Abbreviated stat blocks for D&D 5e creatures

In writing adventures for my own use, I often find it helpful to include stat blocks in my notes. The benefits are obvious: I avoid spending the time to look up a creature in the Monster Manual, I avoid having to flip back and forth between entries when a battle includes several different types of creatures, and if I want to modify the creature from its MM entry I can easily to that too.

In the interest of saving space on the page I usually also abbreviate the stat block. So what do I include? And what format do I use?

Well, here’s what a typical orc might look like in my notes:

**Orc.** HP 15. AC 13 (hide armor). 100 XP. 
Str 16 Dex 12 Con 16 Int 7 Wis 11 Cha 10
Aggressive. Dash as a bonus action.
Greataxe. +5, 1d12+3 slashing.
Battleaxe. +5, 1d8/1d10+3 slashing. 
Handaxe. Thrown 20/60. +5, 1d6+3 slashing. 

Just the important stuff!

Something you might do if you’re using this format is use the ability modifiers instead of the scores. (Instead of Str 16 you’d have Str +3.) I’ve also experimented with punctuation on that line — it comes down to taste.

I removed a lot of detail from the block, but there are a couple things I added. More axes! I like to include alternate weapons for a creature so I can mix it up within a group.

Creating a unique setting for my D&D game

The impulse, in creating a setting for a home game, is to include every possible character option. You want your players to be able to do anything in the book: any race, class, background. And you want to leave it open for stuff from other books as well.

That’s perfectly fine. It’s also pretty generic. The setting where anything can happen is also the setting where nothing is supposed to happen. IE there is no underlying theme tying characters together. No inherent story engine.

I’ve realized recently that the setting I’m creating for my next campaign should have a built-in story engine. That means that the major conflict in the campaign is 100% tied to the setting, the characters, and the character options.

The more Standard Fantasy you apply to your setting, by making all races available, all classes available, all everything available, the more generic your setting becomes. Settings are differentiated by its core assumptions. Those all determine what kind of adventures are taking place.

So in restricting character options at the beginning, and by creating locations that have histories of specific conflicts, you’re making a more thematically cohesive campaign. The characters, the locations, the adventures all feed into each other.

That’s what I want.