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[MONSTERS] Stat Block Preview - brought to you by the letter A!

GlassJaw

Explorer
Any new updates on the book?
The book is coming together nicely. I'm very close to handing Wulf 80-90% of the book so he can start layout.

It's been a slow process for two main reasons:

1. I keep adding stuff, and
2. I'm a perfectionist.

I'm really happy with the way things are coming together though. It's extremely complete: everything has a stat block. I've also rewritten every single ability and rule for clarity and consistency and implemented a new special attack format.

The last section I'll be working on is monster advancement. I have some basic ideas but there are still some things to be worked out.
 
The last section I'll be working on is monster advancement. I have some basic ideas but there are still some things to be worked out.
Woo! for monster advancement! :D

Say, are you having other sets of eyes, besides yours and Wulf's, check through any parts? The more eyes, and all that . . .
 
Say, FWIW, did you pay much awareness to monster abilities for when PC's have access to them? I'm thinking of the Trailblazer druid's wild shape Elemental Form or Plant Form particularly. But certain spells come to mind as well.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Any news on a release date? Fourth quarter 2010? Mid-2011?
When it's done. :angel:

I don't really want to put a time table on it because I don't want to rush to get it out the door. I want it to complete and solid.

I have a first draft of about 80% of the book done. Wulf should be starting layout in a week or two on that. My next task is the monster advancement section. I've done some brainstorming and the nuts and bolts are starting to come together.

My hope is early 2011.
 

joela

Villager
When it's done. :angel:

I don't really want to put a time table on it because I don't want to rush to get it out the door. I want it to complete and solid.

I have a first draft of about 80% of the book done. Wulf should be starting layout in a week or two on that. My next task is the monster advancement section. I've done some brainstorming and the nuts and bolts are starting to come together.

My hope is early 2011.
Coolio. Afterwards I recommend the next project to be a new campaign setting (your homebrew setting?) or "Trailblazer Paths", an UE/APG expansion to the main book. :p

Or all three? :blush:
 

Matrix Sorcica

Explorer
I wonder about trying to abstract some important spell details in the spell-like ability description, in keeping with the goal of trying to put all of the monster information right there in the description. (The psionic monsters in the SRD use something like this.) I know off the top of my head that a lightning bolt, for example, is going to be a Reflex save, and it will do 1d6 electricity damage per caster level (max 10d6). But I'm not sure about the range. And that's one of the most famous spells in the game. I'd be completely unable to guess most of the parameters for many of the high level cleric spells or any of the bard spells.

The letter "A" is a good proof of concept because between aboleths and angels you've got some of the more complicated stat blocks in the whole SRD. (I'd be curious to see what you do with demons/devils or lycanthropes.)
This. A thousand times this.

I know I'm late to the party (just getting mildly interested in 3.5 again, and Trailblazer is a necessity is I'm ever going to play 3.5 or Pathfinder again) - but going back to non-contained monster write ups after 4e looks pretty unrealistic to me. Somehow it must be (made) possible to include information such as range, damage, save and other data in short form next to the spell's name. Otherwise, what's the use of spending so much work on optimizing the stat block so that you don't need to look in the MM, if you still need to turn even more pages for the spell descriptions?

How about something like this:

Fireball Action: Stan SL: 3 CL: 7 Dmg: 7d6 fire Save: Ref DC14 for ½ Dur: Inst Range: 640' Area: 20' ra SR: Y

and skipping the components - how often is that relevant. In 95% of all situations, this is information enough. And you don't have to look the spell up.



The same can be said for many feats. Include their effects in the writeup, or give a short hand summary.

Also, the new 4E monster stat block could be used for inspiration regarding standard, full round and minor/swift actions.

Just some thoughts.
 

joela

Villager
This. A thousand times this.

I know I'm late to the party (just getting mildly interested in 3.5 again, and Trailblazer is a necessity is I'm ever going to play 3.5 or Pathfinder again) - but going back to non-contained monster write ups after 4e looks pretty unrealistic to me. Somehow it must be (made) possible to include information such as range, damage, save and other data in short form next to the spell's name. Otherwise, what's the use of spending so much work on optimizing the stat block so that you don't need to look in the MM, if you still need to turn even more pages for the spell descriptions?

How about something like this:

Fireball Action: Stan SL: 3 CL: 7 Dmg: 7d6 fire Save: Ref DC14 for ½ Dur: Inst Range: 640' Area: 20' ra SR: Y

and skipping the components - how often is that relevant. In 95% of all situations, this is information enough. And you don't have to look the spell up.



The same can be said for many feats. Include their effects in the writeup, or give a short hand summary.

Also, the new 4E monster stat block could be used for inspiration regarding standard, full round and minor/swift actions.

Just some thoughts.
+1. The less I have to open a book, the better.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Fireball Action: Stan SL: 3 CL: 7 Dmg: 7d6 fire Save: Ref DC14 for ½ Dur: Inst Range: 640' Area: 20' ra SR: Y

and skipping the components - how often is that relevant. In 95% of all situations, this is information enough. And you don't have to look the spell up.
In theory, I couldn't agree with you more. But fireball is very clean example; you can get all the info you need with just as single entry.

But where you do draw the line? What if a creature has more complex spells that don't fit into the format you just listed? Do you not provide info on those? Do you use different formats for different types of spells? From a tech writing perspective, it gets very complicated very fast.

That said, I have completely rewritten every special attack/ability to follow a similar format that you listed above (with inspiration from 4E as well). The need to look-up special abilities (like Improved Grab, Trample, etc) has been greatly reduced.

Spells and spell-like abilities were more of a challenge, however. There isn't any nice and neat way to completely eliminate lookup.

Remember that creatures in 4E don't really have spells and spell-like abilities like 3ed. To completely eliminate lookup, you'd have to go that route for 3.5: drastically reduce spells and spell-like abilities from all creatures and turn the remaining into special abilities. While I'm not opposed to something like that, it is beyond the scope of the monster book. So if a creature has fireball as a spell-like ability, you'll probably have to look it up.

That said, the stat block will no longer contain a huge lists of spells if the creature has ability to cast spells. Knowing how many times a Solar can cast cure light wounds is useless. The spellcasting entry has been simplified to allow the DM to essentially pick and choose which spells he wants the creature to have.

Overall, I think you'll find the new stat block a huge improvement and time-saver during play. The stat block has been greatly cleaned up and expanded.
 

Matrix Sorcica

Explorer
In theory, I couldn't agree with you more. But fireball is very clean example; you can get all the info you need with just as single entry.

But where you do draw the line? What if a creature has more complex spells that don't fit into the format you just listed? Do you not provide info on those? Do you use different formats for different types of spells? From a tech writing perspective, it gets very complicated very fast.
I realise this. And I'm pretty sure that one would have to draw the line somewhere. But for the vast majority of SLA's, I'd say the types of spells they duplicate fit into the Fireball template.

That said, I have completely rewritten every special attack/ability to follow a similar format that you listed above (with inspiration from 4E as well). The need to look-up special abilities (like Improved Grab, Trample, etc) has been greatly reduced.
Great!


That said, the stat block will no longer contain a huge lists of spells if the creature has ability to cast spells. Knowing how many times a Solar can cast cure light wounds is useless. The spellcasting entry has been simplified to allow the DM to essentially pick and choose which spells he wants the creature to have.
Great!

Overall, I think you'll find the new stat block a huge improvement and time-saver during play. The stat block has been greatly cleaned up and expanded.
What Joela said.

 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Here's what I've been using in my Shackled City campaign. The example is a covey of half-fey green hags.


[Names, removed for copyright] (3 half-fey Hags) (Fey 11) XP 3840 each
Hit Points 49 / ____ 49 / ____ 49 / ____ CR: o o +5; BAB +10; Immune enchantment; SR 18
AC 27 (T: 16, F: 23)
Initiative: +4; Fly: 60’, Swim: 30’
Attack: +13/+13 claws (1d6+3); +13 Grapple
Special: low-light vision, Darkvision 90’, Trapfinding, Evasion, Mimicry (jungle animals), Weakness (Touch, Fort DC 22, 2d4 Str / none), Sneak Attack +1d6; Hag Eye (hard 5, 10hp; destroy: 1d10 dmg to each Hag, most-hurt is blinded 24hrs); Spell-Like Abilities:
• At-Will: Charm Person (Will DC 17, enchant), dancing lights, Disguise Self (11 min), ghost sound (Will DC 16), Invisibility (11 min), Pass w/out Trace, Tongues, water breathing
• 3 / Rest: Detect Law, Protection From Law (+2 AC, +2 saves, 11 min)
• 1 / Rest: Confusion (Will DC 20, enchant, 11rds, 15’ rad, roll table each round), Dominate Person (Will DC 21, enchant, 11 days, move to command), Eye-bite (Std, 3 rounds, 1 target, Fort DC 22, sickened 110 min, panicked 1d4 rds – shaken 110 min or panicked if see caster), faerie fire, hypnotism (Will DC 18, enchant, 2d4 HD of creatures, 2d4 rds), sleep (Will DC 17, useless), Suggestion (Will DC 19, enchant, 11 hrs, 1 suggested action)
*Confusion Table
d% Behavior
01-10 Attack caster with melee or ranged weapons (or close with caster if attack is not possible).
11-20 Act Normally
21-50 Do nothing but babble incoherently.
51-70 Flee away from caster at top possible speed.
71-00 Attack nearest creature (for this purpose, a familiar counts as part of the subject’s self).
Covey Spell-Like Abilities (Full-Round, all 3 w/in 10’):
• 3 / Rest: animate dead, Bestow Curse (touch, Will DC 19, One: -6 one ability; -4 attack, save, ability check, skill check; 50% each round, no action), control weather, dream, Forcecage (20’ cube, 22 hrs, no save), Mind Blank (immune mind-effects), Mirage Arcana (illusionary terrain, Will DC 21, 11 20’ cubes), Polymorph (TB: pg 131), Veil (Long, Will DC 22, appear as caster desires, 11 hrs), Vision (
Alignment: CE
SAVES: Fort +6, Ref +14, Will +8
Disguise +16, Knowledge (Supernatural) +14, Swim +15
Intimidate +8, Persuasion +16,
Perception +16
Treasure: Ring of Protection +2, Hag Eye on Olomasta. Treasure in Covey Lair


Most of the SLAs get a quick note so that I can actually use this in play. It takes some effort and look-up during prep but it lets me know what I can use and how it works (and I'm still ignoring spell resistance since none of my PCs have it yet) .
A long way from perfect, but it's working for me.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
User Preference...

NOTE: There is a PDF attached to this post for review.

Well, I've been quietly chugging away on the layout of the book, and I'm at a bit of a crossroads regarding formatting and usability.

1) Font size. First of all, we won't be repeating the mistake we made in the main rulebook-- all of the text in the monster book is at least 12 pt. type, with some 10 pt. tables (ability scores). This makes for "large print" reading and we do have room to go down to 10/8.

2) Page layout. Our goal from the beginning was to put no more than 1 monster per column. (Indeed in the PDF, it will be one monster per page regardless.)

This does create a lot of white space, but we feel that readability and usability are improved when you don't run into two monsters on the same column.

3) Book Size. Now, given #1 and #2, we obviously have a hurdle with the page count and the size of the book. Our POD service (CreateSpace) can print the book at 8x10-- the same size as the main rulebook-- but we would be limited to 440 pages.

But I'm getting a bit worried we won't be able to fit everything into 440 pages. (Animals alone are about 70 pages.)

If I drop the size format of the book to 7x10 or 6x9, CreateSpace can bind up to 800 pages-- but then the book feels a little tight with 2 columns per page.

Switching to one column would waste more space on those short entries (like hit points), but improve readability on longer, numeric-content lines (like AC or Melee; see page 1.)

So, here are the choices that the voices in my head are suggesting:

1) "I like all my rulebooks to be the same size. Keep the book at 8"x10", drop the font size if necessary, and cut content if necessary. You'll just have to get it into 440 pages."

2) "Content is the most important, and I wouldn't want to see any content cut, but try to keep the page count down. I'm worried about cracking the spine on a book that thick. Drop down to 7"x10" or smaller if you have to, but keep it at two columns of text and consider dropping the font size a step if you have to."

3) "Readability! Go ahead and drop to 6"x9", keep the larger font size, and go with just one column of text. I want the text to feel 'roomy' and I don't mind if the page count shoots up. I've always wanted a Monster Manual thicker than the Bible!"

Opinions?
 

Attachments

What about doing something like all the mundane Animals collection as free downloadable content? Kind of option 1, but the content isn't really being dropped, just getting an alternate release.
 
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