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.

Chris_Perkins.jpg


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.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

robus

Lowcountry Low Roller
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?!
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Seriously?!
Yes, seriously. :D But I'm pretty sure lowkey made up 9-53. Most of the damage-ranges were pretty easy to figure out. 2-8 could only be 2d4, for example, 2-16 = 2d8, 2-7 = 1d6+1, etc. (Those are all examples from the original Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.)

I think they switched to the modern format sometime toward the end of 1E, probably because the old method was ridiculous.
 

NaturalZero

Villager
I remember when 5e came out, they were toting the natural language design paradigm and it was pretty obviously a reaction to 4e. The more a I play 5e though, the more i miss the old 4e stat blocks, which were concise and easy to follow. Often times, looking through paragraphs in spells slows things down and feels like sorting through chaff, trying to find the keywords you actually need to play. Just give me the keywords and leave me the with responsibility to come up with the flavor and evocative descriptions myself.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
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.
I was under the impression that 5E made not doing exactly this one of its design goals. This is from a blog post someone wrote a couple of years ago:

During all the hours you wanted to play games like Dungeons & Dragons but couldn’t, you settled for exploring the game world by reading its source books. So the Complete Guide to the Tribes of the Southeast Highlands of S’norr sold to be read rather than played.

In those days, gaming used to be what D&D boss Mike Mearls called “a hobby of not playing the game you wanted to play.” Fate designer Fred Hicks calls time spent creating characters or reading game books “lonely fun.”

Electronic games took away the appeal of lonely fun. Now wherever you have a laptop or phone, you can game. “People are just playing games now,” Mearls says.
I mean, I agree with the idea that gamers - or at least a sizeable subset of gamers - tend to buy more books than they'll ever use (and they know it too); certainly, I do it. For me, it's because the siren's song of "I might (be able to) use this, someday" is considerable, and because yes, I do enjoy reading the books unto themselves. And I agree that was part of the marketing strategy for a long time. But the idea that 5E abandoned it was certainly a plausible one to me.

So really, that makes this idea of making stat abbreviations more prose-oriented a bit of a head-scratcher.
 

jmucchiello

Adventurer
WotC is writing for all the people who buy an adventure book, read it for pleasure, and then never run the adventure.
I find it hard to believe that the kind of person who reads an adventure book for pleasure is put out by the occasional (LE, ac:15, hp: 34, +7 melee shortsword 1d6+2) in the book. That's the kind of thing your eye can just scan past in a jiffy. Not one of these kinds of buyers has ever said, "That's it. If I see one more statblock I'm never buying one of these adventure books EVER again." <hand slam on table>
 

ZeshinX

Explorer
It's change for the sake of change. It's idiotic. It makes it more difficult to use, not less. Having the stats in quick, abbreviated form is infinitely more useful...you can get the basics with a quick glance. With this proposed change, there's a very strong likelihood of it killing the flow of the moment.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
This is what happens when you don't let them work on game books! They think of new (or old-new) ways of messing up the next one they do get to work on :D

Seriously, I read their adventures. I don't run them. I do my own. Bumping in to stat blocks never stopped me from reading the books. Well, looking back that doesn'r sound "serious"... but this idea brings out that in me.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
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.
Is this really still true, though? I know back when they were putting out a hardcover and a bunch of soft covers every month, this was actually true; however, with so few releases per year and all the focus on mainly adventure content, I think more people are actually PLAYING with this material, than just consuming for pleasure reading.

I’m really not one for “one true wayisms” at all, but to buy an adventure with no plan to ever use it, just read and stick on a shelf, especially when the hobby is more popular than ever in history, and the D&D stigma is at an all time low, that’s kind of like buying a Dodge Viper only so you can sit in it in your garage and play the radio.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
Is this really still true, though? I know back when they were putting out a hardcover and a bunch of soft covers every month, this was actually true; however, with so few releases per year and all the focus on mainly adventure content, I think more people are actually PLAYING with this material, than just consuming for pleasure reading.

I’m really not one for “one true wayisms” at all, but to buy an adventure with no plan to ever use it, just read and stick on a shelf, especially when the hobby is more popular than ever in history, and the D&D stigma is at an all time low, that’s kind of like buying a Dodge Viper only so you can sit in it in your garage and play the radio.
I have a shelf full of 5E adventures (all of them except Ravnica -- no interest in that one), and haven't run any of them. I've read them though. As for cars, I saw a 2007 Shelby GT500 for sale at a local dealership 4 years ago (iirc). It had less than 30,000 miles on it. I think they drove it out and listened to the radio on weekends. Occasionally :D
 

solamon77

Villager
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!
Totally agree. I hate this idea. Stat blocks are supposed to be concise.

Sent from my VS501 using EN World mobile app
 

guachi

Villager
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.
I think it has to be a thing in 5e. I mean, "gorgeous" isn't really high on the list of things necessary to run an adventure. And I find 5e adventure books terribly laid out and not at all easy to use.

So I assume WOTC's primary purpose with their adventure books isn't for people to actually run them.
 

Jester David

Adventurer
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)
I remember seeing those while running adventures in my 2e days and they always seemed kinda useless.
It was never enough to run anything but the simplest of monsters. You always needed to find the monster entry anyway.
 

ShadowFox981

Villager
This sounds like a situation in which the dev team is trying to rewrite a book for DMs to make it an easier reading experience for the player. This doesn't logically make sense because the player will likely never read the source material. The beauty of a statblock is that, within 2 seconds, I can determine the creature's name, gender, race, and whether or not my players can murder it to death or bamboozle it into helping them. I have a fairly high words-per-minute reading speed, but if this ever happens, I'm literally going to write all of the information out into a statblock because it'll just be easier to read and gather information from quickly. Please don't make reading modules any more annoying and convoluted.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I remember seeing those while running adventures in my 2e days and they always seemed kinda useless.
It was never enough to run anything but the simplest of monsters. You always needed to find the monster entry anyway.
Really?

I never did.

The vast majority of monsters don’t require much explication, and I was experienced enough that a brief reference would trigger my knowledge for the few that did.

AFAIK, most 1e DMs were the same.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
And I find 5e adventure books terribly laid out and not at all easy to use.

So I assume WOTC's primary purpose with their adventure books isn't for people to actually run them.
What is a good adventure layout / design to you? I am honestly curious as I have never found any adventure (from 1e-5e & BECMI & PF) to make much sense to me. I don't know if that is the cause or the effect of the fact I don't run published adventures! Back on the old WotC D&D boards people would complain about how much better Paizo adventures were, but when I look at them they just seemed as horrible to follow to me. So I am honestly wondering what is a good adventure design? Can you give me an example of a good, well laid out adventure for D&D or PF that I should check out?

FYI, In 30 yrs of gaming, prior to 5e, I have only bought two adventure modules (White Plume Mountain & The Immortal Storm, I also have Keep on the Borderlands, but I don't remember buying it). I have looked through them many times and I also have a lot of Dragon / Dungeon magazines but I just never use them. At best I mine them for ideas.
 

dave2008

Adventurer
This sounds like a situation in which the dev team is trying to rewrite a book for DMs to make it an easier reading experience for the player. This doesn't logically make sense because the player will likely never read the source material. The beauty of a statblock is that, within 2 seconds, I can determine the creature's name, gender, race, and whether or not my players can murder it to death or bamboozle it into helping them. I have a fairly high words-per-minute reading speed, but if this ever happens, I'm literally going to write all of the information out into a statblock because it'll just be easier to read and gather information from quickly. Please don't make reading modules any more annoying and convoluted.
He is not talking about replacing the stat block. He is talking about in an adventure when the reference an NPC without providing a full stat block. Generally they are explaining how to modify an existing stat block (at least that is what I think)
 

dave2008

Adventurer
Really?

I never did.

The vast majority of monsters don’t require much explication, and I was experienced enough that a brief reference would trigger my knowledge for the few that did.

AFAIK, most 1e DMs were the same.
Really, you knew most of the DMs worldwide back in the 1e days and how they played. You must be well traveled good sir! ;)

That being said, I generally agree. A little blurb is generally enough to spark my memory. However, I still prefer a full stat block. If I have the full stat block I can more easily modify it to suit my needs and adjudicate improvised actions. Of course I can always wing it too!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Really, you knew most of the DMs worldwide back in the 1e days and how they played. You must be well traveled good sir! ;)

That being said, I generally agree. A little blurb is generally enough to spark my memory. However, I still prefer a full stat block. If I have the full stat block I can more easily modify it to suit my needs and adjudicate improvised actions. Of course I can always wing it too!
The great (and bad) thing about 1e is that monsters didn’t have stats (ability scores). It wasn’t needed.

Of course, you did need a DM screen. I was good but I didn’t have the save and to hit tables memorized.
 
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Jester David

Adventurer
Really?

I never did.

The vast majority of monsters don’t require much explication, and I was experienced enough that a brief reference would trigger my knowledge for the few that did.

AFAIK, most 1e DMs were the same.
Key word there being “experienced”. And the implication of memorization. Which didn’t work when a new monster was introduced in the adventure, or you were using a monster you’d never run before.

And, again, it was really only good for monster that were big bags of hit points. That format wouldn’t work at all for a beholder or mind flayer.

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.
Well... yeah. But you also don’t need their name, gender, or even race in combat. The implication is this is the write-up for NPCs who you may or may not be getting into combat with. People you talk to, allies that might help you, rivals trying to trip you up, the quest giver offering you a reward.
 

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