Mike Mearls' most recent Legends & Lore article, Monster Design in D&D Next, discussed the current state of monster design. In doing so, he presented what can only be described as a very rough version of a monster stat block, that resembles something akin to AD&D or 3e. I don't think the designers have put a lot of thought into the stat block presentation. That's probably going to be the job of editors and graphic designers who deal with presentation issues, rather than the developers who concentrate on mechanics.
I've previously written about the importance of clarity in stat block presentation, so I thought I'd take a crack atbuilding a more usable stat block for the hook horror presented in the article.
Now, Alphastream1 did a good job at fourthifying Mearls' Hook Horror for Next. But I think a strict 4e approach won't work here. The mechanics are different and the needs that the stat block must fill are also different. Rather, I have taken what we learned in 4e and applied it to the specific needs of Next. To distinguish it from a 4e stat block, I'll use a purple color scheme, rather than green.
June 14: I added a second option for stat blocks
OPTION ONE: 4e-Style
As you can see, it resembles a 4e stat block in general design. However, there are significant differences. First, the Abilities have been moved to the top to reflect the importance that Abilities have in this edition, with physical Abilities above, and mental Abilities beneath. Second, I put space/reach and speed in the place normally reserved for perceptive abilities. Third, since there is only three types of actions -- traits (no action), actions, and move, I have eliminated the distinction between standard and minor. Fourth, I added alignment and possessions, which were ignored by Mearls' stat block.
My final change is one I am particularly happy about. I place the attack and damage value in the line containing the attack's name. I think this makes it easier to find the most crucial information about an attack. If, however, the game is going to rely heavily on keywords, like 3e and 4e did, or durations, the keywords are more likely to use this space, and the attack numbers will have to be relegated to the first line of the power text.
You'll note I placed "impale" as a sub-entry in "Two Hooks". Impale is a unique condition imposed by the hook horror. It is neither a trait of the hook horror or an action the hook horror takes. So I keep the information with the power that imposes the condition.
Overall, this is a more compact, and, I think, usable stat block than what Mearls presented.
OPTION 2: LANDSCAPE WITH BORDERS
Here's a different take. It still has a 4e-flavor, but I've made some additional changes.
First, I've arranged it in landscape format. This allows me to put all the Abilities on a single line. I'm moved HP to the top, as it seems to be the key stat when determining a creature's difficulty. I've broken out Space and Reach as separate stats. I eliminated traits and instead put echolocation right under Move. I did this with the idea that any "defined" term will be in italics and included in the section where it is first mentioned. Since I now have a Senses entry, which mentions echolocation, I define it there. Since senses, move, languages, and items often have a lot of information (though not here with the hook horror), I made sure they got plenty of space. Any resistances, immunities, etc. would go under Move and before any defined terms. Any auras or other complicated traits would go into a heading called "Traits".
Second, I have renamed Speed to Move because Move actions are a defined term that encompasses alll uses of speed.
Third, I moved the attack off the title of the attack power and broke it into two entries: melee, which includes range, targets, and prerequisites, and Attack, which includes attack, damage, and effects. Of course, Two Hooks also uses "impaled", which is a deifned term.
Fourth, I broke out the stuff you generally don't need in combat -- alignment, languages, and items -- into a group I call Qualities. I'm not wedded to that term.
Finally, I gave the entire block a thin border, and placed the XP at the end (since that's what you get at the end of the encounter). The XP bar makes a nice frame for the stat block. By centering the Name, Type, XP bar, and section headers, I think it gives it a nice flow. By making it about two-thirds of the page in width, there is room for an illustration on the right, or additional text, such as habitat, personality, etc.
OPTION 3: PARAGRAPH STYLE
Additionally, I would love it if we could have a paragraph-style block, similar to how creatures are presented in AD&D modules. This block is compact, omits fiddly details, and liberally uses abbreviations, but should still have all the crucial information you need for combat. The larger stat block would be used in the book the monster is introduced, but the paragraph can be used whenever the creature is used in an adventure, to save space.
Here is my paragraph stat block for Mearls' Hook Horror:
Hook Horror, large aberration, Init +1, AC 17, hp 60, Str 18 (+4), Dex 12 (+1), Con 15 (+2), Int 6 (–2), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 9 (–1), S/R 5'/10', Spd 30' (climb 30'), Echolocation (ignore partial concealment 120’), Two hooks (2 attacks; +5, 1d10+4 piercing and impale; cannot use hook with impaled victim), Bite (2d6+4 piercing against impaled victim); Impale (1d10 + 4 piercing damage at the beginning of impaled creature's turn; an impaled target uses an action to escape with a Str check (DC 12)); AL neutral; Lang hook horror; Poss. none; XP 450; Monster Manual, p. XXX.
This paragraph block is about half the length of the full block above, and contains pretty much all the same information as in the larger block. In this case, I break impale out as a separate entry, and omit the fiddly details about echolocation. I think using what we've learned from 4e about making stat blocks, but applying them intelligently to the mechanics of the new edition, will greatly help DMs in running their games efficiently.
As an experiment, I converted one of the most complicated stat blocks from 3e -- the balor -- to my landscape with a border format to see how bad it would be. It's long, but it would fit on one page, and has all the information you need to play. (Note the numbers are totally invented.). You can see the stat block here.