ike's out on vacation, so I'm taking over Legends & Lore this week to talk about monsters. As a producer in D&D R&D, I'm less involved in the design and development of the game, and more in charge of planning and developing product ideas. As a result, I'm hoping to use this opportunity to gather feedback on what people would like to see in the way of monsters for the next iteration of the game—whether it comes in the form of a Monster Manual®, or something else entirely.
The original 1974 "white box" included around fifty different types of monsters (not including mundane animals), many of which had a few variations. Most of the monsters didn't have illustrations, nor did they need them. Nearly all of the monsters were recognizable, inspired either by classic myth or fantasy literature. Some of the most outlandish monsters that appeared in the white box are now staples of D&D—oozes and slimes, purple worms, and, of course, kobolds.
The basic set in 1977 provided a much more robust creature selection, adding to the core of the game many creatures that had appeared in supplements, including such iconic specimens as the mind flayer, the umber hulk, the beholder, and the rust monster. The AD&D Monster Manual consolidated hundreds of monsters into a single book, delivering to Dungeon Masters a seemingly endless supply of threats.
If you're a Dungeon Master, and you're like me, then you can never have enough monsters. I must have the Monster Manual and its sequels. In fact (and at the risk of showing my youth), the Monstrous Manual from 2nd Edition was the first D&D book I ever bought, even before I knew how to play D&D. I simply wanted the book because I was fascinated by the monster lore. Even though I had no idea what the statistics meant—I still hadn't figured out THAC0—I could tell from reading about the tarrasque that it was a badass.
So why the trip down monster memory lane? For me, the playtesting process is as much about figuring out the best D&D product offerings as it is about getting feedback on the rules and mechanics of the game. We aim to meet the desires of the D&D community. Although it's still too early in the design and playtesting process to discuss product X or Y, we'd like to start collecting some general sentiments, such as what monsters are essential to D&D, how many monsters you need if you're a beginning or advanced Dungeon Master, and so forth.
Please help us out by taking this survey. Please note that we refer to the Monster Manual throughout the survey, as it is a known and easy reference point for most players. However, the final product mix for D&D Next has yet to be determined so no specific formats or titles have been determined at this early date.
Finally, if you're missing your dose of Mearls, check out the video from last week's "The Future of D&D" panel at PAX East.
Greg Bilsland is a producer for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast. His design credits include Monster Manual 2, Monster Manual 3, and Vor Rukoth. His current work involves coordinating the D&D Next playtest and helping plan D&D Insider and D&D organized play content. He keeps a gaming blog at wanderingbard.com and is active on Twitter (@gregbilsland).