Thursday, July 10, 2014

Simplified Stat Block for Pathfinder/3.5

There is something about creating stats for Pathfinder monsters and NPCs that I find really appealing. Unfortunately, the task is quite time consuming, and most of the information is useless. I mean, how often do you need to know that drider's knowledge (arcana) bonus? or that it can cast mage hand? For me, sometimes that information is worse than useless... it's distracting during a game. If I only used Pathfinder materials and I memorized the stat block, this probably wouldn't be an issue, but since I use 3.0, 3.5, and Pathfinder materials... sometimes I spend far too much time looking for the modifier I need rather than just rolling some dice and getting on with the game.

In an effort to simplify things, I'm going to start using the following stat block at the table for every monster that isn't special in some way. Here's an example:
Because every post needs a drow wizard...

Monster (XP)
Special 1
Special 2
Special 3

For most monsters, I'm pretty sure this is about all you need. Here are some explanations for why my stat block looks the way it does. Keep in mind that for the moment I have CR 5-7 monsters in mind because characters in my current campaign are 6th level. The numbers might not work out for, say, CR 20 monsters.

Where's Initiative?
This doesn't scale with level. Most characters have roughly the same initiative score at first level as they do at 20th. Sure, dexterity based characters will get a marginally higher bonus as their ability score improves, and somebody will take Improved Initiative along the way, but for the most part it doesn't change. My solution: If it's fast, give it a +5 bonus or half its HD, whichever is higher. If it isn't, it gets a +0.

Personally, I don't think keeping a list of spells memorized for a monster is worth the time it takes to create it. Unless this is a creature that fights almost exclusively with spells and it's very durable in combat (a rare combination), just treat spells like special abilities and pick the top three.

Special Abilities
Some creatures don't have any of these at all, while others have a laundry list. However, most creatures don't survive long enough in combat to use more than a handful anyway, so why bother with the rest? Pick a few and list them (along with appropriate DCs and damage), but don't bother with the rest.

Skills and Everything Else
These come up from time to time, but not often enough to justify taking the time to figure out a typical monster's bonuses. Instead, make a judgement call at the tabletop as to whether or not the monster would be good at whatever skill check you need. If it's really good at it, give it a bonus equal to double its HD. If it would be terrible, give it a +0. If you can't decide, go with a bonus equal to its HD (or maybe half its HD).

I'll be using this for the first time in my game tonight... but before I do, is there any advice people can offer? Can this be simplified even more? Is there a key stat or bonus that I'm overlooking?
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