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The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters
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The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters

4.41  ·  Rating details ·  211 ratings  ·  37 reviews
From the creator of the popular blog The Monsters Know What They’re Doing comes a compilation of villainous battle plans for Dungeon Masters.

In the course of a Dungeons & Dragons game, a Dungeon Master has to make one decision after another in response to player behavior—and the better the players, the more unpredictable their behavior! It’s easy for even an experienced DM
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published October 29th 2019 by Gallery / Saga Press
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Arthur Rubi III This book writes its combat tactic suggestions based on the specific ability scores, attacks, and features as given for creatures that appear in the 5…moreThis book writes its combat tactic suggestions based on the specific ability scores, attacks, and features as given for creatures that appear in the 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. For example, in the Goblin section, it references a D&D 5e Goblin's good Dexterity score and poor Constitution score to insinuate that they don't want to get into close combat, and directly references the Goblin's Nimble Escape feature to outline how they'd accomplish this goal.
However, it can still be used for ideas and inspiration, since the way that many monsters are written in 5th edition is common going backwards to previous D&D editions, and may have some applications. Your mileage may vary in other systems since other systems may characterize creatures differently. For example, Orcs in D&D are characterized somewhat differently from Orcs in a Warhammer setting, or Orcs in a Warcraft setting. (less)

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Stewart Tame
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Fun! Yes, I could probably have read at least most of the content on Ammann’s blog for free, but the book was just too cool-looking to resist. I loves me some physical media …

It's intended for use with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition rules. But there's no reason at least most of the material couldn't be adapted to a previous edition if need be. My own personal take on D&D has always been that the Dungeon Master should feel free to adapt and improvise as necessary to keep the game f
Eric Smith
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing

This book - and its author - are amazing!

In forty years of gaming, this is the most inspiring, well thought-out, useful, interesting, exciting source book and RPG supplement I've ever seen. Author Keith Ammann isn't terribly forthcoming about his background, but a fierce intelligence shines through every sentence.

He draws from anthropology, military tactics, behavioral psychology, history, and an incredibly deep and broad wellspring of fantasy and mythic literature to lay out his case for
Mary Catelli
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
An in-depth analysis of how to fight with D&D monsters.

Sticks faithfully to the stat blocks and flavor text, and to combat. Indeed, some of the discussions brush on what other uses a spell or power might have, but others simply dismiss everything not useful for combat.

Also, all the monsters are assumed to be operating at maximum efficiency. This may be mechanical if they are stupid enough, but on the satyr, he observes they have a cool attack but it's not really effective. As if you could not ea
Willow H. Wood
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It took me longer than I would like to admit to realise this is a reference book rather than a sit down and read at length kind of book. It is interesting enough that you could do that! But I got too many books on my list to read a resource cover-to-cover. This is an excellent tool instead. I wish it covered potentially different styles of humanoid races (like tieflings and elves), just to give you ideas that make them distinguishable, because I'm not very good at inventing tactics, but already ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Browsed this book out of nostalgia, looking up some of old fave creatures: Beholders, Shambling Mounds, Githyanki, Xorn, Owlbears, Bulettes, Umber Hulks... heh heh. Great title!
Rob Marney
Feb 14, 2020 rated it liked it
Great, easily readable advice on how to make monsters behave realistically. Unfortunately, the book is laid out like a reference manual, so all the advice is repeated about ten times (once for each applicable monster), in addition to the introduction that explains how to make these judgments for yourself based on a few simple rules. Because everything is laid out per monster, the author also feels the need to include things that are obvious for completeness' sake, resulting in a lot of tips like ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So I'm saying that I'm finished, but alas, I am not. This book is awesome for what I've read so far though! Let me explain by saying that this is a personalized reference book written by someone that has been a GM for a LONG TIME, runs a blog powered by personal experience and the experience of GMs from all over the world, and therefore, he understands the ins and outs of reading CR Rating, spells, and creature stats; through this data, he translates the numbers into personality or a modus opera ...more
Mark Muckerman
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
I must go with a mixed review on this one, and most of my negatives are centered on readability and usability.

The good: It's complete - written with care, expertise, commitment and "love" by the author. It's spectacularly complete; it's content and insights will absolutely make a committed Dungeon Master better at running encounters and combat, for an overall improved RPG experience. It's laid out well (conceptually) by entity type (non-humans, NPC, etc.), which enhances the usability and logica
Mighty Sea
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
A strange but very well thought out book for the Dungeons & Dragons Role Playing Game. Keith Ammann clearly has a very wide range of interests that he has brought to the table to create plausible motivations and attack styles for the whole roster of D&D monsters. If you are looking for help making more engaging combats than just charge in and fight to the death, then this book is for you. Even veteran gamemasters will find a lot of thought provoking material.

I don't agree with everything Keith p
Luke Stacks
Jul 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely helpful guidebook to running monsters in 5th edition dungeons and dragons. Although the monster entries can be somewhat repetitive, that is more of a fault of DnD's design than the author. Ammann has plenty of good ideas for spicing up combat with unique terrain, and provides detailed review of the always-challenging rules. Ammann sometimes interprets the rules as written with a bloody-minded literalism that in my opinion runs against the spirit of the game, but he's consistent.

Also: a
Andy Horton
Nov 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really interesting and useful DM's guide to every monster in the Monster Manual. Ammann looks at stats, abilities and descriptions, and extrapolates both effective combat tactics and - for me more interestingly - plausible behaviours for them in encounters.
Great use of the stats to justify how much DM knowledge it is fair to apply in e.g. choice of target and in suggesting how sophisticated their tactics will be, but also looks at motivations.
This could have been dry but is leavened by some enga
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book has fantastic content for a DM, and really made me think about the expansive opportunities for adding challenge to combat. In particular, reading the stats and what they relay about tactics really got me thinking, as well as the opportunity to think beyond the abilities listed (when to grapple, shove, disengage, etc).

One thing I wish the book had was a more through discussion of tactics in general, but through the many examples you do arrive at that knowledge for the most part.

I reco
Nov 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a really hard book to rate. It isn't a book of stories or any narrative really. It is a collection of blog posts that provide a description/recommendation on how to run each monster in D&D. On that front this book is very successful. The insight and writing is very well put together and I really learned quite a bit on how to approach encounters.

The real complaint I have with this book is the formatting and layout. This is really a reference book. Unfortunately, the layout and formatting
Beau Raines
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you play Dungeons and Dragons, whether you're the DM or not, this is a great book to read. The author has evaluated the monsters, their stats and actions, and shows you what the monster would do.

If you're a numbers nerd, it all about the probabilistic expected value of the attack. I'd you're planning an adventure, it gives flavor to your encounters, because everything isn't going to be "rah, rah, smash, smash."

A lot of the material comes from his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing htt
Nov 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Often very insightful, but he really gets hung up on stats over type of monster, assuming that low wisdom will never choose opponents or that low intelligence will never use disengage or that darkvision automatically implies underground or nocturnal only (hint: it doesn't.)

That said, this is a useful TOOL, but certainly don't use it as your only source of how enemies should behave in combat in D&D. Monsters are FAR more than their stats, and forgetting that leads to very forgettable encounters.
Nov 22, 2020 rated it liked it
A book that advises DM's to annoy their players by having monsters use hit-and-run tactics, stealth, or just plain teleport away with all your loot. It's very D&D 5e specific, with entries for that version's various beasties, but easily generalizable to other RPGs.

The advice is indeed pretty sound, as it makes the simple but easy to overlook point that each monster comes with a personality that will play to its strengths. So encounters should not all feel like similar exercises in dice rolling w
May 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great for staying or experienced DMs

I thought this book would just be a book on how to munchkin the monsters. Instead i found a week thought out presentation of tactics based not just on the monsters' abilities, but also on their flavor text and the type of monster they are. I have been playing D&D for close to forty years and this book wool definitely help me present my monsters better in every way.
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
For anyone who plays D&D or other role playing games this book does a great job of providing tactics for the encounters in these games. The author analyzes the stat blocks and abilities and translates them in to the tactical approach for each creature. One thing that would have made this an even better book would have been a more strategic & communal review of some of the races (i.e why would the monster or monster's tribe engage/harass/attack the surface dwellers or the local city.) ...more
Oliver Bogler
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An extremely helpful book for any GM, and very entertaining to boot. It has direct practical advice on how to run specific monsters and also gives you a general methodology of how to analyze a stat block, and from it make reasonable assumptions of what the monster might do. One of the hardest things for me is to make monster fights memorable and different, and Mr. Ammann is an inspiration - thank you!
Gabby DePaul
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent resource if you want to add color and flavor to your encounters, instead of making it just a numbers game. The author gives a good insight into the mind of each creature and how they think, giving you the tools you need to create your own believable (and fun) combats.
Deanne Townshend
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2020
This book is a must-have for any and all DMs and GMs. While it is a handy resource, it also teaches readers how to dissect a stat block and figure out tactics on their own, as well as how to critically think through your own homebrewed creatures.

Beyond wonderful
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent material, each monster is thought out well and given a well reasoned approach to combat based upon their abilities. Due to the nature of the material, a bit rough to read cover to cover, but a great resource.
Tamsyn Cunningham
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Partner borrowed from the library, and I went and bought a copy so we could have it as a reference for RPG planning. If I haven't heard of a monster this book gives me ideas on making it real for my characters so they aren't fighting me, they are fighting a black pudding.
Aug 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A useful book to get your idea around the concept that monsters should be more active than stand and fight. Didn't read it all. After a while it becomes a reference book that I'll come back to when situations present themselves.
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dropped
Got through about a quarter of this in the audiobook format, only just finishing the section on orcs. This is a fantastic companion to the Monster Manual and I'm really looking forward to using this as a reference guide as opposed to listening to the audiobook straight through.
Dec 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, dnd
Britton Clay
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fun read, but even better as a reference book for running encounters!
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am ready to DM my own world (alternative to AL) now. Bwahahaha!
William Paley
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have to test these tactics to be certain, but they seem to be viciously good.
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent resource for GMs of 5th edition DnD. Extremely useful both for it's specific advice on certain monsters as well as a new way to think of tactical DND combat.
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