Author Topic: Monsters - I am confused  (Read 28932 times)

azato

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Monsters - I am confused
« on: May 13, 2012, 01:26:09 AM »
Will hopefully be running a DW game in the next few weeks but the paradigm has me confused....

Lets take the EARTH ELEMENTAL in the Beta...

I understand solitary; I understand huge; and I understand Reach.... But when I get to  Forceful...what does that mean? Also, Turn the Ground into a Weapon...or even Meld to stone?

Are these given with the assumption that the DM can derive their own mechanic or am I missing something?

noofy

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2012, 05:21:34 AM »
Hi Azato!
Glad to hear you are running DW with Earth Elementals, should be fun!
The questions you ask are all to do with Tags. Tags are narrative cues for the fiction that may sometimes have a mechanical (move) iteration or mechanical effect like Damage or Carry forward. Most of the time though, their fictional impact on the story far outweighs any need for mechanical specifics.

Quote
Forceful: It can knock someone back a pace, maybe even off their feet.
p.104

Turning the ground into a weapon and Meld to stone are monster moves. They encapsulate the monster and give you fictional cues to antagonise the players with their instinct, in the case of the Earth Elemental; its instinct is to show the strength of the earth.

Quote
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.
p190.


So when you get to make a move (say the players miss a roll) whilst encountering the Elemental, it wants to show them the strength of the earth against their pitiful flesh. Maybe it grinds the earth beneath their feet to quicksand, or hurls boulders at them, or maybe it just wraps around them, encasing them in the earth and melding them into stone...

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 01:31:03 PM »
Actually Earth Elemental was the first one, scanning through from the beginning, that I could come up with questions about. Not sure what my first adventure will have.

It says that the Special Quality is "Made of Stone" and its Armor is 4.  Does that mean that MADE OF STONE could be used to make the impervious to things ("Your sword does nothing Bart, because the elemental is MADE OF STONE?") but for other things it is treated as an AC4?

Also, lets take the Purple Worm. It s GINORMOUS but it has 20 HP and 2 Armor whereas the Elemental had like 27. What is to keep a few good swipes of  sword from killing this giant beast?

noofy

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 09:54:45 PM »
Well, it is an earth elemental after all! I can't see how hitting it with a sword is going to hurt it at all? Perhaps magical damage or other elemental damage - Fire, water, air?

Think ways other than fighting with the elemental to antagonise the players too...

iserith

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 10:25:19 PM »
Yeah, a sword probably wouldn't do much if anything to the earth elemental. You're better off taking it down with a hammer and chisel. Anyone got that?

For the purple worm, it burrows, possibly creating sinkholes to separate and isolate the characters, bursts from the ground to some devastating effect, exposes only very little of its body while it does its thing. And the part that's exposed is simply too tough for the average weapon to get through whereas its backside or innards might be a different story, so chase it through the tunnels or get swallowed?

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2012, 03:25:52 AM »
Just out of curiosity...why not make a Purple Worm have 250 HP? or even 2000HP? I don't see anything in the tags that wouldn't make me think that, given the AC and the HP, that a few good swings would take it down.

I am not trying to nit pick...just trying to understand the paradigm.

skinnyghost

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2012, 04:54:01 AM »
Just out of curiosity...why not make a Purple Worm have 250 HP? or even 2000HP? I don't see anything in the tags that wouldn't make me think that, given the AC and the HP, that a few good swings would take it down.

I am not trying to nit pick...just trying to understand the paradigm.

So, the descriptive text of the Purple Worm, in this case, indicates it can create "miles of tunnels" and it has a "tooth-ringed maw" and that it's capable, in some fashion, of eating "homes and villages".

Mechanically, it's instinct is to consume and it can "swallow whole" and "tunnel through stone and earth" and it has the tags "reach" and "forceful" but there's nothing to near-invincibility.  Just massive hunger.  It's a worm, right?  Squishy, relatively.

In this case, the Purple Worm is defended by its AC and has some HP.  If you wanted the Massive Purple Worm or the God of All Purple Worms, I'd use this as a framework and tack on "godlike size" or "invulnerable" as tags and give it moves like "crush, kill, destroy" or "lay waste to all in its shadow".

The Apocalypse Dragon is a prime example of tags being immensely important and illustrating how, in many ways, they supersede all else.  Tags, Special Qualities and Moves tell you what the monster can do and how it does it.  That includes defending itself.  The Dragon in question has "inch-thick metal hide" and can "act with perfect knowledge" which are narratively so much more important than its hit points.  If, somehow, you could pierce the hide and you were able to somehow plot to do so without the Dragon knowing and countering you, well, then, have at 'er, boss.

I guess what I mean is that having a tag like "nigh invincible" or "immortal" or a move like "shed skin and regain all health" force the players into that all-too-familiar old-school stance of "well shit, we can't just rush in and bang away at it" because those moves and tags tell the GM that a mere sword or bow just won't trigger Hack and Slash.

The moves are rules that kick in when the story fulfills their requirement - not something the players choose to do, if you catch my meaning.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 05:00:41 AM by skinnyghost »

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 11:17:40 AM »
Thanks all.  Looking at the bestiary it seems like many of the huge/large creatures do not have that many more HP than some of the normal sized ones. Hopefully, as I play it will make more sense....or I may modify it so it makes sense to me :) .

I plan to start small (ghouls and a possessing, evil ghost) and work my way from there. Who knows, the purple worms, and such, may be moot?

stras

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2012, 03:10:47 PM »
Azato,

We've all played ages of video games and 'classic' RPGs (with the classic fantasy tropes) where we're taught that fighting the monster is a matter of just doing enough papercuts that it falls down while living long enough to do so (the WoW or Final Fantasy model).

But in Tolkien Smaug wasted a village, killed thousands, but was killed by a single arrow placed correctly in a missing scale.

Think of these fights more in terms of literature and pacing instead of the classic 'they have X hp and we have to swing Y times with Q hits to drop it'.  The problem in this context is that there is no accounting for fiction, this is a mechanical solution (a simulation) of a sword doing consistent damage, and scaling monster HP to allow for the same tool (swing) to be applied to every problem (monster).

I had this problem.  I did a quadruple take when I read that a DRAGON has 16 hit points (a level 1 ranger can do that on a max damage roll).  However let me describe a fight to you and maybe this will give you the 'inkling' of what's happening.

So the party needed a magic item, and they researched and found that a hero wielding said item was slain by a dragon.  They get some info from a different dragon's drake-in-human-form servant, and go and steal said item.  Remember, magic in this world doesn't mean 'magic' in the +'s sense, but this spear can pierce souls and is thus necessary to defeat a sorcerer king.  Ok, so we have a very angry dragon about to attack something.  16 hp again - ready?

The party is riding back into town ready for a nice hot bath, some resupplies (their rations were running low), and a re-focus on hunting down the sorcerer king.  The moon goes out for a second, they feel the wind shift, and then something lands on city hall with a massive crack.  They have a few seconds to blink before they see a serpentine head snake down and shred a guardsman in mail in a single hit (announce future badness, this is the 'messy' tag).  They kick up the speed and head towards town.  I plop down paper, and quickly draw some snaking streets, sketch out some boxy houses, plop down a big die to represent the dragon.  As they're about to walk in, I pick up a handful of red tokens, and describe the inhalation they feel from this far, and the words in dragon-speech, and basically drop a pile of red on town and explain it's on fire and how the flames themselves are being shaped and commanded by the dragon.

Their horses freak.  They manage to get off (a few taking some damage from a panicked horse running and one being hit by a branch).  They start advancing through this hellish landscape, where an inconsistent shadow would swoop down and split someone in half, and people burning to death beg for mercy and help while holding swaddled children turning to ash in their arms.

The group starts to help the townsfolk (this is not a magical node, so the wizard can't just ritual up some rain) when a building shatters with the landing of a 4-5 ton creature, and it opens up it's pipes, it's golden eyes burning and it's metal hide resonates with a roar (terrifying).

Their charges scatter, the PC's have to defy their own terror to attack the thing.  They do negligible damage (yay 4 armor) for those that DO anything, and realize that the only person who has a shot at killing this is the armor-penetrating wizard spells.  Unfortunately, so does the dragon.

What ensues is horrific.  One fighter takes up defensive position, when the dragon strikes it doesn't just do 1d10+5 damage, it rips off his arm (messy remember?) and shreds mail like tissue paper.  It does breath weapon attacks that cause ALL of them to defy danger or burn.

The party breaks and runs.  The dragon laughs and settles to ash the village and eat any survivors.

The Dragon had 16 hit points.  The party did 9 to it before they left.  And when I said left, I mean they ran like rabbits into the night with few provisions, no easy means of recovering them, and no thoughts in their heads other than survival.

The moral of the story is it's not about the hitpoints.  In my 4e game the party had a dozen dragon kills under their belt.  The dragons were mechanically threatening, they were tricksy, they were tactical, but their claws and teeth didn't do damage, they did numbers.  After this session they explained that they had never been so scared of a monster.

Make the fights epic.  Use the fiction.  Describe their skin curling black from fire.  The bones shattering from the unyielding stone grasp of the earth elemental.  Most fights clean up the fiction by saying you take 5 damage.  Make it stick, make it hard to heal, make them scarred and battle hardened having earned every mark, and every wound a story.

You don't need 2500 hp to make a fight scary or hard.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 08:44:37 PM by stras »

iserith

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2012, 03:20:31 PM »
You will definitely get a better grasp of it by running a game. It's kind of hard to explain in the abstract.

The key, I think, is specificity, which can be a hard thing to start doing after years of running other games where abstraction is useful and expected. Strongly defining the threat of the monster in the fiction and getting specific actions stated by your players is very important. The more fiction you put out there in your description, the more "blocks" the characters have to get through to affect these great horrors. It's simply not enough to make base-to-base contact with your mini, make an attack roll, apply damage, and move on. Potentially, even getting into position to swing your sword at these monstrosities could be a harrowing exchange. This is a struggle to learn if you're used to other games. At least it has been for me and for some of my players.

... and it looks like stras jumped me on this one with a much better explanation!

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2012, 04:24:39 PM »
Thanks all....I think between the two of you I mostly get it. Looking forward to running a game.

iserith

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 05:37:01 PM »
Please let us know how your first experience goes.

I'd also be really interested in hearing what other people think about this topic. It's a very enlightening discussion. What have you done in your own games to make a monster a true and ominous threat rather than a bag of mechanics?

John Harper

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2012, 11:43:22 PM »
Stras: Kick-ass post, man. Awesome.

skinnyghost

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2012, 04:32:46 AM »
The nail, stras.  You hit it on the head.

sage

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2012, 03:58:25 PM »
stras, that is amazing. Can I quote that on my blog?