Saturday, November 15, 2014

Lessons in Monster Design, Part IV: Stat block—statistics & ecology

Part IV of the series discusses some mistakes in the final two parts of the stat block: statistics and ecology. Next time I'll talk about special abilities, and the last part of the series will be about the write-up for the monster.

Ability scores, base attack bonus, etc.
  • There should be three odd and three even stats. 
  • For non-abilities (e.g. Con for constructs), use the em dash.
Feats & skills
  • List the feats in the alphabetical order (like mostly everything should be.)
  • Evasion is not a feat.
  • Unarmed Combat is not a feat; always check the names of the feats if you're not sure.
  • Use existing feats, do not use feats that cannot be found in the allowed sources. Also, special abilities are not feats and may not be listed as feats.
  • If your monster has bonus feats, add a superscript B after the feat name. Note that you cannot do that in RPG Superstar where the messageboard sets some limits on how you can format characters, so use an unformatted B there instead.
  • Feat And Skill Names Must Be Written With Initial Caps, Always. (A lot of people don't seem to get it right.)
  • However, when feats and skills have parenthetical information (such as the various Knowledge skills or Skill Focus feats), the word(s) inside the parentheses are sometimes capitalized, sometimes not. Examples:
    • "Knowledge (arcana)" because "arcana" is not a skill or feat name.
    • "Spell Focus (evocation)" for the same reason.
    • "Skill Focus (Stealth) because "Stealth" is a skill name.

  • The parentheses mentioned above may not be square brackets [ ].
  • There should be no period at the end of the Skills line.
  • All the skill modifiers, if positive, should include the plus sign.
  • Hide is not a skill in the Pathfinder RPG.
  • Size-related skill modifiers are not specifically called out in the Skills entry.
  • Racial Modifiers do not have a line of their own in the stat block. They appear after Skills, separated only by a semi-colon.


  • All languages are proper nouns and thus have initial caps, e.g. Common.
  • Telepathy, however, is not the name of a language and shouldn't be capitalized.
  • It's rare (but possible) for a species of creatures to have a language of their own. It's a good idea to consider if your monster as a species really has such a unique language tradition that it deserves a language of its own.


  • It's spelled ”Environment” not ”Enviroment”. 
  • There is a fixed number of terrain types you can use. For example, ”village” is not a terrain type – you should use ”urban” instead. Check your monster against existing monsters and don't trust outliers (see the comment about ”tropical” below). 
  • Similarly, the climate component of the environment can generally only be "any", or any combination of ”cold”, ”temperate”, and ”warm”. Some old Paizo monsters might have ”tropical” there, but it's not a valid climate type. 
  • In any case, do not capitalize any part of the environment except the names of planes, if any (e.g. Plane of Shadow).


  • If the Organization entry, use the en dash (–) to indicate ranges: "pack (7–12)"

Special qualities

  • Like all other special ability names, SQs are not capitalized: "SQ shadow weaving"  
  • Having any amount of natural armor is not a special quality. Only unusual bonuses such as Charisma to AC need to be called out as special qualities.

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