Author Topic: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?  (Read 30240 times)

Mike Olson

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New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« on: February 02, 2012, 09:44:38 AM »
Last week, I built a couple monsters, mostly by eyeballing existing monsters in the previous DW release. One of them was this Iron Dwarf, an automaton "programmed" to protect a particular part of the dungeon. The idea was that the party would encounter four of them at once. Here's what he looked like last week:

Iron Dwarf
Instinct: To follow orders with unyielding force
  • Prevent entry into a room
  • Shrug off a powerful blow as if it were nothing
  • Advance relentlessly
Level 4, 9 HP, Armor 3, 6 damage (axe)

This version is largely the product of looking at several monsters, including the Dwarven Warrior, the Orc Bloodwarrior, the Clay Golem, and the Iron Golem. I knew about what level I wanted it to be, then used monsters of around the same level and/or theme to arrive at the numbers and moves. I anticipated the PCs would be level 2 or 3.

Under the new monster building guidelines in Beta 1.1, the Iron Dwarf now looks like this:

Iron Dwarf
Axe (24 damage Close) 10 HP 3 Armor
Instinct: To follow orders with unyielding force
  • Prevent entry into a room
  • Shrug off a powerful blow as if it were nothing
  • Advance relentlessly

Nearly identical in all respects -- except damage, which got a huge bump. Before, these were resource-depleting opponents. They could do damage two or three times to nearly anyone without dropping them on hit points. Now, they're potential one-hit-killers.

Here's the rationale that went into the revision:
What's the most powerful foe it can kill in a fair fight? Soldier (base 6). If these things were built to defend a dwarven stronghold, they're going to expect to go up against enemy soldiers -- explicitly so, in fact.

How does it usually hunt or fight? Small group (4 -- damage = base x 4). Like I said, there are four of them.

What environment spawned it? Hospitable places (10 HP). The Iron Dwarves were built by dwarven artificers in a well-protected, civilized location.

What is its most important defense? Mail or scales (2 Armor). They're basically animated suits of plate armor, but I'm taking them down a notch (from 3 Armor to 2) due to their age and a lack of upkeep.

Which of these helps describe it? It actively defends itself (+1 Armor). I see them as axe-and-shield fighters.

Dealing 24 damage just seems like way too much to me, even accounting for the fact that characters have more HP now, and especially considering that really nothing has changed with the monster's concept. I could scale it back by saying that it's only capable of beating, say, a peasant in a fair fight, but that seems really disingenuous. I don't feel like I should have to "work the system" just to get its damage down to a manageable level. Alternately, I could say that it's meant to fight in larger groups (reducing its damage to 18), but that's not accurate either.

So... basically, this seems weird to me. I'm not saying I don't want it to be dangerous, but neither do I want it to be the serious killing machine it's kinda become. Most notable, IMO, is that its Armor and HP didn't really change (but PC damage output hasn't changed, so I guess that makes sense), while its damage output has spiked so much it now seems to be overcompensating for the increase in PC HP. Arguably, its damage should be even higher -- its armaments are vicious and obvious (+5 damage), it fights by skill instead of instinct (+3 damage), etc. -- but I'm not going there.

What am I missing?

(EDIT: The other monster I made, BTW, was a green slime, but that doesn't lend itself to many easy answers for the monster-building questions.)

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 01:16:30 PM »
I just read the monster creation section myself and I'm not able to puzzle any of what you just said out of it. So far as I can tell the damages assume that a group attacks as a single unit which does not jibe with what I have read in the rest of the book. Also, there are no levels listed on any of the monsters which might help clear up some of my confusion and make the monsters actually usable in a game (many powers, i.e. sleep, need to know the level of the creature to work)

mease19

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 02:15:06 PM »
I kind of like the idea of monsters not having levels.  It dispels ideas of 'balance' and planning adventures, in detail, ahead of time.  It also forces monsters to be individuals, monstrous in their own right, rather than bosses and cannon fodder.   

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 02:21:33 PM »
That would be fine if they could work the level based mechanics out of the player rules. I still like the idea of levels for monsters just as a quick guideline.

Glitch

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2012, 03:52:42 PM »
I dislike the bloat in PC hit points and the removal of monster level. Monster level is a useful gauge, and currently required for several moves like Turn Undead. It seems like DW has needlessly bloated both PC hitpoints and monster damage to excessive levels. Compound that with static monster damage and you have a game that eliminates one if the most tense moments of any old school D&D experience: that dramatic monster damage roll where the life of the PC hangs in the balance.

Mike Olson

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2012, 04:46:08 PM »
I dislike the bloat in PC hit points and the removal of monster level. Monster level is a useful gauge, and currently required for several moves like Turn Undead.
Well, in all fairness, Turn Undead doesn't reference monster levels anymore.

Quote
It seems like DW has needlessly bloated both PC hitpoints and monster damage to excessive levels.
Well, I can see the reasoning behind boosting PC HP and monster damage. Before, a monster that did, say, 8 damage was a concern for 1st-level PCs, but the average rate of HP gain meant that after a level or two 8 damage just wasn't a big deal anymore, which meant that those monsters could easily became irrelevant or not much of a threat. However, if PCs start with more HP but gain them more slowly, and that same monster does 20-ish damage, they're a threat for longer -- you get more out of that real estate in the book over time.

Glitch

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2012, 07:17:05 PM »
Turn Undead was just rectified in 1.1, right.  The new wording had it affecting mindless undead only.  I think it's the best possible solution considering the removal of monster level.

The problem of monsters losing their punch could also have been solved by reducing the amount of hp PCs gain when leveling.  Maybe have them roll for HP like in classic D&D.

I guess I always try to reign in runaway stat bloat as much as possible in a design.  I hear Wizards are doing the same thing with D&D Next design.  Hopefully 5E won't need monsters with 1500 hp anymore :)

A final thought about that missing dramatic monster damage roll.  I realize now that it's been offloaded in a way to the Last Breath move, so it's not gone completely.

Mike Olson

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2012, 07:30:11 PM »
The problem of monsters losing their punch could also have been solved by reducing the amount of hp PCs gain when leveling.  Maybe have them roll for HP like in classic D&D.
You do roll for HP, though, at least when you level -- although the least you can gain is your class's Base HP, so everyone's going to have a significant HP gain relative to their current total. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Of course, it's worth noting that you're not necessarily under any compulsion to have a monster deal its damage. There are any number of other options available. It's just that if a monster's damage is likely to kill a PC outright, I don't really feel like "dealing damage" is one of those options anymore, most of the time.

Glitch

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2012, 08:24:07 PM »
>>Of course, it's worth noting that you're not necessarily under any compulsion to have a monster deal its damage. There are any number of other options available. It's just that if a monster's damage is likely to kill a PC outright, I don't really feel like "dealing damage" is one of those options anymore, most of the time.<<

You hit the nail on the head as to why I don't like the static monster damage.  I even wrote Sage about this very thing.  With static damage, the decision to "kill" a PC is squarely in the hands of the GM, with their choice of move.

If monster damage were variable, then you avoid this awkward situation, and you gain the adventage of those very dramatic monster damage rolls where the fate of the PC is in the hands of the dice.

I find it uncomfortable ... the foreknowledge that Deal Damage will knock a PC to zero colors the GM's decision to use it.

That's why I house rule the following:

- variable monster damage
- PC's really roll their hit dice when gaining level

It's pretty easy to adjust the monsters on the fly to determine their level and their damage output, and I feel it adds more fun to the game.

John Harper

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 08:58:35 AM »
To the original point, it looks like putting that multiplier into the monster builder is part of what's throwing the damage off. Multipliers are dangerous.

I like the new PC hit point totals. I like to throw incidental damage around on misses (when exploring etc.), and it lets me do that without always killing the wizard. :)

Seems like the damage numbers might need some more tweaking, though.

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2012, 10:58:58 AM »
I'm still not sure how you arrived at those numbers. Has anyone written them down somewhere? I would love a nudge in the right direction. Right now I'm still just guessing.

Mike Olson

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2012, 11:07:36 AM »
I'm still not sure how you arrived at those numbers. Has anyone written them down somewhere? I would love a nudge in the right direction. Right now I'm still just guessing.
Which numbers -- the 24-damage numbers or the eyballin'-it numbers? The former come right from the guidelines on pages 154-155 of Beta 1.1. The latter are from, obviously, eyeballin' it (using the pre-Beta document).

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2012, 01:16:08 PM »
Edit: Got the latest version and I now see what you mean. I am taking the damage totals to mean how much damage the group as a whole does. What I'm doing is coming up with the total and dividing it into how many creatures are in X group.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 05:18:27 PM by JBMannon »

Mike Olson

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2012, 05:14:30 PM »
The only straight mechanical bits that I'm seeing on those pages are "What is its most important defense" and "Which of these describe it" sections.
Is it possible you're looking at the first iteration of the Beta release? That one was lacking a lot of the numbers I referenced above.

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2012, 05:20:16 PM »
That id exactly the problem I was having. Just edited the post. Thanks.