Friday, June 29, 2012

D&D Next Annotations: Bestiary

Hey, it's a day of second-to-lasts! Have the penultimate D&D Next v1 annotations to go with some penultimate Midsummer Songaday!

"Next I want to zip through the Bestiary.
* It seems I have something like 32 monsters here. Makes sense - they want you to play the Caves of Chaos adventure, and these are the guys you need to do it.
* The first page here is a list of the monsters by XP. What strikes me immediately is just that - they're sorted by XP, NOT by level! Inching forward a page into the meat of it, I find that they don't HAVE levels! I'm astounded. Maybe it's just that since they want you to play Caves of Chaos they already have the encounters built so you don't need to know levels, but if there actually aren't levels I'll be very surprised. Instantly makes me think of Basic Moldvay D&D.
* Monster stat blocks, at the moment, look like miniature 3.5 stat blocks. Name, alignment, initiative, AC, HP, Ability scores, Space/Reach, Speed, Melee Attack, Special Traits, XP. It seems like some others, like Special Actions, Equipment, or Ranged Attack get added in when necessary, this list is just the ones the first monster (a Fire Beetle) has. There's a paragraph of physical description, the stat block, a description of their Special Traits/Actions (more on this in a second), a paragraph on their combat tendencies, a few paragraphs of Habitat and Society, and then a small note titled Legends and Lore.
* Back to the Special Traits: this is what I come to monster books for, and it delivers alright. 3e was, admittedly, very bogged down in monsters being able to do a ton of stuff no one cared about. Each creature here has one or two unique things about it that make it special, and these traits are where those come out. Using my Fire Beetle here, he has Glowing Glands, glands on his back that emit bright light in a 10-foot radius. Enough to make it stand out, not too much to become cluttersome (and I have no idea what people are talking about when they say that this stat block is clunky, it's half the size of a 4e one! The font is just big!)
* The combat section is short and sweet, giving vague instinct advice rather than precise "On turn one it uses x and then moves, on turn  two it..." thankfully. I like the Combat section for the Gelatinous Cube - it boils down to "It usually tries to engulf its victims" and that's pretty much it!
* Habitat and Society is the stuff no one will really ever know. It is the bread and butter of the Bardic Lore check. It could be interesting, but it could just as easily be entirely useless. However, I must say that I like READING this stuff, and I think its absence for 4e really made its monster books much more boring to read.
* Legends and Lore, on the other hand, is the stuff you might actually be able to use! It's full of interesting things for both the DM to use as cool flavor all over the place and for players to take advantage of if they can figure it out. If a player makes a Recall Lore check about a creature and succeeds, read them this. Seriously: The gelatinous cube's reads: Since gelatinous cubes cannot digest inorganic materials, cunning adventurers keep an eye out for floating coins, weapons, and bits of armor that might be suspended in the ooze's body." The Fire Beetle's reads "Miners and adventurers prize fire beetles for their glowing glands. Easily removed, these special organs retain their luminescence for 1d6 days after removal." I can use that all over the place!
* Okay, that's the format. I'm just gonna read the list now and point out anything that I find noteworthy.
* Oh boy. Hey Wizards, on the Giant Centipede, what does it mean that the Giant Centipede has scuttle or vermin as Special Traits? Because you sure as hell aren't telling us.
* Damn it, Wizards, that's a per Day power on those Dark Cultists. Mooks like that never see more than one day, and if they do, no one cares that that's how they get the energy back. 1/encounter worked great for 4e monsters, bring it back.
* Writhing Darkness though, that's a cool ability.
* Uh oh, that pile of immunities on the Special Traits of the Gelatinous Cube is NOT promising. Giant piles of immunities are tedious and boring for both GMs and players.
* Feed on the Weak, Demonic Frenzy, Pack Attack... I like Gnolls. The Arms and Armor list with the percentages is annoying though, I'll probably just wing it if it isn't specific in the adventure.
* The goblins' Dirty Tricks is just sneak attack basically, right?
* Gray Ooze corrosion, oh god, everyone will be terrified. I've never thrown a rust monster at my group either so this'll be shocking.
* Wait, what ability to crush minds? That's referenced in the Legends and Lore and is nowhere in the rest of the monster, and it would make it even scarier. I really like this one's L&L idea though.
* Thanks for putting humans in the monster book again, that really is a good thing.
* Oh my god, the Kobolds' Strength in Numbers is gorgeous in its simplicity. Even more like THAT!
* Hehehe, Snaky Hair. I don't think that's a real word, but it makes me smile.
* The wording on Petrifying Gaze's first half is very confusing. Shit, you made THIS the full on Save or Petrify? I thought you weren't gonna do that! Not necessarilly complaining, just shocked. Would have thought you'd use that same mechanic you used for the Sleep spell.
* On the minotaur's Natural Cunning: the maze spell doesn't exist yet guys. When it appears, I'm a big fan of this ability, it's extremely flavorful for he minotaur even if it will only rarely see use.
* Hahaha, I love the "A sizeable offering of food, a bag of treasure, or a halfling might appease an ogre long enough to let adventurer's pass unmolested." That's hilarious.
* owlBEAR hugs. Hell yes.
* Woooo, Troll Regeneration!
* Huh, Enervation is the Wight's new replacement for bestowing negative levels. I like it!

Okay, just got through the whole thing. I like it! I think you need some refinement on some stuff, but I'm satisfied with this framework for monsters for the Basic rules at the very least. Surprised at the lack of minions though, they were an interesting new thing that gave 4e some of its innovation and it wouldn't be too hard to carry that over."

So, later!

Oh yeah, real quick, what's to come. Tonight I'm going to see the first Matrix movie with the music being played live by the Seattle Symphony, directed by Don Davis himself! Tomorrow and Sunday I'm going to Go Play NW and should have even MORE AP to forget-to-write.

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