View Full Version : Bestiary Design

2010-07-11, 07:59 AM
Do you think it is better to organize a bestiary or monster manual (I prefer bestiary) alphabetically, by creature type, or by challenge rating?

2010-07-11, 08:05 AM

Alphabetically: Easier to find a particular monster.

Creature Type: Easier to find a monster that fits a theme.

Challenge Rating: Easier to find a monster that's level-appropriate.

Personally, I don't really mind. Alphabetical seems to be the normal way, though.

2010-07-11, 08:16 AM
Probably the best approach is to have it sorted by creature type, and have complete indices for each of the other two. Creature type organisation is the one best-suited toward casual browsing for inspiration.

2010-07-11, 08:26 AM
This doesn't have to be an exclusive choice. If your bestiary is electronic, you can make it easily searchable by any combination of these terms (and others). If it isn't, you can make an index, free program or online resource (wiki perhaps?) to go with it that can list things any way you like and quote the relevant text or refer readers to the correct page numbers.

Different players will want different things at different times, so it's best to be flexible. However, during play people are more likely to be looking for particular monsters so I'd suggest you default to alphabetical in either case, since the primary design goal of such a resource is to streamline play as much as possible (or should be, in my opinion).

2010-07-11, 08:35 AM
I'm working with wordpad at the moment. I aspire to having a Wiki at some point though.

I'm thinking alphabetical may be best, since a monster might be hard to fit into a category, and you might not have a good concept of the challenge rating of a monster until you're done with it, or maybe not until playtesting.

2010-07-11, 11:09 AM
I'm curious. Is this bestiary filled with all of your monsters? With a bunch of homebrew monsters?

2010-07-11, 11:27 AM
I personally find that, anyone who has put enough thought into a game (as im assuming you've been around the RPG "block" for some time) already knows most the mainstream and homebrew monsters well enough that name nor theme is an issue. That is why I would say, in my own personal opinion, that I find sorting by challenge to be best. Since you know you will generally need to stay in a specific area without screwing the players over, and that way you can sort through them more easily due to only needing to even bother with the ones that will fit your theme.

Hence, go with challenge rating/power levels.

The Vorpal Tribble
2010-07-11, 11:31 AM
As in the MM I find it best to do it first Alphabetically, then make two more lists for by type and then by CR.

Here is my own personal bestiary (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?p=8080685#post8080685) to give an example.

2010-07-11, 11:33 AM
Actually, it is a bestiary for a game system I am working on, designed for playing on forums.

Chainsaw Hobbit
2010-07-11, 10:37 PM
I like a chapter for each creature type sorted by CR within the chapters and an alphabetical index.

2010-07-11, 11:47 PM
Alphabetical is the way it's usually done -- while I don't like to encourage following the crowd, one shouldn't discount the value of "what people are used to" when choosing a system. :smallsmile:

That said, alphabetical bestiaries usually aren't purely alphabetical. The Monster Manual (v3.5 at any rate) is mostly alphabetical, but it has angels, demons, dragons, oozes, etc. categorised as single entries (with their own alphabetical ordering of sub-entries). There are CR and type indexes, and some of the group entries (demons, devils, dragons) also have their own CR index. Animals and vermin have completely separate chapters.

A lot of the decisions in these are pretty arbitrary; the gelatinous cube is with the oozes, the phantom fungus isn't with the fungi, the dragon CR table is with the main CR index whereas the demon and devil tables are in the respective entries, animal and vermin swarms are under "Swarm" rather than in their chapters... The alphabetical table of contents and the CR index list all individual monsters, though, with mention of their group entry as necessary, which is nice.

I actually really like entries grouped by type*. But as I said at the top, don't discount the value of doing it the way people are used to. (I definitely don't like the idea of organising a whole bestiary by CR, though.) Whichever way you go, have an index for each of the other orderings!

* By which I don't necessarily mean "creature type", as in humanoid, outsider, etc. Rather I mean groups or categories, like demons, dragons, etc. in the Monster Manual. Or even themes, as per the next reply down.

2010-07-13, 02:02 PM
If this is a homebrew system, then possibly CR is inappropriate. Creature type isn't much of a linker and isn't something people necessarily remember; whether things are magical beasts or aberrations or outsiders seems to have no pattern to it, for instance...

Alphabetical is simple to find your way through and is the most practical option by far: it's adopted in academia for good reason.

The fourth option is to connect things thematically. All wibbly tentacle monsters over there, all mythic seeming stuff over there, all humanoids with bad breath in the corner and for god's sake, take a mint, Perkins!

The last one was actually used in the bestiary of a game i once played from Sweden and was really handy.