Ditching 5e stat blocks and winging it

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Necrozius

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So there's there are these 2 little tables in the book The Lazy DM's Woprkbook by Sly Flourish. It's for D&D 5e. Based on the author's copious studies on the system, he's created minimalistic tables to let DMs "wing" it with traps (for damage and DCs to avoid, disarm etc...). They look like this:

Character levelSetbackDangerousDeadly
1st-4th5 (1d10)11 (2d10)22 (4d10)
5th-10th11 (2d10)22 (4d10)55 (10d10)
11th-16th22 (4d10)55 (10d10)99 (18d10)
17th-20th55 (10d10)99 (18d10)132 (24d10)

Trap dangerSave DCAttack Bonus
Setback10-11+3 to +5
Dangerous12-15+6 to +8
Deadly16-20+9 to +12

I've been using these tables... A LOT. Not just for traps either. Random hazards and unexpected dangers. I even... *gasp*... used these to generate the attacks and attributes of a monster!!

This got me thinking... Especially after reading Numenera, in which a statblock can basically be a single number (with some fluff). Why do I even need a Monster Manual anymore?

I would simplify my life as a DM significantly if I just ditched pre-made stat blocks and used this instead.

HP? Not a problem, 5e uses certain die types for different sizes of creature:
  • Small: 1d6
  • Medium: 1d8
  • Large: 1d10
  • Huge: 1d12
  • Gargantuan: 1d20

To keep things challenging for HP, just categorize each creature by "Setback, Dangerous or Deadly":
  • Minimum HP for Setback (ie, 3d8 would roll only 3 HP)
  • Average HP for Dangerous (ie, 3d8 would roll 15 HP)
  • Max HP for Deadly (ie, 3d8 would roll 24 HP)
I'm working on this and I might just go with it.

Has anyone done something similar? If not for D&D, for other RPGs?
 

Necrozius

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Mike Shea also wrote an article D&D 5e Numbers to Keep in Your Head which I have found to be quite useful.
Nice, from the same author's site.

I've pasted the main, juicy part:

  • DC / AC / Save DC: 10 to 20
  • Attacks, Trained Skills, Primary Saves: +3 to +12
  • Single Target Damage: 6 (1d10) per Challenge Rating
  • Multi-target Damage: 3 (1d6) per Challenge Rating
  • Hit Points: 20 per Challenge Rating
  • Building Encounters: 1/2 or 1/4 of total character levels. An encounter may be deadly if the sum total of monster challenge ratings is greater than half the sum total of character levels, or one quarter if they're below 5th level.
  • Fighting a Horde of Weaker Monsters. 1/4 succeed. About one quarter of the horde succeed on attacks and saving throws.
 

Necrozius

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A bit more of an explanation for why I'm not satisfied with existing monster manuals (either from 5e or from 3rd parties like Kobold Press).

The vast majority are just bundles of HP, melee or ranged attacks with the occasional X times per day attack spell. If you erased the fluff, you could swap them out interchangeably without much effect.

You occasionally get interesting ones that have Save vs something besides damage. Or Lair/Legendary actions that are cool (like altering the environment). But the vast majority are pretty much the same old, same old.

We also get strangeness like Ghosts having only damage RESISTANCE against non-magical things, so you can kill a ghost by smashing it with a chair, but a werewolf will laugh at you.

If I can abstract the stats and "wing it", I'd be much happier.

Eg, I could decide to have the Ghost do a terrible screaming jump scare attack. Players roll an ability save that makes sense vs. a DC from the table above or else they all get damage vulnerability for the rest of combat or whatever. Not in the rules, but I like that freedom.

Clarification: I don't bother with XP allotments by CR vs. character level or whatever.
 

AsenRG

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So there's there are these 2 little tables in the book The Lazy DM's Woprkbook by Sly Flourish. It's for D&D 5e. Based on the author's copious studies on the system, he's created minimalistic tables to let DMs "wing" it with traps (for damage and DCs to avoid, disarm etc...). They look like this:

Character levelSetbackDangerousDeadly
1st-4th5 (1d10)11 (2d10)22 (4d10)
5th-10th11 (2d10)22 (4d10)55 (10d10)
11th-16th22 (4d10)55 (10d10)99 (18d10)
17th-20th55 (10d10)99 (18d10)132 (24d10)

Trap dangerSave DCAttack Bonus
Setback10-11+3 to +5
Dangerous12-15+6 to +8
Deadly16-20+9 to +12

I've been using these tables... A LOT. Not just for traps either. Random hazards and unexpected dangers. I even... *gasp*... used these to generate the attacks and attributes of a monster!!

This got me thinking... Especially after reading Numenera, in which a statblock can basically be a single number (with some fluff). Why do I even need a Monster Manual anymore?

I would simplify my life as a DM significantly if I just ditched pre-made stat blocks and used this instead.

HP? Not a problem, 5e uses certain die types for different sizes of creature:
  • Small: 1d6
  • Medium: 1d8
  • Large: 1d10
  • Huge: 1d12
  • Gargantuan: 1d20

To keep things challenging for HP, just categorize each creature by "Setback, Dangerous or Deadly":
  • Minimum HP for Setback (ie, 3d8 would roll only 3 HP)
  • Average HP for Dangerous (ie, 3d8 would roll 15 HP)
  • Max HP for Deadly (ie, 3d8 would roll 24 HP)
I'm working on this and I might just go with it.

Has anyone done something similar? If not for D&D, for other RPGs?
I've been using this method at least since 2008 in all kinds of RPGs, from GURPS to ORE to Exalted to Mythras to Traveller...:grin:
Just not in D&D, because I've never been able to work out how to do it "properly".
But yes, the approach undisputably works:thumbsup:.
 

TJS

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Interesting how people always want to revise D&D monsters to be more like they are in 13th Age.

Owlbear
AC 19, Physical Defence, 17 Mental Defence 13, HP 101.

Initiative: +8

Rip and peck +9 vs. AC—15 damage, and until the end of the owlbear’s next turn, the target is hampered (makes only basic attacks) while engaged with the owlbear

Vicious hybrid: If the escalation die is even, make another rip and peck attack.

Feed the cubs: An owlbear that scores a critical hit against a hampered enemy tears a piece of the creature off (GM chooses a limb) and will subsequently attempt to retreat with the prize to feed its cubs. The torn-up enemy is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Silent hunter: Owlbears are nearly silent until they strike. Checks to hear them approaching take a –5 penalty.
 

AsenRG

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Interesting how people always want to revise D&D monsters to be more like they are in 13th Age.

Owlbear
AC 19, Physical Defence, 17 Mental Defence 13, HP 101.

Initiative: +8

Rip and peck +9 vs. AC—15 damage, and until the end of the owlbear’s next turn, the target is hampered (makes only basic attacks) while engaged with the owlbear

Vicious hybrid: If the escalation die is even, make another rip and peck attack.

Feed the cubs: An owlbear that scores a critical hit against a hampered enemy tears a piece of the creature off (GM chooses a limb) and will subsequently attempt to retreat with the prize to feed its cubs. The torn-up enemy is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Silent hunter: Owlbears are nearly silent until they strike. Checks to hear them approaching take a –5 penalty.
Still way too much crunch:thumbsup:!
 

Bunch

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Interesting how people always want to revise D&D monsters to be more like they are in 13th Age.

Owlbear
AC 19, Physical Defenc bye, 17 Mental Defence 13, HP 101.

Initiative: +8

Rip and peck +9 vs. AC—15 damage, and until the end of the owlbear’s next turn, the target is hampered (makes only basic attacks) while engaged with the owlbear

Vicious hybrid: If the escalation die is even, make another rip and peck attack.

Feed the cubs: An owlbear that scores a critical hit against a hampered enemy tears a piece of the creature off (GM chooses a limb) and will subsequently attempt to retreat with the prize to feed its cubs. The torn-up enemy is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Silent hunter: Owlbears are nearly silent until they strike. Checks to hear them approaching take a –5 penalty.
Looks like OD&D to me.
 

Necrozius

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Actually, I think that's the core complaint, that everything is just HD, not enough 4E/13A-style special abilities.
(yeahiknowrulings)
Which is a valid user need: some players want/need special abilities written out.

As a veteran DM, I'd rather wing that stuff at this point, since almost ALL monster abilities pretty much work in the same ways: attack (single), attack (area), trigger saving throw to resist spell effect.

The current solution meets that mainstream need (massive stat blocks for thousands of different creatures, most of which have significant overlap). We're brainstorming a solution for users that DON'T need/want that.
 

robertsconley

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I don't use this system as it is based on character level which is nonsense as far I am concerned for world building.

I do however use similar table but the scale is based on what I am doing for the setting. For example something that does 24d10 with a Save DC of 20 would represent a entire building collapsing. Not because it is a pit trap that happens to be on the 20th level of a dungeon. And it would be the same whether it is a 1st level character running into it or a 20th level character running into it.

Finally it wouldn't exist in a vacuum. A 1st level character when I use a D&D based system represents a trained apprentice level of skill. They know something even though they are not obviously as good as a 20th level character. So an astute player playing a 1st a character has a shot at resolving the building that can collapse well before they would have to try to make a DC 20 save.

For 5th edition the key thing that allows me to do this is bounded accuracy baked into the system. I didn't bother trying trying to make D&D 3.X or D&D 4e work with how I do thing as the result would be very much it own things counter to what most do when sticking to those editions. With OD&D the numbers are smaller overall I can do the same as it has a progression curve that close in shape to that of 5e.
 

robertsconley

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As for creatures, I start off describing them how they would look as if I was standing there in the setting the build accordingly. However I pretty much stick to the standard list offered by the Monster Manual. I have selected stuff adapted from later books. My preference is to have only a few types but have variety within the type.

I have trolls, and there are things that all trolls share, like regeneration that doesn't work when cauterized, but the Troll of the Troll's Fens near the City State of the Invincible World are not quite the same as the Trolls from Witches Court Marshes on the borderlands with the City State of the World Emperor. And also even back when was using AD&D 1e in the early 80s, I would turn any "monsters" that sentient and forms cultures (orcs, goblins, etc) and turn them into a race with NPCs with levels. They were still basically what they were in the monster manual but now with more variety. And since I treated levels as a shorthand for life experience, a 10th level Orc barbarian was about as uncommon to encounter as a 10 level human barbarian would be.
 

Necrozius

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I don't use this system as it is based on character level which is nonsense as far I am concerned for world building.
Of course, but those "heroic tiers" based on character level are a useful shorthand for gauging broad difficulty.

If I have a party of PCs who are of the 2nd "tier", an easier encounter would be drawn from the 1st, and a harder one from the 3rd.

I guess that I just want four stat "groups" that I can draw from that are scaled up from the 4 tiers.
 

Sosthenes

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The current solution meets that mainstream need (massive stat blocks for thousands of different creatures, most of which have significant overlap). We're brainstorming a solution for users that DON'T need/want that.
I'm just wary about fiat. Especially in a game where that mostly isn't allowed for the players. If they have their specific abilities and spells they have to adhere to, just ad hoc monster features feels a bit wrong.

I'm all for refactoring abilities, though. I mean, that's what a lot of game systems where the core rules aren't as anemic as 5E do. "Attack-12 1d6+2 dmg DR 4 12 HP" can mean a lot in GURPS and I can play this from a brute monster to a cunning fencer.

As you said, most abilities are quite similar. So if I were to design a "monster booklet" version where everything fits in a few pages, I wouldn't stop at the numerical bits, but try to create some common ground here, too. Something that at least feels closer to the way the PCs abilities work.

So you'd end up with something like "Level 5 Brute; Area[4](fire); Bashing Blows".
 

robertsconley

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Of course, but those "heroic tiers" based on character level are a useful shorthand for gauging broad difficulty.

If I have a party of PCs who are of the 2nd "tier", an easier encounter would be drawn from the 1st, and a harder one from the 3rd.

I guess that I just want four stat "groups" that I can draw from that are scaled up from the 4 tiers.
First off I am not saying that won't work. It is an approach. But what I am talking about is not the same thing. Instead my approach is based on answering the question if the world existed what it would it look like? It doesn't involve equating any of it to how experience the characters are. What happens in my campaign sis that the players as they progress their character generally gravitate to doing more and more difficult things while in pursuit of their nebulous goals.

For example the Crown of Sakar a golden jewel encrusted crown is heavily guarded and trapped because of it's value. It would take a master level of skill (around 9th level in my settings when using D&D) to have a reasonable change of success when making an attempt to steal it. Not because it meant as a 9th level challenge but rather this what the wealthy and powerful do when protecting treasures in the setting.

Players don't go after this at 2nd level because they know that their character doesn't have the skill or training for any reasonable chance of success.

Conversely there may be a series of session where the character completely outmatch their opposition. But cause it a crucial part of gaining their goal they pursue it. Usually in these cases the challenge is keeping attention away from what you doing as it usually involves something that somebody else more powerful may not like. For example handling a bunch of nobles of a varying skill levels none of which equal to those of the PCs prior to making a play for the throne. Handled wrong it will bring the attention fo the

It may sound like a fine point but over the course of a campaign adopting this viewpoint makes for a completely different experience.
 

robertsconley

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I'm just wary about fiat. Especially in a game where that mostly isn't allowed for the players. If they have their specific abilities and spells they have to adhere to, just ad hoc monster features feels a bit wrong.
Designing to reflect how they live within the setting imparts discoverable (by PCs) consistency.
So you'd end up with something like "Level 5 Brute; Area[4](fire); Bashing Blows".
That Level 5 Brute; Area(4) (fire); Bashing Blows has a life within the setting that isn't expressed by mechanics. Roleplaying accordingly it can have bog standard mechanics repeated a 100 time and still feel fresh. Anything based on mechanics will be old hat and become boring. The solution is not to get into a rat race of ever more novel mechanics. The solution is to the apply the lesson learned by soap operas. Shift the focus onto the people i.e. roleplaying.

I am not talking about chatting endlessly in-character. I am talking about the fact there is a difference between fighting a patrol of 1 HD Orcs, a tribe of 1 HD Orc, and a forest filled with multiple tribes of 1 HD Orc each with their own approaches but still are just bog standard orcs.

Dearthwood%2BForest%2BRev%2B2b.jpg
 

Necrozius

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I'm just wary about fiat. Especially in a game where that mostly isn't allowed for the players. If they have their specific abilities and spells they have to adhere to, just ad hoc monster features feels a bit wrong.
This is a valid concern, and for most new or standard DMs (or people playing regularly with strangers), I'd agree that people should likely just stick with the Monster Manuals.

I, however, have been DMing for 20 years, and I'm very confident in my abilities to make rulings about this kind of thing based on lore, mythology and familiarity with fantasy tropes associated with these creatures.

Kind of like using "Tags" in Dungeon World. Another game that assumes that the DM can be "trustworthy". I only DM for personal friends, not strangers, so we have a shared level of trust.

I would really like to have a solid table or list of ranges of stats, broken up by heroic tiers and threat, that I can go to on a whim.
 

Sosthenes

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That Level 5 Brute; Area(4) (fire); Bashing Blows has a life within the setting that isn't expressed by mechanics. Roleplaying accordingly it can have bog standard mechanics repeated a 100 time and still feel fresh.
I'm not saying that you should stop there. I was going with the premise of a lot of different monsters that boil down to the same stats. Personally I like humanocentric games or lots of recurring creatures and folk, so I'm totally with you with the various different kinds of orcs.
Simple general rules actually works quite well for me, as this gets the mechanical bits out of the way and then you can focus on the roleplaying aspects, ecology, organization, etc.

I, however, have been DMing for 20 years, and I'm very confident in my abilities to make rulings about this kind of thing based on lore, mythology and familiarity with fantasy tropes associated with these creatures.
That reads quite a bit too patronizing for my tastes, so I'm going to stop here. I seriously hope you have fun and find some neat tidbits here to help you on your way.
 

Voros

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Interesting how people always want to revise D&D monsters to be more like they are in 13th Age.

Owlbear
AC 19, Physical Defence, 17 Mental Defence 13, HP 101.

Initiative: +8

Rip and peck +9 vs. AC—15 damage, and until the end of the owlbear’s next turn, the target is hampered (makes only basic attacks) while engaged with the owlbear

Vicious hybrid: If the escalation die is even, make another rip and peck attack.

Feed the cubs: An owlbear that scores a critical hit against a hampered enemy tears a piece of the creature off (GM chooses a limb) and will subsequently attempt to retreat with the prize to feed its cubs. The torn-up enemy is stunned until the end of its next turn.

Silent hunter: Owlbears are nearly silent until they strike. Checks to hear them approaching take a –5 penalty.

Lots of great ideas in 13th Age.
 

Winterblight

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With games I know well, when I wing it, I wing it. I have the name of the monster and maybe one or two numbers jotted down and maybe a page number just in case. My settings normally inform how tough or different the monster might be, that bit I know in my head. The number of games I wing in this way are pretty small, Earthdawn, AD&D (back in the day), and I'm getting there with Dragon Age.
 

arjunstc

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Five Torches Deep's Monster Math.

Depending on Hit Dice and Type a "monster" will have so many hit points, a +X to hit, does this average amount of damage, and an +A/+B/+C to save versus things they are strong at/average at/weak at.
 

finarvyn

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Lots of great ideas in 13th Age.
+1 to this. 13th Age is a blend of 3E and 4E, neither of which I liked that much, but 13th Age just does stuff so much better and was a blast to play. A guy used to run 13th Age at my local game store and it was a great campaign, but it fizzled when 5E came out and the store wanted to switch to Adventurer's League play. We had run through quite a few of the 13th Age modules and the stories were better (IMO) than AL's.
 
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