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D&D Next Q&A: 03/28/2014
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will scour all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the making of the game or anything else you care to know about... with some caveats.

There are certain business and legal questions we can't answer (for business and legal reasons). And if you have a specific rules question, we'd rather point you to Customer Service, where representatives are ready and waiting to help guide you through the rules of the game. That said, our goal is provide you with as much information we can—in this and other venues.

1 How enforced are the gear packages? Is it going to be difficult for a player who likes complexity and choice to understand they can buy their own gear, like with info for money and buying in a different chapter/book?

We don’t want to keep anyone who really wants to do piecemeal equipment shopping from doing so, so the information on starting wealth appears right in the equipment section—alongside the very equipment that wealth will be spent on. If you want to pick your starting equipment by hand, that’s fine. We just want to make sure that more streamlined options are presented to help players speed up character creation.

2 Does the game still have exotic armor types that people can purchase, and how do characters get these kinds of armor?

We’ve done a lot of work to tweak the flavor of the armors, and we have removed exotic materials and craftsmanship from the base armor table. Things such as dragonscale armor will still appear in the game, but they will likely be best represented as treasure and rewards.

3 Will we see different versions of the same monster, like a goblin shaman and a goblin warrior?

In some cases, where it’s an important part of the monster’s experience or ecology, there will be multiple varieties of the same base monster described. In other cases, you might see tougher versions of monsters that act as leaders, which helps make creating adventures easier. For a good example of multiple varieties, let’s look at the drow. Given that drow society is strongly divided along gender lines, and that male drow gravitate toward arcane magic while female drow gravitate toward divine magic, you’re likely to see drow mages, priestesses, and warriors, since this division is an important part of drow society. We are also considering presenting younger or older versions of certain monsters so that a monster could appear in different kinds of adventures across multiple levels. We’re less likely to present variants of monsters where there’s not a compelling story or adventure reason to do so. To run with the example provided in the question, there’s not a strong enough need for a goblin warrior to be provided as a separate monster when the base goblin will do, since goblins are typically not known for their great warriors.

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Rodney Thompson
Rodney Thompson began freelancing in the RPG industry in 2001 before graduating from the University of Tennessee. In 2007 he joined the Wizards of the Coast staff as the lead designer and developer for the new Star Wars RPG product line. Rodney is the co-designer of Lords of Waterdeep and is currently a designer for Dungeons & Dragons.
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I like all of this, no complaints.
Posted By: Prom (4/2/2014 3:19:01 PM)


A lot of the people having issues with the response to #3 are making the same mistake that players make when they are asked what they want to do and they stare at their character sheet for 5 minutes, rejecting any actions that aren't on their skill list.

Not having a variant mechanical description DOES NOT stop you from using a creature in different ways. Want a tactically interesting orc encounter? One's giving orders, two are outfitted with crossbows and laying down cover fire from behind a partially ruined wall and four more are charging in a pincer maneuver. Why do any of those orcs need to have mechanically different stats than the others?

You want to give the crossbow guys +1 to ranged and -1 to AC, or the charging melee warriors +1 to melee and AC? Fine do it on the fly (but remember those bonuses mean a lot more in Next than past editions). Give the one barking orders a better weapon or an extra hit die if you want. But saying you can't deploy monsters i... (see all)
Posted By: redkat85 (3/31/2014 9:30:11 AM)


I love this new system and I agree 100% with this thought. Too many people don't understand that all the different types can be created off one baseline creature. This new system will allow you the DM to adjust thing more easily off a baseline, want that goblin to have better AC? Take away the leather armor and give it old piecemeal chain, or give him a little higher dexterity, and your done! Want more damage? Change the weapon, or add strength. You're the story teller you have the power, just remember a +1 is now big, a +2 is significant, and +3 is a huge bonus so be careful not to break the system :-)
Posted By: tirwin (3/31/2014 11:20:00 AM)


Absolutely... Leave things simple. As a DM if I want to add a goblin thief, it is so easy for me to double the monster's hp (or triple or whatever) and apply the appropriate level of thief abilities... or a ranger, shaman, etc. you don't need fully developed monster stats to add variety to your encounters. It doesn't have to be a ton of work either. Your PCs will only interact with a fraction of the abilities in a given encounter. Have a goblin with a staff and a skull helmet cast magic missile or curse at the start of an encounter and as far as the PCs are concerned he's a shaman. There's no reason to worry about every stat, skill, etc unless you need it.
Posted By: quindia (3/31/2014 5:04:20 PM)


When 4e monster design was previewed and a poster, in a 3e design mentality, wanted to know how to stat out a goblin that could lead other goblins in battle. The poster thought it should have the Leadership feat, but then the goblin would have to have a class level of 6, and others, in a 4e mentality, suggested just including goblins that worked alongside the leader, no stats needed.

This is another breaking of mentality, from 4e to Next.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (4/1/2014 6:22:42 AM)


Personally I'd like to see the option for DM's to 'build' or 'customise' a base monster so that the DM can control the variety and difficulty.

One of the things I love about 4th Ed is that as a DM I get to pit my tatics against the players. I want to be able to 'build' an army using a range of different variants of the same monsters as in 4th Ed, not just have to throw out some generic examples.

Also, can you make more of the intro text about each monster, and explain in more detail about each one. Some of the entries for MM1 in 4 Ed was just three of four lines.

Posted By: X-Bumble (3/30/2014 3:35:50 PM)


I generally agree with #3 here because many of the different versions of a monster in 4e are due to keeping up with the small window of level-appropriate 4e math or to vary the combat roles, which needn't be so defined in Next monsters because, the math window being wider, the monster's role changes across levels.

That said, a customization sidebar in Next could be used freely by DMs to differentiate breeds of giant lizards, spiders, snakes, etc, who would otherwise have the same stats, or where a single demon/fay may have 2 out of 4 possible spells. You don't need a separate stat block to equip goblins with bows instead of spears.
Posted By: Dreamstryder (3/30/2014 5:49:14 AM)


I accept that a creature like a lowly goblin might not warrant ten different stat blocks within the MM if you still want to retain space for other monsters and flavor text and such.

But the playtest pdf contains a few examples of creatures with a "Customization Options" sidebar. Wouldn't it be easy to provide a sidebar for humanoid creatures who have their own cultures and gods and such? Goblins, orcs, gnolls, etc.? You wouldn't need ten different stat blocks, but within the space of half a page you could fit ten different micro-templates. Conveys the same info in a lot less space. Good examples for those who like to home brew. Reinforces the unique "feel" of a culture with their own unique tactics and magical abilities. It should be easy to do and would make a lot of people happy!
Posted By: Belphanior (3/29/2014 3:14:20 PM)


It's so easy to do... Why bother wasting space in the book? Add a few paragraphs in the DM Guide and include some customized monsters in published adventures.
Posted By: quindia (3/31/2014 5:07:56 PM)


I think that it is useful to have different versions of the goblin, for instance shamans and warriors who lead the common goblin; this gives the race a fleshed-out feeling of having a society, rather than merely existing as a collection of generic stereotypes. Just include at the end of the descriptions that shamans have such-and-such spells and leaders use such-and-such weapons and have greater HP and you're done.
Posted By: SirCorin (3/29/2014 10:55:00 AM)


As a DM, I could really us some creatures scaled for different tiers of play. I don’t want to have to wait until after 12th level to throw a dragon at my players. But now that I think about it, that is the *only* type of encounter that I need stats for young / adult / ancient ages. If guidelines aren’t provided on how to scale monsters, then hopefully those will be provided at a bare minimum.

One of the greatest things about 4E for our group was the different roles provided for each humanoid type, but I often found that I didn’t want to have to keep track of more than 2 different types. Some monster’s combat abilities would be forgotten during each encounter. It was a lot to remember and manage. Three different enemies going on at the same time? Forget it. Diversity is great on paper, but superfluous in play. At least for me. But having race-specific variations IS helpful more than not.

I might be alone in this, but I won’t cry if Vampires are just a static creatu... (see all)
Posted By: VividAntivirus (3/29/2014 7:54:05 AM)


Totally agree about multiple enemy types getting lost in the shuffle. You rarely need more than 2 monster types to really give feeling to a battle. Any more and it starts to become difficult to track in realtime.
Posted By: Ramzour (3/29/2014 11:11:33 AM)


Actually, to go along with templates, I'd love to see easy to add powers for monsters return. It was pretty cool how in 4th you could add a template to monsters to represent their organization or many other things. For example, the followers of Vecna might all get a teleporting power or something. I wouldn't mind at all if they simply went back to the powers system for monsters either. It made manipulating monsters incredibly easy. Plus, with the powers system it made each monster far more than a sack of hit points. Still, at the very least I hope they have detailed monster creation/modification tools. DM tools were 4th editions greatest strengths, and I'd love for DnD Next to take advantage of those strengths as much as possible.
Posted By: Claymore65 (3/28/2014 11:41:42 PM)


#1: Okay, cool. Seems fine by me, but see my next point.

#2: I'm glad to hear that exotic materials are being placed more towards backstage, as it were. However, there's something I've always wanted to bring up about magic items. In 3E, I felt that the whole "+3 flaming, lawful, vorpal, dragonbane, throwing, returning longsword" was just too ridiculous, despite still liking the idea of magic weapon/armor customization. In 4E, I thought that "+4 holy avenger longsword" was too restrictive. Personally, I'd like to see a kind of prefix/suffix system, like what the Diablo videogames have had. A magic weapon would have its numerical bonus, as normal, and could have any or all of a prefixed ability, special material, or suffixed ability. For example: "+2 flaming adamantine longsword of giant-bane". The way I see it, this allows for players to customize their magical gear, but still keep some of the craziness reined in.

#3: When it comes to ... (see all)
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (3/28/2014 7:23:11 PM)


Sorry for the long post, but what I most urgently demand is that the level and XP value of each monster being at the TOP OF THE FREAKING STAT-BLOCK!
Posted By: DramoxTheIronLord (3/28/2014 7:24:08 PM)


I like what I see here, I want to weigh in on the final point. I did like in 4e monster materials the variety of bandits and others that could be used for say levels 5-10. Creating humans like that would be very helpful, or giving me templates that can do that, in less than 2 minutes. As a DM that is very helpful! I also am fine with kobolds and goblins staying weak, but stronger dwarves, elves, orcs, hobgoblins, etc, are needed because they can and should be opponents in the mid range game.
Posted By: Tiger_Dwarf (3/28/2014 1:07:21 PM)


Part of the idea of bounded accuracy is that you don't 'need' alternate higher-level version of the same monster to use later.
Posted By: Tony_Vargas (3/28/2014 2:33:01 PM)


I'm good with everything on here.
A "Leader" goblin is different than a "warrior" goblin that he's talking about. A "goblin shaman" is just a goblin with spells. Slap some better armor to up AC, maybe some hit points and you've got a "warrior" or "leader" goblin. Nothing too hard to manage. No need for extra space in the MM.
Posted By: bogmad (3/28/2014 12:03:01 PM)


A relevant thought recently expressed on a different forum (quoted with permission)

" Goblins and orcs are pretty standard DnD monsters, yeah? Used all the time in all sorts of games. But they each have only two types - standard and leader. But the drow get at least three types. Now, they're also a classic, but they're not used as often. They're only found in a pretty inhospitable place and you need to level up quite a bit before you might go there. On top of that, due to bounded accuracy we're supposed to keep using goblins and orcs for much longer than we ever did before. But we get less variant types of them? I'm sorry but that sounds like a really boring game. Standard goblins and orcs are already as exciting as dirt in Next, at least give them some alternatives to spice it up every now and then."

Sage Genesis has a really good point here. If you're not going to make variants on low-level monsters, how do you propose to make them worthwhile opponents... (see all)
Posted By: RadioKen (3/28/2014 11:01:03 AM)


I think the solution is to have really robust (yet simple) monster altering and creating rules printed in the MM. What if you want an orc at level 10? What if you want a drow at level 1? These things should be easy to DM and put into an encounter. 3x had lots of templates, and 4e made it really easy to 'level up' or 'level down' all the monster math. I hope 5e does both really well.

While I agree there should be a few different stat blocks under an entry like 'Orc' or 'Goblin' or 'Drow' I hope they don't go overboard like 4e tended to. I resented the fact that 'Human' showed up in every 4e MM, often with 4-5 pages of 'variations'. That's just wasting print, IMO.
Posted By: seti (3/28/2014 11:38:05 AM)


Also, also, MINIONS!

Despite a few issues, the 4e MM was the best ever MM in my opinion. Everything you needed for the monster was on one page and they're tactics were easy and varied.

Plus MINIONS! They were a spectacular edition to DnD and I really hope they make it into Next. They just made so much SENSE and heroes could feel awesome taking on a horde but not getting bogged down with how many hit points the second goblin from the left had remaining.
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/28/2014 10:58:38 AM)


I'll chuck my voice in with the midliners who are calling for less variety than 4e but every monster with a society should have a base creature, a leader, and a spellcaster (assuming that makes sense.)
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/28/2014 10:55:25 AM)


#1 Sounds fine, basically what I expected.

#2 I'm a little disappointed in. I agree that special materials like dragonhide and mithril should not be in the base armor table, that makes good sense. That said, why not take the 3.5 approach to special materials and have them cost X gp when applied to a weapon of armor? You want an adamantine sword? That is 5000 gp on top of the cost of the sword. You want mithril chainmail? 4000 gp + chainmail. That always seemed to work really well in my games of 3.5. Plus that system allows you to add as many materials as you like, such as those unique to Eberron or Dark Sun. I'm also disappointed to see that there will be no craftsmanship component to weapon / armor creation. I always liked the psuedo-magical nature of a masterwork weapon in 3.5. I'm glad to see that you are not taking the 4e approach to special materials. It always bugged me that you needed a specific enhancement modifier to get them.

#3 Sounds ok so far. Though ... (see all)
Posted By: Kormyr (3/28/2014 10:47:40 AM)


As for #3, I did like the 4e method, but I can see where it could annoy some people, as I remember thinking "how many pages of zombies do we need." I would like one base creature, one caster, and one warlord for most humanoid races. Stick some variants in the published adventures (and have them in the Compendium on DDI). As for templates, I would like prominent gods/archfiends/demon lords/etc. to have standard: favorite of X (CR+1), champion of X (CR+5), and scion of X (CR+10). It might be more expedient to have a series of tables of powers/enhancements, with "for favorite of X, pick 2 powers/enhancements from table A; for champion of X pick 5 from table A, and 2 from table B; for scion of X pick 5 from table A, 3 from table B, and 2 from table C."
Posted By: Mechagamera (3/28/2014 10:45:55 AM)


The third answer sounds like we're going to have to wait for specific adventure modules to see interesting variations on standard low-level opponents like goblins or kobolds--or home-brew them ourselves. I realize that 4e's wealth of specializations may be a little much to ask, but leader and spellcaster variants on standard humanoids really ought to be part of the basic package, don't you think?
Posted By: RadioKen (3/28/2014 10:22:31 AM)


I do think that.
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/28/2014 10:52:15 AM)


I say kobold sorcerors & goblin psions. Now back before we had these things, I remember spending a lot of time battling increasing numbers of orcs and hobgoblins. Enough monsters have been added to the mix over the years, though, that I don't think we have to get by with just lower-level undead, the occasional gnoll or troll, and dungeon weirdness like rust monsters to add variety before 6th level. Rodney says we "might see tougher versions of monsters that act as leaders" in some situations, which probably will kick in for most humanoid monsters and a lot of the various somewhat social intelligent creatures which have been developed. It's sad that the kobold dragonshield (and goblin chieftain) apparently aren't seen as deserving of this treatment, but it has been made clear that, like giant rats & stirges, we won't see much of these monsters after the very lowest levels.
Posted By: RadperT (3/29/2014 2:17:43 AM)


Regarding #3:
Please provide additive templates for monsters! This was the best thing about 3rd edition. The way multiclassing broke PC character creation, at the same time, allowed monsters to quickly and fairly be built on for variety. 4th Edition sort of did this but you still had to take your base monster, add a template, then compare against other monsters of that level to see if it became over/under powered.

The best thing you can do is provide monster balance with additive templates so that a 2 Hit Die monster that you add a "warrior" template to becomes equivalent to other published 3 Hit Die monsters.

It needs to be additive so that its quick and easy to apply. Rather than substituting one of the hit dice of a monster and wondering which or if any special abilities need to be removed or watered down, adding it in allows you to apply and play.
Posted By: Nachofan (3/28/2014 9:06:34 AM)


Enough talk! I want it! How much and give it to me?!
Posted By: Timmee (3/28/2014 8:37:54 AM)


Yeah, shut up and take our money already! =)
Posted By: Ramzour (3/29/2014 11:03:17 AM)


Everything in questions 1 and 2 sounds fine...but I don't like Answer 3.

4th edition has literally the best Monster Design I've encountered in any game period. It was exceedingly easy to create your own monsters or simply level them up. It was leagues above 3.5's "Build a Player Character for random encounter" system.

The thing I LOVED about the 4th edition manual was being able to build an interesting varied encounter out of one monster with extreme ease. By flipping to Kolbold, I could grab some a couple of archers, an evil shaman, 2 shield wielding "tanks" for the Kolbolds, and a couple of easy minions with no time or effort. It meant that this encounter would be fun and interesting to fight, and extremely mulch-dimensional. To the do the same thing in 3.5, I would have to literally create 3 Kolbold characters to get the same encounter. 4th edition had the BEST mosnter design of any edition...and probably any RPG I've played period. Buildin... (see all)
Posted By: Claymore65 (3/28/2014 8:23:32 AM)


"as a complete separation from player mechanics"

Which was/is *highly* controversial. They have to go by what they believe the majority wants (as judged by a vast amount of data, including 100,000+ playtest survey responses).

I'm not sure exactly how they will do monster variety, but I'm expecting templates. So you ought to be able to slap a "shaman" template on any sort of humanoid.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/28/2014 12:05:38 PM)


They actually *don't* have to go by what they believe the majority wants. They should go by what they believe will sell, however.

Moreover, a 100,000+ playtest responses can be meaningless - that is, they aren't representational - when used to stand for attitudes outside the playtest. As WotC hasn't used the rigor needed for generalizability, that's likely the case. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (3/29/2014 12:02:11 PM)


Mike's promise of uncomplicated opponents unencumbered by class levels has been maintained through the playtest so far. I don't know what form the differences take, but the solution is probably pretty straightforward. I don't like the way one form of a monster inherits traits possessed by others, they could be written so that the minions gain a higher bonus when the boss is present, and the boss just has its higher attack bonus and unique traits. It also doesn't seem any simpler to give monsters attacks which mimic spells, when just using the spells is more consistent and enhances readability.
Posted By: RadperT (3/29/2014 1:15:00 AM)


During Friday's live Q and A they specifically said that monster stat blocks will be similar to the 4e stat blocks. People keep saying that DnDNext is avoiding 4e but that's really not the case. There were tons of things from 4e in the playtest.
Posted By: Ramzour (3/29/2014 11:02:20 AM)


Glad to see the monster types are being cut down. All of the monster types to fit every role seemed more a gamist construct for 4e than a good story element. Less is more. The 4e monsters and their variants were will out of hand.

Posted By: Mournblade94 (3/28/2014 8:13:40 AM)


Yeah, I disagree a bit. If it makes building encounters quick and easy, having pre-made varieties of monster is a great thing. I agree it was very gamist but...that's not a bad thing. When it comes down to it, this is a game first, and I want to spend more time building cool encounters and story hooks then building monsters to make the Orc encounter not boring.
Posted By: Claymore65 (3/28/2014 8:28:12 AM)


1) I was expecting a typical equipment section and piecemeal equipment shopping to still be possible so this comes to no surprise but i can see how this confirmation can reassure some people.

2) Glad to hear exotic armors was removed from the base armor table as i prefer material such as dragon or mythril to be reward rather than market commodity.

3) I like monster varieties, especially for humanoids, and glad to hear we will still get variety to some degrees.
Posted By: Plaguescarred (3/28/2014 6:12:54 AM)


I'm neither reassured nor dissuaded - the option to choose pre-selected gear has appeared along side the traditional method for almost 14 years now.

The only surprise is that I apparently labored for decades under the oppressive complexity system that forced me through the drudgery of spending ten minutes every few weeks picking items off - gasp! the horror! the horror! - a shopping list. - John
Posted By: Seanchai (3/28/2014 11:36:55 AM)


Great answer to #1. Just make sure every reader of your books knows that these 'streamlined' (ie: boring, and basic) are not the ONLY way to play, create a character, or DM a short or long campaign.

#2: So...We who like all sorts of crazy variety have to wait for the 'Arms and equipment guide" book to come out and spend more money on it? Although I've never had problems making that stuff up when I DM. But I do love lots of gear variety, and seeing how you guys make exotic items/materials 'official' helps me add to it and keep it balanced. In 4e Dark sun, I got really detailed, for example. My players wanted it...So I worked out all the subtleties of bronze, iron, steel, stone, obsidian, etc... various animal hides, bones, horns, teeth, and chitin...for weapons and armor. Incidentally, I disliked it in 4e how you made exotic armors have a minimum '+' drowmesh armor had to be magical to a +3 or something like that. Don't force that when you finally print an item com... (see all)
Posted By: seti (3/28/2014 1:39:47 AM)


More like the exotic materials will be in the DMG. There aren't going to be multiple PHBs (that's from a tweet).
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/28/2014 12:00:26 PM)


So glad that they removed dragon scale from the base armor list. That really bugged me.
Posted By: G_X (3/28/2014 1:15:19 AM)


Right? It wasn't even good enough to justify going on a quest for and the idea that you could just buy it felt silly.

I really love their approach to magic items in Next and I hope they can take a similar tack with special materials that makes them fell, well, special.
Posted By: RC-0775 (3/28/2014 10:54:02 AM)


I'm frustrated that the last line doesn't acknowledge how good 4th Edition was at creating interesting encounters with single monsters. A block of orcs with one shaman and one chieftan was boring compared to the Artillery shaman, Brute Pummelers, Soldier chieftan, and spawning orc skirmisher minions. An orc cave system was always interesting without awkward story reasons for them living with ankhegs and quaggoths just so players wouldn't be bored.
Posted By: MacEochaid (3/28/2014 12:49:38 AM)


I can't think of anything here that I don't like. Sounds good.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (3/28/2014 12:30:16 AM)



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