As a 4e player, I find the 5th edition stat blocks a major step backwards. The idea of having to comb through multiple spell descriptions in the PHB while trying to run an NPC is unappetizing to say the least. I preferred the self-sufficient stat blocks of 4e. I know there’s a lot of hate for 4e out there, but even the most hateful edition warriors might be able to appreciate one-stop stat blocks. Well, here they are. I’ve gone through the 5e Monster Manual and expanded the stat blocks so that you need nothing more than the stat block to run the creature.
Well, that’s not 100% true. If you want your NPC to shove another creature, then you’ll still have to look up the rules on shoving. However, those rules are the same for all creatures, easy to memorize, and in some cases not used very often, so they’re best left for ad hoc reference to the PHB.
Here are some notes:
- In most cases, the basic idea is to expand the spell-like abilities, providing a full description for each. This could get insanely long, so I used some shorthand. A min/maxer would be able to manipulate this language to his or her advantage, but you’re the DM. I doubt that’s your goal.
- In addition to making the stat blocks self-contained, I also tried to make the monsters more interesting. In quite a few cases, the stat blocks follow a specific, boring pattern: “Multiattack, Bite, Claw, Claw” or “Multiattack, Melee weapon.” The giants, for example, are remarkably similar. The only difference between the hill, fire, frost, and stone giants are reach and resistance. So, even for a CR 2 NPC like the Azer, it made sense to give it Innate Spellcasting. This gave it an underpowered ranged attack, making the Azer more interesting without making it overpowered.
- I’ve noticed that the player power curve beings to distance itself from the NPC power curve by 5th or 6th level. This isn’t surprising in light of the fact that the table on page 274 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating, requires higher damage expressions for many higher-level monsters than what appears in the Monster Manual. My stat blocks reflect what’s in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, so expect tougher monsters. Note: I did not increase monster AC or hit points, because I didn’t want NPCs that would create seemingly interminable encounters.
- Legendary creatures are, across the board, interesting and well-stated out. I haven’t made any changes to legendary creatures so far except for the Solar (angel). Although it’s a legendary creature, it has innate spellcasting, and I somehow managed to keep it to a single page.
- The couatl is an example of a stat block that requires some discussion. Despite not being a legendary creature, when I converted the stat block to my format, it was over a page long (9-point font, 1/2” margins). This can be seen as a failure of monster design (i.e., it’s too complicated to expect a DM ever to use it as written) or a success of monster type. By the latter I mean that the full stat block should be seen as a starting point. You can delete spell-like abilities that you’re never going to use, leaving a smaller, more manageable, and more practical stat block. When you’ve deleted certain spell-like abilities, what’s left could be a couatl that focuses on healing, focuses on damage, or is best suited for a role-playing challenge. Or not. If you want to run it as written, go for it. I’m not barking out orders; I’m just providing some options.
- Good gravy, the lich stat block is huge! I didn’t even provide the lair actions, and it’s two full pages of evil. If you have its spells at your fingertips so that you can use them depending on the situation, then this is clearly the most versatile creature in the Monster Manual so far. The lich needs no allies. It was also draining to convert, so please help me out and check it (and the lizardfolk that follows) for errors.
Not all stat blocks require changes based on #1 and #2. For those blocks that require no more than changes to damage expressions, I won’t be taking the time to convert them. Here’s what I’ve done so far:
Updated September 27, 2015: Bestiary for 5th Edition DnD A-N
Note: I had to change the wording of the Invisibility and for self-only Plane Shift spells. Prior copies of this bestiary should be burned, the ashes should be blasted into space, and we should all deny that such copies ever existed.
Note 2: Hey, the nagas are pretty cool. They could easily be a recurring villain because of Rejuvenation.
Note 3: I’m so angry about the quality of the books WotC has released, I’m contemplating publishing the entire Monster Manual. I doubt I will because of how much work that would be, but I’m tremendously frustrated that WotC management simply doesn’t care about the RPG anymore. They keep the D&D trademark to make movies, board games, etc., but the RPG just doesn’t matter to them. It must suck to work there right now if all you do is RPG work. The fact that my books fall apart as soon as I use them is unbearable. Yes, I know they have a program for replacing the books, but because I support my local gaming stores and didn’t assume the books would fall apart, I don’t have my receipt. Only those that purchased via Amazon aren’t screwed.
Hopefully, I’ll get your feedback before I finish so I can edit these as needed and convert future stat blocks based on good feedback.
Follow me on Twitter @GSLLC
Special thanks to Mike (@SlyFlourish), Vic (@Luddite_Vic), Erik (@Erik_Nowak), John (@GOPCyclist), and Rob Oz (too good for Twitter) for their insights.