Sunday, December 08, 2019

Stat Blocks and Table Space

On a post from 2015, Ruprecht recently asked:

I'm curious what people think about the way the modules are handled. They just say Knight (for example) and the DM is expected to look up the Knight statblock in the back of the monster manual. This is brilliant to save space but seems less useful at the table.

This is easily one of the areas where OSR publications stomp all over WotC's stuff: ease of use at the table. An A5 size book with a good binding is easy to use and doesn't eat up nearly the table real estate that 5e's core books and adventures take up. Plus, in the best OSR stuff, the stat blocks and maps are all there on one page for you.

Compare to trying to run an official 5e adventure. You'll have the adventure itself, a big coffee-table tome with the adventure itself. And you'll be flipping back-and-forth because the maps are pages away from the keyed descriptions. And, as Ruprecht points out, you'll also want the MM with you to look up any foes the PCs might encounter.

But wait, there's more! Because you'll also need the PHB so you can look up the details on the spells everyone is going to be casting. And maybe Xanathar's as well, if someone is using stuff from that book. Luckily, you'll only need to flip back and forth in the MM if the encounter includes more than one type of monster. You'll be flipping a bit in the adventure book, and a LOT in the PHB. (Gift idea for the DM in your life: a pad of post-its they can use to mark important pages in all these books!) Which means your DM is going to be taking up twice to three-times the space of a player. Oh, wait, but we forgot about any notes the DM might have written down. Or space to roll dice!

This is extremely sub-optimal, but unlikely to change. Current RPG tastes dictate the complex stat blocks and rules, as well as the honkin' big books as the standard for AAA RPGs (and this is after WotC made a big deal about simplifying D&D).

Due to the extreme unwieldiness and generally meh contents, I've not felt the need to run one of the official adventures. But I do know people who are, and I can probably get some more info from them on how they're finding it.


Ruprecht said...

Your post is better thought out but along the lines of what I was thinking. I also don't particularly like the idea that in a published adventure every knight shares the same statblock. A DM could make them tougher or weaker of course but the DM shouldn't have to do that, not when running a published adventure at least.

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Raphaƫl said...

4th ed was also good in that regard, with everything in a 2-page-spread, including powers (so no spell to look up).

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