Monster Improvements All Around
Listening to feedback requires a combination of keeping an open mind and filtering the signal from the noise. It’s easy to take one email, forum post, or conversation at a convention as a call to change the game. Realistically, though, changes in direction based on feedback require three things:
- Consistency. If we see the same request for a change over and over again, that’s a sign that change is due.
- Time. It helps if a call for change is consistent over time. That tells us that we’re dealing with a real issue, not just a topic of the moment.
- Widespread. It’s important that a call for change appears in a number of different venues and from different sources. D&D is a widespread game. We need to listen to many players, not just one group, to determine whether something needs to be changed.
After sifting through feedback from the first two Monster Manuals, we decided it was time to adjust our approach to how we present creatures. In Monster Manual 3, we’ve modified the format for monster entries to add more background and story material.
Below is a sample entry from Monster Manual 3, the skulk. When I did the initial design on the book, I used the skulk as the starting point for freelancers. The notes below explain the format and what role each section plays.
Keep in mind that the skulk text is the raw work before editing and development. There might be a few changes between it and the final product.
The new format really shines when it comes to intelligent humanoids. For some creatures, such as spiders or elementals, we went for volume over detail. For example, we thought people would be happier with three versions of the four classic elementals (air, earth, water, fire) and less story rather than a subset of those four and more background information. Still, even creatures with less text follow this format and the intent behind it.
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About the Author
Mike Mearls is the Group Manager for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. His recent credits include Player’s Handbook 3, Hammerfast, and Monster Manual 3.