Bloat by Stat Block

Consider the lowly pit trap.  It is basically a hole in the ground, covered with something.  You fall in, you get hurt.  You receive a predictable amount of damage according to the rules of your system – in 4e, that would be 1d10 damage per 10 feet fallen.  More dangerous ones have spikes which might be poisoned.

Now consider this:

Coverd Spiked Pit Trap

All that for a hole in the ground with poisoned spikes in it.  Does this format really make it easier to find information?  Do I need a stat block to tell me a character can jump over the pit?  Or that a character can push the covering into the pit?  Would I not have been able to figure that out on my own?

Worse yet, will I think to look at the not-always-appearing trap description in the stat block, when describing the scene to my players?  This is the problem with text bloat, it obfuscates rather than illuminates.

I hadn’t really thought about simplifying the stat blocks until I was looking at the random trap generator on Donjon.  I just now rolled 10 random traps, and this was number 10:

Concealed Pit (Perception DC 10 to find, Thievery DC 15 to disable, Single-shot, Melee 1, Attack +4 vs. Reflex, Damage 2d10+3 falling, 25 xp)

Do I really need more that that?  Maybe the type of lid, as discussed in certain Hack & Slash articles.  And this type of stat block also works for more complicated traps:

Prismatic Blaster (Perception DC 21 to find, Thievery DC 21 to disable, Init +2, Target 3 creatures within 10 squares; Attack +13 vs. Fortitude, Damage 2d6+5 poison and the target is slowed (save ends); Attack +13 vs. Reflex, Damage 2d6+5 and ongoing 5 fire (save ends); Attack +13 vs. Will, Damage 2d6+5 psychic and the target is stunned (save ends); 500 xp)

Does anyone not know what that does?

Its not just traps, either.  Here is a disease stat block:

Slight Filth Fever

That is at least easy to refer to.  But consider this randomly generated disease:

Phrenic Flux (Attack +4 vs. Will, Endurance DC 15 to improve, DC 10 to maintain, Effects: apathy (-2 to Cha checks, skills, and attacks), idiocy (-5 to Insight), ongoing 5 psychic damage until unconscious)

It conveys the same information in an abbreviated form and doesn’t require extensive formatting.  You can easily fit it in a keyed entry, rather than hiving it off into a “Tactics” section.  If it gets really complicated, you can have an appendix with a full stat block in the back for those questions that don’t come up often.

There could probably be some simplification for monster stat blocks, too.  Compare this,

Goblin Blackblade

to this:

Goblin Blacklade (Lurker) – Init. +7; HP 25, AC 15, F 12, R 14, W 11; SPD 6; XP 100.  Short Sword – +5 v AC; 1d6+2 damage, +1d6 w/ CA.  Reaction (A/W) – when missed by melee attack, shift 1.  Sneaky – when shifting, can swap spaces with ally of its level or lower.  Low light vision; Percep +1; Stealth +10; Thievery +10.  Speaks common, goblin.  (MM p. 136)

Particularly for wanderers, you get the information you are likely to need, and only the information you are likely to need, in a quarter of the space.  Which is all you got in the 1e adventures; there was usually more information in the Monster Manual, but you weren’t likely to need it in-session.

Edit (2018-05-27):  I was recently reminder that the Angry GM did this for 5e monster stat blocks.  You can find that article here.





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