Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How Do You Like Your Stat Blocks?

I've been giving some thought lately to just how stat blocks should best be handled. Now, I'm the sort of DM who always plays with a copy of the Monster Manual (or should I say Bestiary) close at hand, so I always have the full entry of any monster right with me as needed. Normally, when I'm writing a dungeon just for myself, all I'll include are hit points and any variable data as needed (sub-types, variable hit dice or armor class, etc.).

But sometimes I do like having a little more information, and have been fiddling around with some ideas. Some examples:

A) Four wererats in rat-man form are here (15,16,16,17 h.p.) armed with long swords and 12 darts each. If they are able, they will warn the inhabitants of area #17 of any intruders.

B) Four wererats in rat-man form are here (3d10 HD; 15,16,16,17 h.p.; AC 6) armed with long swords and 12 darts each. If they are able, they will warn the inhabitants of area #17 of any intruders.

C) Four wererats in rat-man form are here (3d10 HD; 15,16,16,17 h.p.; AC 6; DAM per weapon; DEF immune to non-magical or non-silver weapons; ATK can shift into human, giant rat, or rat-man form) armed with long swords and 12 darts each. If they are able, they will warn the inhabitants of area #17 of any intruders.

D) Four wererats in rat-man form are here armed with long swords and 12 darts each. If they are able, they will warn the inhabitants of area #17 of any intruders.
Wererats: 3d10 HD; 15,16,16,17 h.p.; AC 6; DAM per weapon; DEF immune to non-magical or non-silver weapons; ATK can shift into human, giant rat, or rat-man form.

Now, these examples go from most stripped-down to most elaborate. A is what I use mostly for myself, B has the bare minimum information I need (on the general rule that I'll remember which creatures have special abilities and thus need to be looked up), C has the full-blown stat block in-line with the text, while D has the stat block called out and indented.

Obviously, these aren't an exhaustive set of examples; many more ways exist of getting the needed information in front of the DM (one, listing all of the relevant stats of the monsters at the back of the module, is something I've always just despised for some reason-- I'd much rather have the book open).

What do you think? What's your preferred way of seeing monster stats in a module, and why?

18 comments:

Welleran said...

Defintely D -- anything to speed up play! Plus, it's not that tough to cut and paste the blocks from previous work and then just tweak them as desired. I do this constantly.

Hamlet said...

It depends on the situation, really.

If it's a shortish module, I really like to see something like C or D, with the information easily visible and ready to go.

However, in something huge, like, say, CotMA, a simple note like A or B is entirely adequate as space considerations are a major issue.

Just as long as you stay away from the obscenely long stat blocks that appeared in very late 2nd edition and got absurd in 3.x edition (i.e., a "stat block" for an average creature in an adventure could, and did, take up multiple pages of text).

Christopher O'Dell said...

I'm going to vote for D as well. Setting the stat block slightly apart helps me to see it quickly in the middle of a session and I really like the idea that, if I've memorized the basic rules, I won't have to reference anything other than the module I'm using in the middle of a game.

That said, if there were, say, five were-rat encounters on a single page, I'd say that including a stat block in each encounter description is probably overkill, or at least unnecessary. On the other hand, in a huge module, I'd like stat blocks repeated often enough that they at the very least within a page or two of any stat block-less encounters.

Corun said...

B, but i would kick out HP, as i prefer just to roll some dices and leave them on table instead on writing number.
If monsters have few special abilities then something like this:
"Four wererats in rat-man form are here (3d10 HD; AC 6) armed with long swords and 12 darts each. If they are able, they will warn the inhabitants of area #17 of any intruders.
immune to non-magical or non-silver weapons; can shift into human, giant rat, or rat-man form."

Matt said...

I prefer D, simply because it helps me to stay "in the game" and saves me having one or extra two books open on the table.

Akiyama said...

D - except that I agree with Corun that listing the hit points for each creature is unnecessary.

KenHR said...

D for me, too.

Though one could make an argument for B on the grounds that you should do a pre-game reading of a module and familiarize yourself with the special attacks/defenses of the monsters given and the stat block should just give the DM anything variable, like HP.

Prince of Happiness said...

Sometimes I'll use A. but I'll definitely use D to call out special monsters (humanoid shamans, one-of-a-kind monsters, etc.).

Timrod said...

I like B for familiar monsters like Trampian wererats though D is handy for critters that I don't already have stashed in my noggin'.

And no need to list individual hitpoints. Unless there's a reason that one of the rat-dudes would have more or less than the others, for ease of tracking I prefer to just give 'em all the same HPs. Saves me the hassle of finding an average and giving that to everyone.

Guy Fullerton said...

I prefer D, but A is okay too.

C is the worst because of how badly it chops apart the surrounding prose's sentence structure.

In all of them, however, you may want to rethink (or at least be consistent about) whether the value precedes the stat name, or vice-versa.

You can find some stat block analysis and trade-off research in the second half of this article:
http://www.chaotichenchmen.com/2012/06/publishing-5-visual-design-tidbits.html

David Macauley said...

D for me.

Peter D said...

D. I bold out and indent my monsters in my own adventures so it's easier to pick them out and mark them off when they're dead.

yeoman said...

Well I'm sure i'm not the norm. I have full stats for monsters on index cards which I print out. That way I can have several monsters on the go without having to flick back and forwards in the bestiary. That is what I do for Pathfinder anyway. When I run AD&D or BECM I just outline HP, AC and weapon.

Guy Fullerton said...

Also consider whether / why you chose to capitalize some stat names (I can think of a good reason), but not "h.p.", which also happens to be the only one with periods in its abbreviation.

Roger the GS said...

Statblocks are there to save me stopping the action to look up the monsters in the monster book. So concision be damned, I need HD (not HP which I usually roll on the spot), AC, attacks, damage, notes on specials including duration of effects, move. I'll also take morale and reaction modifiers if those are relevant.

Ibl said...

I use B and D whenever I write stuff.

B in the actual text and D in an "appendix" for all monsters that have special abilities that I need to remember.

Joshua said...

A or B seems best to me. The basics are there, and anything else I can just improvise on if I can't recall the original entry.

Philo Pharynx said...

The problem with having the book open is when you have a mixed combat. Having multiple books open or having to flip between different pages is a real hassle.