Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Simplified OSR Stat Block - On the Quest For the Perfect Game

As I start my Don Quixote like quest for the perfect OSR system, I've come to realize that my quest doesn't start at the usual beginning. What I mean is, it doesn't start with classes, races, stats - because in the end, that is fairly inconsequential. The rules for the players isn't what needs to be simplified - most players love creating characters, tweaking stats, picking spells and the like. In truth, that can be bolted on from any OSR system if needed.

No, we need to take the engine that the players rarely if ever see and rebuild it with one thing in mind. Ease of use. We want to lighten the DM's load, so he can spend more of his time running the game session and less of his time running "the game".

So, the first thing I'm attacking is Monster Stat Blocks. Some of these can turn into a virtual run on sentence depending on the system. This is something I feel I need to simplify, as it it frequently referred to in game.

Without further ado, here's an my current idea for a OSR styled stat block. First I'll show it, then I'll explain it.
Ogre L 90’ (5) 17 / 1-10 / 4+1 {19} / Low / CE [4-190
These 9’ tall lumbering humanoids are known to eat their victims raw.
Alright, first we have the monster's type, in this case "Ogre".

The next two are "size" and "movement speed".

The bolded number in parenthesis is the Ogre's AC, followed by it's "base hit number" or THAC0.

Next section is the attacks it gets - in this case a single 1-10. If it got multiple attack, they would be separated by a comma.

Next up is "hit dice" followed by "average HP" (for the times you just down't want to roll - I was also thinking of given a low med / medium / high medium selection of numbers)

"Low" in this case refers to Intelligence.

CE is Chaotic Evil.

"4" is the Monster's Leve, and "190" is the XP value of the creature with average HP

The line of description is just that. It's a seed to get the DM in the right frame of mind for the creature, without the need for a full blown ecology and break down of it's society. Those parts are not needed in a game session, they are needed in game prep.

As an aside, I could just as easily turn the THAC0 into a +3 bonus in this case. Which I might do, as I think it might be cleaner.

Then, knowing PCs' AC (assuming AC -10 through AC10), you just add the bonus to PC's AC, take the total and add to the to hit roll. 20+ and it's a hit.


  1. Remembering by Position I feel makes it harder.

    Ogre SZ L; MV 90’; AC 5; BtH 17; Atk 1d10; HD 4+1; HP 19; INT Low; AL CE; LV 4; XP 190

    The above doesn't take much more space and is so much easier to read.

  2. Yeah, I'm with Rob on this one.

    That said, attack bonus is something I'm happy to live without, as various old school games use different attack matrices for their attacks, so just listing HD should be enough to figure it out for every game - the proposed stat block isn't quite as portable.

    Ditto for XP. Totally unnecessary in a statblock and it may differ from game to game. The HD entry is enough for that in my games too.

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  4. What's more, is that this is the LL and SW statblock for monsters, excepting order.

    1. I use
      name AC: X, HD: X, hp: X, D: 1-X, Sv: FX, Ml: X, special defenses/attacks

      in Numenhalla. I don't include size, because I know it (or if it's unusual, I include it in SD/SA). I don't include attack bonus because it's based on HD and I know it in my head. I don't include XP because you don't get any experience points for killing monsters.

  5. I think all experienced GMs all have their fav, mine is a shorter version of Rob's. 1 line on an 5x3 index card. And I too use the HD to determine BtH, lvl, XP or any other variable.


    I still like were this is blog article going & look forward to more entries...

  6. I don't know which bothers me more-that you guys think people aren't able to figure out average hit points on their own; or that people aren't able to figure out average hit points on their own.

  7. All valid points to some extend (and I apologize for not getting back sooner, but i got slammed after breakfast with the "holy shit!, it's a new year - and we have unanswered communications going back 3 years ;)

    It'a fine that many of us have the combat tables memorized, but not all do. THAC0 is actually more important than HD in this case, especially if you run with AVG HP (sorry SAROE ;)

    Besides, if something is 7D + 3 HD, it may take a second or two - why not have it if it makes the job easier?

    Rob's block is good, but I think you can drop SZ, MV, Atk, INT and AL - just use the numbers

    Ogre SZ L; MV 90’; AC 5; BtH 17; Atk 1d10; HD 4+1; HP 19; INT Low; AL CE; LV 4; XP 190

    Ogre L; 90’; AC 5; BtH 17; 1d10; HD 4+1; HP 19; Low; CE; LV 4; XP 190

    1. The thing with including THAC0 is that is often depends on the system you are using.

      In my game, it would be 16 (I just use HD as attack bonus, so +4), ditto for Basic Fantasy (which starts off using HD than tapers off at 9 HD), B&T also uses HD. In Sword & Wizardry it would be 15, in LL it would be 15, so would OSRIC, I think (their chart is a little confusing).

      Since this is your perfect game, obviously it makes sense to include your game's stats, but for people running their preferred games, it's clutter.

  8. Of course this assumes that all monsters only hit and deal damage. What about other abilities or attacks?

  9. @Justin - I was toying around with that too, but this was a baseline. Obviously still needs tweaking ;)


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