Different Stats for PCs and Extras/Monsters

I’m at a point in my OSR-adjacent game (Eldritch Gambit) where I realized I could simplify extra/monster stats without losing much. Instead of giving them full example attributes, I can use an HD-style simplification which gives their bonus for most actions, HP, rally, etc. It’s a direct 3 Levels to 1 HD translation because EG compresses levels to stay in a sweet spot equivalent to 3rd-5th level D&D characters. I’m leaning towards it because it cuts stat blocks to basic D&D levels, makes modules compatible, and is probably easier for the GM. On the other hand, it is another “thing” to add, and every subsystem you add to a game complicates it and can have a cascading effect on everything else.

I know other games have done this before - how did they handle it badly, or what made it good? I want to avoid obvious pitfalls and play to its strengths.

Dungeon World does this. Monsters don’t have ability scores; instead they only act when the players partially or fully fail a roll.

I think it works well. For examples see the Codex.


I should probably clarify that it’s not a pbta.

I’m having trouble understanding what you mean. Can you give more of an example?

In particular, I cannot parse this part at all:

Instead of giving them full example attributes, I can use an HD-style simplification which gives their bonus for most actions, HP, rally, etc. It’s a direct 3 Levels to 1 HD translation

Presumably, it’s the old classic of “just use HD as attack bonus/saving throw bonus/whatever” instead of saying (like in 5e) that a Zombie has X Str, X Dex, X Cha etc.

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When I see simplifications like this I always wonder why players can’t be similarly simplified… :thinking:

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Absolutely love Whitehack’s simplified NPC attribute. Keep in mind, these are stats for a D20 roll-under system. Saving throw is HD+5, and attack value (how likely they are to succeed in combat actions) is HD+10. An HD 1 NPC would have ST 6 and AV 11, for example.

You can also use these attributes for things other than what they’re labelled for. For example, when rolling for morale, you can normally roll-under AV, but if the NPC is particularly cowardly, you could roll under ST, or even its HD.

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This is pretty close to what I was thinking. I’ve read whitehack but unfortunately not played it.

Did anything ever feel unsatisfying or off about it?

I dunno about satisfaction, but it makes sense to me. Plus it allows me to write up stat blocks with only the HD to go with. That’s the primary reason why I love it hahaha. It made me think, huh I shouldn’t really overthink NPC stats.

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Tunnel Goons simplifies monster stats into a single Difficulty Score (DS). The score goes down as they are damaged; eventually it hits 0 and they die. It does lead to a sort of cascade of danger as the PCs gang up on monsters, though.


The first RPG to do this is Tunnels & Trolls (1975). Each monster has a single monster rating (MR), their sole stat. It equals their hit points, in effect, and corresponds with how many dice they roll in combat.

current MR/10 round up = [number d6 in combat + half current MR]
e.g. Goblin has MR 16, rolls 2d+8 in combat. If it take 8 damage > MR 8, rolls 1D+4 in combat.

(As they take hits, their dice in combat diminish, a neat system for wounds–which is under discussion in another thread).

Monsters’ special abilities in this system can just be narrated or treated ad hoc or formalized in supplementary rules, but freeform application can work.


Yeah, I love this sort of thing, leaves the GM free to do more interesting things with narration and tactics and less burdened with looking up stat block minutia during play. I wish I could get Eldritch Gambit down to one score like tunnel goons, but the numbers don’t work out. In the end I am doing something similar to the whitehack method.

Same, this all started to seem necessary when I was doing my bestiary. Kind of a why-am-I-doing-this feeling with their attribute scores.

First AFAIK too. I haven’t played it but I hear it makes some of the monsters a bit same-y. I think that may be the weakness of this sort of simplification in general, but using tactics, narration, reskinning, and special abilities on top of that should keep it from being noticeable.

Yes, they are all similar if they have one rating in T&T. That said, each monster can have characteristic tags indicating behavior or special actions. It’s really easy to add that stuff on. I don’t know why it wasn’t done more in the early period of T&T, but I think basically every DM played a bit of the world rather than coming up with more rules with respect to monster differentiation.

Sounds right, I only know T&T from internet discussions and a paperback passed around our D&D group in the 90s - unfortunately, no one ever branched out to play it, though it seemed awfully fun when I read it. I agree that a combination of GM embellishments, tactics, and a special ability would take care of that tho. It’s almost unfair as a criticism, maybe.

On the other extreme, I see a lot of pathfinder and D&D monster stats that are just pages and pages of fiddly shit. Feats, special powers, little things that happen on 5’ steps, etc. I get that there is an audience for it but I can’t imagine bothering with all that as a GM/DM. That kind of stuff is like my design anti-goal.

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There’s a certain kind of player (adolescent male?) that loves stats, memorizing stats, mastering stats, getting to use stats. But I’m with you: it’s not my way. I’d just rather have a description, one or two numbers at most, and go with that.

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In my game, it’s:

  • Harm (1 or more)
  • Die rating (d4 or more)

Things they’re good at roll one step above. Things they’re bad at roll one step below. Half damage to what they’d resist, double or more on what would counter them.

Imp, 1H, d4.
Troll, 4H, d8.
Assassin, 2H, d12.
Rat Swarm, 1H per pile of rats, d4.

Most moves that mobs make don’t need to be extraordinary. Sometimes I get awesome ideas for bad things happening. I make them happen then and there, like a boss splitting in two or an attack failing leading to making up an immunity to something, PBTA style.

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