Building an annotated stat block for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition was something that I needed to get consistency between my games and how the players had interpreted their character and abilities.
It also helps provide a character for when they are unavailable to play.
What is a Stat Block? Well… it is short for Statistical Block – text to describe your character in a reference form so you take up less space and have something useful on hand in a game session. These are Game Master references for Monster’s, NPC’s and useful as Character references.
What is an Annotated Stat Block? An expanded stat block that provides references to the source material as well as a short form of the abilities used in the game. This can save you from having to look up the text but if you have to check at least you know which book or source material this is referenced from.
Why do I use Annotated Stat Blocks? Because I’ve seen many variations of character sheets over the years I wanted something simple and consistent within my games so they can be re-used when the player is not there. With the annotated stat block I am able to provide everything needed to run the characters at the table with or without the player present. If they forget their character sheet they have one available and if they aren’t present their character can still be part of the game with far less impact to the overall campaign story if they were to “mysteriously” disappear.
How to Fill Out my Annotated Stat Block
Here is a run down of the various components of the stat block and how to fill them out for my D&D Games.
The Heading Section
This is the base identification of a creature or character and in all cases the name is the most important part of the character.
Next we have the size which determines scale between a character and another creature it encounters. If they are medium they are bigger than small creatures and large creature are bigger than they are. There is usually a bonus to actions based on the size difference.
Alignment is in two parts though in my game there is a three axis alignment of Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic. Good, Neutral and Evil axis only exists with outsiders as mortals have free choice to make those actions as dependent on the situation. An evil sorcerer may make acts of good because it suits their beliefs (or needs).
- Lawful beings follow the rules
- Neutral beings follow the rules as appropriate as long as they don’t contradict their beliefs
- Chaotic beings act appropriately to their beliefs.
Here is an example from my Atruaghin campaign where the party encountered a Minotaur who has Elk horns instead of Bull horns. The annotation mentions that the race comes from source ps-a19. This is a reference to Plane Shift – Amonkhet page 19.
I have also included Background and Class underneath as this is a good place to fit this information. They include a reference to the Players Handbook and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
As an additional example, here I have the Martial Archetype Weapons Master which is using the reference for my website.
Section 1 – AC, HP and Speed
Here we have the Armour Class, Hit Points and Speed of the character.
- Armour Class or AC is the ability for you to avoid being hit by targeted effects in the game.
- Hit Points or HP is the ability to take damage without being knocked out or killed in the game.
- Speed is your ability to move a distance in the game and can specify types of movement such as climb, fly or swim that makes possible without a dice roll.
Here I show how I lay out the armour class so it’s clear what is responsible for the bonuses to the character’s armour class. The hit points are always max at first level with the constitution modifier added. The speed is determined by the race.
As a further example the levels beyond 1 have half the hit dice plus one (d10 in this case it is 6) and gain the constitution modifier as well.
Section 2 – Attributes
Attributes are your basic abilities and this is the short form version of the abilities written as normal.
- Str – Strength
- Dex – Dexterity
- Con – Constitution
- Int – Intelligence
- Wis – Wisdom
- Cha – Charisma
There is a bonus based on your score which is usually from 8 to 15 as a starting character (not taking into account racial modifiers) so the way you figure out the bonus is a formula (games like this like math) so it calculated this way:
(Value – 10) / 2 round down
So for example:
- Str 17 -10 = 7 / 2 = 3.5 rounded down is 3.
- Cha 8 -10 = -2 / 2 = -1 no rounding required
Section 3 – Secondary Characteristics
Here are what I call secondary characteristics (Saving Throws, Skills, Senses and Languages) which are things that don’t come up in use as often as the other attributes.
- Saving Throws are for proficiency and gain your proficiency modifier to this roll.
- Skills are for skills you are proficient with and add your proficiency modifier to this roll
- Senses show which different ways your character can notice something, examples are scent and low-light vision.
- Languages are for which forms of communication can you understand, read and write in.
In this example I show how you apply your attribute modifier for Strength (+3) to your proficiency modifier (+2). I added weapons and Armour to represent which proficiencies your character has including advance weapon mastery shown as skilled.
Then there is a section added for tools, which again is something that is not always available so left off the basic form. Here you can see a Flute (musical instrument) has been added. Skills have been given their attribute and proficiency modifiers.
Languages also include dialect in brackets which can counter disadvantage when talking to someone in a region with that dialect that is distrustful of outsiders. Other benefits may crop up in game.
As an example of advancement I’ve shown Weapon Mastery up to Expert level with a proficiency in Warhammers.
Section 4 – Abilities
This section is meant for abilities that can effect game play.
An example of such abilities are the two racial abilities of Relentless Endurance and Savage Attack which effect combat and Uthgardt Heritage which effects the characters foraging and interactions with the tribes of the Elk clans.
Also added is an Action Surge which can be used once between rests and gives you an extra action and bonus action (as long as you have used your bonus action this round).
If you’re playing a spellcaster you need to have extra details added such as what is your spellcasting DC (Difficulty Class) and your attack bonus for using spells. Additionally, you need to note what spells are available that day as prepared casters have a limit on spells known based on level of the character plus the spellcasting attribute modifier (Wisdom for clerics and druids, Charisma for Paladins, Intelligence for Wizards)
The Spellbooks are also listed which each have a number as you can have more than one spellbook on hand with 100 pages each. Next is the ritualbook which is different to a spellbook in that you can cast directly from the ritualbook – in my settings all spellcasters have access to one as part of character creation.
Section 5 – Actions
Actions are to list what your character can do in a combat situation and are split into (A) Action or (B) Bonus type. Your character normally starts out with only one attack unless you can use a bonus action to attack with an weapon in you off hand.
Here we see that there are two actions listed: the Attack action and the Second Wind bonus action. If you look at some of the weapons you will see that they also have Bonus actions that you can use if you’re holding them. This gives you multiple options for your characters in combat.
What the upgraded level is showing is some nice weapons mastery features in the Warhammer which has reached Expert level in mastery and a Mystara weapon the Lasso that is good for capturing creatures.
Section 6 – Reactions
Reactions are similar to actions and are listed here as you can use one reaction a round. My example does not have any reactions at this stage. Should be laid out similar to Actions and Features.
Section 7 – Equipment
Here’ss where you list all the items that your character is carrying.
A first level character will only have what they get from their class and background. They are expected to pick more up in the course of the adventure.
I have added a magical item and a Spear that was gained with increases in skill. With all magical items they have a reference number and can gain more information on the website including possible a history or fun facts.
Section 9 – Notes
This is for all the things that do not fit into the rest of the character stat block that might be necessary to know.
Here I have provided age, height and proficiency bonus as it’s nice to have but not often necessary. This can also include abilities that have been selected by the player that provide things like weapons proficiency or static bonuses like a defensive or fighting style.
This is also a good place for players to also write important notes they want others to be aware of about their character in case someone runs it while they are away.
Section 10 – References
The last section includes a reference to the abbreviations used throughout the stat block.
Here is the example character:
This is something that I put together in about an hour based on what Wizards of the Coast recommends. I hope this will be useful for my D&D group and everyone reading. Next I will be moving on to do the same but for Pathfinder.