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Stat Blocks for Colonial Gothic Revised and 12°

February 1, 2009

I hate Stat Blocks.

I realize such a statement comes as a surprise to most, but it is true. I do not know many who consider Stat Blocks a neat thing. In fact I am sure if you polled every gamer the majority would say that Stat Blocks stink. (The minority would probably say they do not know why I am even ranting about such a frivolous item).

So why I am even thinking about Stat Blocks?

Colonial Gothic Revised.

When James and I work on 12° our goal is always simple: create a rule set we would want to play. A lot of the things we did (and still are doing) with 12° is all about this. Creating a rule set we like. The embracing of the 12-sided die, Target Number, loose structure that allows for scaling, and the like, are all in the game, because this is what we like. We wanted a system that was flexible, and that would allow us to scale it up and down the complexity scale as we saw fit. It was this that led us to create Rule #2:

The setting defines the rules, the rules do not define the setting.

The one area where we have struggled is Stat Blocks.

Stat Blocks, by their nature, are gaming shorthand for Game Masters. A good stat block has all the info a GM needs right in front of them. It allows them to not have to refer to multiple books, and gives them the important bits so play at the table does not slow down.

A good Stat Block should be clear and concise. By this, a GM should not have to stop and think what the information is telling them. With one glance, they should know all relevant information.

Stat Block from Tegel Manor (1977 edition)

SIR RUNIC THE RUMP PALADIN LG 6 20 -1 8 15 5 7 11 9 17 +3 Sword possesses +3 plate, +1 Ring of protection (in addition to his paladin’s +10% ST), 255 GP, 160SP and 24CP.

I love Tegel Manor, but I hate the Stat Blocks. For me the detail those sparse — which is good — is too sparse, because it forces you to stop and remember what the numbers represent.

Here is a better Stat Block. This is from X1 The Isle of Dread (1983 edition).

Pirates (40): AC 5; F1; hp 5 each; MV 120’; #AT 1; D 1-6 or by weapon; ML 7; AL C

What I like best about this Stat Block is that for D&D, everything you would need to know is here. You have the number of combatants, their Armor Class, how much damage they can take and the like. Even better, te Stat Block is more of a Stat Line, in that it fits on the line, and does not disrupt the flow of the text.

It is in Call of Cthulhu from Chaosium, which we see a Stat Block that is both useful, and compact. The following comes from The Complete Masks of Nyarlathotep (third Edition, Reset and Revised), 2001:

pages-from-call-of-cthulhu-rpg-adventure-1920s-complete-masks-of-nyarlathotep-2361

For me, like most things, it is CoC which does it right. Complex games, with a lot of options need more information when it comes to the Stat Block.

Where I think Stat Blocks become to much is with the advent of OGL/3.0/3.5. For me, one of the big turn offs of these games is the amount of detail that came into play. For example, see here. That is just too much information, which takes up far too much room. When I use to write d20 material, it was the Stat Block which drove me away from the system.

With Colonial Gothic, I have never gotten the Stat Block. This is why it has look so different form release to release. With Colonial Gothic Revised, and with the bringing on more freelance writers for all our games, I realized that the Stat Block had to be addressed. Clarity needed to be found, and consistency had to be discovered.

Originally, the Stat Block was going to be something like this:

Wolf (2) 45 Vigor.

Yeah, not helpful. Too minimal.

More tweaking, and revising, and I am still not happy. Finally, what I decided to do was thinking about the problem from a different perspective. I asked myself a serious of questions:

  1. What information is the most important?
  2. Do you want it a block, or on a line?
  3. What would a GM need to know?
  4. Abbreviations or full spelling?

The answer for Question 1, was simple. Since all the games based on the 12° system uses a Target Number derived from a Stat, the Stats needed to be in the block. In addition, how much damage is caused, skills known, and any other features.

The answer for Question 2 took me awhile to figure out. Originally I thought I would go the CoC route, but the more I did so, the more I grew to hate that style. Thus, I am now leaning toward a single line.

Question 3 was the easiest question to answer, and was answered by figuring out the answer to Question 1.

It is the answer to Question 4, which has taken me the longest to answer. I strive for clarity, and for me, abbreviations tend to not be clear. Yet, the more I work on games using 12° the more I realize, that abbreviations, when the come to the Stat Block need to be used.

In answering these questions, I cam to realize what I needed to do — rethink the Stat Block for 12°.

Right now, here is what I am leaning toward, Stat Block-wise, for Colonial Gothic Revised (note, I am using the current version of the rules for this example):

Northern Copperheads (2): M 3, N 10, V 3, R 1 Res 3, A 2, V 15. Stealth [10], Bite [Damage equal to Might], Poison [d12 Damage to Vigor, half for successful Vigor Test].

I still have some refinement to do, but I like the look of this.

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