Wish for a Stat Block

Vote for the creature stat block you would like to see!


For those who voted in the poll and now cannot see results, that is because the initial poll inadvertently omitted the option to vote for the Playtest format.  You can vote again.  My apologies for the error!


In my last substantive blog article, I spoke about designing a good monster stat block. In this article, I would like to compare the stat blocks through the ages.  For this purpose, I chose a single creature that has appeared in each edition through the years: the djinni.  I chose this creature because it is somewhat iconic, and it is a creature that is difficult to reduce to a stat block because it has spell-like abilities that can be used out of combat.  All of these scans are from my own books, except for the 4e djinn, which I screen-captured from the Compendium.  You can click on any of the stat blocks to see a larger version.


Please note that I am only discussing the mechanical stat block.  As we will see, many editions to D&D would mix mechanics and narration within the text beneath the stat block.  I will discuss the extent to which this is successful, but I will mostly concentrate on the block at the top of the monster entry.


Also note that this article is speaking only of the stat blocks as they appear in the various monster books.  Another form of stat block I have discussed is the paragraph format that is sometimes used in published adventures.  That will be the subject of a future article.


First Edition


The djinni's first appearance in D&D that I could find was in the First Edition Monster Manual circa 1979 for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.1 As you can see, the mechanical aspect of the stat block is sparse and arcane. Much of the information relates to a monster's place in the campaign world (No. Appearing, Frequency, % in Lair, and Treasure Type.) Most of the combat-related information requires the DM to consult a separate chart.  For example, the attack bonus of the djinni's physical attack requires the DM to look up the attack matrix for monsters with seven hit dice.  The djinni's magical attacks are not described or even named in the stat block.  Only by reading the text below does one learn the djinni has a whirlwind form, and that mechanical information is often buried in the middle of campaign information, like the djinnis' social organization and behavior. 


The organization of the stats has very little reason to it.  The combat information is filtered throughout the block interspersed with the campaign-related information.  What's more, it seems obviously incomplete. The only Ability described is Intelligence, and even that is described in generic terms, obviously to be used for campaign flavor more than mechanical adjudication. 


Expert D&D


The djinni next appears in the Expert Rulebook for the Basic D&D game two years later.2 Again, this is a sparse stat block.  However, I feel it is an improvement over the 1st edition block.  First, the presentation is cleaner, with the use of two columns for easier reference. Second, all the combat information that is presented is gathered in the left column (except for saving throws). The campaign-specific information is in the right column.  The stat block still requires you to reference the text to determine what a "whirlwind" is (other than inflicting 2-16 hp damage) or what the "special" is.  You also need to consult separate charts to determine what it means to "Save as: Fighter: 14".  However, the text beneath the stat block (not shown) is concise and easy to read. 


Second Edition


The djinni doesn't get a makeover for almost a decade, when Second Edition releases.  The stat block here is from the 1996 Monstrous Manual, though it appears almost the same in the original Monstrous Manual from 1987. Notice that the djinni is now grouped with other elemental wish-granters under the category "Genie".  This stat block returns to the one-column format, which works well with Second Edition grouping similar creatures together. The stat block also separates combat and noncombat information, with the campaign information on top and the combat information below.  There is less need to consult a separate table as THAC0 replaces the attack matrices of First Edition.  However, you still need to consult a separate table for saving throws.  Special Attacks and Special Defenses are still not identified or named in the stat block, requiring you to read the text below.  On the plus side, the textual mechanical information is separated into a special section called "Combat".  This is a big organizational leap forward. 


Third Edition


In 2000, the djinni is given another makeover in Third Edition's Monster Manual.4  Most of the campaign information (No. Appearing, organization) is gone.  What remains is placed at the end of the stat block, rather than the beginning.  Most of the combat information is now included in the block, including, for the first time, attack bonuses and saving throws. However, also included is all the game math.  The reason for this is that 3e used a transparent, but at times complicated system for generating monsters, requiring you to know such arcane things such as the monster's natural armor bonus, as well as three different types of armor class.  For the first time, the djinni receive all six Abilities, rather than a vague description of the creature's Intelligence.


However, even still, some information is located in the text and not the block.  Still, the djinni's signature whirlwind ability remains in the text.  Third edition maintains Second Edition's use of the "Combat" section to separate mechanical and non-mechanical information about the creature.  A perusal of this section shows you why the whirlwind could not be included in the stat block: whirlwind occupies an entire column of text.  This is not unusual in 3e, which had so many rules that interacted with one another in unusual ways, that many unusual powers had to contain lots of explanation as to how it would react to other powers.


Fourth Edition


The djinni (now renamed "djinn") is not included in the most recent edition of the game until 2009, with the release of the second Monster Manual for the game.5  This stat block looks more like the stat block for the Expert Game on steroids (and, like the Expert D&D djinni, the 4e djinn is not chaotic good).  There is no campaign information (except perhaps alignment).  All of the mechanical information on the creature is located in the comprehensive stat block.


The information is presented very rationally, with generic combat information on top, and more specific powers below.  The block uses colors, icons, numbers, and text to describe all the information needed.


Here, we would finally be able to see all the mechanics for the signature whirlwind… except that none of the eight 4th edition djinn stat blocks actually contains a power called "whirlwind".  Although many of them have powers that are vaguely like a whirlwind, none of them come close to replicating the whirlwind powers of the djinn of prior editions.


Pathfinder


Pathfinder shortened the 3e monster entries by shunting everything into other pages. That said, the stat block is an improvement over the 3e stat block.  This is the Pathfinder stat block.6  It does a good job of using bars at the top of the frame.  I'm not sure what the poin of the first section is, being a mish-mash of combat stats like size, XP, Initiative, and senses and interaction stats like alignment, types and subtypes.

The stat block is divide into "defense" and offense".  But the "offense" stat block liberally mixes combat (whirlwind) and noncombat abilities (create wine).  (I'm also not sure why "Speed" or "Space" are offensive.  Also, the abilities stack doesn't offer the ability modifiers, which are pretty important.

The format for the section bars (defense, offense, statistics, and special abilities) end up taking up a lot of space by using outlines instead of a shaded bar. 

In the end, the Pathfinder style is a decent improvement from 3e, even borrowing 4e's bar-style headers.  Most of the problems with the stat block is caused by the Pathfinder/3e's mechanics which really require inordinately sized power descriptions over-reliance on hyperlinks, and an entire "Statistics" section dedicated, essentially, to explaining the math behind the game. 

That said, my hybrid block isn't all that different from what a Pathfinder block would look like converted for Next, except with a better font and a better use of white space.


Playtest


The playtest packet did not contain a stat block for the djinni.  So, based on the other stat blocks in the packet, I devised my own. The playtest stat blocks continue the trend of placing mechanical combat information on top, and include all defenses and abilities.  However, the playtest returns to the pre-4e custom of reserving vital mechanical information to be buried in descriptive text.   Unlike 2e and 3e, the playtest does not even segregate this text into a separate "Combat" section.


Two Proposals


Needless to say, I'm not satisfied with the current state of the creature stat blocks in the playtest packet. Overall, it is a good start, but I don't think it capitalizes fully on the design goals set forth in the materials written by the designers about what they hope to accomplish in this new edition. 


Both of these stat blocks take up a half-page in width in letter format.  Both make use of title bars, which I have stretch across the page to the illustration, but which could end at the column margin if there is no illustration.  The title bars give the stat block ome popo and it's one of the things I appreciated most of the 4e stat block.  The bars give the stat block needed definition and clearly separate relevant sections of the stat blocks.


Proposal 1: 4e-Style


I've taken the 4e stat block and I've modified it for the priorities of the new edition.  Like the playtest packet, I have moved the Abilities to the top.  Like the 4e stat block, movement, senses, vulnerabilities, invulnerabilities, and the basic stats – AC, hp, and initiative – are included in the top section.  Below that I have divided the djinni's powers by action type.  For the djinni there are actions and "interactions".  If the djinni had an aura, that would be included is a section called "traits".  If the djinni had any reactions, those would have its own category. 


The "interaction" section is new.  It is named after one of the three "pillars" of D&D, and it contains the powers of the creature that are not likely to be used on combat.  Because they are not combat-related powers, they don't have to be delineated in detail.  Rather, they can refer back to a Player's Handbook (or other sourcebook) for the DM to reference.  But it should be included in the stat block so the DM is aware of these abilities when selecting the creature.


At the bottom of the stat block I enclose the stats that relate to interaction – alignment, languages, and possessions.  Then I close the stat block with a bat containing the XP for the creature, the bottom bar serving to delineate the end of the stat block.


Proposal 2: 4e/AD&D Hybrid


My second proposal combines, in my mind, the best of the AD&D and 4e stat blocks.  While I keep the bars and move the abilities to the top, I use tabs to allow me to divide the stat block into successive layers of detail.  First, I divide the stat block into three sections.  In the top section, are the "numbers", including the abilities, XP, hp, initiative, and AC, along with the (in)vulnerabilities, senses, and resistances.  Second is a section for "combat" which includes the movement, and the actions.  The actions are first listed for easy reference and then detailed immediately below. Third, is the interaction section.  Each interaction (this djinni only has the one) is listed as "talents".  And in this section are the same interaction-related stats – alignment, languages, and possessions.  Given the successive indents, there is no need for a final bar at the end, which also gives it more of a retro AD&D feel.


Your Turn


Now it's your turn.  Here is a poll for you to tell me which of these stat blocks you prefer.  Don't vote based on the stats or your preferred edition.  Unfortunately, I did not think to add the PAthfinder stat block to the article until after the pll eas established.  Vote based on which stat block you find easier to read, easier to manage information, and more aesthetically pleasing.  Let's let the desigers know what we like.


You can leave comments below or at the related blog article!



1 Monster Manual, by Gary Gygax (4th Ed. August 1979), p. 28.
2 Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Expert Rulebook, edited by David Cook with Steve Marsh (Jan. 1981), p. X30.
3 Monstrous Manual, edited by Doug Stewart (April 1996), p. 126
4 Monster Manual, edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes and Jon Pickens (July 2003), p. 114
5 Monster Manual 2, by Rob Heinsoo (May 2009), p. 72.
6 paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/monsters/gen...

Unearthed Wrecana
It was a close choice between Wrecan's 4e and Wrecan's 4e/AD&D hybrid, with 4e coming a not-so-distant third, and the rest being not even in the competition. I ended up selecting Wrecan's 4e, since the colors just make it more easy to look at the options at a glance, which helps, at least in my experience. The 'Senses' line was missing in the statblock, but I assume that's a typo.

I am currently raising funds to run for President in 2016. Too many administrations have overlooked the international menace, that is Carmen Sandiego. I shall devote any and all necessary military resources to bring her to justice.

I think adding a little fluff right in the middle of ability-description text is what grognards want, they don`t really have a problem with organization. So, you can just separate the numbers from the description, not the fluff. So we have, on every ability, a "numbers" section and a "fluffed-up effect" section. Oh, and please encourage people to post here, so this thread gets bumped.
Nice post wrecan.

Overall I'm sure I like one of the cleaner stat blocks such as 4e or yours.  I do though want the campaign information.  I want number appearing, societal organization, terrain(s), languages, etc..  I'm fine though with putting it somewhere else in the monster manual as well as long as it's there.  A combat only stat block is fine if thats the point.  For me readability is great but information is a must.  

 

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I don't think I understand why the Next block wasn't an option on the poll.  To be honest, that is by far my favorite.  It's very compact and contains all the information I need (well, presuming the text we were told to see will actually be a part of the block).

I don't see any purpose in separating out a combat section, or dividing the information by action type.  I wouldn't have a problem with those things, but my preference is to take up as little space as possible. 
Crap.  The playtest was supposed to be an option.  I'll have to delere this poll and start over.  My apologies!!

I've edited the poll, but unfortunately, this erased all the votes entered to date.  Those who voted will have to vote again.  I apologize for any inconvenience.
XP value is ok, but I would like to see the hit die stat in the write up.  But good attempt wrecan.
Again, do not judge the mechanics presented.  There is no HD in Next right now.  If one is added, it can be added to the stat block.  Just judge the presentation, clarity, intuitiveness of how the information there is presented.
Well the question was asked what I prefered, so I answered.  I did say nice job, I like the layout but need the hit die stat.
The questions is what layout you prefer.  It was not a global quaestion about monster design!  The hd stat has nothing to do with the layout or presentation.  Take that to a different thead, please
Although I voted for Wrecan's 4e style, it was a tough choice with the 4e/AD&D hybrid. For 4e-style, I liked having Init, AC, and HP right at the top. I like the pale bar highlighting the name of each action. I like the arrangement of items in the interaction section.

For the Hybrid, I like having XP at the top. I like having the Combat section, as it fits well with the other pillar's Interaction section. I might go all the way and put Init, AC, and HP at the top of the Combat section. There is also something about the overall aesthetic that I prefer about this version, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what.

I made my decision ultimately on how easy I could find key information at a glance. For me, running 4e combats was made significantly easier by the monster stat block layout, and Wrecan's 4e does a slightly better job of this than the hybrid.

I posted a coupe comments on the blog I will repost here:

1) Personally, I want the interaction section first.

I kinda also want the return of environment and organization from the 2e blocks, but much of that can be handled by text. Except habitat/ environment. That needs to be visible. Activity cycle might be nice as well, to know if the djinn should be sleeping or wide awake.

2) Mike Mearls did a DDI article a while back on role-playing statblocks. I wonder of that's not an idea to revisit. A one-line "Personality" or "Tempermant" by their alignment. You can instantly know if a djinni is "friendly" or "surly" or manipulative".


Additionally, I think it's a mistake default to having all the combat powers in the statblock. Some powers are just going to be long, and trying to squish them into a statblocks hurts the formatting. And it leads to monster powers like in mid-4e where they just had a mecanical effect but it was unclear what the monster was actually doing.
It might work best to do something like late 3e/PF where abilities are summarized in the text if possible and described following the statblock. If the "combat" section of the statblock is last section the two could blend into each other. Simple powers then descriptions.

It helps if powers are more standardized. This is something 4e moved away from with every monster being a special unique snowflake. Which meant you needed to relearn every power before running a monster. If powers were more standardized and similar DMs might have less to learn.  

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Anything that builds on the 4e monster stat block looks good to me.
Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is a stupid error, one I hope DDN is not too prone to fall for.
I have various concerns about the new System, throwing away good stuff from 4e is definitely one I'd hate. The small, precise stat blocks would have left tons of place for monster descriptions, if they had not felt the need to do each monster 4-5 times and place a giant illustration next to it. A stat block really is only needed for combat and interaction, however with no real skills this can be easily skipped. Everything else should be descriptive text, its so much easier to get what something is about, when you have descriptive text instead of short phrases.
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56767308 wrote:
Sadly, I don't think this has anything to do with wanting Next to be a great game. It has to do with wanting Next to determine who won the Edition War. [...] For those of us who just want D&D Next to be a good game, this is getting to be a real drag.
57870548 wrote:
I think I figured it out. This program is a character builder, not a character builder. It teaches patience, empathy, and tolerance. All most excellent character traits.
1) Personally, I want the interaction section first.

I kinda also want the return of environment and organization from the 2e blocks, but much of that can be handled by text. Except habitat/ environment. That needs to be visible. Activity cycle might be nice as well, to know if the djinn should be sleeping or wide awake.



If they decide to add in stuff like environment and organization into the blocks, it could definitely be included in an interaction section.



I personally prefer interaction tocome at the bottom, right before any textual descriotion of organization, habitat, diet, etc. But I can understand wanting that up top as well.



2) Mike Mearls did a DDI article a while back on role-playing statblocks. I wonder of that's not an idea to revisit. A one-line "Personality" or "Tempermant" by their alignment. You can instantly know if a djinni is "friendly" or "surly" or manipulative".


I suggested that sort of thing before Mearls did.  And I agree it would be a better aid to the DM that alignment (or alignment alone).

I think it's a mistake default to having all the combat powers in the statblock.


On this we disagree.  I didn't like the hypertechnical presentation of 4e.  I prefer to make the description of the power more narrative, asI tried to do in the djinni statblock.  I don't want DMs to have to struggle to figure out what happens in combat.  Both the 2e and 3e stat blocks for the djinnis were absurdly obtuse for trying to figure out what the whirlwind power does.  In contrat, 4e was way too hyertechnical and specialized, so much that no djinni even had a whirlwind power.



It might work best to do something like late 3e/PF where abilities are summarized in the text if possible


I found the 3e stat blocks to be the least intuitive of all.  3e's description of a single djinni attack occupied an entire column of text!  If a combat power cannot be explained in three sentences it is probably too complicated and needs to be rewritten.  2e's was only slightly less confusing than 3e's.



It helps if powers are more standardized. This is something 4e moved away from with every monster being a special unique snowflake. Which meant you needed to relearn every power before running a monster. If powers were more standardized and similar DMs might have less to learn.  


3e was just as bad, as was 2e.  Unless the creature cast the spell, the power was unique and required gobs of text to explain how it worked.

The best way to condense powers is to rely on well-defined conditions when possible.  And keep it simple!!
1) Personally, I want the interaction section first.I kinda also want the return of environment and organization from the 2e blocks, but much of that can be handled by text. Except habitat/ environment. That needs to be visible. Activity cycle might be nice as well, to know if the djinn should be sleeping or wide awake.

If they decide to add in stuff like environment and organization into the blocks, it could definitely be included in an interaction section.
I personally prefer interaction to come at the bottom, right before any textual description of organization, habitat, diet, etc. But I can understand wanting that up top as well.

I like interaction first because it includes things like language,which determines what the party might hear while sneaking up on a group of monsters. It often includes special senses, for sneaking and such. And, typically, groups talk to monsters, or fight, or talk then fight. In most cases talking comes first. 
2) Mike Mearls did a DDI article a while back on role-playing statblocks. I wonder of that's not an idea to revisit. A one-line "Personality" or "Temperament" by their alignment. You can instantly know if a djinni is "friendly" or "surly" or manipulative".

I suggested that sort of thing before Mearls did.  And I agree it would be a better aid to the DM that alignment (or alignment alone).

I stand corrected.
I think it's a mistake default to having all the combat powers in the statblock.

On this we disagree.  I didn't like the hypertechnical presentation of 4e.  I prefer to make the description of the power more narrative, asI tried to do in the djinni statblock.  I don't want DMs to have to struggle to figure out what happens in combat.  Both the 2e and 3e stat blocks for the djinnis were absurdly obtuse for trying to figure out what the whirlwind power does.  In contrast, 4e was way too hyertechnical and specialized, so much that no djinni even had a whirlwind power.

Statblocks should be pure rules or light on flavour. You can't slip much prose into them and they should rarely be larger than a single column. But some powers need that dash of prose or extra explanation. It's awkward getting all the flavour of, say, swallow whole in a statblock. Like the playtest does and 1/2e did, it's easy enough condensing a statblock to a small size in an adventure. It's not hard to copy out monsters these days. And if a paragraph is written well and concisely it's easy enough to find relevant rules information. The onus is just on the editors to enforce standardization. 
It might work best to do something like late 3e/PF where abilities are summarized in the text if possible

I found the 3e stat blocks to be the least intuitive of all.  3e's description of a single djinni attack occupied an entire column of text!  If a combat power cannot be explained in three sentences it is probably too complicated and needs to be rewritten.  2e's was only slightly less confusing than 3e's.

I was referring to the later 3e statblocks from MM4 and MM5 (iirc). It looks a lot like the Pathfinder statblock.

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I was referring to the later 3e statblocks from MM4 and MM5 (iirc). It looks a lot like the Pathfinder statblock.


You mean this stat block for the djinni?

The whirlwind requires a separate page.  And this seperate listing for the whirlwind alone requires over 450 words! 

Pathfinder shortened the monster entries by shunting everything into other pages.

That said, the stat block is an improvement over the 3e stat block.
This is the Pathfinder stat block.  It does a good job of using bars at the top of the frame.  I'm not sure what the poin of the first section is, being a mish-mash of combat stats like size, XP, Initiative, and senses and interaction stats like alignment, types and subtypes.

The stat block is divide into "defense" and offense".  But the "offense" stat block liberally mixes combat (whirlwind) and noncombat abilities (create wine).  (I'm also not sure why "Speed" or "Space" are offensive.  Also, the abilities stack doesn't offer the ability modifiers, which are pretty important.

The format for the section bars (defense, offense, statistics, and special abilities) end up taking up a lot of space by using outlines instead of a shaded bar. 

The font selection is also unfortunate, using a nonserif font that is designed for headers in the text.  It makes the stat block appear busier than it is, and requires the stat block to use an inordinate amount of white space, which increases the overall size of the stat block.

In the end, the Pathfinder style is a decent improvement from 3e, even borrowing 4e's bar-style headers.  Most of the problems with the stat block is caused by the Pathfinder/3e's mechanics which really require inordinately sized power descriptions over-reliance on hyperlinks, and an entire "Statistics" section dedicated, essentially, to explaining the math behind the game. 

That said, my hybrid block isn't all that different from what a Pathfinder block would look like converted for Next, except with a better font and a better use of white space.
I was referring to the later 3e statblocks from MM4 and MM5 (iirc). It looks a lot like the Pathfinder statblock.

You mean this stat block for the djinni?
The whirlwind requires a separate page.  And this seperate listing for the whirlwind alone requires over 450 words!  
Pathfinder shortened the monster entries by shunting everything into other pages.

I have a love/hate relationship with that. Universal monster abilities are a good idea. Not every monster that's sneaky and does extra damage needs its own unique extra damage power. You just give them Sneak Attack.It's not all that different from how 4e handled traits and some keywords.Once you use a couple monsters with a power you know how it works.
That said, the stat block is an improvement over the 3e stat block.This is the Pathfinder stat block.  It does a good job of using bars at the top of the frame.  I'm not sure what the point of the first section is, being a mish-mash of combat stats like size, XP, Initiative, and senses and interaction stats like alignment, types and subtypes.
The stat block is divide into "defense" and offense".  But the "offense" stat block liberally mixes combat (whirlwind) and noncombat abilities (create wine).  (I'm also not sure why "Speed" or "Space" are offensive.  Also, the abilities stack doesn't offer the ability modifiers, which are pretty important.
The format for the section bars (defense, offense, statistics, and special abilities) end up taking up a lot of space by using outlines instead of a shaded bar.

The statblock format itself comes from WotC:
www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dd/200...
Paizo just clarified the separations and tweaked the order.

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The statblock format itself comes from WotC:
www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dd/200...
Paizo just clarified the separations and tweaked the order.


I am aware of that.  But a lot of their tweaks are questionable.  They dropped the Arial font in return for a more bulbous san serif font, which is why the Pathfinder stat block requires more white space that the 3e version.  They chose labels for the sections, but then didn't ensure that the information in that section really pertained to what they said. 

As the article you linked states: Wyatt saw the five sections as "introduction", "player's turn", "creature's turn", "catch-all" and "explanatory".  Pathfinder left it introductory, "defense", "offense", "statistics" and "special abilities", but "defense" and "offense" isn't really accurate.  "Passive" and "active" is more accurate, but even better would be to actually think about whether these distinctions are useful. 

Pathfinder spent more of its time trying to make itself look different from 3e's revised statblock, but I don't think they spent a lot of time trying to make itself better than 3e's revised statblock.
Well, you are referencing fonts on the fan-site, opposed to the official PRD site:
paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/monsters/gen...
And website fonts might not be representational of the books.
 

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Great work Wrecan, thanks.

Here's a thought/question on the last 2 stat blocks, where you have an 'interaction' section. I wonder if there's a way to make it at least possible to "break it off". My thinking being sometimes you just want a monster for combat purposes, there's little chance of any other interaction. Sometimes combat is unlikely and interacting with the beastie is the important thing. If I'm doing my layout of an adventure where I have one of those two situations it would be slick to be able to just include the relevant section. In other words you could sort of have 2 'sub blocks' that work stand-alone but together describe the complete monster.

The old days of the "one line format" had their virtues; IE "3 orcs, HD1, HP8,4,2 AC5, #AT1/1d8, MV12" makes for very nice super compact encounter descriptions. Those days may be past, but a distilled statblock just for combat is still just as desirable an ideal. The text version you presented obviously having the same thought in mind, but I'm thinking of how you could just pick it from the book/compendium and not have to boil things down. 
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Great work Wrecan, thanks.

Here's a thought/question on the last 2 stat blocks, where you have an 'interaction' section. I wonder if there's a way to make it at least possible to "break it off".


These blocks are for the Monster Manuals, not for published adventures.  For published adventures, you really only need a paragraph block with combat info.  I plan a future article for that.

@Jester.  You're right.  I hadn't realized i was using a fan site.  The Pathfinder site is definitely better (as it used Arial), but those top and bottom lines really increase the white space unnnecessarily.  And the "offense" still contains things that aren't offensive, like Create Food and Water and gaseous form and "space".  And why is air mastery a special attack, but whirlwind is not.  Whirlwind is the most important combat ability the djinni posesses.
Great work Wrecan, thanks.

Here's a thought/question on the last 2 stat blocks, where you have an 'interaction' section. I wonder if there's a way to make it at least possible to "break it off".


These blocks are for the Monster Manuals, not for published adventures.  For published adventures, you really only need a paragraph block with combat info.  I plan a future article for that.



Cool, I'm a fan.
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I think the one line stat is great too.  I also think not every monster needs a special power.  I wouldn't care if half of them were nothing more than an attack and damage with some very flavorful fluff.  I do though like some with powers so the other half could be more detailed.  I think 4e tried to hard to make everything special.

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I think 4e tried to hard to make everything special.

Agreed. Sometimes I just want to play a fighter who has a sword and a shield and knows how to use them very, very well. No fancy stuff, no push/pull/whatever -- just very accurate and very hard hitting something with a sword (or a shield bash). Not every orc archer needs to know fancy shots. Flinging sticks downrange is a very good way to hit someone in a group. I've been in such a group downrange from an archer. Not everything has to have a "name" to it. A sword blow doesn't have to be a named move.

I'd like to see a mix of basic stuff for every class, and some "specialty" moves or spells or strikes that do something cool. I don't think Indiana Jones thought of a "name" for the gunshot that took out the big-ego sword-wielding bad guy (who rolled a 1 on his Intimidate skill). "I shoot him" gets the point across. But the move when Inigo Montoya switches from left hand to right at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity could be a "named" exploit.

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I think 4e tried to hard to make everything special.

Agreed. Sometimes I just want to play a fighter who has a sword and a shield and knows how to use them very, very well. No fancy stuff, no push/pull/whatever -- just very accurate and very hard hitting something with a sword (or a shield bash). Not every orc archer needs to know fancy shots. Flinging sticks downrange is a very good way to hit someone in a group. I've been in such a group downrange from an archer. Not everything has to have a "name" to it. A sword blow doesn't have to be a named move.

I'd like to see a mix of basic stuff for every class, and some "specialty" moves or spells or strikes that do something cool. I don't think Indiana Jones thought of a "name" for the gunshot that took out the big-ego sword-wielding bad guy (who rolled a 1 on his Intimidate skill). "I shoot him" gets the point across. But the move when Inigo Montoya switches from left hand to right at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity could be a "named" exploit.



I agree, in principle, though I admit that having an unfamiliar monster's special tricks broken down as powers made it much easier to discern their function in combat and remember it in the heat of battle.  During the playtest, I forgot to use the Dragonshield ability until the last two rounds, and even then only because I put an extra Elite in the Chief's room.

Say what you will about 4e, but it made the DM's job immensely easier.  I really hope they don't throw all that innovation out the window.  There is a middle ground.  Sure, not every bag of hit points needs to have a special power, but those that do happen to have special tricks would benefit from the explicit Power format.

Wounds Module [updated for Basic]

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I think the one line stat is great too.  I also think not every monster needs a special power.  I wouldn't care if half of them were nothing more than an attack and damage with some very flavorful fluff.  I do though like some with powers so the other half could be more detailed.  I think 4e tried to hard to make everything special.



My problem with this is that one attack and damage monster is the same as every other attack and damage monster. It would be nice, however, to have generic statblocks by level that could be dropped into any encounter and given flavor as needed. So you would have a default, flavorless level 3 brute statblock. Then the orc entry in the MM would have special statblocks for an orc chieftain, an eye of gruumsh, and whatever else. The fluff section might say that an ordinary orc tribe is composed mainly of level 3 brutes, plus other more special orcs as the world/story/diceroll demands.
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The 4th Ed stat-block is nice (especially from MM3 onward), but I prefer the 1st Ed MM layout (I like the Play-test too); also, I do not like colour in my stat-blocks.
I can't believe there is so little love for the 2e stat block.


It includes all the bits that I love as a DM. I know its intelligence (in words), its diet and when it is likely to be awake, where you will find it commonly etc, etc.


Give me the (mini) fluff to tell stories with!! Lol.


I like 4e layout for the combat (signature attacks) except that 4e in general seemed to castrate the monsters. 1e whirlwind was scary like a kiss from your grandma (4e was like a kiss from your mum!) Lol.


Perhaps something with 2e fluff (the top part of the stat block) and proposal 2, 4e/Ad&D hybrid?


Great work, Wrecan!
 
The old days of the "one line format" had their virtues; IE "3 orcs, HD1, HP8,4,2 AC5, #AT1/1d8, MV12" makes for very nice super compact encounter descriptions. Those days may be past but...




Don't say that; that one-line format is true 'speeding up combat'! For a write-up INSIDE an encounter paragraph, that is ALL I need! Drop the 'HD1' in favour of 'ATT +1' and it's all good! ATT is, of course, +1 to attack with whatever it is using and that weapon will be anything doing 1D8 (bow, spear, large axe, whatever crosses my mind as I describe that particular orc. 


D&D used to list all the monsters at the front of the scenario, with all their details, stats etc, and in the scenario it justed referenced the absolute basics to save on page turning.  When I convert scenarios now or write out combat stats at the table during a game, those are the basics I copy out.  What do the players need to hit the creature? How much damage can I take? What do I need to hit them? How much damage will I do?  My monsters aren't just bags of hit points but they are orcs, not the stars of the movie!

I don't mind some of these suggestions.  I didn't mind that kobolds had something special to set them apart.  I'm just saying that not every humanoid race has to have something special.  I think their "tactics" could be what sets them apart.  But tactics don't have to be expressed as a power.  

But yeah I'd be for lots of "templates" that you can add to any humanoid that represents more fighting skill.  I'd be for the character builder letting you print out the new block so it looks like a 4e stat block with the power inline.

I'd also be for lots of monsters have powers included by default also.  I just don't think they all need it by default.  Sometimes the designers end up twisting themselves into knots making up a power.  They also sometimes just make a pure damage effect a power when that was unnecessary. 

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Wrecan I like this post!  Very thorough.  What I'd like to see them do is have a number of monsters designed before finalizing the stat blocks.  For example the Djinni doesn't cause any conditions which are unique to it.  The Hook Horror presented earlier in a Legends & Lore article does, which I think should go before any actions in the stat block. This would be omitted in the Djinni since he doesn't have any new conditions, but I think its important enough to mention.

Here's my Hook Horror mockup
 
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As I said in another thread (before I saw this one),   I think statblocks are a complete waste of space ouside the monster manual.

What I would rather have is an inline short hand format.     

The last thing I want is for the modules to consist of nothing but statblocks.   When I see a module that is mostly just pages and pages of reprinted statblocks I don't buy it.      


The last thing I want is for the modules to consist of nothing but statblocks.   When I see a module that is mostly just pages and pages of reprinted statblocks I don't buy it.

I'm fine with the stat blocks, if used intelligently. Put an abridged stat block in the encounter section (with a page reference/hyperlink), and a more detailed one in an appendix.

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As I said in another thread (before I saw this one),   I think statblocks are a complete waste of space ouside the monster manual.    


I agree, which is why, as I've said, I want to dedicate a future poll to the "paragraph block"
I agree, which is why, as I've said, I want to dedicate a future poll to the "paragraph block"



Cool, or course some of those 3rd Ed paragraph blocks would make your eyes bleed, 2nd Ed had a good system.
I don't mind some of these suggestions.  I didn't mind that kobolds had something special to set them apart.  I'm just saying that not every humanoid race has to have something special.  I think their "tactics" could be what sets them apart.  But tactics don't have to be expressed as a power.  

 



But powers that enable specific tactics help in fleshing them out. Look at 4e kobolds: all my players remember these shifty bastards that you could not pin down. And they all know that they should avoid being surrounded by gnolls at any cost. Pack attack is not something you can simulate with tactics. You can use tactics to make gnolls surround an enemy but you can't increase their damage.
The 4e gnoll is naturally driven to surrounding enemies because he knows he can bite harder (pun intended). In 4e monster tactics descend naturally from what a monster is in mechanical terms (whether he uses powers, features, auras, whatever).

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As I said in another thread (before I saw this one),   I think statblocks are a complete waste of space ouside the monster manual.

What I would rather have is an inline short hand format.     


The last thing I want is for the modules to consist of nothing but statblocks.   When I see a module that is mostly just pages and pages of reprinted statblocks I don't buy it.      



I would go the exact opposite direction.  I don't want to have multiple references open.  The MM is for the fluff, ecology, variants, tactics, etc.  When I'm looking at a module I want all the mechanical information needed right on the page - a quick, concise, consistent, easy monster stat block.  Then I can pencil in my notes/changes/additions in the margin.   


I want the text of the module to focus on environment and story, maybe some tactical notes for running some monsters and how the author expected them to react.


The last thing I want to do is have to go another book to get the information I need.  Even if I have bookmark all the relevent pages beforehand, not having it right in the module will slow me down.  And greatly increase my prep time.  To me, stat blocks are just the smart way to do it.  


I'm not picky about the format, I can get used to anything, I just want it to have all the mechanical bits clearly and concisely presented.  And be the same layout every time.


TjD

As I said in another thread (before I saw this one),   I think statblocks are a complete waste of space ouside the monster manual.

What I would rather have is an inline short hand format.     

The last thing I want is for the modules to consist of nothing but statblocks.   When I see a module that is mostly just pages and pages of reprinted statblocks I don't buy it.      


So, what you're saying is that if a module writer goes through the trouble of developing unique, compelling monsters that don't already exist in the monster manual, you won't buy the module?

Seems like a quick road to boring, repetitive modules, to me.
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It includes all the bits that I love as a DM. I know its intelligence (in words), its diet and when it is likely to be awake, where you will find it commonly etc, etc.
Give me the (mini) fluff to tell stories with!! Lol.



I would suggest that most you suggest here should be in the campaign setting instead of the MM.
As cultuaral background of races are very dependent on campaign setting.

so maybe diet and stuff could be in the MM for creatures that have no culture so the true monsters.
But most inteligent races would be dependent on campaign setting

 
Wrecan I like this post!  Very thorough.  What I'd like to see them do is have a number of monsters designed before finalizing the stat blocks.  For example the Djinni doesn't cause any conditions which are unique to it.  The Hook Horror presented earlier in a Legends & Lore article does, which I think should go before any actions in the stat block. This would be omitted in the Djinni since he doesn't have any new conditions, but I think its important enough to mention.

Here's my Hook Horror mockup
 

I like the layout and also the color choices. Easy to read with the basics right there... nice.
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I would propose another type of stat block entirely: the page as a user interface. The block would be a 'screen' with pertinent data placed in specific areas of the page. Name, type, alignment, languages, and XP in the upper left corner, Initiative, speed, and senses in the upper right corner, ability scores along the left edge, AC in the lower left corner, attack/damage along the bottom edge, HP in the lower right corner, spells/powers along the right edge, and all other relevant info (incl. illustration) in the center. That would fill the top half of the page. The bottom half would have all the descriptive fluff/flavor text.

We live in the digital age, so I think we're already inclined to absorb information in this fashion. I've built the initiative cards for my PCs in this format and it works great.

Wounds Module [updated for Basic]

Proficiency Module

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