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Nerdarchy > Dungeons & Dragons  > The Monster Manual Is for Every Player During Every Moment of Every Dungeons & Dragons 5E Game

The Monster Manual Is for Every Player During Every Moment of Every Dungeons & Dragons 5E Game

D&D 5E Magic Item - Manual of Siraq
Stay in touch between sessions! Trials and triumphs of a full-time nerd in a part-time world

Last week, the Manual of Siraq was presented right here on Nerdarchy as a new Dungeons & Dragons 5E magic item for players. The Manual of Siraq is a distinctly unusual magic item that has a metagame purpose of allowing every Player Character in a gaming group to have access to the Monster Manual during every moment of every Dungeons & Dragons 5E game. This article is specifically targeted at explaining why the Manual of Siraq is needed.


Monster Manual

Monster Manual (original version for 1st ed. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons) by Gary Gygax (TSR, Inc., 1977) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was blessed to be discussing Dungeons & Dragons with a few Nerdarchy Dungeon Masters (DMs) and one of them commented that he really wishes he could play more because he is almost always in the DM seat. I agreed that good DMs are few and far between, and then we got into a discussion about why there are so few good DMs. My fellow Nerdarchy DM stated he felt this issue was a lack of mentoring and that by mentoring players to be good DMs, this problem can be fixed. I disagree with his stance at a fundamental level. DM mentoring is already being done to a high degree. There are dozens of blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts aimed specifically at mentoring new DMs. Additionally, many existing good DMs are preparing their players to step into the DM seat.

My fellow Nerdarchy DM went into exactly how a player should be mentored into DMing, and explained that done right this process takes time and dedication. My goal is for there to be tens of thousands of new, good DMs, ideally hundreds of thousands of new, good DMs. That requires a fix to the problem that scales and scales quickly. The problem of why there are not more good DMs is not that there is a lack of mentoring, it is two specific obstacles to players playing and enjoying Dungeons & Dragons 5E:

  • Play Obstacle 1 – Takes far too long to play (typically four hours).
  • Play Obstacle 2 – Rewards system mastery greatly and punishes casual play brutally.

The Manual of Siraq is designed specifically to solve the second Play Obstacle. As it stands now, in a typical Dungeons & Dragons 5E game the DM brings his Player Characters into a dungeon and confronts them with a monster. Each player then thinks about how best to defeat that monster. Here is what typically happens with a group of five Dungeons & Dragons 5E Players.

  • Player 1 (Grognard) – Knows exactly how to defeat the monster because she has the Monster Manual entry memorized, but it does not matter because she is running a Cleric and while the player knows exactly how to approach defeating the monster, the Player Character cannot use that knowledge because the Player Character does not know that knowledge.
  • Player 2 (Dutiful) – Is a great player and has bought all three Core Rulebooks and has the Monster Manual sitting in her bag where she can quickly look up how to defeat the monster, but it does not matter because there is a long standing tradition her DM adheres to (along with the vast majority of DMs) that players cannot read the Monster Manual during a game session.
  • Player 3 (Newbie) – Has no idea how to defeat the monster and does not have a Monster Manual to check how to defeat the monster (but is really curious what the Monster Manual has to say about the monster).
  • Player 4 (Showboater) – Is a dubiously motivated player playing a Ranger who is really looking forward to using her knowledge of the monster to carve the monster apart and lord her expertise over the other players.
  • Player 5 (Hackster) – Is a player who wants her character to swing her sword and kill that monster immediately and could not give two displacer-beast tails about how best to approach defeating the monster (which is the same approach this player uses on every monster).

Here we see the problem: The Monster Manual is available at the table and there are players who need the Monster Manual to know how to fight the monsters the DM has presented, but because of long held DM traditions the information the Monster Manual holds is not available to those players who want it and/or need it.

Monster Manual

Monster Manual (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This tradition comes from the 1980s and in the ’80s this tradition made sense. Then Dungeons & Dragons was limited to a group of players who were generally nerds, generally scholars. We were happy with that, with having a limited population of Dungeons & Dragons players and the game being a niche. Dungeons & Dragons was for nerds and scholars then. Today, we have moved past the Dungeons & Dragons community being a community of nerds and scholars. We want to include as many people as possible in the hobby now, which means we need to move past this tradition of holding that the Monster Manual is not to be accessed during game play. We need to change this tradition so players can use the Monster Manual during every moment of a play session.

In the ’80s, players would spend four hours playing in the game and then go home and read and reread the Monster Manual. A large reason for this was that there was far less to do in the ’80s. There were not hundreds of great movies, hundreds of great video games, a higher focus on family time and building deeper relationships with friends. The world has fundamentally changed and Dungeons & Dragons needs to change in order to be inclusive and to do the simple things that will allow players to use the information that is available to them in the Monster Manual to defeat the monsters they are presented. Players need to be able to defeat monsters not with the knowledge they gained outside of the game (which rewards system mastery) but from the knowledge they gained during the game (which rewards casual play). Unlocking the Monster Manual and allowing it to the be used by players transforms the game into four hours of –

  • Using the Monster Manual the way we use the Player’s Handbook.
  • Using the Monster Manual to increase our knowledge of the monsters we are fighting.
  • Letting the game become a learning session as well as a fun session.

Dungeons & Dragons

This is an absolutely critical change that needs to happen with Dungeons & Dragon 5E. The Monster Manual should be for all players at all time. That is the reason I wrote the Manual of Siraq. The Manual of Siraq solves the in-game problem of Player Characters not having the knowledge of the player. DMs now need to solve the problem of the tradition of keeping the Monster Manual out of the hands of players during game sessions (This change also has the added benefit of making the Monster Manual a useful purchase for players, which will reward Wizards of the Coast for the amazing work they have already done on Dungeons & Dragons 5E.)


I should note that the Nerdarchy Primarchs (Dave, Ted, Ryan and Nate) have built a platform where you can read Scott Garibay’s thoughts on Tabletop Roleplaying Games each week, but that does not mean that a single one of them agree with my thoughts. This is a Scott Garibay stance, not a Nerdarchy stance. With that said, I call upon every Dungeons & Dragons 5E DM to take that bold step and make the Monster Manual available to Every Player During Every Moment of Every Dungeons & Dragons 5E Game. Thank you and great gaming to you!

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Scott Garibay


  • Kenny
    February 21, 2017 at 7:03 am

    I am not very old age-wise, at 31, but I did start playing D&D back in 1992 or 1993 with AD&D in the back yard of one of my friends from cub scouts and his older brother. I guess with that background and my continuing enjoyment of 2nd edition and that “old-school” play style I wouldn’t want that at my games.

    I play a good bit of 5e online these days with roll20, and I remember my first time DMing when 2 of the 5 players were clearly researching each monster I placed on the spot. I was pretty frustrated at the time but I didn’t rock the boat and just let them do it, since it was a new gaming group and I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot. Reading this article did at least open my eyes a bit, and I can see where they might have been coming from.

    While I still wouldn’t want this in place at games I am DMing or playing by default, I do think that might be a cool artifact for the group to encounter at some point.

    As a side note, I rarely completely agree with Scott, but I definitely always appreciate his wild and crazy ideas. I never know when one might make sense and cause me to use it.

  • argirios
    February 21, 2017 at 7:32 am

    **coughs** Knowledge checks **coughs**

    Best part of this was the “This is a Scott Garibay stance, not a Nerdarchy stance.”

  • Sid Icarus
    February 21, 2017 at 8:29 am

    This is a terrible solution and whoever decided the best way to “fix” 5e was “ensure everyone references books more” is so dramatically missing the point. Can you imagine this? “You see an orc! He’s tall and- page 53. Yeah he’s tall and- not a warlord, just a regular orc. No. No Jerome, page 53. C’mon, mate just… Here mine has tabs. Anyway this tall orc is riding a worg and- no that’s on page 70. No, a worg alpha, next page. It has more hp and a bite attack. No, Clara…CLARA! Not wolf, worg, mate.” UUUUGGGGH KILL ME IN THE DAMNED FACE! You describe the huuuuuge orc that’s standing over the halfling about to grind his face with his boot and then he says “orc or orc major warlord?” and you say “ugh, an orc” and he laughs, “Yeah, he’s got 8hp and 10 ac” and the halfling flips you off “lol +3 to hit. Okay whatever, man, bring it, he hits on a 14 or better and can’t down me in one hit, I’ll take those odds.” you’ve ruined all you tension. Well done. I hope you’re proud.

    The D&D OODA loop is DM describes world action, player describes character response, DM assigns skill and DC to the response, player rolls die or dice and adds relevant modifiers, DM describes world action taking into account dice roll. If you want to fix D&D, start with those before you introduce “players fiddle with statblocks for 10 minutes”. If you’ve ever played a game when players know their sheets and don’t have to reference them you know how true this is.

    This started at the solution. The first like of the article is his damned new item we’re all meant to be proud of. We always start at the core problem: Different players have different knowledge of the monsters and that changes how they can (or choose to) mechanically interact, BUT they are rewarded for taking the same mechanical interactions. There’s your problem.

    We have to start by acknowledging that system mastery is not a dirty word, and that D&D 5e is first and foremost (due to both its history and mechanics) a skirmish combat sim. Implying that players are doing a bad by knowing that goblin has seven hit points is like implying players are bad for giving their druids 16 wisdom. The game incentivises and rewards system mastery in a ton of ways, so people aren’t wrong for chasing those rewards. Remember, players will always gravitate toward what rewards them (in both quantifiable ways like xp and more damage and hp, and the other ways like creative story. Maslow’s hierarchy of character motivation, right?) and very few players feel rewarded by only doing two damage, while their teammates do eight damage because of resistance and vulnerability ESPECIALLY if it doesn’t make sense to them (why do I hit that orc but not that orc when they both were described as orcs). They’ll want to do the big numbers, that’s D&D. If you as a DM don’t want your players to WANT to do big numbers and be rewarded by and for doing big numbers, or if you want the system to equally reward “what my character would do” and “what the enemy is weak to” you should play a story focused game (A Flower for Mara? Fiasco? Prime time Adventures? FATE? I’ll play all of these too so like…let me know, I’m free Thursdays).

    So how do we reduce the problem as a table DM with as little work as possible? Without hacking systems and rewriting reward structures? Just be better at what you’re already doing: ACTIVELY REVEAL YOUR ENEMIES.

    This is perfect because it creatively rewards the creative story players, it mechanically rewards the mechanical grognards, it let’s you gush about how cool and tough your monsters are, and it makes your baddies feel more like bad bad-to-the-bone badass baddies and less like CR balanced stat-blocks.

    ACTIVELY REVEAL: No, don’t ask for knowledge checks. Don’t make the players EARN the narration. You agreed to tell them a story, they sat down to hear one. Rolling knowledge checks all the time is like demanding the audience of a movie explain the plot so far or you’ll just shut down on them. Or worse, because remember how swingy 5e is? Your grognard who’s maxing knowledge so that you’ll let him use his (meta)knowledge to beat the baddies because you won’t believe his 8 INT monk can figure out fire elementals are weak vs water…That guy is going to roll 2s. What’re you gonna say then? EFF THAT! Give your players the game, and use it to ELEVATE your enemies to being huge obstacles. Failure on rolls should be about cool stuff happening to complicate your lives, not about not understanding the world around you. Failing an INT(History) is about not realising the Prince was overthrown and his Vizier in front of you asking for help collecting some things was cursed an necromantic enemy of the state, it’s not about forgetting that Giant Badgers can dig holes. INT(Arcana) is about detecting the signature feeling of WHO animated this golem, not remembering what a golem is!

    So golem, right? I love examples. Let’s take Stone Golems. What do we want to say about them mechanically? What does someone need to know to fight it effectively? Large construct. AC 17. Damage immunity: poison, psychic; bludgeon, pierce, slash, from non magical weapons that aren’t adamantine. Condition immunities: charmed, exhaustion, frightened, paralysed, petrified, poisoned. Magic resistance: adv on saving throws against spells. Magic wepaons: attacks are magical. Multi attack and slow (recharge 5-6).

    Whatre you going to say “you see a stone man. Roll knowledge arcana. 2? lol it’s stone. Good luck, scrub.” how do you fight that? And more importantly how much do you caaaare?

    Nah man. Here’s how you play that out: “through the wall comes crashing this large stone man. Twice the size of even the dragonborn barbarian, with skin like plate mail. The reinforced concrete wall doesn’t even slow it down, it bends the steel rebar under its body like wet paper under a steamroller. The construct’s dead eyes look across the party, inside you see no iris, no pupil, no biology. Just deep blackness and a spark of purple magic that flashes like a faulty spark plug before the creature moves. For the martial characters, this *thing* gives off an unsettling feeling not unlike standing too close to your wizard or bard mid-spell. For the arcane of you, it radiates this inherent magic that pushes against the very air around it. Where it’s magical aura meets yours, it threatens to swallow you, to overcome you. You can push back with some force-of-will. All of you can feel, as it takes each step, that this thing is of the earth, not of life, and just being this close to something so mighty makes you feel as if it is not the only one with legs of solid stone. It crunches two big hands together, both like giant’s sledgehammers, and stares soullessly at the cleric, having picked his first target. Roll Iniative.”

    Dont fix 5e, just be better at your damn job as a DM.

      • Sid Icarus
        February 23, 2017 at 10:29 pm

        Hi Scott, Thanks for taking the time to reply, and to say some kind things too.

        At it’s core I want to go back to my first and biggest problem with your solution, which is pacing and tension. Would you agree that reducing monsters to stat blocks reduces the amount of tension in them? Would you agree that having a table full of new players pass a monster manual around and try to note everything slows the game down at an exciting point of the game (combat)? I don’t disagree that accessibility is a problem, in fact it’s one of my biggest focuses. I’m not saying preserve the status quo, I’m saying your solution should come from (as you put it) inside 5e. From inside the world, and the play structures in place, not from administration and bookkeeping. I think it does so much more damage than it helps.

        I think I disagree about D&D not being a skirmish combat sim. I know it’s trying to be more, and it does, but it’s focus is undeniably in combat. As this is a side issue, I won’t say much more just this point: I’d put it on a spectrum, with some straight sim like Warhammer or Flames of War on one side, and Breaking the Ice on the other (maybe something even more freeform like Fiasco, or PTA. I don’t know, probably something diceless), and in that context I place D&D toward the combat side, more Warmachine than Flower for Mara, but definitely with additions.

        I’m super glad that we’re getting to talk about getting new players involved, this is where my heart rests. I play about 10 hours of D&D a week, 3 of those hours are with complete newbies. My FLGS offers my time on a semi-professional basis to tables of five absolute-never-rolled-a-d20-what’s-a-hill-dwarf-mean-newbies and I teach them the game over four weeks of play. “Meeting the millions of young people who are not playing the game” is my primary interaction with D&D at the moment, and I believe in it. Anecdotally I’ll tell you this: Every table I start I present a dichotomy. Do you want me to explain the rules as we go, and we can learn about the mechanics, or do you just want to experience playing a 4 week adventure, and you can dig into the rules on your own time? The answer has, every single time, been that they just want to play. They don’t want me to show them the monster manual, they don’t want to learn which feats they can take at level 6, they don’t want to look up the skirt or behind the curtain, they just want to have adventures. I got this idea when I first played FATE at a Con, and the guy never mentioned Create An Advantage or Attack, we said what we wanted, we rolled and added the skill, then he told us the outcome. And I fell in love with FATE. So I don’t think the best way to engage these players is by showing them a monster manual, I think the best way to engage them is by showing them a world. I think those players will EXPERIENCE D&D better by hearing “the skeleton has no flesh on it, you look to your sword and realise it’s not going to be as useful as it has been” than “Here’s a book. I’m going to get a coke while you read it”. Newbies don’t want an engineering degree, they want ADVENTURE. Every time you have to open a book in a game like D&D, it is a FAILURE of the game’s design. Thus accessibility isn’t about showing them more ways to engage with the rules, it’s about having better rules with which they can engage (intuitively or otherwise). Which, unfortunately falls outside the purview of us game hackers and into the realm of actual design (or hackers with a lot more time than I).

        I wholeheartedly disagree that rewarding system mastery must end. For those reading along I’ll nut out what I think system mastery actually is: It’s learning how to angle the rules of a game to give yourself better results. From the very start where you learn that a fighter with 16 Strength has more chance to hit with a greatsword than a fighter with 14 strength so you put more points there and less into INT, to the next step where you learn as a rogue that you should use a rapier instead of a longsword because you get to add dex but get the same damage, to where you learn as a warlock you can cast darkness and use devilsight to give yourself advantage against everyone and disadvantage against you, to like right up the end of those 3.5 builds that are just impenetrable but somehow do a thousand damage with a sling. System Mastery presents depth, it gives us somewhere to go, something to learn, a place to get better. It’s about attaining skill, or “leveling up as a player.” The same way that progression for characters matters, system mastery makes progression for players matter. I know you said you’ve played FATE, but have you played Accelerated Edition (FAE)? FAE is decidedly more accessible, but it still has system mastery. How to write aspects, how to narrate your attacks to get the approach you want (or invoke the aspects you need) is a part of that mastery. A player who is better at writing double-edged aspects, and who is better at narrating toward their best approach is going to have more narrative authority (i.e. win more rolls) than a player who is bad at those things. And that’s okay. It’s what gives the game it’s depth and longevity. A game without mastery is a game that loses it’s luster very quickly.

        I think that we’re back to talking about spectra, where you’ve said “rewarding system mastery must end”, I disagree entirely, but that’s because it’s such a black and white statement. If you’d said “3.5 edition levels of system mastery required to be even half-effective as a character must end” I’d be throwing you high-fives and pouring beers. If you’d said “FATE levels of system mastery where understanding how to engage mechanics and narrative together needs to end” I’d probably wonder from which hospital you escaped as, to me, that’s a core element of what makes RPGs fun. System Mastery is important, and it’s also *NOT* the antithesis of casual accessibility. I agree that I want D&D to be more accessible for the newbies (after all, that would make my job a lot easier!), but I don’t think the solution is to show them more rules. I think the solution lays in elegance, and here is the best news, Scott, here is the bit that actually excites me: It’s happening. We’re winning this fight. Accessibility in D&D is on the rise. I couldn’t imagine introducing a whole table of 5 to 3.5 D&D, I’d probably kill them or myself. But 5e is teachable and learnable. It’s much more accessible than anything D&D beforehand. It has the elegance, not everywhere, and not perfectly, but it’s a whole lot better. And if D&D has taught me anything, it’s that every little win, every experience, counts.

  • dragonmasterdean
    February 21, 2017 at 3:10 pm

    If you want to cut down on time, just hand them the adventure and tell them to go through it themselves. The point is no one KNOWS everything about their world. I can’t tell you how many times the terror and wonder role play that comes about because they don’t know what they are up against. Describe what happens, let the players react as their characters not reach for a book to figure out how to deal with something. I would rather spend the 4 hours of RP fun rather than 2 hours of looking up stuff in books with no surprise or wonder at the world that is around them.

    Do a better job as a DM.

    PS: besides anyone that wants one will get a Monster Manual. Just don’t need to be page flipping during the battle.

  • Michael Hawkins
    February 21, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    I disagree with this stance in part. Theoretically, with the games I play through Google Hangouts, anyone or all of my players may have their Monster Manual on hand either physically or digitally. I can’t tell or stop them. My problem with the stance presented in this article is boiled down to two main reasons.

    1) It assumes that the stat block, or crunch, is primary over the story and role playing. As the DM, I know I have veteran players that have the stat block for an orc or zombie memorized. I also know that I have new players that may not even know what an orc is outside that movie they saw clips of but fell asleep during. My players don’t need to know that orcs have 17 strength or can do an extra damage die with weapon attacks. They need to know that the orcs look big and tough, and that they seem to be moving in sync as a practiced warband. Not to mention, I like my players to be surprised. I have been known to throw what looks like a traditional zombie at them, only for it to be a reskinned troll or something. The stat blocks don’t matter. It’s how the DM frames the opponents and reveals their abilities naturally. For example, I’d say I’m pretty expert at knowing humans, but pick any human out of an lot, and you have no idea if they are a 3rd degree blackbelt, a super fast sprinter, or a parkour expert. That is only revealed through interaction. I believe D&D should be the same.

    2) Having players access the MM undermines the DMs ability to surprise their players and significantly slows the game down. It takes time to find the entry and read it, which is essentially dead time for anyone that isn’t the player reading the book. Additionally, the minute the DM describes the monster doing something not described in the MM, it creates the potential for an argument.

    DM: The orc just launched a fireball at you. Roll Dexterity saves.

    Player: Nuh uh! Orcs don’t have that ability! It says right here they don’t throw fireballs!

    DM: Well this one is a wizard, so he can.

    Player: But Orcs only have like 8 Intelligence! How can he be a wizard with such a low score!

    DM: Because this one is different.

    Player: Then why did you even let me look in the book if its not even gonna be the same monster?

    DM: Good point. We are returning to D&D, where everything is made up and the points don’t matter. No more looking at books.

  • Steven Davis
    February 21, 2017 at 7:20 pm

    Here is the problem I run into as a DM with this sort of thing. If you open the Monster Manual to all players all the time, then you can never have your own original monsters ever. I create monsters all the time, using the manual as a reference rather than the set in stone enemies of the world. Hell in 5e I have even ported over some AD&D and 3.0/5 monsters who don’t officially exist in 5e. I would then have to make not just the 5e version available, but EVERY Manuel available, leaving no room for the players to go “WTF is THAT!?” and then feel a sense of accomplishment for defeating said enemy. If you give them access to the book in game and then throw in a suprise enemy or say a psuedo enemy, then cries of “You can’t do that, it’s not in the book” will be followed by “Rule 0..”

    You have to use surprises as a DM to make it fun, and having every character know every monster’s weakness takes away that fun by taking away those surprises. Say you want to use a monster to heard a group of players through a dungeon just to “heighten the sense of danger”, so you use a purple worm to scare a bunch of lvl 4 players. They all have access to the Manuel and turn to purple worm, finding out it is way outside thier ability to handle, they decide to complain that the DM is unfair and trying to kill them etc. This is of course for those who are newbies or crybabies. Most veteran players who know a purple worm would say something along the lines of “My character sees the giant creature, and decides it is time for the group to run like hell.” I think instead of them all having the exact numbers in front of them, it falls on the DM to describe how scary the monster is, and if the barbarian wants to try and solo it despite the rest of the party telling him not to, then he better not complain when he gets eaten and has to roll a new character.

    I believe the players should always have a mixture of fear and awe when confronting a new monster, not say “Oh it’s a chain devil guys, so it can animate it’s chains but they only have a 10ft reach and it has an ability that activates at the start of each of our turns if we are within 30 ft. We should all get 65ft. back and use magic attacks that aren’t fire, cold, or poison and don’t require a save, or magical ranged weapons since we don’t have any silver. It only has 85 HP and 16 AC so we can probably reliably hit it.” All of that should be something figured out through trial and error in combat, the first time fighting one at least. Every time after that should get easier and easier.

    If you want to let them use the book AFTER the fight to speed up “what they learned” (for players who can’t remember or are just slow to learn) that’s one way, but it still doesn’t give them those self created monsters. If you want to give them that magical item, make it more like a Pokedex. Once they fight and “scan” the creatures, they get thier “entry” in the item, that way they at least still have to work for the knowledge. Hell, you could literally make a campaign to do exactly that, go and research every monster in the Manuel, PC races included, by fighting and defeating at least one, maybe more for some.

  • Daniel Lee
    June 20, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    It feels like Ash Ketchum getting out his pokedex during episodes of pokemon.

    “Owlbear, the feathered bear pokemon. Owlbears are known to (details). Trainers should be aware of the Owlbear’s ability (details).”

    Let’s try to catch an owlbear, Pikachu!

    I’m usually a fan of Scott’s ideas, but this one seems a little gimmicky to me.

  • David Hansen
    June 20, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    I have to say that I kind of agree with Scott here about allowing more widespread use of the Monster Manual, for a couple of reasons.

    #1: Resistances/immunities. Many monsters are resistant or immune to some set of conditions or damage types, and this resilience is generally fairly logical. Trolls’ regeneration is stopped by fire or acid damage, the two major types of damage that, in the real world, would continue to do harm in turns after they are originally inflicted. Devils are resistant to flame damage. Well duh, they come from Hell, for crying out loud, they can’t burn easily, now can they? Skeletons are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage, because they are dry old bones.

    Because a reasonable adventurer, accustomed to combat and tactical thinking, might well deduce what kinds of damage are more likely to hurt a given foe based on its nature, one shouldn’t penalize a player for lacking in-world knowledge that his character could probably deduce. This is especially the case for Tabaxi (curious, gatherers of knowledge) and those with the Sage background.

    #2: Hit points. I’m a LARPer, and when I approach an opponent, I generally know just by looking at them – their posture, gear, and behavior – how hard they will be to fight and about how many shots I’m going to have to throw to get a kill (assuming they don’t kill me first). I’m an amateur – my character, a full-blown adventurer, is not. They should certainly know about how much damage an enemy is likely to soak before dropping, just by looking at it, since I can myself.

    #3: The nature of challenge. A few months ago, Nerdarchist Dave did a live-stream chat with the Angry DM, in which the idea of metagaming – specifically, using player knowledge of monsters that characters might not have – came up. The assessment of Angry was that as a DM, it is your responsibility to create challenges that cannot be beaten through player knowledge. For instance: put skeletons with bows in a place that the characters cannot easily reach. If they want to take advantage of the bludgeoning vulnerability, they will have to do some creative thinking!

    In my opinion, fun gaming happens when puzzles (including combat encounters) can be solved through cleverness, roleplaying, and a bit of luck, not knowledge, because, at the end of the day, if a troll is slaughtering a lore-weak party left and right, I don’t care whether my character knows the trick or not, I’m going to start slinging fire and acid.

    It is also worth noting that I myself do not use the Monster Manual while playing, because I happen to like the challenge of trying to connect the description the DM gives with my memory of the manual, and/or doing the figuring to deduce weaknesses. I also wouldn’t want my players poring over the manual all game long, any more than I would want them buried in the handbook all game long. The rulebook should be used to get a quick sketch of what you want to know, not as a crutch and a barrier between you and the rest of the players.

  • Alex
    June 21, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    Lol….That is a bunch of responses. Good Job as Usual Scott…you are infamous for a reason, way to make people think and interact. I grew up and started playing around 1982, I understand the idea that a Dm might want to keep challenges a surprise. The Idea that a troll might regenerate and you might need fire or powers to stop it , is a nasty learning curve. Also expecting players to buy more and more books, is also prohibitive for new players. That said I now play most of my games online, and ignore the issue completely. If players want to look at the MM, that’s fine. My Monster’s generally all have improvements anyway. So maybe that troll has the rust monster properties as well, or maybe an Grey ooze’s. I generally play my own homebrew worlds and try very hard to explain what is commonly known about opponents, or if a unique or rare creature, to tease the monster in such a way nobody know what it is. I never name my monsters to the players. A knowledge check might successful, to add more info. What if a shambling mound is really a city bound sewer creature named Flotsam or floater…… ewwww.

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