Timothy S. Brannan has recently written an interesting post on The Other Side blog, comparing monster stat blocks in different old school systems. Take a look, it is well worth the read.
Making smaller stat blocks is an idea I've been pursuing myself in the context of "minimalist D&D". But, once again, I realized "minimalism" might be misleading, so terms such as efficiency, essentialism or elegance might be clearer - even though the very concept of minimalist, as I've mentioned in the link above, is exposing the essence of things.
“Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design […] where the work is set out to expose the essence, essentials or identity of a subject through eliminating all non-essential forms, features or concepts.” (source)
Look at these two stat blocks (from Timothy's post).
The first one is from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria (AS&SH)*:
The second one is from Swords & Wizardry*:
Both are good, both are terse enough. The second one LOOKS simpler, so you'd think I'd favor it... but wait. Look at all this wasted space. It could be a couple of lines:
Orc. HD 1, AC 6 , spear (1d6) or scimitar (1d8), ST 17, Move 12, Chaotic, CL/XP 1/15.
("Special: none" is the subject for another post, but you can imagine I really dislike this...)
The second one at least has an excuse for taking so much space: they are describing 4 monsters. The monsters are similar enough that you certainly could makes things even easier, but the amount of information contained there is awesome.
The "number encountered" line is specially noteworthy (and useful); it describes, very succinctly, the orcs' military organization. An important bit of information that you will rarely find in modern D&D!
Could we reduce it to a few lines? Probably. Something like...
Orc. HD 1, AC 6, weapon, ST 17, Move 12, Morale 8, Chaotic, XP 10.
* Lieutenant (1:10). HD 2, +1 damage, ST 16, XP 20.
* Captain (1:20). HD 3, +1 damage, ST 15, attacks 3/2, XP 30.
But the advantage is a bit less obvious here than in the first case.
There are infinite ways to do that, these are just two example. I really like how Low Fantasy Gaming deals with monsters, for example. Instead of the often repeated "Special: none", every monster has something special (requiring a natural 19).
Anyway, I'll be tackling 5e monsters soon. Just thought this observation was worth sharing.
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