D&D 4e Monster usage philosophy

In 4e, if the DM wants to have a succubus have the king under her control and rule the kingdom through proxy, the DM can do so, without needing the monster’s statblock in the Monster Manual to back up that decision.

From what I can see of 4e, this is a huge shift from earlier thinking of D&D (especially 3e), where every little ability of a monster would have to be listed or it didn’t exist. The primary purpose of the 4e rules and monster descriptions is to resolve challenges (primarily combats) with the PCs. What happens with NPCs offscreen is entirely up to the DM.

Dealing with situations like “how do we break the king out of the succubus’s charm?” is in the province of the DM’s invention. This is an adventure hook, that might lead to an epic quest (“You must find the lost Mirror of Pelor and show the king the succubus’s reflection in it!”) or a simple combat (“Kill the succubus. That’ll work!”). It doesn’t need to be detailed explicitly, although pointers might be given in the abilities or descriptive text.

Why have rules, then? For those face-to-face situations where hard-and-fast rules (for combat, especially) are required. However, you only need rules for those situations, not everything that doesn’t concern the PCs… or that is part of setting up unique challenges for an adventure in any case.

At least, that’s my impression of 4e. What do you think?


  1. charlesatan


    I’m just surprised at how many forum posters want every single detail and provision listed down. And then complain about it when it is there. (Or the fact that saving throws–in the case of charm/dominate–need only apply to PCs.)


  2. eleran

    I gotta say Merric, I think you hit the nail right on the ehad again. I am constatntly surprised, disheartened and annoyed by the number of people who not only insist that each and every thing the monsters can do be outlined ad infinitum, but that a lot of them seem to imply some kind of oversight by the players to make sure the DM toes the lines of pure RAW. Being an old schoolers from OD&D and AD&D I find this completely antithetical to what I grew up with.


  3. tallarn

    I tend to agree – although it does seem that we’re on the same page as regards 4e!

    I know people on enworld will no doubt decry this as another example of why 4e “sux”, but personally, I like it!


    • merricb

      And the people on EN World – particularly Derren, Lizard and Kamikaze Midget – have been doing just that. (see here)

      It has also been a thread that hong has been contributing too in great ways… alas, he’s just been kicked out. Pity, because some of the most sane statements I’ve seen from that crazy man were in the thread. 🙂


      • eleran

        I am now about halfway through the rather lugubrious thread and have dtermined more than ever I am going to use a succubus to stir things up in my little starting area of my new 4e campaign. I have a player who wants some political intrigue, and I think she can deliver some by winning over the towns Baron and pitting him against other Lords of the area.

        But first we spend a few levels getting the Baron’s personality known by the players. And since one of the players has a background whereby he is trying to win the hand of a daughter of a noble, and I have already decided that daughter’s father will be the same said Baron….. me likey.


      • merricb

        Yeah, it’s just too much fun.

        In my recently concluded Ulek campaign, the evil baron was a PC’s father, and oh the players loved to hate him. The revelation that he wasn’t being controlled but instead had organised the entire incursion was a surprise to them… but one they thought entirely in character. 🙂


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