Monday, 4 April 2011

Original Standard in Action: Monster stats

Statting a monster, Original Standard style, is fairly simple. Let's take the giant troll in Egg of the Gazolba. The original can be found in the Fiend Folio and these stats will suffice:

Hit Dice: 8
This is fairly straighforward to apply to all editions except 4th, for which a very inexact conversion factor seems to be "monster level = old-style hit dice x 1.5". Hit Dice also determines monster hit point, attack, xp for killing, and saves in various ways.

Armor Class: 4[15] - fairly simple, as with NPCs.
Move: 12" - As mentioned previously, this scales to  a move/speed of 6 5-foot squares (edited) for 3rd and 4th edition.
Damage: 2d8 - Give multiple dice-codes if multiple attacks exist.

Damage from any source presents problems for OD&D and the like where the base hit die and damage is d6 rather than d8. Attack damage dice seem to be to a similar scale in 3rd and 4th edition, just with more bonuses from abilities and powers, which will be calculated anyway in further detailing the monster. I would scale damage to Swords & Wizardry basic damage simply by bumping the die down one size and cutting bonuses by 75%, so 2d8+4 becomes 2d6+3 and so on. There's also a tendency in Basic and OD&D to eschew the multiple attacks in other editions, but that is hard to model in a regular way, and probably best handled by the individual referee.

Special: Regenerate 2 hp/round.
In particular, this regeneration number will need conversion upwards in 3rd and 4th edition where monster hit points double if not quadruple. Remember, OS is an attempt to find out what's common to the more complex editions, not to give them an easy time. "When in doubt, and you really need a number, scale to AD&D First."

In general, monster special abilities are a mixed bunch. If they affect Original Standard stats directly they can be described in those terms (like regeneration, slowing, or extra damage). But some things, like paralyzation, level drain, or poison are best described in words, with a time course for their duration and whether or not you get a save. More on this in the next post where I go into more detail on specials, traps, and effects. And yes, I'll get to spells shortly after that.

That's really my conception of an OS monster stats block. Useful, but not essential, is an additional descriptive portion I'll call the MRI. Like a brain scan, it gives details of the monster's morale, reaction and intellect in a sentence or two, without resorting to stats. For the giant troll I would say:
The giant troll is cowardly when faced with superior power (which isn't often). It is surly but will bargain to its advantage. While stupid, it knows it is stupid, so will be suspicious of overly complicated explanations.
From here on in the hard part starts: trick/trap/skill mechanics and (ulp) spells and magic items.


  1. 3rd edition doesn't have a speed of 6. It has a speed of 30.

  2. Sorry, didn't make clear that I was thinking in terms of 5' squares (x6 = 30') for 3rd and 4th editions. Edited that in.

  3. Is this still working out as well as you had hoped? It seems more than a little forced at present. :(

  4. @Timeshadows: How would you do it better - or is it the whole project that doesn't satisfy?

  5. @Roger: I hope I haven't offended. I asked a question, and let you know my opinion of the posts thus far. That's all.

    To answer your question, I would likely dial-back the focus, as attempting to find an average setting for something like Hit Dice (when we have the extremes of [Only d6] and [any Die-type], not mentioning 4e methods of determining HP) it seems like we'll run into statting problems over and over.

    If the OS were broadened to include T&T and RQ and other OS RPGs of the 3d6 variety, it would serve more people and likely do a better job of:

    1). Bringing things back in line with the way we used to do it BiTD when we had ideas of converting Snake Pipe Hollow to "D&D" with our Arduin-enhanced PCs, for example.

    2). Making more accurate description of the Abilities and other OS Commonalities for the very reason that they are broader. In the way that 'Ability' is different from 'Attribute', consult all Strength [etc.] descriptions and write up an amalgam description for the OS. This would necessitate differing methods of determining Hit Points (SIZ + CON / 2, from RQ, for instance), Armour as Stopping Hits (T&T, etc.), and so forth.

    But, that is merely to answer your question as to how I would do it.

    Getting back to my question:

    "Is this still working out as well as you had hoped?"

    Regarding whether or not I am satisfied: You shouldn't give a good golly, as I merely commented on the work as you have presented it. If you feel strongly about your work, as I believe you do and have every reason to, then I hope your strength of conviction is great enough to weather a question or even perhaps a whiff of criticism.

    That all said, I have been reading the series of posts with great interest.

    Best wishes,

    wv: sophiz

  6. @TS: No offense, really; I was curious about your comment, which I didn't quite get, and I wanted more commentary. Which you gave, so thanks.

    I see you're more interested in something that can cover all "old school" games (which themselves are a mechanical microcosm of most of the game systems seen today). OK, so maybe starting off with "OSR" as an acronym was a bad idea :) I've limited myself to D&D but there's no reason a more general position can't be staked out along the continuum from verbal to mechanical description. That position, however, would embrace far more than the "old school."

    As for my own enthusiasm, it improved measurably once I arrived at today's solution for spells and items, letting me finish off the proposal in somewhat of a concise manner.

  7. @Roger: I'm glad there was no slight.

    I'll have to see if I can add addenda to your work, bringing other games into the Greater OS Manual. :)

    Looking forward to reading the Spells and Items solution. :D