Wizards Delivers a Killer Monster Makeover (Part 2)

by Suddry on March 4, 2010

This morning Ameron shared his thoughts on the new monster makeover Wizards announced yesterday. I’ve looked at the new format and thought a lot about it myself. Here are my initial impressions, with a little background to justify my thoughts.

I’m a secondary school teacher. My main “teachables” are math and computer studies. One of the computer courses I teach deals in part with the design and layout of graphics in order to more effectively convey a message or disseminate important information. It is amazing what a simple rearrangement and regrouping can do in this regard. With this in mind I must say that the DM in me has a good feeling about the upcoming changes to the monster stat blocks.

I’ll start with the important numbers. By keeping the HP, defenses, and other “battle” numbers in one group I can quickly find the most common numbers I am looking for. Initiative, Perception and vision are important but are usually accessed at the start of combat only. Overall this isn’t a huge change but I personally think it gives a cleaner look and a more natural grouping of stats.

I am thrilled with the new traits section. It drives me nuts when I forget about my kobold Mob Attack trait or my hobgoblin Phalanx Soldier trait because it was shoved at the bottom of the stat block and easily overlooked.  Giving them a Trait title and bringing them to the top keeps them in my head when I am looking at their next move because I have to scan through them whenever I look at the powers.

This brings me to the biggest bang for the buck. Grouping the powers by action type. It’s a godsend! I’ve been doing this with my PCs for a while now simply because I could never seem to find my triggered actions as each of my party members were taking their turns. As a DM it was the same for my monsters. Now I can quickly find that triggered power the I swore I read somewhere but I can’t remember which mob it was that could do that. What can my sneaky little kobold do this turn? Oh! Let me snag one standard action from that section and then a minor action from its corresponding section. Easy as pie!

In order to be fair I’ve been scratching my head to look for possible downsides or improvements that could be made. I have to say I’m having trouble finding any. Some people won’t like the new layout simply because they are used to the old. “Change is bad! Don’t do it!”. Some people could point out that more headings in the stat block means more ink when printing. That is valid but minor in my opinion. Personally I’d love to see them add a line for a creatures Insight. I know it is a quick calculation but our group likes to toss in Intimidate checks quite liberally and it would be nice to have the number handy.

Overall I say bring on the new.  My inner DM geek is itching to use them.

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1 btorgin March 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

While I know they don’t have Insight printed in already, you can easily add it from the Monster Builder before you print if you copy/paste to Word (for example.)


2 Suddry March 4, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Thanks. Good point. I guess I just like having the computer do the work me whenever possible.

3 Rook March 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Thanks guys for this side-by-side comparison. I gotta agree with you, I’m liking this new format. If for no other reason, then for the regrouping of action types, as you pointed out. Also, thanks for the idea of doing the same for my players. They often forget everything that they can do each turn and grouping their options by action type is a great idea.
(This is why I keep coming back to your site.)
.-= Rook´s last blog ..A PTG Review: The Stowaway =-.

4 Neuroglyph March 5, 2010 at 7:48 am

I like the new format for Monster Stats as well. I think it cleans up the block and will make “boss” monsters with nearly a dozen powers (I’m looking at you, Demogorgon!) a heck of a lot easier to handle and speed up combats. I just hope they make the Monster Builder output match up to these new change!
.-= Neuroglyph´s last blog ..March is “In Like A Lion…” with a Bunch of Errata! =-.

5 Ameron March 5, 2010 at 8:21 am

We appreciate the repeat business, Rook. Thanks for visiting (and commenting) so regularly.

As much as I like the new layout, I agree that it will really pay dividends for the more powerful monsters with many powers. As more groups shift to Paragon and Epic play the DMs job gets more difficult and anything that makes running the monsters simpler is a win.

6 yatesc March 5, 2010 at 8:31 am

That’s really interesting that you compared a teaching environment to DMing. I once worked on a prototype for a science textbook that used a format very similar to WotC’s 3.5 ‘delve’ format for encounters. (The one used in the Ravenloft adventure.) Everyone we showed it to loved the idea of breaking science experiments down like that for the teacher. We showed where to set up all the equipment, how to proceed, answers to common questions the students may have, and it was all contained on one spread of the book so the teacher wouldn’t have to turn the page. Sadly, it was too labor-intensive to make into an actual product. :\

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