D&D General The Evolution of the Monster Stat Block

R_J_K75

Legend
2E is still my favorite, both for nostalgia and the sheer amount of usable lore.
Yes, definitely 2E for me too because of the lore, the ecology, habitat, etc. It was very easy to write adventures and campaigns where creatures could be presented with a lot of depth, so they weren't just things to fight and be killed.
 

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Sacrosanct

Legend
@Sacrosanct Love the comparison! One thing I've done a bit of is writing up one edition's monsters in the format of another edition and seeing what I can glean from that. Here's an example of what I mean - taking some 5e monsters and putting them into the OD&D quick reference chart format...

View attachment 316057

What I learned from this was that you can – with very important exceptions (spells & special abilities) – pare down a 5e monster to its most essential info that can be gleaned at a glance. Worrying about differences between checks/saves is probably more trouble for monsters than its worth. Most of the time common sense dictates the damage type a monster is doing.

For a more tactical map+minis approach, speed could be squeezed into this table.
For a more OSR approach, No. Appearing and Treasure could be squeezed in.

For example, taking the Oni, I could run an oni in theater-of-the-mind using just this table and vague recollection that onis can fly (I should have noted that in table), and cast Cone of Cold and Invisibility IIRC. I don't really need the full description to vaguely recall how Regeneration & Change Shape work. It wouldn't be 100% accurate and perfect to the actual stat block, but I could get it to feel like an Oni encounter.

This OD&D fast-and-loose approach to stat blocks supports a play style where the GM has a sort of "word bank" of monsters but doesn't necessarily know when the players will face any given monster from that word bank – wandering monster tables, dungeons with many monster types, fast play styles where players choose from which direction/hex they're exploring, etc.
Nice. This was mentioned in another thread, but one thing I liked about old school D&D was that the monster key stats were there in the encounter description. And in 5e, it just lists the monster name and expects you to go look up the stat block.

So when I write 5e adventures, I make sure to use an abbreviated stat block in much the same way it appears in older D&D

1698335668872.png
 

Quickleaf

Legend
Nice. This was mentioned in another thread, but one thing I liked about old school D&D was that the monster key stats were there in the encounter description. And in 5e, it just lists the monster name and expects you to go look up the stat block.

So when I write 5e adventures, I make sure to use an abbreviated stat block in much the same way it appears in older D&D

View attachment 316119
Absolutely, that's a terrific compromise. I recall some AD&D adventures doing both in-line stats (not as nicely organized/formatted as yours) and appendix stats that were more robust (Monstrous Compendium entries). If there's space for it, that's a nice approach too.

Can I ask about your published example - why you did not include Perception (in case PCs take the sneaky option) or why you did not write what Pack Tactics does? I can see you're intentionally prioritizing certain info, and that for space reasons some things have to be cut, just wondering why you cut what you did?
 

I took a few decades off from D&D after shelving my AD&D books in the mid-90s. As I first cracked open the 5e Monster Manual when I re-entered the hobby back in 2015, I was aghast that "No. Appearing" was nowhere to be found. I got over it quickly but it was funny how that little stat category emerged from somewhere in the back of my brain.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Nostalgia says Basic, but I like the 5e statblock best. It's got a useful level of info, imo, all presented in one place and no need for referencing other tables. I don't care about extensive lore, so I like the 5e convention that a monster's description and behavior is usually boiled down to a few bullet points. (They could be more succinct, though.)

One thing I don't care for in the 5e statblocks is the full set of abilities. I think those could be replaced with just a couple "good/average/bad at" modifiers which the DM uses on a commonsense basis, and/or guided by the descriptor bullets. (An example of this are "Save" stats in the 5e-ish campaign setting, Neverland.)
1698336455300.png
What might be nice would be an addendum to each statblock: a very short-form version of the statblock that could be inlined into text in places where a full statblock is likely not to be necessary. Perhaps even a couple different statblocklings, depending on context (eg, one for simple combat, one for social, plus page number for reference)
 

I took a few decades off from D&D after shelving my AD&D books in the mid-90s. As I first cracked open the 5e Monster Manual when I re-entered the hobby back in 2015, I was aghast that "No. Appearing" was nowhere to be found. I got over it quickly but it was funny how that little stat category emerged from somewhere in the back of my brain.
How about '% in Lair'? That get to you too? :p
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I think there should be a difference between the stat block as it appears in a book and what appears in a module/adventure. The monster book one should be more like the 1E/2E type that includes "# appearing" and "climate/terrain," but the practical one for use should be much more condensed (so condensed that the MM or DMG should have an appendix where it recreates these condensed versions for every monster in the MM and still not take up more than four or five pages).

All that being said, I think I like the 5E version for ease of use, but wish it was/could be condensed a lot more while retaining its clarity. For me 3E was the worst, even when I was running it, I'd see a printed stat block - in Dungeon or whatever- and my eyes would glaze over. It did not help that the glossy paper and weird backgrounds on pages made them even harder to read (and that was before I needed my cheaters!).
 
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Rabulias

the Incomparably Shrewd and Clever
3.0 and 3.5 stat blocks were quite similar, with only some labeling changes and the addition of "Full Attack" and "Level Adjustment" entries.

3.x Stat Blocks.jpg


Late 3.5 though saw a rearrangement and reorganization, including the addition of special trait details added to the end.

3.5b Stat Block.jpg
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
3.0 and 3.5 stat blocks were quite similar, with only some labeling changes and the addition of "Full Attack" and "Level Adjustment" entries.

View attachment 316143

Late 3.5 though saw a rearrangement and reorganization, including the addition of special trait details added to the end.

View attachment 316131
One thing those 3e blocks are missing (as are some but not all from other editions) is how many xp the damn things are worth.

Sure 3e might have done xp on a formula based on CR, but having the number there in the stat block is useful too.
 

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