Lack of fluff in 4E and MM3

Some folks have complained about the lack of fluff in many of the 4E books. For the most part I would have to agree. The 4E player’s handbook and DMG were a little sparse with flavor about WotC’s ‘world’ of D&D. However I can understand WotC’s stance on not dispensing out this material. You had a audience of rabid fans that ate and breathed just about every book. If WotC wanted to change the direction of a certain race, god, or monster, likely people would revolt (at least on the internet). Likewise, as a new DM or player, you would have all this additional material. What do you do with it? Is this canon? If I envision my orcs to act differently, am I playing wrong?

So I totally get WotC being a little sparse on the fluff and flavor. I think they took the attitude to just let people play the way they want. Offer a little background and some ideas, but ensure that nothing written was law. People should make this stuff fit their world. Having less fluff helped in that.

Now Monster Manual 3 has come out. I’ll pass on the official review bit. Just about every blog out there has done so. I’ll sum up my thoughts as a big thumbs up. It is a good book and I would recommend it.

Just about everyone has gushed over the monster stat blocks. WotC has updated them to make them easier to glance through based on the monsters actions and abilities. I like the new design and echo what many have said. However there is another tweak to the book which I think makes the material between the covers much stronger.

In past editions, you had a very simple list of suggested encounters for each entry. The idea was that a DM could lift this list out of the book, plop it down in their dungeon, and you would have an appropriate encounter with the normal allies of said monster. Very efficient, utilitarian, and I think a nice feature for new DMs.

MM3 has done completely away with that format. Instead they provide a short paragraph on the motivations of the creature. What are its goals. Who are its allies? How would a monster of this type typically be in the D&D world. I think it is a wonderful change in previous editions and glad WotC decided to add this bit of fluff to the book. What you end up with is a bit more detail on each creature that leads to a few more plot and encounter ideas.

They also adopted this for the tactics of each monster. Now ‘tactics’ is replaced with ‘in combat.’ Granted, a handful of entities follow the MM format of stating a monster would use ability X and power Y. However most entries are a much more general in terms and give a narration of how a monster acts in combat, over a simple list of powers they should use. Another small change with a little more fluff that makes the book better.

I think WotC finally gets it. See all that fluff and flavor adds a little more to the D&D world. For the new DM, it’s a nice tool for helping them run their game and think up new ideas. The veteran DMs either all ready have a firm grasp of the game fluff, or perfectly willing to change what they need. MM3 is a book that finally eeks out a little more fluff and I think is a stronger 4E book over the past editions because of it.


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