Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Hybrid Stat Block: A New Way to Determine a Monster's Skill and Initiative Modifiers

So I thought I would make a post to elaborate on something I mentioned in a previous blog regarding a new technique for determining monster skill and initiative modifiers. This came about as I was working on some monsters for my upcoming zine, 4e Forever. I am doing some work on a new stat block; it combines some pieces of 4e's stat block with the old monster listings of 1e and before.

I really like how the old 1e stats do not typically provide ability scores for monsters. You get Special Defenses, etc, but not Charisma scores for every critter the PCs stumble on. As I was jotting down the Charisma and Constitution scores of Giant Aardvarks, it really became clear that the 4e standard of providing ability scores, half-level bonuses, and listed skills was not only tedious to generate, but also fairly pointless. Very little of that information would ever actually be used in a given encounter. That is when I thought of a different method of generating the numbers you need. It is simple, intuitive, and I write this in hopes you will try it and enjoy it as much as I have.

Basically, you take the updated Skill DCs of the monster's level. Specifically, the Moderate and Hard DCs. Take those numbers and subtract 10. Those are the numbers you will now use the rest of the way. If a monster is of standard speed, intuition, etc, then its initiative modifier is the Mod DC-10. If it is a very quick or perceptive-"feeling" monster, use the Hard DC-10. For skills, a Hard DC-10 is the modifier for a trained skill. For untrained, use the Mod DC-10. Do not add half their level or anything to these; you are good to go. Both of these numbers are just listed on a stat block like so:

Trained Skill Mod-
Untrained Skill Mod-

The DM has the freedom to rule on the fly regarding monster skills; you do not have to write out their skills ahead of time. This prevents the DM from having to do a lot of extra work on monsters that may never even come up in the game. Instead you can use common sense to adjudicate on the fly. For example, the Giant Eagle likely is quite perceptive, so let it use the Trained Skill Mod if its Perception is needed. The Giant Spider is a sneaky creature, so let it use a Trained Mod for Stealth. A DM can decide that a creature is so inept at a skill that it cannot even attempt a check.

I have really enjoyed using this method. The stat block (I will preview when it is done) is cleaner, there are no superfluous numbers and stats I will never use, and it is a lot easier and more fun to generate creatures without having to contemplate a Giant Worm's Dexterity.

I hope you like it! As always leave a post with any comments or thoughts!