Monday, February 16, 2009

Tangent: How I Make Stat Blocks

I've been asked a couple of times about how I make the stat blocks I post here. I have no special trick to show off. It's all done very manually and takes about a half hour to create a new stat block (including working on the mechanics) and post it. I took some screen shots of what the process looks like in pieces. I use OpenOffice for the word processing, Paint for the image manipulation and a fan-created font for the 4th Edition symbols (melee/ranged/close/area icons and the d6 sides; I can't remember where I got the font originally, but if you search ENWorld you should be able to find it or one similar).

There are a number of automated stat block generators floating around, but I haven't seen one that creates them quite how I like so I resorted to doing them on my own. If someone eventually comes out with a stat block generator flexible enough to make any kind of monster while generating blocks that look close to or identical to the Monster Manual version I'll probably start using that.

Step 1:

I start by opening one of the stat blocks I've previously created in OpenOffice to use as a template. This way I don't have to resize any of the text boxes or background pieces. I've had to create new templates from scratch each time I create a new type of stat block (one for monsters, one for traps/hazards, one for diseases, one for magic items, etc.).

Step 2:

Each colored background piece is an independent art object rectangle. I have to move them aside to alter the text box(es) they highlight.

Step 3:

The body of the stat block (everything but the name/type and role/xp header) is a single text box. I type in all the mechanics before re-aligning/resizing the background pieces with the new stat block text.

Step 4:

The new stat block is complete. I save the OpenOffice document as its own file so I can edit it later if necessary. Quite often I'll notice an error in the stat block shortly after I upload it and I'll have to go back and fix it. Sometimes errors are pointed out to me weeks later.

Step 5:

I open print preview mode in order to get a cleaner snap of the finished stat block. After making sure it's viewed at 100% scale, I use that handy Print Screen key to capture it.

Step 6:

Look, Paint! After pasting the screen capture into paint I crop the stat block so that nothing else is included.

Step 7:

The final product: the isolated stat block will be saved as a JPEG file and uploaded to Blogger.

Update: this walkthrough is no longer accurate - I'm now using a different method and format for constructing stat blocks.


Bailey said...

Have you tried the Monster Maker?

find it here

Scott said...

I have, yeah. It was one of the first such programs I came across and unfortunately I have the same aesthetic problems with it that I have with other monster generators. I like my stat blocks formatted to look identical to the blocks printed in sourcebooks and official adventures. Nothing's quite there yet, and my manual method is far from perfect.

Pete Hat said...

Scott, any info on your new method for the stat blocks. I've been wondering if something can be done using html, or maybe tables in OpenOffice. I'd love to know how you're doing them now, if not in full detail just a few pointers would be handy. -- Pete

Scott said...

Sure, the following are full details on the formatting I use for stat blocks in OpenOffice.

First, page settings. I use a standard letter page in portrait orientation. All margins are set to 0.25". The page is divided into two columns with a spacing value of 0.13".

The stat block itself is created with the Tahoma and Game Icons fonts. You'll have to find Game Icons online - it contains all the symbols used in official D&D stat blocks.

The Tahoma font size is 10 point, except for the monster's name, level and role which are all in 10.5 point font. All Game Icons symbols are in 7 point font except for recharge dice, which are in 7.5 point font.

A text box containing the monster's level, role, and experience value is created to allow it to rest properly on the upper-right of the stat block.

The colored background of the stat block is achieved simply by highlighting each section and applying a background color. All colors used are manually added to OpenOffice's color database, and correspond exactly to the colors used in official stat blocks (though there has been some variation in official stat block colors; the ones I use correspond to many of the official blocks).

But setting this all up will probably be a little difficult. Instead, I've uploaded an archive of some example stat blocks (one of each type) that you can save and use to create your own, if that's something you want to do. They should already be formatted properly, but make sure you have the Game Icons font available for them. They are all OpenOffice Writer files. The 4shared link to the archive is

Hope this helps!

Pete Hat said...

Wow, that more than helps Scott. It's completely bloody brilliant. Can't thank you enough. I'm starting a new group on Saturday and am going to be running RotRL. I think the job you've done here is amazing. Keep up the good work.