Running a few play tests this afternoon, I was playing around with a level 3 dwarf myrmidon, pitting him against first an ogre, and then a bear. I found a few things were happening...
1. There were too many numbers to keep track of. In solo play, I was trying to keep track of the bonus for my character, and then contrast that with a beast's opposing ability. It was not a big deal, but it slowed me down just a hair every time. It didn't make for the quick resolution that I wanted.
2. Even a swing of 2 points on a level 3 beast was significant. If one ability was rated at 7 and another was rated at 5, the 7 often proved quite challenging, and the 5 a bit light.
3. I didn't 'feel' enough variety in the encounters. The monsters were largely defined by their stats (well, it's a RPG, so duh)... however, it seemed like traits were almost too important.
I have this sort of crazy idea. What if every beast has one trait point that governs all of its rolls, but then it grants advantage and disadvantage in particular situations, while also possibly having abilities that are triggered situationally...
Here is an example. My original write up for an ogre looks like this:
Ogre Brute (Level 3) Atk 6; Def 6; Dmg 8; Amr 6;
Hits 7; Attacks with a club.
However, if we go with the one stat approach, I can add another layer of information:
Ogre Brute (Level 3; DT 7); Attacks with a club that forces disadvantage to Amr rolls.
Now, the ogre still deals more damage than a 'typical' level 3 beast, because the hero is going to at least lose advantage on armor rolls, if not suffer a disadvantage. This, in and of itself, makes the ogre more dangerous. Now, getting hit by an ogre brings with it a genuine fear; I know that when this thing hits, it hits HARD... and I have so much less to keep track of. It has attack, defense, damage, armor, and hits ratings of 7.
Let's go with the extreme... an elder flame dragon. My original stat block was:
Elder Flame Dragon (Level 5) Atk 9; Def 8; Dmg 9;
Amr 10; Hits 12Flight (120’ with 1
action); 2 in 6 chance attack is a breath weapon, hitting all targets within
60’ of the dragon for 4 hits damage
(targets roll Lvl DT 8 for half damage); senses: DT 12 for all sneak checks; 3 attacks per round in melee
However, I can simplify this to:
Elder Flame Dragon (Level 5; DT 9). Travel 120' in one action (flight); attacks with 3 melee strikes (1-4) or breath weapon (5-6). Breath forces all creatures within 120' to roll Lvl or suffer 4 hits; those who make this roll suffer 2 hits. All damage rolls vs. dragon suffer disadvantage due to armored skin. All sneak rolls suffer disadvantage due to senses.
Now, the dragon only has 9 hits (instead of 12), but the disadvantage it forces to damage rolls offsets this, since it takes less damage per hit. I know the DT of resisting the dragon breath and of sneaking past it: 9. Because it is 9 for everything. 9 is really, really (really) high... but not impossible, because even with no bonus, a roll of 6 will always succeed. However, you may need a 6 to hit, and another 6 to deal 1 point of damage... and you will have to do that 9 times. However, higher level characters will have abilities and spells that make them quite a bit more effective than their basic trait bonuses would indicate.
Now, a monster is (at its core) a level, a DT, and at least one distinctive ability. I like this.