I think we are coming from a different place Mike. I was referring to the new section on making monsters 'on the fly' that Adam is so proud of. We play pretty loose and without much prep. I'm not talking about adjusting a pre-prepared stat block and fudging it after I've fictionally 'set up' the monster for the characters to interact with.
I was discussing the rules as written as you introduce a monster into the story (having done no prep) using the lists and questions suggested. This is where I was coming from:
Your first agenda is to "Make the world fantastic". This shines through strongly based on how you think about monsters. Everyone and everything who comes up against the players is a monster but that doesn't mean you have to write their stats out ahead of time. In a fantastic world, every goblin might end up in a fight but you don't have to know their HP before that happens. A monster is so simple to make you can jump right into the fiction, describing whatever you want and back it up with stats as you need them. Make the world fantastic: describe your monsters first and worry about their stats later.
I've been practicing using the rules as written - no houserules - with these questions in play, both with a new group of 1st level characters and an ongoing game with advanced characters. I've found that knowing how many HP my PCs have is essential in this process of me being a fan of the characters
. So much so, I've taken to having visual piles of HP tokens (red glass beads) for them.
I have become comfortable in using these questions on monster design to determine the damage they deal. I know
that my kobold guttersnipes that hunt in a pack (usually) and would threaten a peasant deal 6 damage. I also know
that a big bad dragon that threatens a legendary hero and fights on its lonesome deals 60-68 damage(AP) at all ranges!
Even if I wasn't familiar with these guidelines, the example monsters do give me some frameworks to make my own (balancing them against the characters if I like). Say the players author in some sketetal bugbears into the fiction and I have a 'mental blank' as I try and ask the monster creation questions? I can just go off the stat block for skeletons but bump their damage dealt and add a cool move or two. This is not
A monster is any living (or undead) thing that stands in the players' way. How you use these monsters follows directly from your Agenda and Principles. Stay true to your principles, use your moves and pursue your agenda—you can't go wrong.
When adding a monster to a front, placing them in a dungeon or making them up on the fly your first responsibility is to the fiction (Make the world fantastic) and to give the characters a real threat (Make the characters heroes), not to make a balanced fight. Dungeon World isn't about balancing encounter levels or counting experience points; it's about telling stories about adventure and death-defying feats......
When using damage this high make sure to use moves to make this apparent before you start doling out the killing blows. In particular Show Signs of Doom. Damage at this level can kill the unprepared in a single blow so give your players a bit of warning. Smoke drifting from the dragons’ nostrils or the black glow of necrotic energy in the talons of the wight.
The last set of monster building guidelines (which used levels) were basically the same, except damage was based on level, not threat and group size. It was (and always will be) still a GM call. If I want one of my kobold guttersnipes to deal 8 damage cause he's a wanna be dragon priest named Krish-snak the daring, then I can! This is playing by the rules. I may even give him the instinct of 'fight to to death for the honour of my Dragon God' and the move 'bite hard and not let go'. All still by the rules as written
The fine point I think that needs to be made is:
When running Dungeon World as the GM you say these things:
What the rules demand
What the adventure demands
What honesty demands
What the principles demand
Specifically, that preparation is just that, preparation. It isn't imbedded into the fiction until you author it in. But:
Flexibility is key when planning: what happens during character creation [or in play] trumps anything you wrote ahead of time... Once you tell the players it's set in stone, no going back on it.... Don't be afraid to say "I don't know" and ask them the same questions; work together to find a fantastic and interesting answer.
Share the ideas you've brought to the table (either general ones or even a specific dungeon).... All the ideas and visions in your head don't really exist in the fiction of the game until you share them, describe them and detail them. Until the players agree, it's just your idea. Once they nod their heads, it's part of the game....
So once you decide on a monster's damage and you deal it
, it's there in the fiction and you can't retcon it. Prior to that its just an idea, a means of challenging the PCs. I would suggest also that Damage is the least cool thing about your monsters and the most banal way of challenging the PCs.
Elements of a Monster
The most important part of a monster is what it does. These are it's moves. Just like the normal GM moves, they're things that you do when there's a lull in the action or when the players give you a golden opportunity. Just like the normal GM moves they can be hard or soft depending on the circumstances and the move: a move that's irreversible and immediate is hard, a move that's impending or mitigable is soft.