Wandering Monsters: What Do You Think?

James Wyatt goes over previous Wandering Monsters columns to compare monster flavor and crunch (for those that have both), and there is also a poll at the end to see how well you think it all matches up. What do I think? Well...

Strong, tough, and high damage output--with the ability to boost that with a wild swing--the orc entry hits all the major bullet points. Given that most playtest characters I have seen tend to have Armor Classes above 14, it will not be doing much hitting with all of a +2 to attack rolls (made worse with the aforementioned damage-boosting trait).

Ability-score wise gnolls measure up alright, though I think they should be a bit weaker than orcs and could stand to be a bit faster (as it stands they cannot really run down humans). The main problem I have with gnolls is the Savage trait, which gives them a +4 damage bonus when two other creatures with Savage are within 30 feet. I get that they are trying to evoke the idea that gnolls work better in packs, but 4th Edition implemented this a lot better by requiring gnolls to gang up on a creature in melee.

I was among those that disliked the goblin art, feeling it to be too “orcish”. I also disagreed with the low Constitution, so I like that they ultimately went with an average score. The rest is fine; they are Small, weak, prefer to fight in numbers, etc. I do find it odd that for all their hatred of sunlight, that they do not suffer any penalty (especially when they have a mechanic for that, just check out drow and kobolds).

I find it odd that your typical hobgoblin warrior--or really a hobgoblin in general--has an above-average Charisma; to me their organization and discipline speaks better to Wisdom, though I am not sure if their stats are based on racial modifiers, an array, or what. 3rd Edition statted out many humanoid creatures as 1st-level warrior types using an array, so they were typically stronger and tougher than the everyday fare.

I am not a fan of Steadfast, which is one of the many absolutes in Next that I cannot stand; if a friendly creature that also has Steadfast is within 30 feet, it is completely immune to fear. Completely. Nothing can scare either of them. It is like how dwarves are utterly immune to poison. I think it--and other absolutes--would be better represented as having advantage (or just, you know, a bonus) on saves against fear.

I also dislike Disciplined, which lets a hobgoblin grant another ally advantage on an attack against a creature within its reach. There is a Help action in the How to Play pdf on page 10, but it looks like it is only good for checks. I think that characters should be able to help each other out with checks, attacks, and even saving throws depending on the situation; hobgoblins can just be better with the whole attack bit.

I think Dexterity could stand to be lowered a bit, and maybe up Constitution, but those are both nitpicks. Otherwise I have no problem with them.

I like the idea of kobolds as dragon-like descendants. I feel that it gives them more character and lends itself as an easy explanation for urds. Stat-wise they are mostly fine (I would put Constitution at 10).

While I still do not agree with the art, I do agree that the default lizardfolk society should be fairly primitive, with a handful being much more advanced to keep players on their toes (or to just break the mold). Likewise I have no problem with demon-worshipping lizard kings, though I would go further than just making them super-intelligent (though a reptilian James Bond-esque villian could work...).

Again, did not agree with the art. I actually think it was the worst out of the whole bunch (just shy of lizardfolk). I will concede that aside from living underground and a rancid odor, giving them a non-demonic bad guy to worship is a good way to differentiate the two.

Ultimately I think that most of the monsters could stand for a tweak or two--which apparently we will be getting in the next packet--and so could formatting. I would also like to see rules for creating monsters (though having played 3rd Edition for almost a decade I am used to eyeballing things). The game is still over a year off, and given WotC's prior work on Monster Manual 3 and both Monster Vaults I am not particularly concerned over these issues.

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