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. CapnZapp -
      How about they indicate what spells require Concentration?
    1. jgsugden's Avatar
      jgsugden -
      I prefer shorthand over a sentence. I want condensed crunch that I can bring to the table in the smallest package possible.

      The fluff and poetry of language is welcome, but not as part of the monster block or any crunch representation of the character. Whe providing mechanics, make them as succinct as possible. Heck, most of the monster ability descriptions in the DMG could be shortened substantially.
    1. robus's Avatar
      robus -
      Hmm weird. The thing I think is missing is a short textual physical description of the character. For example:

      Fireface McDragon (LG female mountain dwarf knight)
      Wearing battleworn armor and has a large scar across her face.
      Sometimes there's a picture to base it off, sometimes not. But inevitably I have to describe the NPC and having a description ready to go really helps.

      I've also started adding short text descriptions to my monster stat blocks to remind myself of their key features.
    1. ccs's Avatar
      ccs -
      Ugh. I really hope they don't implement this idea.
      They need to keep in mind that the purpose of these stat blocks is not to make the game gorgeous or fun to read or whatever, but to make the game playable.
      Burying the info in natural language sentences makes that harder.
    1. Prakriti's Avatar
      Prakriti -
      I think they can achieve the best of both worlds just by spelling out the alignment. Nothing else needs to change.
    1. Eric V's Avatar
      Eric V -
      Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
      Ugh. I really hope they don't implement this idea.
      They need to keep in mind that the purpose of these stat blocks is not to make the game gorgeous or fun to read or whatever, but to make the game playable.
      Burying the info in natural language sentences makes that harder.
      Well, anything they do is to sell more books, right? It's actually not about ease of play, or whatever; it's about whatever moves books off the shelves. If @Merudo is right that most of these adventures are bought and read but not played, then they probably should move to a more natural language statblock if that is more popular.
    1. FitzTheRuke's Avatar
      FitzTheRuke -
      Man, for a second there I thought the article meant that they were going to redesign the whole Stat-Block, and I was excited. The current one is fine, and I don't know what a new one would look like, but I imagined something revolutionary for a moment there.
    1. Satyrn's Avatar
      Satyrn -
      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)
      Okay, Joe, the Bull Thistle hits you with an, uh, thistled arm for 2d4 damage. And it hits you again, with another thistled arm for, lets mix this up, 3d3-1. Then it chomps you with its thistled maw, dealing, um . . . 1d10+2 . . . no, I mean 1d12 + 1 . . . wait 1d4+1d6+1d3. Yeah, that's got it.
    1. TheBanjoNerd's Avatar
      TheBanjoNerd -
      @Satyrn I don't think anyone is saying we need to go back to the arcane way that attack damage was written. I've been DM'ing 5e since it was released and I use essentially the same stat block @lowkey13 presented because it gets all of the relevant information across quickly and concisely. I don't need to know what an NPC's bonds and flaws are when it comes to combat.
    1. Satyrn's Avatar
      Satyrn -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheBanjoNerd View Post
      @Satyrn I don't think anyone is saying we need to go back to the arcane way that attack damage was written. I've been DM'ing 5e since it was released and I use essentially the same stat block @lowkey13 presented because it gets all of the relevant information across quickly and concisely. I don't need to know what an NPC's bonds and flaws are when it comes to combat.
      I know. I just couldn't resist the opportunity to make a joke.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheBanjoNerd View Post
      @Satyrn I don't think anyone is saying we need to go back to the arcane way that attack damage was written. I've been DM'ing 5e since it was released and I use essentially the same stat block @lowkey13 presented because it gets all of the relevant information across quickly and concisely. I don't need to know what an NPC's bonds and flaws are when it comes to combat.
      I don't know. I want it even more arcane. Arcaner? ARCANEST!

      4 Paladin Killers (AC -10; MV 36”; HD 32; hp 4 x 200; #AT 5; D 9-37/10-37/9-53/15-56/11-87; SA x3 damage v. LG; SD 99% magic resistance)
    1. lkj's Avatar
      lkj -
      I really don't think they are talking about changing the statblock. This is specifically about the parenthetical text included in the text. Such text would not be a replacement of the statblock.

      AD
    1. Prakriti's Avatar
      Prakriti -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      I don't know. I want it even more arcane. Arcaner? ARCANEST!

      4 Paladin Killers (AC -10; MV 36”; HD 32; hp 4 x 200; #AT 5; D 9-37/10-37/9-53/15-56/11-87; SA x3 damage v. LG; SD 99% magic resistance)
      Ah, the good old days when the book told you an attack's damage range (9-53) and expected you to figure out what dice+modifiers were needed to get that result. That is one thing I definitely don't miss from AD&D.
    1. Mercule's Avatar
      Mercule -
      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)
      You aren't wrong, but it isn't exactly right, either. In AD&D, that was all you really needed. No skills or anything like that. DR was pretty simple, too. 5E is a bit more complex, with most things wanting at least the six stats and a couple of skills, in addition to the AC/HP/attacks.

      Also, there's a major difference in that the AD&D "sentence" made use of caps and abbreviations in a way that helped guide the eye. The 5E sample is just a run-on sentence that sucks to scan.

      Now, if they use the "sentence" block for in-line reference in adventures (as in, "This room has 4 Bull Thistles (AC 6...)"), and include a book/page reference number (or DDB link) for details, I might be fine with that. I've noticed that some of the existing adventures left some of that out and it is sometimes a pain to remember on the fly ("oh, crap, I thought they'd take a left, so that's what I reread last night").

      For any meaningful amount of info, though, I prefer some sort of tabular layout.
    1. Mercule's Avatar
      Mercule -
      Quote Originally Posted by Merudo View Post
      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.
      Wait... That's a thing?

      I mean, I've bought adventures that I've never run, and that were still enjoyable to read, but I always read them with my "GM's eye", which means looking for the stat blocks, etc.

      I can accept that there are folks that buy adventures with no intent of running (or looting) them, but I'd still expect them to care about the game mechanics stuff, at least enough to be able to follow along. Otherwise, my brain kinda hurts.
    1. Wrathamon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Osgood View Post
      Maybe I'm getting too old for this s#!$ but I think having to read a whole sentence to express what should be a few words and abbreviations is a terrible idea. Walls of text are a pain to read through when at the table, so having a parenthetical with the stats to catch the eyes makes things a little easier. That complete sentence may make your grade school grammar teacher happy, but it's not doing anything for the DM.

      Imagine if they tried this with monster stat blocks...
      The Ogre is a large-sized chaotic evil giant, possessed of a prodigious strength score of 19, a sub-par dexterity score of 8, an impressive 16 constitution. It's limited mental capabilities include an Intelligence score of 5 and wisdom and charisma scores of 7; the ogre speaks the Common and Giant languages. Thanks to its hide armor the ogre has an armor class of 11, but what it lacks in defense, it makes up for in health as its 7d10+21 hit dice provide it with an average of 59 hit points. Additionally the ogre has a speed of 40 feet per round, the ability to see in darkness to a range of 60 feet, and a passive perception score of 8.
      The ogre can use a greatclub to make melee weapon attacks, which have a +6 bonus to hit, a reach of 5 feet, and may affect one target, dealing 2d8+4 points of bludgeoning damage, for an average of 13 points. As a ranged attack the ogre can hurl javelins to a range of 30 feet, or 120 feet with disadvantage on the attack roll. The javelin has a +6 bonus to hit, and deals 2d6+4 points of piercing damage on a hit, which averages to 11 points of damage. The javelin can also be used to make a melee attack with a reach of 5 feet, with the same attack bonuses and damage. Characters who defeat this level 2 challenge earn 450 experience points.

      Can't wait!
      I'm with morrus, I actually understand completely what this ogre can do and why its impressive. I would say bold the "game mechanics" and this would be amazing for new players. I get that its not a quick reference sheet. I can see original npc block being on a quick reference card.

      Good Job btw!
    1. Doctor Futurity -
      I would find this inconvenient at the table while GMing, but then I remembered I am burned out on D&D and am taking a hiatus, and I never run their modules anyway, so I guess I don't care. (Okay I'm sounding negative I admit. I would care....I have seen other publishers try a "chatty stat block" format and it's really hard to parse out at a moment's notice at the game table).
    1. lyle.spade's Avatar
      lyle.spade -
      Quote Originally Posted by GlassJaw View Post
      Solution looking for a problem.
      Spot on.
    1. CubicsRube's Avatar
      CubicsRube -
      For stat blocks I prefer bullet points because:

      • They are easy to read
      • Can be referenced in game at a glance
      • Give me the relevant points in the fastest way possible
      • Look neat and organised on a page
    1. robus's Avatar
      robus -
      Quote Originally Posted by Prakriti View Post
      Ah, the good old days when the book told you an attack's damage range (9-53) and expected you to figure out what dice+modifiers were needed to get that result. That is one thing I definitely don't miss from AD&D.
      Seriously?!
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