My proposal for a simplified monster stat block.

My proposal for a simplified monster stat block.

My proposal for a simplified monster stat block.

Originally shared by Ray Otus


In the process of writing DW supplement material, I have spent a lot of time thinking about a better way to do monster stat blocks. Better than the core book, that is. I won’t get into why I don’t think that’s a great format unless people ask. Here is my proposal for a streamlined stat block and why I chose to list the information in the manner that I did.

The Format

Proposed standard for a simplified monster stat block for the text of DW supplements:

Creature Name: (terrain-optional) tag1, tag2, tag+, special quality. Instinct: to whatever Moves: move1, move2, move+. Weapon: damage, tag1, tag2, tag+. n HP. n Armor.

The following is the explanation of how I settled on this format. If you don’t care about that, please skip to the end to catch a full listing of core book monsters in the above format.

The Breakdown

1. Not Listed

I do not think the terrain type or description belongs in a streamlined stat block. But I left in a position for the terrain if you want it.

2. Instincts First

I personally feel that moving the instinct and moves to the front accomplishes three things. It frontloads everything narrative. It emphasizes instincts and moves, which I think are incredibly important and underutilized by many GMs. It also makes the combat stats easier to find, ironically. Moving them to the end seems like it’s a way of making them less important, but because they are the last thing listed your eye can quickly focus on them.

3. Tags and Qualities

I don’t see any real difference between the way tags and special qualities are used. (Why is “burrowing” special but “planar” not? And does it make any difference in the mechanics or fiction whether it’s a tag or special quality?) So I stuck them all in one place, but recommend italicizing special qualities in case someone cares about the difference.

4. Moves

I put all the moves in one sentence rather than a separate sentence for each. The only place I noticed this was a problem was for Black Pudding, because both of its moves included lists with commas in them. As I am separating moves with commas, I put those lists in parentheses. In general, a move shouldn’t be so long that it needs a comma in it! 🙂

5. Combat Stats

The combat stats seem to have weird and unnecessary formatting in the core book. Why put damage in parentheses? What’s with the semi-colons? I simplified the way they look, putting the weapon tags right after the damage. I considered “8 HP/1 Armor” instead of “8 HP. 1 Armor” but that made for weird line breaks in paragraphs. You would often get “8 HP/1” at the end of a line and “Armor” on the next.

6. Graphics/Purpose

Many people want to use icons for attacks, armor, etc. That’s cool, but it’s hard to deal with in text. This format is my proposal for a standard, simplified monster block for use in the text DW supplements. If you were designing for, say, a deck of monster cards, things like graphics and white space, line breaks, etc. would be more important.

The Listing

To see how this looks, or if you want a resource you can cut-and-paste from, I put all the creatures from the Dungeon World core book in the simplified format here:

My other DW resources can be found one step up (see the DW Codex breadcrumb at the top of the linked page). I don’t have a lot there, but there is a GM move randomizer you might like. And a simple suggestion for assigning default damage (rather than always rolling creature damage).

12 thoughts on “My proposal for a simplified monster stat block.”

  1. I can’t comment on your actual post.

    Not sure if it helps, but what I use is a format like this:

    Big Creature Thing (solitary, huge, intelligent, 10hp, 1 armor) Short description about how it looks. Instinct: to do stuff. Moves: go this way, go that way, punch (d10, close), kick (2d6+2, close).

    The main takeaways: hp and armor are basically just tags, so I stick them with that list; I include a rough description; and stick attacks in with moves because, well, they’re moves!

    I also regularly make up my own tags, if I can express a thing in 1-2 words. Like “gaseous” or “incorporeal” or “undead”.

  2. The brevity helps, but it’s not especially fast to read. You have to scan across a line to land on the right element. If there were unicode symbols breaking it up then you’d be able to find things like moves, damage, and armour a lot quicker.

    It might not be your own preference, but I know from experience with games that use graphical dice pools that symbols are much faster to read than words and thus keep attention on the game.

    That’s my 2 cents, it may not be your cup of tea.

  3. Aaron Griffin That’s a nice alternative. I like your take on HP and Armor as tags and weapons as moves. I am going to think about that some more. I may prefer it to my own proposal.

  4. Aaron Steed You are right; I like your idea. However, if you write a lot, you quickly find that special characters are a bitch in publishing. Not all font sets have the basic ones. Choosing “sensical” ones for each thing is annoying and contentious. For the purpose of a baseline, I think it’s best to stick to characters visible on the keyboard and rtf formatting to get the job done. But I don’t disagree with your thoughts at all.

  5. Ray Otus I actually like that you just use plain text. In my own notes I try to use parenthesis to break up things like tag lists. If I’m using an editor that can bold, I might bold the words “instinct” and “moves” to make it more scannable.

  6. Hmmm. Aaron Griffin, I’m doing this in a spreadsheet so it is easy for me to spit out alternates in a few minutes. I tried your format and both liked and didn’t like it. I decided to implement the formatting for weapons – putting the damage and the tags in parens. But I did not include them with the moves and HP/Armor with tags, even though that “makes sense,” because I didn’t like having the “stats” divided up and interspersed with the narrative elements.

  7. I actually kind of like this. I always feel during play i miss some stuff out and have to scramble to find things. I will probably use this!

  8. I note that the Hydra entry has split the special quality “Only killed by a blow to the heart” into “only killed by a blow . Instinct: to the heart.”, and lost its actual Instinct “To grow”.

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