- Jun 2005 -
19235 Posts

Wishes for Stat Blocks: The Gods Speak!

For those of you who have been following my articles on the formatting for monster stat blocks an adventure blocks (read them here:
Jeremy Crawford

Mike Mearls

Chris Perkins

James Wyatt

So, in short, fans of Fourth Edition will be happy to learn that the design team is committed to the fourth edition way of doing things in maintaining all information in the stat block.  We can see that philosophy in the most recently released playtest packet.  The Bestiary contains all the information needed to run the monster, including the information pertaining to spells that are also included in the Spell Packet.  Moreover, they have eschewed adventure blocks altogether in the adventure included with the playtest: Reclaiming Blingdenstone.  (No adventure block, by the way, was the most popular result of my adventure block poll.) There is no adventure block at all, not even the old Gygaxian blocks that included only hit points.  Instead, the back of the adventure contains an appendix with a full stat block for all the creatures one might encounter in the adventure.

The stat block itself has also undergone a drastic change, and I will analyze the new stat block below.  To avoid releasing confidential playtest information, I have taken my fictional Next djinni and reformatted it into the new stat block format, which I place to the right (click on the image for a larger view).

The stat block is divided into four sections: Numbers, Traits (of which the djinni has none), Actions, and Encounter Building.

The Numbers section really highlights the pareddown rulest.  All we have is size, type, subtype, AC, hp, Speed, Senses, Abilities, Alignment, and Languages.  I note that AC and HP are no longer abbreviated, though the abilities are.  I wonder why there isn't an entry for Initiative.

The Action section is neatly formatted, though I am still not crazy about the amount of white space.  I note that they now use Small Caps to denote the section headings for Traits, Actions, and Encounter Building, which is a format I had recommended in a prior article. 

As discussed by the developers, all the rules for powers, including spells that might be cast, are in the stat block.  This means the stat block can get very unweildy.  The djinni entry (admittedly one of the longer entries) will not fit on a single column.  I can only imagine what a stat block for a lich or pit fiend will look like.

I suspect this will mean that creatures will only get essential powers, as they did in 4e. But if so, it means that powers dedicated to exploration and interaction might get short shrift and I think that problematic.  I chose the djinni specifically because its combat powers are not nearly as iconic as the noncombat powers.  Create Food and Drink and Major Creation are much more important to make something feel like a djinni than whirlwind (though whirlwind is still important).  Ihope they can find a way to present complete stat bocks without sacrificing the noncombat pillars.

The formatting of individual powers works well.  I like delineating which powers are melee and ranged attacks, which I think can aid with whatever attack of opportunity rules are relased.  The powers are descriptive and intuitive to use and read.  All the information is there and quickly accessible.

At the bottom of the stat block is "Enounter Building", containing the level and XP value for the creature.  I also advocated putting this at the end of the stat block as a way to "cap" the block and I am going to pretend they took this idea from me.

In the end, they have decided to go with lines rather than bars, to give it more of a 2e feel, while keeping all the functionality of 4e stat blocks.  I like the serif font they are using, though I think a solid sans serif would be more readable.  However, over all, I think this block is a definite improvement and look forward to see how it gets refined in future playtests.

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