A week ago (the day I’m writing this), a much-discussed Dungeons and Dragons sourcebook was released. Monsters of the Multiverse doesn’t add much brand-new content, instead doing the heavy-lifting to update a bunch of older content that has been out-of-line with the design goals of modern D&D 5e. It made a bunch of changes to spellcaster “monsters” (prepared statblocks for various creatures/NPCs that a Dungeon Master might want to reference) in order to make them easier for DMs to reference in combat scenarios. I’m enjoying the changes so far, along with the way they’ve updated many of the various (older) playable races with new tidbits of lore and abilities to better reflect the general states of said races they’ve released in adventures over the last couple years. All-in-all, I think this represents an improvement to the game that is going to make my life easier and help shift away from depictions of these races as monstrous via thinly veiled racism.
Now, that’s not to say there isn’t more work to be done. There’s a lot of much more qualified people writing about racism in fantasy as a whole and Tabletop Roleplaying Games specifically, so I suggest looking up those people (honestly, a simple Google search will yield pages upon pages of good results so long as you posess the cabilities of sifting through all the racists whining about the vilification and racism being addressed) if you think I’m wrong to say so.
What I am qualified to talk about, though, is how the shift in the depiciton and nature of spellcaster abilities has made them easier to run, more fun to encounter, and finally a proper threat for their listed Challenge Rating. For instance, take the Abjurer (or Abjurer Wizard as they’re now called). I just ran a game with a CR 9 Abjurer who should have been strong enough to make a significant impact on the battle I stuck her into. Instead, after a failed attempt at protecting her allies and herself, she went down quickly and was another liability for her allies rather than a boon. I think it had a net-positive impact on the battle, given that this all happened in a nightmare realm and the party’s rogue got disintegrated immediately (having a great dexterity save bonus doesn’t help if you roll poorly). The party at least needed someone else to absord hits for them after the rogue was immediately killed, but I expected more of a “swoop in to rescue them” thing than the “swoop in and also struggle to stay alive” scenario that played out.
Looking at the new Abjurer Wizard statblock, I can see that things would have played out VERY differently. There would have been fewer Spell-Counterspell-Counterspell turns for one thing, given that the Abjurer no longer has the spell available by default, but Abjurer Wizards can now block damage dealt to their allies directly and they have more non-spell versatility, which is important because the enemy the party and their aburing ally were fighting could also cast counterspell. The fight would have been over much faster and with much less heartache. I mean, the rogue would have still died since that happened on the first turn, but everyone else would have had more HP and spell slots left as they ran out the final hour before the nightmare realm reset itself by killing everyone and putting everything and everyone back the way it was when the nightmare realm was made that morning.
Not that there was much they would have done with those resources since they spent the hour talking to the aforementioned Abjurer who also the first person they’ve met who seems to know what’s going on from day-to-reset-day even if she didn’t actually know why the reset thing was happening. It all worked out fine in the end is what I’m saying. It was just more of a “drink wine and mourn the imminent violent death of our characters” fight than the “brief but intense, leaving us grateful to be alive” fight I had hoped for. To be fair, the players thought they had another day or more before the reset and thought they were missing out on a bunch of time rather than just potentially missing out on a chance to talk to this cool NPC I made a year ago. But now they know for sure when the reset happens, they have a potential ally, and they’re one step closer to figuring out what is going on here!
Still, I can’t wait to use more of the updated statblocks for my enemies and allies in the future. I have a LOT of customized and tweaked monsters to update based on these changes (though I’ve been doing some of this already, so it’s mostly the older stuff I need to update and all that might never come up again), but it should be fairly easy to do if I ever have a need to do it. I might just let the old beasties rest since most of my custom stuff is campaign specific and I’ve got so many ideas for new campaigns that the thought of re-running an old one fills me with dread and disappointment.