I’ve started a new job in the last couple of weeks, which is partly to blame for me not writing anything recently. Partly it’s just good old fashioned laziness. For instance, I really wanted to write this Monstrous Monday post on Monday. I was off, but I was busy during the day and in the evening I just wanted to go to bed. Anyway, here is the thing I was too lazy to post yesterday.
Recently, whilst looking through the 5e Monster Manual, I got to thinking about how there are a few omissions from the current stat blocks that I really miss from older editions.
First, I miss the frequency (common, uncommon, rare, etc.) stat line. This information could of course be ignored on a whim – 4% chance to encounter a land shark my ass – but it still served a useful “at a glance” purpose. It was a handy reference for random encounters and served as a good gauge of relative populations in an “average fantasy world,” whatever that is. Perhaps this stat was taken out so people would feel like they had permission to just use monsters they thought were cool regardless of of how common or uncommon the rules said they were. More likely it just got chopped in the name of streamlining. I get that, but I still miss frequency.
Second, I miss the climate/terrain stat line. Of course, the reasons for this are closely tied to why I miss the frequency stat line, but there it is. I particularly like tables that group “Monsters by Terrain Type.” Sometimes such tables are called “Random Encounter Tables,” even. This information could be ignored just like frequency of course, but it could also be used to give you a rough idea of where monsters were generally found in a generic setting.
Interestingly, I feel like omitting climate and terrain could lead to less innovation than having that information present. Maybe not though – maybe I’m just crazy. I used to look at the climate and terrain and think “yeah, it says swamp, but what if lizardmen existed in the tundra? What would those guys be like?” The fact that a climate was even mentioned felt like a launching off point for playing “what if.” Like I said, maybe I’m just crazy. Maybe people still ask those questions – and ask them more often now that they aren’t being told what climate a creature belongs in. Maybe I would have thought up snow lizardmen with or without a climate stat. Whatever. I still miss the climate/terrain stat.