Sunday, October 23, 2016

Toward an OId School 5e Monster Stat Block

My benchmark for a monster stat block is the 1ed Monster Manual because that is the stat block that I used for years in the formative youth of my RPG life. While too big for my (now curmudgeonly) taste, it does set a marvelous example for visual clarity and simplicity. In contrast to its modern counterparts, the 1ed MM stat block was perfectly happy to merely inform its user that there was a special attack (say, a breath weapon) at leave it that. The crunchy stuff was in the description. At a glance, I know all the essentials and am invited to investigate further for more details if I should so choose:
No. Appearing
Armor Class
Hit Dice
% in Lair
Treasure Type
No. of Attacks
Special Attacks
Special Defenses
Magic Resistance
One of the biggest headaches (literally) for me in 5e is the monster stat block. For some unknown reason, it isn’t possible to simply inform a user that there is a breath weapon. Instead, it must also be accompanied by every single bit of data about the breath weapon, as well as every other possible attack that monster is capable of. I am no longer allowed to get a handle on a monster at a glance. I am required to read all the details, because…stat block. It is visually muddy and crosses wires in my brain.

Therefore, if I am going to stay sane while DMing a 5e game I need a stat block I can understand at a glance. To that end (and inspired by the 1ed MM stat block) I would like to propose the following:
Hit Dice (with an average hp total in parenthesis)
Armor Class
Ave. Bonus (the average of all the ability score bonuses/penalties)
Attack Bonus (the total of the Proficiency Bonus, Str bonus and any special bonuses)
Advantages (including any listed skills)
Disadvantages (including any listed weaknesses)
Special Abilities (with no elaboration)
For all non-combat rolls, I use the Ave. Bonus (and can adjust that up or down depending upon how I want the monster to run). For all combat rolls, I use the Attack Bonus. If I need to understand a special ability, I can look in the description or just make it up as I go along (which I’d probably do anyway).

As an example, here is the 5e Goblin as represented by my old-fangled stat block:
Hit Dice: 2d6 (7)
Armor Class: 15
Ave. Bonus: 0
Attack Bonus: +4
Damage/Attack: 1d6+2
Advantages : Stealth
Disadvantages: none
Special Abilities: Nimble Escape
Alignment: Neutral Evil
Size: Small
Goblins usually wear leather armor and carry a shield. They are armed with scimitars and short bows. When using their Nimble Escape ability they can use a bonus action to either disengage or hide. Goblins are used to living underground and have dark vision 60ft.
This makes sense to me. I can riff of this info in seconds and I know how to run a group of goblins without having to give myself a headache.


  1. Stealing this. Love the idea of just one modifier for attacks and one for non-combat. I have using some similar stripped down stats while writing notes for my 5e campaign but I hadn't hit on stripping all the modifiers down to just those two.

  2. I am mulling over similar for my B/X-Next hack. Mind if I steal some of your ideas here?

    1. That's why I proposed it and put it up here — so anyone can comment, riff off of or rip off...feel free.