Five Moons RPG: Stone Giant stat block preview

Today’s Five Moons RPG blog is a quick preview of a prototype stone giant stat block. You can also get it from RPGnow/DriveThruRPG.

The numbers are still very much in flux, but I wanted to show:

  • how the stat block is simplified by removing redundant information (like not listing Iron Will because it’s already accounted for in the Will save bonus)
  • the first-person descriptions of monster abilities (“I can…” instead of “A stone giant can…” because it puts the GM in the role of playing the monster like a PC)
  • organization of monster information into “My Turn” and “Not My Turn” sections, so the GM can skip past abilities that don’t aren’t usable at that point in the round
  • alphabetization of lines within each section (such as the Boosts, Melee, Ranged, and Speed lines in alphabetical order within the My Turn section)
  • introduction of some new game terms like “boosts,” which allow a creature to alter or improve an at-will ability (like Power Attack) or activate a limited-use ability (like “blend with stone”)
  • renaming and consolidation of some skills
  • simplification of the Organization line, because if the GM needs 40 giants in a tribe, it doesn’t matter that the book says a tribe is “13–30” giants
  • treasure types based on the nature and role of the monster
  • a preview-within-a-preview of the names of some magical spells and martial abilities (such as “Explode Stone” and “Berserk”)

Let me repeat: The math in this preview is very much in flux (in fact, it’s basically a rough conversion of the PFRPG stone giant to Five Moons RPG format), so please don’t get hung up on number details (like “why is this giant is CR 10 when the PF stone giant is CR 8?”). But I welcome feedback on the actual presentation of the information in this stat block, as I want using the monster stat block to be as clear and easy as possible for the GM (who often has to juggle multiple stat blocks in the same fight).

Related note: Did you know I’m giving away some stuff to help promote my upcoming kickstarter for this game? There’s still time to get some freebies. :)

FiveMoonsRPG-previewStoneGiantThumbnail

(Update September 23, 2014: If you like this post and where these ideas are going, please check out the kickstarter for my Five Moons RPG, which uses these ideas. Thanks!)

 

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31 thoughts on “Five Moons RPG: Stone Giant stat block preview

  1. Looks really good. The header My Turn, Not My Turn kind of stick, not sure if those are working names or not – but their concept is great. I almost missed the bear pets in organization, maybe move it so the pets are a separate line or make pets a subcategory of organization.

  2. I would suggest “Action” and “Reaction” for the terms. The first is something that they do, the second is a way they react to what others do.

    Do you keep the idea of range increments for ranged combat? If so, they should be listed as part of the ranged attack.

    I agree that the bear pets don’t stick out. Perhaps have a ‘Common Sidekicks’ or ‘Accomplices’ before Organization that lists pets or common accompaning creatures.

    The abilities read nice but don’t read fast. During a game I want an extremely terse description of the abilities, and details only if needed.

    Example rewrite:

    [b]Blend With Stone:[/b] Boost to activate Limited Invisibility effect
    I can blend in with a stone background or disguise myself as a stone of my size. I must boost to activate this ability. Moving ends
    it. Blending as invisibility against creatures that are at least 10 feet away.

    [b]Catch Rock:[/b] Boost and Reflex +5 to parry thrown rock
    I can catch a rock projectile attack if I boost, am aware of the rock, and pass a Reflex save (with a +5 bonus) against its attack roll. if
    I catch the rock, i take no damage from it.

    It still isn’t ideal, I think this may take up too much space and still is rather wordy. Hopefully you see what I’m trying to achieve though.

  3. I second Bret’s suggestion for terms like Actions and Reactions. As a GM, I have plenty of problems with keeping track of active and passive abilities or worse — passive abilities that modify active abilities (like Power Attack). I and my GM friend also have bad habits of forgetting to use feats, which are usually buried in statistics. I like that you organized this as such, including putting feats and enablers into “boosts.” I highly support this direction.

    It feels really weird to me to have the descriptions use first-person. Second-person feels more natural, emphasizes that “you” (GM) are the stone giant, and lets the GM feel like they’re a player, too. Additionally, whenever I homebrew an ability, I prefer to use second-person so that if I stat up a monster or NPC with it, I don’t have to change the nouns.

    • Honestly, I’ve been waffling about the use of “you” or “I” for ability descriptions. The game will describe character abilities with “you” (and most of the game will be written using similar language, directed at the reader), so it makes sense from a consistency standpoint to do that for monsters, too, but I thought I’d try this as an experiment to see how people felt about it.
      An alternate iteration has “active abilities,” “reactive abilities,” and “passive abilities.” :)

      • I agree with consistency. Another perk of second-person is that it allows rules to have a more direct and concise language.

        I am not sure of “active abilities” and “passive abilities” because not everything listed in the “My Turn” and “Not My Turn” are abilities. However, that would be a good idea if you decided to categorize every ability as active, reactive, passive, or boost (which I’m not sure would be a good idea).

  4. I assume the My Turn/Not My Turn sidebars are getting different names in the final release…if not, I’d suggest “Actions” and “Statistics” because the original two don’t sound very elegant and kind of break that immersion that you’re trying to set up with the first person perspective.

  5. I know you didn’t want us sweating the numbers, but I at least feel to comment on if there’s “Intent” behind what was placed. Such as I’m wondering what your intended hit rate in the game (or PC vs. Monsters, vice versa) is going to be, I thought I read a 70% once? That’s probably just me, but I do know you wanted to maybe have Base AC 5, but the giant’s implied low AC does seem to allow him to hit himself (or foe equivalent) very easily. The giant also seemed to have a colossal hit bonus, unless AC’s are going to be high, as PC’s in 3.5 would need equiv of 28 AC, which would become 23 in 5 moons, to have the average of not getting struck. Since you’re intent on numbers being smaller on the PC side, it starts to bode a concern that their base values will scale fast enough in comparison to the monsters, and won’t turn out to be Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, all over again. That said, I get the numbers were probably some 5-minute hash out, but its intent is still important, and unfortunately I’ve seen games where “preview values” ended up being the final values in the end more or less (possibly not scaling to compensate for other changes in the game).

    Forgive me for another quibble, but if it’s a CR 10, doesn’t that mean in 3.5 terms, it’s a 5th level threat? Given 5 Moons conversion for levels.

    As for its formating, I’m going to make a mention that I didn’t even Notice the side text within the green bars! I think you need to ensure that sticks out more as well if possible, unless you feel its a minor point people would get used to, I think horizontal text there sticks out better. Also “Not My Turn” probably needs a catchier name I would agree, even if it’s something like “passive” or “non-Turn”. I’d also like to see “example encounters” within a given monster entry (including page numbers other monsters can be found), so with your Stone Giant + Bears (pgxx) +Terrain? =ELX, can go a long way.

    “Warriors usually have the following abilities: Berserk (transfer), Melt Stone, Shape Stone, Speak With Stone, Stone Armor (absorb, transfer).”
    Lastly, if these are going to be abilities of actual Martial-type PC’s, I’m going to like the direction they’re going in the realm of “level appropriate” abilities.

      • Sure, though it can be important acquire intent from them (if any), and the rest of what I said is still valid as well. Again, there is the concern in past where we’ve seen projects say those numbers weren’t final, and end up being the final values anyway (or ones very similar to). Anyway, sorry to “sweat” them, or so at least sweating them in some regard.

        Though I realized part of the first paragraph I messed up, meant where PC’s base values get outpaced by the monsters, attaining an experience similar to Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (where all the enemies always had better numbers than you, also late game 4th edition had that issue on release as well). An issue I wanted to bring up there, is if there is a scaling problem, it’ll encourage optimization, just so the PC’s can survive.

        Though given, if ye wanted separate rules for Monsters & PC’s, then why does the monsters have feats at all, especially one for Will save, isn’t that part of the 3rd edition issue of using PC-equivalent resources to achieve the numbers?

      • Replace the numbers with letters and you’d be able to derive the same “intent” from them. There is no design intent behind those numbers. I said don’t sweat the numbers, I meant don’t sweat the numbers.

        Why does the monster have feats at all? Because if there’s a chunk of game code called Power Attack that says “you can take a –X on your attack roll to gain +Y on your damage roll,” that’s useful *game shorthand* whether you’re looking at a PC character sheet or a monster stat block.

  6. I like most of it, but I don’t like the omitting of Iron Will.

    The main reason is that I want to have control of my monsters. Let’s say I want to add some levels to the monster. How do I know what feats it already has? If I don’t know it has Iron will there is the risk of me giving it Iron will again. Sure, I know that if I want to buff it’s will saves I can houserule that there is a monster feat called greater Iron, but never the less I really like to know why a monster has the stat X and not Y. Same goes with feats like improved Initiative, weapon focus, dodge, etc.

    Also, let’s say I want to give it some more levels and some feats that require prereqs (power attack + cleave or dodge + mobility or weapon focus + weapon specialization). I wouldn’t want to pick the prereq feat if it already has it.

    Also when not listing feats we can’t help you find typos and other stuff that needs errata. In 3.0, 3.5 and pathfinder it is easy to check out if it all adds up.

    • {Let’s say I want to add some levels to the monster.}

      Well, “adding levels to a monster” doesn’t work the way it does in Pathfinder or D&D.

      {How do I know what feats it already has? If I don’t know it has Iron will there is the risk of me giving it Iron will again.}

      It doesn’t really matter, just give the monster appropriate saves for its new CR. And if you’re worried about a “hidden” feat like Iron Will, just look at the “monster stats at each CR” table for the new CR and old CR, and modify the save by the same increase. Frex, say you have a CR 5 PF troll and you want to advance it to CR 10. The “Monster Statistics by CR” table says a CR 5 creature expects a good/bad save of +8/+4, and for CR 10 it expects a bad save of +13/+9, so you can just increase the troll’s good save by +5 and its bad saves by +5 and it’ll have the same relative saves for its new CR as it did for its old one.

      See, the game has tricked you into thinking that all of these tiny details are important. In 1E modules, a monster stat block was “AC 0; HD 8+3; HP 45; #AT 1; D: 5-10 or 7-12 with battle axe.” Over the years we’ve added all these extra bits of data that are useful in about 5% of encounters (like for grappling), but in the other 95% they’re just clutter and a magnet for typos.

      {Also, let’s say I want to give it some more levels and some feats that require prereqs (power attack + cleave or dodge + mobility or weapon focus + weapon specialization). I wouldn’t want to pick the prereq feat if it already has it.}

      Five Moons doesn’t have feat chains, so there are no prereq feats. :)

      {Also when not listing feats we can’t help you find typos and other stuff that needs errata.}

      If it doesn’t matter whether a monster has 0 feats or 10, so long as the choices are appropriate to the monster, then it can’t be “missing” any feats, and therefore doesn’t need errata account for the “wrong” number of feats. :)

      Listing extra and redundant information in a stat block creates *more* errata than it solves. I can’t count how many times a monster stat block had a last-minute change that altered it’s Perception bonus, and it was only updated in the Skills line and not at the top of the stat block… which meant a monster that would have been error-free (if it only listed the Perc bonus once per stat block) instead became incorrect (because the two listed values contradict each other).

    • In Pathfinder, you only give a monster Iron Will to pad out the monster’s numbers to fit the monster stats table, which is a really backwards way to build a monster. It also runs counter to the entire reason the monster creation rules work this way. Creature types, HD, and number of feats all work this way to establish a measuring stick of power between different types of creatures. However, that doesn’t quite work well when some monsters have to spend their feats just to pad numbers when others get powerful feats that let them do stuff.

  7. The lack of clear identification of what feats and options a monster uses makes it really hard to take them apart and tinker with them if you want alternate versions of roughly the same challenge. And no identification of hit dice and similar statistics makes identifying what abilities are appropriate more of a challenge, and makes it harder to learn the underlying math of the system.

    Also… having things like non-magically blending in with rock, putting more force into an attack at the expense of accuracy, and catching rocks be limited in use feels really, really bizarre to me and causes a weird loss of suspension of disbelief. Are characters (like this stone giant) really supposed to catch five rocks and then think “Woo, met my quota on catching rocks for the day, can’t do that again for 24 hours!”? Because that’s exactly how things will happen with a system like this.

    • That said, I REALLY like the clear delineation of what information is useful for the creature’s actions and which are necessary for its defense and passive state.

    • {The lack of clear identification of what feats and options a monster uses makes it really hard to take them apart and tinker with them if you want alternate versions of roughly the same challenge.}

      Actually, the “Monster Statistics by CR” table is your bible for creating alternate versions of a monster of roughly the same challenge. See my reply to svegab (above) for more info.

      {And no identification of hit dice and similar statistics makes identifying what abilities are appropriate more of a challenge, and makes it harder to learn the underlying math of the system.}

      I get what you’re saying, but the purpose of a stat block is to present a NPC or monster’s information in a useful way for the GM to run an encounter; that’s why it is organized the way it is. If the purpose of a stat block was to teach you how to alter monsters and understand the math of the system, it would be presented in a very different way; for example, it would clearly indicate which of a character’s feats are class bonus feats, racial bonus feats, or general feats, it would indicate how many skill ranks it had in each skill, which skills were class skills, and so on. In the same way that the purpose of a car engine is designed to move your car (rather than teach you how to repair a car).

      {Also… having things like non-magically blending in with rock,}

      There’s nothing in the stat block that says whether that ability is magical or nonmagical. :)

      {Are characters (like this stone giant) really supposed to catch five rocks and then think “Woo, met my quota on catching rocks for the day, can’t do that again for 24 hours!”? Because that’s exactly how things will happen with a system like this.}

      One, this is just an adaptation of how I’d present a stone giant in the Five Moons system. It’s not the final version.

      Two, it’s entirely possible that the normal “rock catching” ability works a certain way, and the effect of the stone giant’s boost for it is actually “I get a +5 on my rock catching Reflex save.” This isn’t the final version of the monster (in fact, I spent about five minutes converting the PF stone giant into this stat block format) and it’s going to change.

      Three, remember that most of the time, a monster is “on screen” for about 5 rounds and then is killed by the PCs, so it doesn’t really matter if the giant can only boost-rock-catch 5 times per day or 100 times. Furthermore, the odds PCs are going to throw more than 5 rocks per day at a particular giant is so small as to be irrelevant. :)

      • It’s not really the combat effect that bothers me, it’s the worldbuilding aspect. How it works in combat isn’t marked as being any different than in a casual situation. For example, the stone giant is indicated as throwing rocks for hunting and sport. That could very well just mean distance throwing or similar matters, but the fact that they can only catch rocks five times a day means they can’t have games like “catch” but with a boulder, or throwing a rock high in the sky and catching it. And the first time that comes up, it’s going to be a weird question, and kind’ve immersion breaking. Are they aware that they can only catch rocks fives times before they’re mystically incapable of doing it anymore? What happens when you apply the same logic to other abilities, like a special fighting move or even just the Quick Draw and Power Attack also listed in that stat block? It’s a really weird disconnect where the rules of the game don’t seem to match the fiction they’re trying to model, and it’s one of the problems that 4e fell into and was deeply criticized for.

      • Well, as I said:
        Two, it’s entirely possible that the normal “rock catching” ability works a certain way, and the effect of the stone giant’s boost for it is actually “I get a +5 on my rock catching Reflex save.” This isn’t the final version of the monster (in fact, I spent about five minutes converting the PF stone giant into this stat block format) and it’s going to change.

        I am well aware of the 4E problem of “this martial ability somehow has limited uses per day” problem.

        In Five Moons, most creature abilities will have an at-will effect and a separate, improved effect that can be achieved by spending a boost. For a martial ability, you can consider the at-will version the “standard’ effect of that ability, and the boost-activated version is a “perfect execution” of that maneuver.

        For example (and I’m making this up right now), if you have Power Attack, the at-will effect is “take a –X penalty on your attack roll to gain a +Y bonus on your damage roll.” You can use that all the livelong day. But there’s also a boosted version that you can only be lucky enough to do in just the right way a few times per day (or you only have the perfect opportunity to use it in just the right way a few times per day), and when you use that boosted version, it’s +Y+Z damage instead of +Y damage. You’re not limited to how many times per day you can perform a power attack, but you are limited to how many times per day you can perform a *perfect* power attack.

        As another example (and again, I’m making this up right now), if you have Improved Critical, its at-will effect increases the threat range for your attack… or you can spend a boost to automatically threaten a critical hit. Or Iron Will, which has the at-Will effect of giving you a +2 on Will saves, or a boosted effect that lets you reroll a Will save you just failed. And so on.

        In other words, the answer to “how come I can’t do that EVERY time?” is “you’re not lucky every time.”

      • Ahh, cool! That pretty much nixes my remaining complaint.

        I’ve gotta say, it’s really awesome that you’re hanging out in the comment threads answering people’s concerns. Thanks for that. :)

      • @Sean: I must admit what you say makes sense.
        It’s just a new way of looking at how monsters are presented and it will take some time to getting used to, but I’m fairly certain the game will run more efficiently with the this system.

        @ Conner: I don’t think abilities that “limited uses per day” is a problem at al. You had that in 3.0 and 3.5, and even now in Pathfinder. (Be it limited uses per day or limited uses per rage.)

        Race traits: Orc Ferocity, Cat’s Luck, Gnome Magic, etc.

        Feats: Improved Iron will, Practiced Tactician, Greater Shield Specialization, etc.

        Class features (ex): Challenge, Tactician, Resolve, Lore Master, Rage rounds per day, most Rage powers, some rogue talents, etc. All these are Ex abilities , but if we also look at Supernatural Abilities Class features we got far more stuff. With the removal of Ex and Su, the X thing per day is even less of a problem.

        I personally think that the thing that might alienate people is the removal of attributes and substituting it for modifiers, the “limited uses per day” is something that will appeal to a lot of player. Especially those that wasn’t happy with the lack of resource management for the martial classes.

      • Just because Pathfinder does it in ways that I don’t particularly like doesn’t mean it’s okay. I mean, you can like something without liking ALL of it. It’s just more of a problem when it’s something that runs deeper and more commonly in the system. But it sounds like Sean’s come up with a really good middleground that solves the issue.

  8. @Sean. Will it be possible to run a pathfinder AP using your rules and just swapping out the monsters/enemies?

    Our gaming group is suffering from Pathfinder burn out and we think that Pathfinder has become too complicated (or actually it was probably always a bit too rigid and complicated for us). Now that we are regularly changing GM we all would appreciate a more smoothly and intuitive set of rules that let you use a more organic gaming style.

    BTW, We are all pleased you will include retraining rules :D

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