In 2006, Wizards of the Coast unveiled a revised format for 3.5 stat blocks. James Wyatt explained the logic behind the new form in a Design & Development column in July 2006. Basically, the new stat block was designed around two principles:
1. All the information you need to use the monster should be present in the stat block.
2. The information in the stat block should be organized around the way in which the information is actually used in an encounter.
The new stat block featured five “sections”.
Section 1: The information you need to begin an encounter. (What is the monster? How does it detect the PCs? Will the PCs be able to speak to it? What’s it’s initiative? And so forth.)
Section 2: The information you’ll need to know about on the PCs’ turn. (What’s its AC? Hit points? Saving throws? Resistances and immunities? And so forth.)
Section 3: The information you’ll need to know on the monster’s turn. (What can it do? What attack options does it have? What special actions can it take?)
Section 4: The information you don’t need to know during combat. (Or, at least, generally won’t need to know.)
Section 5: Explanatory text. If an unusual ability is mentioned in the first four sections, it’s given a full explanation at the bottom of the stat block.
This new stat block did exactly what it was supposed to do: It made it easier to use the monster, particularly during the high-stress period of combat.
But it wasn’t without criticism. These criticisms generally fell into one of two categories:
1. IT TAKES UP TOO MUCH SPACE!
There is both a legitimate and a non-legitimate side to this critique.
Let’s start with the legitimate critique, because it’s easier: There is no doubt that the new stat block takes up more space in published adventures than the old adventure stat block. The old adventure stat block was literally a stat block. The information was all crammed into one big paragraph.
By separating the information out into separate sections and giving it some air to breathe, the WotC designers made it easier to use, but also made it take up a lot more space.
The non-legitimate critique was that the new stat block also took up more space in the Monster Manual products.
For example, take a look at the magmacore golem from Monster Manual V. This creature is very similar to a flesh golem from the original 3.5 Monster Manual.
The magmacore golem stat block requires 22 lines. The flesh golem stat block requires 27 lines.
This is one of the cases in which the new stat block actually requires less space than the old stat block. In some cases the opposite is true. But the difference is never particularly large or significant.
Now, what is true is that the newer Monster Manual entries include a lot of new information outside of the stat blocks, most notable Knowledge check DCs for monster lore and sample encounters.
But the real reason that a lot of people think that the new stat blocks take up more space is because they take up more space on the page. But this isn’t because of the stat blocks: It’s because WotC increased their font size. The original Monster Manual, for example, has 67 lines to the page. Monster Manual V, on the other hand, only has 55 lines to the page.
2. THEY LEFT OUT INFORMATION!
There’s no mitigation for this complaint. (Most notably, the Hit Die type and full hit point calculation for each creature was removed. ) And, frankly, it leaves me scratching my head. The WotC design team trumpeted the idea of making sure that all the information you need to use the monster is in the monster’s entry… while simultaneously rolling out a revised stat block that removed essential information and forced you to look for it elsewhere.
3. INFORMATION HAS BEEN DUPLICATED!
This is true, but it’s not a meaningful critique.. For example, a creature’s Spot and Listen modifiers are included in both the first section of the stat block (because that determines when and how they detect the PCs) and in the fourth section of the stat block (in the complete list of the creature’s skills).
There are not many examples of this duplication, and wherever it occurs it makes sense: The information belongs in both locations. If this were causing the stat block to bloat in size, it might be problematical. But, as we’ve discussed, this isn’t actually the case.
REVISING THE REVISION
I think the revised stat block was generally a move in the right direction: Breaking the information down into utility-based sections make the new stat blocks considerably easier to use in play.
However, by leaving out essential information, the new stat blocks became more difficult to use in prep (and even more difficult to use if you wanted to make adjustments on-the-fly). And using what was essentially a full-blown Monster Manual stat block for every NPC that appeared in an adventure did, in fact, chew up a lot of space and result in less detailed and elaborate adventures (on a page-for-page comparison).
So I’m revising the revision. Basically I’ve made two major changes:
1. I’ve used tabs to introduce more white space and make the stat blocks even easier to read. For example, instead of:
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
My version of the stat blocks reads:
Space: 5 ft. Reach: 5 ft.
2. Information that was removed from the WotC stat block — like the HD type and full hit point calculation — has been restored in my stat block.
Minor differences? Sure. But every little bit of utility helps.
My revised stat block is available as an RTF file, which includes the blank template and two samples (a goblin and a balor):
SHORT STAT BLOCK
To address the concern that the full version of the revised stat block unnecessarily devours space for stat blocks that don’t require that level of detail, I have also designed a short stat block. It looks like this:
NAME (CR #) – [Gender] [Race] – [Class] [Level] – [Alignment] [Size] [Type]
DETECTION – [special], Listen +#, Spot +#; Init +#; Aura …; Languages [list], [special]
DEFENSES – AC #, touch #, flat-footed #; hp # (HD); Miss #%; DR #; Immune …; Resist …; Weakness …
ACTIONS – Spd # ft.; Melee attack +# (damage); Ranged attack +# (damage); Space # ft.; Reach # ft.; Base Atk +#; Grapple +#; Atk Options …; SA …; Combat Feats …; Combat Gear …
STR #, DEX #, CON #, INT #, WIS #, CHA #
FORT +#, REF +#, WILL +#;
And here’s an example using a lesser bloodwight, a creature which can be found Mini-Adventure 1: The Complex of Zombies:
LESSER BLOODWIGHT (CR 2) – Always NE Undead
DETECTION – Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +7, Spot +7; Init +1; Aura bloodsheen 30 ft.; Languages: Infernal
DEFENSES – AC 15, touch 11, flat-footed 14; hp 26 (4d12); DR 5/slashing; Immune undead immunities (death effects, disease, mind-affecting, paralysis, poison, sleep effects, stunning)
ACTIONS – Spd 30 ft.; Melee claw +3 (1d6+2 plus blood welt); Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; Base Atk +2; Grapple +3
STR 14, DEX 12, CON –, INT 11, WIS 13, CHA 16
FORT +1, REF +2, WILL +5
FEATS: Ability Focus (bloodsheen), Combat Reflexes
SKILLS: Hide +8, Listen +7, Move Silently +16, Spot +7
And here’s an elite city guard from Mini-Adventure 2: The Black Mist:
ELITE CITY GUARDS (CR 4) – Human – Fighter 4 – LN Medium Humanoid
DETECTION – Listen +5, Spot +9; Init +1; Languages: Common
DEFENSES – AC 17, touch 10, flat-footed 17; hp 30 (4d10+8)
ACTIONS – Spd 20 ft. (run 60 ft.); Melee greatsword +8 (2d6+6, 17-20/x2); Ranged heavy crossbow +4 (1d10, 19-20/x2); Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.; Base Atk +4; Grapple +7; Combat Feats: Rapid Reload (heavy crossbow); Combat Gear: alchemist’s fire (x2), potion of cure light wounds (x2), smokestick (x2)
STR 16, DEX 11, CON 12, INT 10, WIS 12, CHA 10
FORT +5, REF +3, WILL +1
FEATS: Alertness, Improved Critical (greatsword), Rapid Reload (heavy crossbows), Skill Focus (Spot), Weapon Focus (greatsword), Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
SKILLS: Climb +5, Intimidate +2, Listen +5, Spot +9
POSSESSIONS: masterwork greatsword, half-plate, heavy crossbow (12 quarrels), 3d8+10 gp in loose change
This short stat block, along with the examples, can also be found in RTF format:
These stat blocks have also been placed under the OGL for your convenience.