I'd been debating how to end the weekly feature for a while, and since that's where I started, and I have recently become stupidly busy (I haven't posted in a week? Madness!), it seems like a good stopping point for the moment. I may revisit Wednesday Werk at some future point, but we're stopping the feature for now.
So, What Did We Learn?
I was inspired to do this by garrisonjames in the comments on my Gore-Worms post, and there's a lot of creative stuff over at Hereticwerks. I encourage you to continue checking it out for your own games.
When I started Wednesday Werk, I was neck-deep in my D&D 4e game, but I was still running a couple of modules for my group. I had not yet gotten into modifying and creating creatures with any frequency.
Creating creatures for 4e is pretty simple, but can be incredibly time-consuming. All-in-all, it falls somewhere between 3e and earlier editions; 4e creatures lack the detail of 3e entries, but are way more detailed than 2e and earlier creatures.
In the end, it all comes down to game balance. Creatures in 4e are a collection of formulas with a certain narrative hook — it looks like an elf, or it hunts like an intellect devourer, or whatever. On the one hand, scanning other monsters of similar level and sticking to the formulas ensures a creature that is "fair" by the rules (if game balance is a concern, of course). On the other hand, determining number of hit dice, AC, and any special attacks is way more simple.
This process is rather time-consuming. The best way to go about it is to reference the monster math (which scales with level and "creature role" — is it a meaty sack of hit points which dishes out damage, or does it strike from the shadows every couple of rounds or so?), and then compare other creatures of the chosen level. Again, this is to ensure "game balance" — 4e adventurers are assumed a certain level of competence, and tend to encounter challenges they can survive.
At the beginning of Wednesday Werk, this could take a couple of hours. Now, it only takes me about an hour to crank out a creature, including brainstorming, research, and writing its write-up.
Additionally, I found the things that make 4e monsters unique are not the same as the things that make early edition monsters unique and memorable. Many of Hereticwerks' creatures are planar travelers with spells or spell-like abilities. In 4e, these creatures have a tendency to be fairly similar, with only the "fluff" differentiating them from one another. Unique, memorable creatures in 4e are typically molded by strange tactics and odd powers; the story surrounding a creature helps differentiate it to the players, but makes it feel similar in play. In early edition games, monsters have few statistics, so the fluff is absolutely necessary to differentiate them. In 4e, powers and tactics serve to differentiate monsters.
(As an aside, the 4e DM has a role in differentiating monsters — there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a monster and using it with a different description to make a "new" monster; describing those orcs as barbarians will change the encounter for the players, although it will still probably feel familiar to the DM.)
Basically, 4e is fun, and making monsters for 4e is fun, but the simpler approach of earlier editions is easier when planning and playing.
If you want to see everything, here's the backlog of Wednesday Werk posts:
1. Gronk Sword, Octoscholar, Synchronocitor
3. Petrocloptrian, Flytaur, Queen Lobster
4. Bruthem, Glimp-Shell, Xulg
5. Irving the Impressionable Shoggoth
6. Acephali, Almas
7. Candle Head, Grikflit
8. Zaldrim, Scarletscales
9. Walmakash, Urglun
10. Triloo, Rattong
11. Quindra, Hallimox
14. Pseudoblepas, Nerglid
23. Quintapoidal Fungi
28. Withering Mist
34. Flutter Worm