Multiple Ways To Organize InformationHow does the AD&D Monster Manual organize entries?
- Alphabetical table of contents at the front. No page #s or randomization methods, just a list of creatures.
- Statblocks presented in alphabetical order, with subgroups (Demons, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Giants, etc.)
- Index at the back of the book. Entries are listed alphabetically with subgroups, with page #s, in the order that they appear in the text.
- Alphabetical table of contents at the front of the book with page #s.
- Statblocks presented in alphabetical order, with subgroups (Dragons, etc.)
- Appendix at the end of the book of "Miscellaneous Creatures", which appear in a condensed format without art. They aren't listed individually in the table of contents at the front of the book.
- Index at the back of the book. Entries are listed alphabetically with subgroups, with page #s. Entries from the main text are mixed in with entries from the "Miscellaneous Creatures" section.
How Are Readers Accessing Information?This is a crucial question for book design. What are the entry points into a book? Why is someone using it?
For Monster Manuals, the main reasons are:
- Looking up a monster by name (at the table). E.g. A module calls for stats for a skeleton.
- Reading to generate ideas (not at the table). E.g. You're working on a module or encounter table of your own.
But what if there were more entry points?
It's handy to have all the monsters in alphabetical order if you need to look one up, but it's not necessary. By breaking from that design, we can introduce a whole host of new tools.
The Monster Overhaul LayoutHere's the draft plan. 20 sections with 20 entries. Each number in the image above will have 20 creatures. Some will be classic monsters, some will be entirely new entries. All will have variants and useful tools.
Splitting the monsters into 20 sections means GMs can pick and choose their monsters. Want to run a gothic horror game? Mix 1, 6, and 10. Want to run Gygaxian wilderness? Mix 1, 8, 9, 10, 13, etc. Etc, etc.
It also means I can focus on the 20 "best" monsters for each section and weed out mistakes or flawed designs.
I'm trying to make sections of the book as generic as possible, for use in as many settings and games as possible. Unfortunately, early drafts of 1. People with zero cultural markers ended up... very bland. Unusably bland, in fact. So I've had to give the core of the chart a medieval-ish feel and work from there. There's no reason you need to use it as the core though; a game where the PCs are monsters raiding civilization would probably use 15. Dungeon as the core.
And if I want to include "classic" monsters like the Couatl or the Djinn, where should I put them? Having separate Fantasy Arabia, Fantasy South America, etc. sections based on lumping and splitting folklore seemed like the worst possible idea. Instead, I'm using terrain types. 6. Hostile Forests includes Forest Spirits, pixies, etc. 7. Hot Plains covers elephants, rhinos, Djinn, etc. and 8. Mysterious Mountains covers (very broadly) Su-Monster, Yeti, Lammasu, Ice Titans, etc.
Is this an ideal solution? No. I'll probably revise it. But it's a step in the right direction. It won't be as good as a setting-specific bestiary and encounter table, but a Monster Manual never is.
12. Strange Water is a placeholder for microfauna made big.
13. Sci-Fi includes malfunctioning robots, alien visitors, etc. The usual Barrier Peaks stuff.
16. Outsider might be better renamed "A Wizard Did It".
Sections may change as work progresses.
Encounter TablesThe AD&D DMG and the Fiend Folio both have Monster Level tables. These are d100 encounter tables with probability curves. The monster's HD, number encountered, AC, movement, etc. are given in the table... but not a page reference back to the main statblock. "Monster Level" is also somewhat arbitrary.
Similarly, the A&D DMG and Fiend Folio have terrain encounter tables.
While these are handy and condensed, they're also... flat. You get a [rolls] Ice Troll. FIGHT. You see a giant ram. FIGHT.
OSR design moved away from a one-line number-name encounter tables a long time ago. Bryce (rightly) complains about it all the time
So the Monster Overhaul will include encounter tables. Really good encounter tables.
Magical Industrial Revolution uses 2 different formats: a d100 table with d20 subgroups and a "condensed" format based off City State of the Invincible Overlord. The main table has more info, while the condensed format allows for quick rolls and more unusual situations.
I'm also fan of the Omen + Encounter format used in my other products. Players get Omens if they move cautiously and pay attention.
I'm not a fan of linked tables. They were really big in the '90s. Roll on the Humanoid Type table. If you get a Dwarf, roll on the Dwarf subtable. If you get a Dwarf Warrior, roll on the Dwarf Warrior weapon subtable, etc. Just pages and pages of nested tables, often with obscure naming schemes, and with no real sense of flow or information hierarchy.
|Central Casting - Dungeons. '93.|
- Every entry should be self-contained. If information is needed, it should be on the same page or close by. Minimal flipping back and forth or referencing tables.
- Encounters should be evocative without requiring endless subtables.
- Monsters should have variants.
- Tools should be provided. What's a minotaur without a labyrinth?
- Generic stats.
- Assume the reader can figure stuff out. If there's a skeleton variant that says "Centaur Skeleton: as fast as a horse", I don't need to provide stats. The GM can figure out if the Centaur Skeleton can climb a ladder or run down a fleeing PC.
- Tools, not rules.
- Randomize everything. d20 sections with d20 entries. Pick 4 sections, roll 1d4 for section, then 1d20 for encounters.
- Include other ways to use the book. The text will contain Monster Menu-All entries and a section on the HD(NA) of the Monster Manual. Will I include a page splitting monsters into Prokopetz's 12 categories or the ones from the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge? You bet I will.
ConclusionsYou can read the first entry (Peasant) here. It'll be useful for all sorts of medieval-ish games.
If you want monster-by-monster updates and the ability to give immediate feedback, check out my Patreon. The first 4 entries (Peasant, Townsfolk, Pilgrim, and Knight) are already drafted. 1% done! The more support I have on Patreon, the more time I can devote to the book and the quicker it'll be finished.