Lately I've been obsessed with finding a more elegant presentation format for D&D characters. I don't mind the character sheets generated by the online Character Builder, but they start at 5 pages long for a 1st level character and go up from there. This page count can be an irritation at the game table when the DM asks me a simple question and I have to flip through the stack to provide an answer. The format's length also consumes a lot of paper when I make up multiple spare characters for D&D Encounters or Lair Assault, or when I make up entire parties for test-driving my own dungeons. I need something more condensed and concise, yet still clear enough for reference.
Then, while I was looking at my DM notes for an upcoming adventure, it hit me. Right there in the write-up for the first encounter was one possible solution. For that encounter, I had a squad of goblins, a pack of wolves, and a villainous NPC all on one page. They fit there, of course, because they were formatted in the 4th edition monster stat block. Could a player character, or an entire party, fit into such a format?
A PC is not a monster, of course; it has more "parts," and more personalized information. But for the purpose of combat encounters, when speed of play is really of the essence, PCs and monsters rely on largely the same set of traits. Defenses and movement rates are used every round in every combat; languages and skills less commonly. Familiars, summoned creatures, and animal companions are already available in a monster-ish format; so, why not their masters?
Here's my druid character (and his companion creature) for the upcoming season of D&D Encounters, formatted in a "monster block" using Apple Pages:
The colors were sampled out of monster entries in the online Compendium; happily, they work just as well when greyscaled on my non-color printer. I haven't found a good way to insert the attack mode icons just yet, but there's space on a power title line to note "MBA" or "RBA". I achieved the check box for encounter and daily powers by switching my language option over to Japanese and typing in "guchi," which has a conveniently box-shaped kanji.
When formatting for a whole party, I'll reformat the page to four columns instead of three, and reduce the font size for the power details. I should confess that higher level characters, with their multiple dailies and complicated contingent benefits, can overcrowd this format. Still, for characters from level 1 to 8, which is what all of my in-store play has been, the monster block has been sufficient. I've had the opportunity to use a character sheet like this for a witch (with familiar) during the last Encounter season, and found it a lot more convenient.
Still, it isn't a full character sheet, which means I still have to have the five-page version on hand if the DM wants me to "show my work." The solution to that problem is a genuine customized character sheet. I'll show how far I've gotten with that in my next post.