James Wyatt asked for our opinion on the new stat block (see block below; click on it for a larger view). Having given my opinion on stat block design four times before -- -- I feel that I wouldn't be able to give the appropriate response in a simple post or comment.
For me, design of a stat block needs to have several factors:
It needs to be complete. It should not require you to look up powers or descriptions elsewhere in the books.
It needs to be concise. It should be only as long as needs to be and no longer. unwanted space, unneeded desription, and superfluous categorization should be stripped away, leaving exatly what a DM needs to sleect a creature for his campaign and then to run the creature.
It needs to be organized. A stat block serves two purposes: choosing the monster, running the monster, and fighting the monster. A stat block should be organized with these three goals in mind. Because choosing a monster is a more leisurely activity, thatinformation cna and should be presented last. The combat is the most time sensitive information -- a DM needs to find this stuff quickly to keep combat flowing smoothly. That should be at the top. Finally, the noncombat information should be right below the combat and gathered in a single place.
So how does this stat block stack up? (Note that I am going to respect Wyatt's wishes not to dwell on the presentation: page design, graphic design, or art direction. I am simply going to evaluate the information presented.)
Complete: The stat block (with accompanying descriptive text) appears to be very complete. It has information I would need to choose this monster, including environment, size, behavior, description, motivations, and strategies. moreover, all the information neeeded to run the creature in in the block, with a minimal use of keywords and no need to reference other books. So a perfect score on completeness.
Concise: The stat block is fairly concise. The entries themselves have all the information I need and I see very little that is superfluous. The narrative portion is useful and engaging withouth being overly wordy or monotonous. The information provided is both colorful and useful. So another perfect score!
Organization: This is where I feel the stat block needs work. I can't figure out the organizational structure of this stat block. Why are alignment and languages stuck in the middle there? Why is "senses" (generally needed for interaction) shoved between Abilities and Speed? I am not able to appropriately find things.
Also, and I'm not sure if this is discussing presentation, why are the attacks presented on one line? It's difficult to read and is beginning to get a little arcane. If I may, here would be how I would structure the stat block for ease of reference.
||Medium Humanoid (Goblin)
Str 15+2 Dex 14+2 Con 10+0
Int 8–1 Wis 11+0 Cha 9–1
||Armor Class 14 (leather, shield)
Hit Points 18 (4d8)
Speed 30 ft.
The bugbear can wield weapons that are one size category larger than normal without penalty.
The bugbear gains a +5 bonus to all checks made to avoid detection.
||Large Morningstar (Melee)
Attack: +2 to hit (reach 5 ft.).
Hit: 5 (1d8 + 1) bludgeoning damage and 5 (1d8 + 1) piercing damage.
|Large Javelin (Ranged)
Attack: +2 to hit (range 30 ft./120 ft.).
Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage.
||Senses darkvision 60 ft.
Languages common, goblin
Alignment neutral evil
Environment: Hills or any underground
||Brutal and murderous, bugbears are stealthy killers despite their large size.
Bugbears are lanky and leanly muscular, standing 7 feet tall. Unlike other goblinoids, a bugbear's brown hair grows from its tan hide in great profusion. A bugbear's nose is the most pronounced of all the goblinoids, resembling that of a bear and sharing a bear's keen sense of smell.
||Bugbears have two main goals in life: survival and treasure. They are superb carnivores, winnowing out the weak and careless—monster, humanoid, and animal alike.|
||Brutal Ambushers. Like goblins, bugbears are stealthy and skilled at ambushes. They lurk in canyons and badlands when travelers approach, launching the ambush with a barrage of massive javelins. After the initial attack, they skulk through the rocks to different advantageous positions to launch further attacks, avoiding melee combat as long as possible.
After melee is joined, they batter their foes with oversized morningstars. They are not cowardly like goblins, but they don't coordinate their attacks. Instead, they look out only for themselves, and they'll sometimes compete for kills or trophies. A bugbear is unlikely to come to the aid of an ally who's in trouble—a bugbear who's not strong enough to hold its own is one less hand to share the spoils.
||Territorial Bands. Bugbears live in small bands that rarely number more than a dozen, led by the largest and meanest of the group. They dwell in caves and dungeons, but range over territories of several square miles aboveground or they stay within a more restricted region underground. They view any intruders into their territory as either rivals to be destroyed or sources of food and treasure, and thus they have no interest in negotiation or ransom. They sometimes take prisoners to use or sell as slaves.
Bugbears survive primarily by hunting, and they have no compunctions about eating anything they can kill. They are also fond of wine and strong ale, often drinking to excess. They prefer to raid the surface at dusk or dawn, when their darkvision gives them an advantage. They are not hindered by sunlight, though, and frequently lurk in open canyons, gorges, or other areas where they can make use of cover to get the jump on their targets.
||All That Glitters. Extremely greedy, bugbears love glittery, shiny objects and weapons. They are always on the lookout to increase their hoards of coins, gems, and weapons through plunder and ambush.|
Even ignoring the formatting I used, I think this stat block would be much better served with this organization. It should be noted that this stat block would only be about two lines longer than Wyatt's version, mostly by breaking the attacks into three lines.