EDIT: Upon closer examination, some of my suggestions in this article were later proven incorrect. See my follow-up article.
My fellow D&D blogger Mike Hensley at HackSlash has fourth edition D&D monster stats courtesy of a leaked D&D Game Day minis stat card. Although it’s miniatures, this gives us some insight into some of the changes that have already been decided on, and it’s entirely feasible that the two games are being brought closer together. I’ll iterate over the stats here and what changes they represent.
SPINED DEVIL—Medium Immortal Humanoid (Devil)—LEVEL 6 SKIRMISHER
“Outsider” type is gone, replaced with “immortal humanoid”. Humanoid seems to be a catch-all for any two-arms-two-legs creature, while “immortal” may convey some other game benefit or be merely flavour. Size types remain largely the same. “Skirmisher” refers to the creature’s velites-type niche, which is an important descriptor in D&D minis and may become so in the regular game. Is “challenge rating” now referred to as “level”, perhaps doing away with hit dice altogether?
INIT +5 SPD 5 FLY 7
Hackslash suggests this infers that D&D 4e measures move speed in squares now. I might agree.
Senses: nethersight. Perception +5—Resist fire 20
Nethersight is anyone’s guess; perhaps darkvision and see-invisibility. I would assume that Perception is combined Spot/Listen, although confusingly they later they refer to Spot as its own skill. Interestingly, they seem to be moving toward the Dragon magazine statblock format here, which is an excellent move.
Attacks: Melee 2 claws +9 vs AC each: 2d4+4—Spine Rain Standard; ranged 10; +9 Dex vs. Ref; 1d6+2 + 2d6 fire AND Poisoned 5, Slowed while Poisoned
Melee attacks work as normal, with the noted exception of any split between single and full attack, good riddance. Special attacks are rolled into the attack category, with the example here of Spine Rain. It’s designated “Standard” (no clues here) and a ranged attack, with the number ’10′ perhaps the squares range, potentially doing away with range increment penalties.
The attack is made with the creature’s Dexterity bonus versus the opponent’s Reflex score; remember now that in fourth edition, saving throws are out, and opponents instead roll to beat your Fort/Ref/Will score the same way they roll to beat your AC. “Poisoned 5″ is anyone’s guess (5pts poison damage?), although poison is clearly simplified (good riddance – I never remembered to roll secondary poison damage). Finally here, “Slowed while Poisoned” implies an interesting, Diablo 2 style side-effects system.
AC 20—FORT 18—REF 18—WILL 18
More evidence that opponents now roll to beat your saves instead of you rolling to save from theirs.
Creatures are “bloodied” at half their hit points and suffer penalties. Whether this applies to all creatures remains to be seen; perhaps undead are treated differently.
Str +7 (19) Con +5 (14) Dex +5 (15) Int +5 (15) Wis +5 (14) Cha +5 (15)
A significant change to the ability bonuses applied by scores. We only know from this that 14 and 15 are both +5, and 19 is +7. Could the new formula for ability score modifiers be “score minus 5, divided by 2″? What we can be sure of is that ability scores are weighted more heavily than previously, or at least are on a different scale.
What the ability score line also tells us is the effect of ability scores on other stats. Perception (spot/listen) is equal to Wisdom modifier as usual, and Init equal to Dexterity mod. The “poisoned” attribute equals the Constitution modifier, but this could be coincidence. Likewise, ground speed equals Dexterity, an important synergy for a skirmisher, but this too could be coincidence; Strength equals fly speed, but again, it’s to soon to tell if that’s deliberate. (One could suggest that fifth edition will merge the Init/Speed designators, but I’m getting way ahead of myself here.)
The effect of Strength and Dexterity on attacks is a little vague here. Melee and ranged attacks have identical bonus despite Strength being higher than Dexterity. Making a huge leap here, it’s possible that AC no longer benefits from your Dexterity modifier (dodging things is Reflex now), allowing it to be used as attack bonus for both melee and ranged. The +2 to the spine attack could come from Dexterity or Constitution, assuming the “round down” rule has stayed; however, this precludes the possibility the +4 to claw damage is derived from half Strength (bar some feat or racial damage bonus). The saving throws all at 18 suggests that we’re seeing +10 base, +5 ability score bonus, and +3 from another source such as hit dice (all the good saves).
As Mike says, we must also look at what what the card doesn’t say. Alignment is removed, consistent with the previous suggestion that it’s being toned down in importance. There’s no flat-footed AC. Sub-stats like natural armour and Dexterity-to-AC and base attack bonus are ignored along with feats and hit dice, although this is to be expected on a terse miniatures card.
My opinion: Although miniatures cards aren’t as complex as the full monster stats, I think this still portends a welcome simplification of the monster rules. Just recently as I was statting up some monsters I realised that a lot of my time as a Dungeon Master was spent calculating statistics based on predefined rules, rather than thinking up cool things. DM’s time is a limited resource, and anything that makes his job easier, I’m all for it.