beings, and maybe stuff like giant and minature versions of other species.
    * Then there is stuff that is supernatural--the undead, spirits, elementals, and the metaphysical spirits such as demons, devils, devas, and other deital minions.

    When you think about this, it makes the most sense, and follows Gygaxian Naturalism, where the abundance of extra monsters come from alternate worlds, outside of the more realistic ecology. I could understand if people argued that this evolution of Gary's designs is a move away from what you called "Gygaxian Unnaturalism", and that would be a fair criticism, but I don't see the fact that other planes and sphere would naturally expand the monsters to battle/haggle/ally with as a move away from this principle.

    ReplyDelete
  62. "The mystery, or sense of discovery that your players do not have the patience for is the main thing I play D&D for"

    See, patience is really the issue in some cases. Your example of the cube was golden because of the misdirection factor (the players behaved differently than they would have if you'd simply described it as a gelatinous cube), but the long, drawn-out description of the orc is only going to make a player who already knows what an orc is wonder why the hell you're wasting his time monologing at him instead of just saying it's a goddamn orc so the game can continue.

    ReplyDelete
  63. yeah I was probably overdoing the orc description, and if the players have encountered a ton of orcs I probably wouldn't have gone overboard like that - however, I would still describe the orc a little (how big or small, what kind of weaponry he wields). But as for how easy it is to recognize an orc, when you are encountering humanoids underground by torchlight it seems unreasonable to me that at a glance even a veteran group could distinguish a goblin, orc, hobgoblin, bugbear, small ogre, human with green facepaint, etc., if there are a bunch of them in one room. Another reason why I use individual decriptions (although most of the time not so drawn out as my original example) is because I feel that the DM's role is to tell a story that the player's can imagine clearly in their heads. I don't use minitures and never have, never will, partly because I don't want the players invisioning the exact same orc mold or goblin mold every time they encounter an orc or goblin. I have found that players are much more engaged if they can actually picture what each combatant they are engaging looks like because of a few details about them that I took the time to come up with. I think the players only get bored if you don't use descriptions like the orc one above to also trick them and play off of their preconceptions; as I mentioned, the next time I described a similar looking green skinned brute it might be a troll or something else entirely and the surprise and uncertainty that such confusion brings definitely makes a fight more memorable than if the party knew what it was getting into from the very beginning. If nothing else, it prompts more player engagement in the form of questions about what they are seeing.

    ReplyDelete
  64. on the description vs naming issue, I should note that, by insisting on describing what the PCs can see under difficult circumstances, I've previously got PCs to attack each other, to realise that they cannot safely fire missiles into melees, to disengage from tactical situations that didn't "feel right," and make similar real-world-style decisions that wind up behaving like morale checks, saves against wisdom and the like. I'd say don' underestimate the power of "fluff" like monster descriptions.

    ReplyDelete
  65. I would have to disagree with some qualifiers. I don't really think the measure of success is what % of your monster manual is used or unused to gauge if there are too many monsters.

    I favor having lots of monsters because I then have more variety to choose from when selecting monsters for my campaign. This goes for other DMs as well, as I'm certain that others do not necessarily share my tastes in monsters.

    That said I think there needs to be some effort to ground each monster in some level of Gygaxian naturalism as you have noted. Does having more monsters make this a little harder? Possibly, but you should take into account that the monster manual is a toolkit but that it is the player (DM) that determines which monsters are used and it they that can keep their world consistent and grounded.

    ReplyDelete
  66. I found some of the comments above very interesting in that they show that the early versions of the game more or less explicitly state that the monsters in the books appear in the game, rather than the view taken by Patrick and many others that the monster manuals are toolkits to pick and choose from. I always assumed the latter, but if the random encounter and summons tables were updated after each new monster manual to include all the creatures just added, it stands to reason that the creatures were meant to be seen as what you might randomly run into in the game. Given that understanding, I would have to agree with James' original point. However, it is easy to throw out that idea and just pick and choose as myself and almost everyone else (it sounds like from this post) has done.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Instead of being a buffet in which we got to pick and choose, it felt like these monsters were being imposed upon our world.When you lay out a bunch of food on a table, some people see a buffet, take what they want, and leave the rest. Other people apparently see a mandate to gorge themselves until their stomachs burst and they die.

    I've rarely managed to conjure up sympathy for the latter. Largely because I've never managed to even comprehend the latter.

    It seems to me that undead monsters should be "filled with the awfullest liveliness"... and I've never seen that in D&D, though I have in other games.I have. But it's specifically because I have new options to choose from.

    20 years ago when I was first playing the game, skeletons filled me with dread. 20 years and a gajillion skeletons later? Not so much.

    But the skeletal figure with glistening, blood-soaked organs hanging pendulously in its yellowed-ribcage with long, translucent claws that lash out, latch on, and suck blood in from its victims?

    Yeah. That sent a few shivers down some spines.

    Pulp heroes encountered bizarre creatures all the time; it would be running into the same exact Being That Should Not Be twice in two different demon-haunted ruins that would throw off the flavor.QFT.

    The first thing that I've ever agreed with Buzz is this: The very-rare monsters should not all be ecologically-defined species. I disagree insofar as what may be "very rare" in your campaign may be "bog-standard" in my campaign. Ecological information is trivial to ignore or change.

    But as for how easy it is to recognize an orc, when you are encountering humanoids underground by torchlight it seems unreasonable to me that at a glance even a veteran group could distinguish a goblin, orc, hobgoblin, bugbear, small ogre, human with green facepaint, etc., if there are a bunch of them in one room.But to how easy it is to recognize a dog, when you are encountering four-legged animals underground by torchlight it seems unreasonable to me that at a glance even a veteran group could distinguish a dog, cat, squirrel, skunk, raccoon, etc. if there are a bunch of them in one room.

    ReplyDelete
  68. You are definitely not wrong to say this. What I would also say is that there are plenty of monsters now for plenty of niche groups, along with the standard groups. I never use psionics. How many monsters does that wipe out? I don't normally use things from other planes, either. There are those who do, though.

    ReplyDelete
  69. @Justin Alexander But to how easy it is to recognize a dog, when you are encountering four-legged animals underground by torchlight it seems unreasonable to me that at a glance even a veteran group could distinguish a dog, cat, squirrel, skunk, raccoon, etc. if there are a bunch of them in one room. Your attempt at sarcasm is pretty funny but the basic point I made that you are trying to ridicule is still valid.
    Having just spent the night in a cave last weekend I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that you would have a hard time even telling if any of those creatures you just mentioned had four legs if you encountering them by torchlight in the pitch black, much less tell what species they were. Most likely you would see their eyes gleaming in your torchlight and a vague hint of their body form. If they were holding still and just let you walk up to them with torches held aloft, then sure, you could get a good look at them. But since your light source would have given you away a long time before you even caught a hint of their presence, they would probably already be circling behind you, and the best you could hope for would be a hint of movement at the edge of your torchlight, and the worse would be a complete surprise attack followed by a retreat into the darkness from whence it came. A lot of golden roleplaying opportunities are missed when DM's assume that players can see everything in a cave as if it was rigged with electric lights. Try it for yourself sometime if you don't believe me; light a brand on fire and take it into the pitch black (not just outside at night, which has FAR more ambient light than a truly pitch black cave or dungeon room) and see what you can see. Then have somebody else hold it and walk outside of the circle of its light and check out how easy it is to see them when they have no idea where you are.

    ReplyDelete
  70. @Justin again ; I do agree with your point about the inclusion of ecological information, it should be standard because as you point out it is far easier to ignore some material than make it up if omitted in the first place.

    ReplyDelete
  71. I tried my hand once at making a world. Never got far but the thing I did do was figure out a way to all this. My world had 4ish distinct land masses so I went and cherry picked the ecology for each one. My encounter tables thus where different for each of the places but I also had a chance of 1% where I would then use the table from another continent rolling a 1d6 to decide on which continent.

    This seemed to work decently well for the test encounters I rolled though when I do it again I would use something like 3% chance for a creature out of its natural habitat and if it rolled the 3% chance again it was from off continent. This provides a wide range of creatures with some being quite rare in some places but possibly quite common in another and simulated invasive species quite well for my purposes. Though I do wish whoever rolled the encounter for zebra mussels in Lake Michigan would not have, They are quite sharp on the feet!

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.