WotC Considering NPC Stat Format Change
  • WotC Considering NPC Stat Format Change


    This started with a comment about D&D formatting errors by James Introcaso (the comment, not the errors) on Twitter, and WotC's Chris Perkins joined in. Other quickly chimed in with further questions.



    James:
    When you write an NPC's statistics in parentheses next to their name, it should look like this: NAME (ABBREVIATED ALIGNMENT SEX OR GENDER SUBRACE RACE STATISTICS). e.g. Fireface McDragon (LG female mountain dwarf knight)

    Perkins: We’re thinking about dispensing with that format and writing out the information in sentence form using no alignment abbreviations. Example: Borf is a chaotic neutral, non-binary shield dwarf berserker with darkvision out to a range of 60 feet.

    Crows Bring the Spring: Can I inquire why adding the blurb about dark vision is included in that line? Makes it feel rather lengthy.

    Perkins: It doesn’t have to be there. It could also be replaced with something else, such as the languages Borf speaks, if that’s more important. Racial traits and other useful info could be presented as separate, full sentences.

    Hannah Rose: What’s motivating this possible change? The ability to transition into modifications to a stat block without saying “with the following changes”?

    Perkins: Our intention is to make books that are gorgeous, thoughtfully organized, fun to read, and easy for DMs/players of all experience levels to use.

    Guillermo Garrido: Do you playtest these changes by different levels of players/DMs before widespread use of the new language?

    Perkins: We playtest everything.
    Comments 170 Comments
    1. Ghal Maraz's Avatar
      Ghal Maraz -
      Wasn't the natural language thing already a big enough problem of 5th edition? Do we really need to exacerbate one of the few really problematic aspects of this edition by adding to the complexity of reading and fast reference of the RULES part of the game?
    1. AkaKageWarrior's Avatar
      AkaKageWarrior -
      For some statistical things, tables are the best to get an overview.

      But if they only change the basic one line description: don't care.
      It will probably not change the game...
    1. Ristamar's Avatar
      Ristamar -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ghal Maraz View Post
      Wasn't the natural language thing already a big enough problem of 5th edition? Do we really need to exacerbate one of the few really problematic aspects of this edition by adding to the complexity of reading and fast reference of the RULES part of the game?
      If they also include sidebars or appendices with the full stat blocks, I'm guessing it likely won't matter much to the majority of people using the material to prep and run a game. Anecdotally, I've never used the truncated inline stats during play since they provide minimal information.
    1. Ghost2020 -
      Perkins: Our intention is to make books that are gorgeous, thoughtfully organized, fun to read, and easy for DMs/players of all experience levels to use.

      Well they are, but stat blocks are just that. The DM needs them for handy reference. I don't want to have to read a paragraph to get info. Put in brackets or something.

      Granted, i'm eternally grateful that we're done with the 3/4ths of a page or whole page stat blocks of 3rd edition. 4th was wonderful in that respect. 5th is great. Just give us an abbreviated one, and for crying out loud, include the level!!

      TLDR (hahah get it?)
      Terrible idea. Don't do it.
    1. Ath-kethin's Avatar
      Ath-kethin -
      What I like about this change is that it makes the NPC a person rather than a bag of hit points. It gives you info to roleplay them, not kill them. I've worked on adventures where every single NPC is stated out - which encourages murderhoboism more than anything else. Who cares what the shopkeeper's hit points are?
    1. SolidPlatonic's Avatar
      SolidPlatonic -
      First, let me say that I am a fan of Chris Perkins and his adventures. From "Wards of Witching Ways" to "Storm King's Thunder," I really like his ideas and design.

      That said, I kind of find WotC adventures hard to run because they are so wordy and convey information via a narrative in paragraph form. They are super fun to read, but prepping them and playing them are extremely suboptimal. There are a lot of other games and producers that take a little more care in creating adventures to RUN not to read. My go-to example is PEG, Inc. with its plot point campaigns, but there are others.
    1. SkidAce's Avatar
      SkidAce -
      I would not find the expository sentence to be a problem, unless it REPLACED the stat block.

      There is a place for both, say an intro sentence or paragraph, then stat block. Or vice versa.

      Just using either one would cause problems, IMO.
    1. BookBarbarian's Avatar
      BookBarbarian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jacob Lewis View Post
      I fail to see how this affects gameplay according to this handy flow chart
      Solid flowchart, but sometimes you have to mutilate the bodies to get the loot. This week I got some sweet stuff after cutting up a Roper.
    1. Henry's Avatar
      Henry -
      I REALLY don't like it, and I'll tell you why:

      Often during my prep notes, I have to copy the information from a stat block into a quickly-referential format for use in my notes, without having to scan for information useful in an RP interaction or a combat. If the format is already a relatively compact stat block, it's a matter of either typing it in, or if i have time, actually scanning or OCR scanning that block of text into a format for my tablet or printout. Making the information require more reading time to locate the relevant info does not help my prep time as GM, and actively hinders it.

      I suppose if I were a new GM, and finding the stat blocks intimidating, I might welcome such a change. Similarly, if I were looking for some pleasure-reading of the adventure in prep for a future session, I also might like it. HOWEVER, New GMs do not remain new GMs for more than a few months, and are able to digest stat blocks more easily after their learning curve levels out (no pun intended). At that point, they will likely appreciate a stat block that can be quickly parsed. I much more often read adventures in prep for a game, not as pleasure reading. In both cases, I want a standard format that does not take up a lot of room for ease of transfer to notes.

      If the only thing affected were the simple references in in-line text, then it won't make a difference one way or another. As it is, most of the time it's not even a stat block, it's a one-word descriptor ("Chuff-Chuff is a goblin...") or a block of only changes from the MM stat block ("Chuff-Chuff is a goblin, but with the folliowing changes: Alignment Lawful Good; He carries a Warhammer instead of a short sword for +4 to hit, and 1d8-1 damage...") I really hate those, but I can understand the desire for room for more flavor and less crunch space; if even monster manuals start getting prosaic stat blocks, it would REALLY turn me off.
    1. ChaosGenerators's Avatar
      ChaosGenerators -
      I'd be happy if they tried it out in an unearthed arcana or one-shot such as an adventure for RPG Day (or whatever it's called).
      Then get feedback on it.
    1. EthanSental's Avatar
      EthanSental -
      Not a fan of the possible new format. Guess I’m used to what format has been using since I started playing in 1987. New DMs....like Chaos above, feedback via arcana would help show what the newer dms think.
    1. JeffB's Avatar
      JeffB -
      C&C has been doing this for 15 years. It works for that system, but 5e has way more going on it's statblocks.

      I would rather see a return to essentials era 4e stablocks (including the self containment).
    1. jhilahd's Avatar
      jhilahd -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Is it weird that I was just thinking about how I missed the short stat blocks of 1e?

      "4 Bull Thistles (AC 6; MV 9”; HD 4; hp 4 x 24; #AT 3; D 2-8/2-8/3-13; SD 25% magic resistance)"

      (Source: EX1)
      Big ditto.
    1. Merudo's Avatar
      Merudo -
      People need to keep in mind that WotC does not write primarily with DMs in mind.

      WotC is writing for all the people who buy an adventure book, read it for pleasure, and then never run the adventure.

      From what I seen from other DM buddies a good 80% of books are never run - they are simply read for entertainment.

      As a result, books tend to be organized poorly and important information tend to be spread out through paragraphs of text.
    1. Ghal Maraz's Avatar
      Ghal Maraz -
      Meh. Adventures make for really bad reads.

      If I want to enjoy the background of an RPG, adventures are the last place I head to.

      Adventure modules should be meant as a way to give DMs an easier time. Nothing less, nothing more. Interpretation guidelines shouldn't have places in stat-blocks: there should be different places for the two different (but complementary) things.
    1. timbannock's Avatar
      timbannock -
      Definitely not a fan. My biggest issue with most adventures is that they are too wordy (I'm guilty of this myself): running this thing at the table should be fast and easy. WOTC -- like Paizo's Dungeon adventures and then their own adventure paths -- is trying to serve too many masters by making these things (in Chris' words) "gorgeous" and "fun to read." That's wonderful, and I get why they're making those goals equal to "thoughtfully organized" but no, none of this makes it "easy" for most DMs to run, I'd argue. Reading an book and running and adventure are two different things. But there's a HUGE audience that buys this stuff just to read it, or to pull it apart in a manner that does require the reading part to be good because they aren't really running the adventure as it is presented; it's more a sourcebook.

      Here's hoping smaller publishers and adventures, as well as DMsGuild authors don't follow this structure.
    1. neobolts's Avatar
      neobolts -
      When DMing, the stat line is preferable. Narrative sentences just add additional read time when scanning for key info.
    1. Zaukrie's Avatar
      Zaukrie -
      I guess I'd like both......the stat block to make my life easier, and the words to make it more interesting.....That might not be practical in printed material, but it might be. Not sure. And, I really only want the words where it might matter, let's face it, random henchwoman protecting evil overlord probably doesn't always need words....
    1. neobolts's Avatar
      neobolts -
      I'm going to expand and point out that basic attacks in monster entries are TOO WORDY as it already is.

      All I need is:
      Claw. +4, 1d8+3(7)S. CON save DC 14 vs +1d4(2) poison.
    1. Koloth's Avatar
      Koloth -
      Quote Originally Posted by 5ekyu View Post
      Non-binary as opposed to M or F.
      Google.
      Real life terminology doesn't always equate to the same meaning in RPG terminology. This could be a case study for not adopting a plain text descriptor for critters. Without data descriptors folks could be left guessing what something means. My first thought was the dwarf had some Otyugh heritage and had three arms.
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