Author Topic: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?  (Read 30246 times)

Mike Olson

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2012, 06:04:06 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.
There's a certain logic to this, but the math would be off -- now a monster that should reliably kill a soldier (base 6) when acting in a group of five (basex4) does less damage than one acting in a group of four (5 damage vs. 6 damage). I'm not saying any of this has to be realistic, per se, but internal consistency would be good.

It also means that this soldier-killin' monster doesn't actually pose much of threat to that soldier anymore. The average 1st-level Fighter is likely to have around 23 HP (assuming a 15 Con, which isn't too unreasonable). Now instead of potentially one-shotting that guy, the monster will have to damage him four times to kill him.

And if "soldier" doesn't have any correlation to "Fighter," then gauging the monster against a "soldier" doesn't really help me figure out what it can do. My monsters aren't going to fighting vaguely defined NPCs -- they're going to be fighting PCs. If I can't draw an equivalency there, then maybe it'd be more helpful to use something like character level instead of that "base" number. In fact, if I need to get an idea of how a monster stacks up against PCs of various levels, I might as well just assign the monster itself a level OH WAIT.

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2012, 06:54:33 PM »
There's a certain logic to this, but the math would be off -- now a monster that should reliably kill a soldier (base 6) when acting in a group of five (basex4) does less damage than one acting in a group of four (5 damage vs. 6 damage). I'm not saying any of this has to be realistic, per se, but internal consistency would be good.

For me the logic is that the groups organize themselves organicly into groups of relitively even power. So a bunch of weaker monsters will group together while the more hard-ass will have smaller groups. 

It also means that this soldier-killin' monster doesn't actually pose much of threat to that soldier anymore. The average 1st-level Fighter is likely to have around 23 HP (assuming a 15 Con, which isn't too unreasonable). Now instead of potentially one-shotting that guy, the monster will have to damage him four times to kill him. 

I don't see a one-shot kill being a "fair fight". Two to five attacks with the armor and HP to say in the fight fits my definition of what a fair fight should look like. I also take into account what the group should be able to handle not just one individual. 

And if "soldier" doesn't have any correlation to "Fighter," then gauging the monster against a "soldier" doesn't really help me figure out what it can do. My monsters aren't going to fighting vaguely defined NPCs -- they're going to be fighting PCs. If I can't draw an equivalency there, then maybe it'd be more helpful to use something like character level instead of that "base" number. In fact, if I need to get an idea of how a monster stacks up against PCs of various levels, I might as well just assign the monster itself a level OH WAIT.

I'm all for giving monsters levels and using the questions to modify that base but for now I'm going with what is written. I am almost certainly going to have to "de-level "one of the monsters I created today to make it fit into an adventure for first level players. Other wise it is completely invulnerable to the party (6 Armor and 44 HP)!

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2012, 06:56:45 PM »
Lots of good thoughts here.

For the record, all this damage was reverse engineered from player HP. The bands (described by what it can kill) correspond to rough level ranges. "Rough" is important because it's not an exact match at all, which is what monster level implied.

Monster level is not coming back unless things get really dire. It didn't really represent anything in the fiction, it was just a way of deciding how tough something should be without actually saying why. There are still some dangling references to it in the rules, but those will be fixed.

We're going to take another look at how to assign damage. Some things that we're looking at:

Get away from talking about people (peasants, guards) and instead talk about what they threaten. Like goblins: they're trouble for a village, but not for a keep. That keeps the fictional basis but removes comparing PCs to people of differing skills.

Mess with the group modifier. We want some reflection of "big bad lone wolf" and "pack of cannon fodder" and we want to keep the math simple. I had originally done a version with more fine tuning, but more math, and that's not really what we want.

Put more weight on the final group of questions. I love the final questions so much. They really bring the creature into focus. I want to write more of them, but I also want to keep it simple and compact, which is tough.


Thanks to everyone for your thoughts, please keep them coming.

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2012, 07:14:21 PM »
Get away from talking about people (peasants, guards) and instead talk about what they threaten. Like goblins: they're trouble for a village, but not for a keep. That keeps the fictional basis but removes comparing PCs to people of differing skills.

Just doing a quick gut check this sounds like you may want to keep what you have (modified of course) and add this in. Having both a personal level and a cultural level to it would make the monsters easier to envision.

Put more weight on the final group of questions. I love the final questions so much. They really bring the creature into focus. I want to write more of them, but I also want to keep it simple and compact, which is tough.

The final question with it's associated answers was really powerful and helped make each monster feel special. More options there would be great! Also, they already somewhat suggest moves that that sort of monster could do but suggested moves probably wouldn't be a bad idea there.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2012, 07:21:44 PM »
I was actually thinking of "What does it endanger?" (or something like that, I don't like that wording) as replacing "What can it kill?" Like this:

What can it endanger?
-A defenseless village (base 1)
-A defended town (base 3)
-A keep (base 5)
-A castle (base 7)
-A city (base 9)

This is just something I've been thinking about, I haven't even talked it over with Adam, but feel free to comment.

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #20 on: February 03, 2012, 07:58:49 PM »
What about making it:

What can it endanger?
-A distant homestead (base 1)
-A defenseless village (base 2)
-A defended town (base 3)
-A keep (base 5)
-A castle (base 7)
-A city (base 9)

That gives you a little bit more of a buffer for wandering monster types. But as I think about it I'm thinking wandering monster types might do better on the chart as it already exists.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2012, 08:03:29 PM »
The more I think about this the more I think the problem is not in the numbers generated, but in the fiction we tied those numbers to.

The "what can it kill" answers are probably not right. Not because the numbers are wrong, but because "a soldier" could totally be a first level fighter. In fact, I'd guess a lot of first level fighters are ex-military. That creates this clash of expectations because the math behind "can kill a soldier" is WAY to tough for a low level character.

The multiplication is intentional because player HP diverges at a similar rate. The fighter's HP gap over the wizard is always increasing so the range of monster damages also increase. Fictionally, once you hit a certain level of dangerousness the amount of damage can be pretty diverse since there are so many other factors in play.

So I think the mistake is making the question that gives you base damage 6 something that you might think a first level character can take on. They can't! base damage 6 is something that a first level character needs to avoid.

Does that make sense? Is the problem that you never want to see that Iron Dwarf with 24 damage or that you just don't see how you get him at first level?

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2012, 08:19:08 PM »
I think the problem may also be in how static the numbers are. If you presented a range for each tier people may be able to judge it better. I've already done this with the HP tiers. Here is what my monster making notes look like for What environment spawned it?

•  Naturally safe places— HP 3-9
•  Inhospitable places— HP 9-15
•  Dangerous places— HP 15-24
•  Twisted places— HP 24-40
•  The planes—  HP 40-80

That gives me a range to work within to make each monster unique.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2012, 08:25:31 PM »
Sure, but why give a range? Why choose higher or lower in that range?

Glitch

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2012, 08:29:46 PM »
I'm confused about the Monster damage related to Monster groups.

How does it usually hunt or fight?
As part of a large group (5+) of creatures (damage=base × 3)
As part of a small group (2–5) of creatures (damage=base × 4)
As the leader of other creatures (damage=base × 5)
All by its lonesome (damage=base × 6)

I don't grok the logic of why the Monster's social behavior should impact it's damage.  A tiger might hunt alone, and be capable of defeating a knight in a fair fight (base 8).  So, by this logic, its damage should be (8x6) 48.  Is this assuming a knight has 48 hitpoints generally?

JBMannon

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2012, 08:36:07 PM »
I like the range because it allows me to stay true to the environment the monster is from while allowing me room to taylor the monster for it's place within that environment. It also gives you wiggle room to try and help fit the monster into lower or higher level adventures.

Dan Maruschak

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2012, 08:41:06 PM »
Part of my problem is the granularity. Going from peasant to guard doubles the damage. I think I'd like some more options in the low range to create monsters that aren't ridiculous threats to 1st level PCs. Another part is just that each attack has such a huge impact -- I had some cultist goons that did 8 damage each (which is basically the minimum) which is like 2 or 3 hits on a first level PC. These big numbers make the minor variations, like getting 2 points of healing from a Paladin's lay on hands, seem less impactful. It also makes the GM's "should I do damage or a softer move?" decision very weighty, to the extent that I was feeling uncomfortable in my session last night. Also, with the possibility of doing one-shot-kills with guard-killing-solos there's no room for error on the PCs part: if they erroneously think they can take a shot from this thing they'll find out they're wrong when they're rolling Last Breath.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2012, 08:41:12 PM »
Sounds like we weren't clear: you answer the first question while thinking about the second as well. The first question could be expanded to "Fighting in its normal grouping, what can it kill?"

So if a tiger can kill a soldier in a group, it has X damage. If a tiger can kill a soldier on its own, it has Y damage, X < Y.

The difference is between, say goblins who can kill a player character maybe in a large group, and a stone golem who might be able to kill a player one-on-one.




To answer a few other tangents:

Player HP at first level has increased but overall the increase is pretty small. Player damage has not increased dramatically. So: no monsters with thousands (or even hundreds) of HP. Tenth level tough characters will break 100 HP, but not by too much. That isn't all that different from the old system. As someone mentioned, the big difference is that first level monsters can now threaten everyone. Before it was tough to find something that could get past the Paladin's armor and not flat-out kill the Wizard.

Random monster damage is an option. You'll see it in the hacking chapter. Simple version: if the monster does 20 or less damage, add +1d4 damage. If it does 21-40, +2d4, and so on. This raises lethality a bit, if you want to counter that subtract 2 for each d4 added.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2012, 08:47:46 PM »
I like the range because it allows me to stay true to the environment the monster is from while allowing me room to taylor the monster for it's place within that environment. It also gives you wiggle room to try and help fit the monster into lower or higher level adventures.

I don't think that damage, HP, or armor is the place to represent that stuff. The difference between +1 and -1 in any of those (except Armor) is negligible. The numbers are the least important part of a monster. The moves and instinct are the really important part.

The problem I have with ranges is that it gives the GM one more step to take to get to a monster. And it's not a particularly important one. Picking between 3 and 9 damage without a fictional reflection of that is not particularly important, but now the GM has to think about it. I'd prefer if that GM just got a base number, then looked at the fiction and maybe modified it.

sage

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Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2012, 09:06:39 PM »
Part of my problem is the granularity. Going from peasant to guard doubles the damage. I think I'd like some more options in the low range to create monsters that aren't ridiculous threats to 1st level PCs. Another part is just that each attack has such a huge impact -- I had some cultist goons that did 8 damage each (which is basically the minimum) which is like 2 or 3 hits on a first level PC. These big numbers make the minor variations, like getting 2 points of healing from a Paladin's lay on hands, seem less impactful. It also makes the GM's "should I do damage or a softer move?" decision very weighty, to the extent that I was feeling uncomfortable in my session last night. Also, with the possibility of doing one-shot-kills with guard-killing-solos there's no room for error on the PCs part: if they erroneously think they can take a shot from this thing they'll find out they're wrong when they're rolling Last Breath.

First level characters shouldn't be facing "guard killing" stuff for the most part. (This just points out that we need to change it from "guard killing" cause that's just not right.) We need to make this clear: choosing a higher "can kill" option is a BIG deal. It's like making a monster "higher level" in the sense that it's definitively more dangerous.

2-3 hits was what we were looking for! Which means we need to communicate what you're making more clearly, but that's what a monster should do. "Can kill peasants in a party" was supposed to mean something like "a party of these can fight against a party of adventurers and not be foolish."

We've actually got spreadsheets galore on this to make sure that we're saying what we meant to with the stats. Our goal was that a small group peasant killer would be a danger in a one-on-one fight with most PCs. PC HP and Armor at first level ranges from 13 (1 Armor) to 23 (3 Armor). The small group peasant killer (8 damage) can kill low HP one in two hits, barely. The tough one can take 4 hits and still be standing. The in-betweens can take 2 hits.

I think maybe the problem is that "can kill peasants in a small group" doesn't match up to "can go toe-to-toe with a player character." In retrospect that's super obvious! But the math there was what we intended. The squishy PC can take a hit, but then they gotta think twice. The tough PC can take a hit and not flinch.

Then you get to monsters that can kill a peasant on their own. The idea was that meant "dangerous to a whole party of low level characters." (Again, when written like that I can see that we used the completely wrong term. Killing a peasant one-on-one is something a tough goblin can do!) That follows through to the numbers: anybody but the toughest of the tough can only take one hit (but no one dies in one hit either).

Why so few hits? Because combats are quick. Monsters are paper tigers. A fight is a quick bloody thing, not a slog. Your monsters won't be around for long, but while they are here they'll be painful. After a fight the players will need to heal most definitely. They may even need to make camp. Things snowball: a fight isn't just an event that we forget about, it ripples out through everything. There are no throw-away fights.

The paladin's healing not being very useful is certainly useful information though. We've had a hell of a time dealing with the healing niches and we'll keep working on it.