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Monster Manual page 314 table 7-1 gives the following information on creature sizes, space and reach:

  • Large bipedal (or high) creatures have a space of 10ft, a maximum height of 16ft. and a reach of 10ft.

  • Large quadrupedal (or long) creatures have a space of 10ft, a maximum length of 16ft and a reach of 5ft.

I find the Monster Manual contradicts itself in terms of quadrupedal creatures. They are supposed to have a maximum length of 16ft. yet only occupy a space of 10ft. although it should have a space of 10x16ft. I get that all the creatures are represented by squares to eliminate the question of facing, which would be more of an issue with rectangular spaces. But shouldn't quadrupedal (or long) creatures get more reach to compensate for this?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems to be a matter of opinion, a discussion starter, and/or a rant in disguise. "Shouldn't they do X?" -- the rules say what they say, and this doesn't seem like a question with a best/correct answer. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 31 '17 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since I am actually OK with the rules and just wondered about the distinction between long and high creatures, I am okay with having this question closed or deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Aug 31 '17 at 18:52
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It's a simplification for playability

While the Monster Manual on 314 says that a Large (long) creature's maximum length is 16 ft., it also says its minimum length is 8 ft. Thus, generally, size categories are flexible, and making size categories flexible simplifies play. That is, rather than having extremely granular size categories, it's easier and more playable to assign creatures a size category that's close enough and make exceptions if such exceptions are warranted. For example, the typical Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 horse has a size category of Large, yet the typical real-world horse is only 8 ft. long, littler than its 10 ft.×10 ft. space (plus its 5-ft. reach!) would indicate.

Also keep in mind that a creature's space as listed in its stat block isn't a really good indicator of the creature's actual, real-world dimensions. A complicated creature with wings and a tail like a chimera, manticore, or wyvern—were an examiner to spread out one of these creatures, Vitruvian Man-style—would probably occupy a much bigger area than 10 ft.×10 ft., yet such creatures are nonetheless treated as Large creatures with 5 ft. reach in combat because that's easier for the game… even if doing so occasionally threatens verisimilitude.

A DM that decides to go through the various monsters and pick which long (as opposed to tall) monsters should have greater reach than normal should be aware that monsters with reach are typically much more dangerous to PCs than monsters without. For example, a house rule saying that the 15-ft.-long wyvern has a reach of 10 ft. instead of 5 ft. makes the wyvern a much more formidable foe.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I get that it is a simplification, but why make the difference between long and high monsters in the first place? Let's take the unarmed Ogre who surely is not as long as a horse. Although he might reach out to match the horses reach, but why would he have more reach than the horse? Anyway if simplicity was the aim, then why not give large creatures the same generic reach? \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Aug 31 '17 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheQ I can't know for sure—I'm unaware of designer commentary on the issue. (It's not mentioned in, for instance, the compiled Revision Spotlight articles.) If you're looking for designer commentary on the issue, please make that part of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 31 '17 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, thanks, I am (yet again) okay with what you have said and how the rules play. It's not that big an issue to spend to much time on to get the question off hold. \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Aug 31 '17 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheQ: I don't know about you, but I've never seen a horse reach very far. An Ogre with a club however, can definitely reach far. \$\endgroup\$ – Mooing Duck Sep 1 '17 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not claiming that the horse is reaching farther than the Ogre if you only measure how far the arms/legs go, but because the horses body is longer, the legs get a "head start" in terms of reach (provided the ogre is standing next to the horses front legs. \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Sep 1 '17 at 18:15
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The comment to the table 7-1 says:

Biped's height, quadruped's body length (nose to base of tail)

(emphasis mine)

That doesn't need to be a straight line. Moreover, 16ft is maximum length, minimum is 8ft. So, there is no contradiction in the rules.

Concerning compensation for their lesser reach I should say that no compensation is needed. All monsters from the official Monster Manuals were playtested as is. Thus, their CR already takes into account their reach.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Let's take the horse from the answer below. The horse can lower its head so that it would get it's full 8ft. of length (let's make 10 out of it), it can then also kick with its hind legs for another 5ft. That would explain the the 10 space + 5 reach but only because the horse is only 8 ft long. Imagine the same example with a 16ft creature. I do not question the playability and CR of the monsters and it's not really a problem. It just seems odd. \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Aug 31 '17 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TheQ The upper limit may be reserved for other types of creatures with different anatomy. The main idea is, I think, that tall creatures generally have limbs that they can use like humanoids thus reaching further. You can hold your hand straight horizontally while a horse can't do the same with its leg. Anyway, the creature's space is space the creature controls with its body, creature's reach is the space it controls with its weapons. That's how it is supposed to work, I think. Controlling space with body is not the same as occupying the same space. \$\endgroup\$ – Ols Aug 31 '17 at 21:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, creature's body in combat (and squares only matter for combat and similar situation) is generally situated in its space. Some body parts may be out of this space (and they need to be there during natural weapon attack at least), but that doesn't influence combat, i.e. it doesn't prevent movement through spaces other than creature's space and you have to reach into the creature's space to attack it. \$\endgroup\$ – Ols Aug 31 '17 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, I see that this is the reason why bipedals get more reach and I am okay with that. But if the body is situated in the space that would mean either one of these points 1) that bipedals have the same body length than quadrupedals (10 ft in the example), 2) given body length of bipedals is wrong (16ft. vs. 10ft.) 3) As a whole quadrupeds are smaller in terms of overall body mass than bipedals (like the wolf/human relationship which in game terms are both medium). \$\endgroup\$ – TheQ Sep 1 '17 at 18:24

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