Monday, August 6, 2012

The Hybrid Stat Block: Special Attacks

Welcome to the final installment of my series on my new hybrid stat block for 4e monsters. This is basically an alternate stat block for 4e that incorporates classic edition statistics, and it will be used in my upcoming zine, 4e Forever. Today we look at the way the stat block presents powers.

I love the clarity of the 4e stat block. I love the way powers are basically coded so that anyone can understand them. On the flip side, I also love the more conversational, narrative tone that classic edition monsters were presented with. It might seem that these two approaches are too incongruous to work together. However, I think they can, given a few considerations.

As readers of my blog have noticed in previews of my monster design, I am all about an "attack routine". I like multi-attacks as a fix to 4e's lack of high-level encounter balance, and I LOVE me some old-school Claw/Claw/Bite action, so it should come as no surprise that my 4e Forever monsters typically have a go-to attack routine consisting of multiple attacks. Simultaneously, I have also previewed and shown how I am working with variable encounter levels, and groups of the same monster. Both of these things make my new monsters very, very, easy for DMs to run, something that I am hoping will help speed up combat (along with Morale). You do not have to worry about multiple sets of statistics and a bunch of little powers here and there, hiding, spread out amongst 3 to 4 different monster types.

Since the monsters are easier to run, and since the DM is only having to look at one, perhaps two, different stat blocks for the entire encounter, I can afford to be slightly more conversational in tone with the powers. In other words, the simplicity of running the monster encounter groups allows for a more relaxed power presentation, without adding any extra prep time or difficulty to the DMs job. Now, I don't mean to make it sound too "loose", because it isn't. When I reveal the stat block later this week, you will see what I mean.

Now let's take a quick trip down memory lane. In 1e monster statistics, you have a couple of listings that I really wanted to include in my new block: Special Attacks, and Special Defenses. I decided to put a monster's primary attack routine under the listing "Attack". This listing also includes a creatures "basic attack", as its basic attack tends to be included in its primary attack routine. I also kept the "Traits" listing, used exactly the same way as it is in late 4e. Then, if needed, there are three other possible listings underneath "Attack". "Special Attacks" is used if a creature has any other attacks besides its primary attack routine and basic attacks; it also can include situational bonuses or tweaks to the primary attack routine. "Special Defenses" is used if a creature has a purely defensive power, i.e. one that does not include an attack. Finally, "Special Movement" is listed if a creature has a special power that is purely movement related.

This ends up looking and feeling very intuitive. I must say, I am quite happy with it. I still am a step or two away from revealing the complete block, however. This is because I am putting together a free playtest of some new material! This PDF will include a copy of the new 4e Forever stat block, along with three new monsters! Some basic rules (Morale, Henchmen), will be provided as well. I am trying to get it done as quickly as possible, and hopefully some of you gamers out there can run the monsters, using the variable encounter ranges, and let me know how it goes. More on this to follow! In the meantime, leave a post and let me know what you think!

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