New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?

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sage

  • 549
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #60 on: February 14, 2012, 04:58:51 PM »
Here's some changes that are on my mind, as yet unvetted by Adam, which means they're just crazy ramblings.

The reason for keeping the reasoning behind the stats in the stat block is to allow the GM to make comparisons that are backed up by the stats. So, for example, a band of orcs and a gnoll raiding party. Even match? Slaughter? Just looking that numbers gets you part of the way there, but not all the way. I think it's useful information to have, but I may be wrong. We could also deemphasize it in the layout some.

Make HP's most important factor is size, then environment, but with a bigger modifier. Currently HP's most important factor is environment, with a small size modifier.

Update the "what can it cause trouble for" options to give a little broader scope. Show that these are meant to be equivalent to various specific areas, show that it's not just villages. Something like:
  • An isolated village or lawless slum: +0 damage
  • A defended village or poor district: +4 damage
  • A rural keep or guarded neighborhood: +8 damage
  • A garrisoned keep or noble household: +12 damage
  • An entire city: +16 damage
  • A capital city: +20 damage

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noofy

  • 777
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #61 on: February 14, 2012, 07:06:27 PM »
Not crazy at all! I like that update Sage. HP is a broad starting point for a monster's 'threat level', followed by fictional positioning and adjustment of HP / Damage on the fly by the GM. I think guidance on this matter (being a fan of the characters whilst challenging them) in the GM's section is just as vital as the numbers themselves.

I mean, you are making your move without stating it yes? So the players are unwares of the actual HP of the monsters (unless established by a spout lore or discern reality - in which case it should be a description of relative 'toughness' anyways), and only know their damage if engaged in some manner...

I think a samll range for size, followed by an environment mod, followed by a threat mod is an easy thing to adjudicate on the fly. Making characteristic attacks is the fun part, that involves getting down to the essence of the monster and enacting it in the fiction as you make your move.

We like to play with little red glass tokens for the PC's hitpoints, so I always have a rough idea of how much 'soak' they have, giving me another visual reference to how 'hard' a move or damage dealt I should be doing, considering the challenge to the players and the fictional ramifications through the relevent impending doom.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #62 on: February 16, 2012, 02:46:46 AM »
On a related note: If monsters are doing more damage now, and PCs have more HP, does anyone think Armor values should be a little higher?

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #63 on: February 16, 2012, 07:23:33 AM »
I have had players note that armor is pretty worthless when monsters are doing 4-5x the damage that armor is protecting from.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #64 on: February 16, 2012, 09:23:11 AM »
Or scale monster damage back like it was in the Red Book.  I felt there was a great balance there between PC hitpoints, monster hitpoints, damage, and armor.

I always like to reduce things down to the least common denominator :)

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sage

  • 549
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #65 on: February 16, 2012, 12:36:49 PM »
We're going to introduce a few more options for increasing armor. Having more HP gives us that option.

The problem with the Red Book numbers came down to the poor 0 Armor 3 HP Wizard. That was actually a pretty common case. Taking even 1 damage was a hug deal for that Wizard, while everyone else had at least 1 Armor. A well-armored fighter could even make it to 3 Armor, meaning an attack that wouldn't touch them could kill the low-Con wizard (and the low-con wizard is a pretty common choice).

Armor at first level is about where we want it. Just going with the base monster classes we've got 5, 7, or 9 damage. The well-armored character, the one we want to feel powerful, has 2-3 armor. That cuts weak attacks in half and absorbs 1/3-1/4 of strong attacks.

To keep roughly the same armor effect we need a few more ways of increasing armor, which we're adding. A high level character needs around +4 armor over their starting to still absorb about the same % of damage.

If we start raising armor too much we end up with the same situation as before: the 9 Con 0 Armor wizard who can't take an attack that barely scratches a tougher character.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #66 on: February 16, 2012, 02:42:27 PM »
Although I like the "squishy" wizard as an old D&D trope, it sounds like you're working hard on striking a good balance.  It'll be interesting to see what comes in the pipeline to give characters that +4 armor.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #67 on: February 18, 2012, 11:07:41 PM »
A question and some more damage thoughts.

Where does the 5/7/9 "base monster class" reference come from?  Is it not yet revealed or did I miss it in the Beta 1.1 doc or a thread here?

I'm running a Beta 1.1 playtest tomorrow but I'm setting the following guideline for what a scary single opponent looks like (not a faceless goblin or kobold, etc).  For my preferences, such a monster should *juuuust* one-shot kill a 1st level wizard who put an 8 in CON and was foolish enough to not be somewhere the party fighter could Defend him.  I think that means they do 12 damage!  What are other people thinking?
 
I think you guys are going to have a raft of people interested in making content/dungeons for Dungeon World and I think you should really concentrate on getting the monster/opposition build templates/rules as transparent as possible so that people are comfortable both in making content on-the-fly and for more carefully wrought scenarios.  One person's cannon fodder/lieutenants/bosses in a scenario intended for levels 4-6 should be similar to another persons.  To this end I think you should at least consider bringing back monster levels.  If not that, some other really clear scaling templates.  I don't think I can overstate how much interest in and audience/third-party creator potential are tied to this.

Maybe your current design direction will facilitate this just fine.  I'm just worried about it because I want to see a thousand dungeons bloom.

"Oh I see Maria has S3: The Idols of Blood coming out this fall...  You just *know* that'll be good."

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #68 on: February 19, 2012, 05:57:11 AM »
I'm running a Beta 1.1 playtest tomorrow but I'm setting the following guideline for what a scary single opponent looks like (not a faceless goblin or kobold, etc).  For my preferences, such a monster should *juuuust* one-shot kill a 1st level wizard who put an 8 in CON and was foolish enough to not be somewhere the party fighter could Defend him.  I think that means they do 12 damage!  What are other people thinking?
I think that'd be reasonable if Armor were more meaningful. Like, if the Fighter wearing plate armor could cut that 12 damage down to 6, I'd get the message that the monster's dangerous if you're not tough or protected. As it is, that 12's going to be just about as big a deal for my 15 Con, chainmail-wearing Fighter as it is for your 8 Con, unarmored Wizard.

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noofy

  • 777
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #69 on: February 19, 2012, 07:32:28 AM »
This isn't 4e though. Fighting is dangerous in Dungeon World. There are other ways of 'dealing with' monsters. Remember that Monsters are much more than just a name, some HP and damage. Wading in, even after the GM shows signs of doom? Then so be it.

A goblin is a goblin is a goblin. No wait, maybe this is Urgbad the bold, weilding a nasty serrated cleaver as he commands his tribe of goblin nutters and in your dungeon world he has the potential to deal 10 damage (enough to kill the Wizard with one blow). He even will give the Paladin in plate with a shield a pretty hefty whack when he hits him....

So you reveal that shit to the players! Spread rumours that they hear, have tales of previous adventurers that just barely survived Urgbad's onslaught! Make it matter, make it immersed in your world, encourage fictional depth to your players attempts to overcome the challenges you craft for them. Let the story emerge from these choices. Hack and slash is one of many possible moves, but it must stem from the fiction first.

If you are struggling to use the monster guidelines (mechanics) scale against your players, here is your advice, straight from the rules:
 
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If you're making a monster on the fly during a session start by describing it to the players. Your description starts before the characters even lay eyes on it: describe where it lives, what marks it has made on the environment around it. Your description is the key to the monster. 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....A monster stops being an arrow when it is given a chance to shine by the players' actions. When the players are forced to run away from something it gains weight. When a monster somehow survives the players' assault it becomes interesting to the players and to the world at large. The players are the heroes. Your monsters are only important when they become important to the heroes and, thus, important to the world.

If answering the questions is giving you something 'out of sorts' with what you expect, then change it! They are just guidelines after all. Perhaps then have a little chart based on HP? HP are simply resources that are expended. You know the levels / HP of your players right? Have a rough idea of how 'tough' a monster you want to throw at them and scan the appropriate damage dealt.

I would suggest though that their instincts and the fictional effects (via moves) that the monsters deal are far more powerful than the damage they deal. Use these as the arrows of your agenda, follow your principles and make Dungeon World a place filled with adventure.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #70 on: February 19, 2012, 07:55:17 AM »
Because many attacks take fictional positioning to set up, monster moves that affect the fiction, rather than deal damage, can undo players' fictional positioning.  In some ways, that is more punishing than taking their HP; which, up until the end, players can shrug off and continue getting their kill on. 

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noofy

  • 777
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #71 on: February 19, 2012, 08:09:08 AM »
Maybe it would help if the damage dealt part of the Monster's stat block wasn't on the first line (lowering its importance?) Perhaps if you wrote it under the monster moves as a bullet point? Thus it just becomes something you scan as a move for the monster to make when the players roll a 7-9 on Hack and slash?

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #72 on: February 19, 2012, 12:30:32 PM »
You know the levels / HP of your players right? Have a rough idea of how 'tough' a monster you want to throw at them and scan the appropriate damage dealt.
This would be one thing if we were talking about a game that's published and set in stone, because we could just say, "Yeah, I don't know how they came up with those numbers, but just ignore that stuff and do it like this." Because this is a game that's still in development, I think it's important to stick to the rules as much as possible -- otherwise, we're not really helping the development process along, right? The more I houserule, the less useful my feedback. I want to (and should be able to) use the process as written. The whole point of this thread is "When I build monsters the way I'm told, it produces some weird results."

I can eyeball monster damage and etc. just fine, but it feels pretty dishonest if I start adjusting numbers mid-fight.

Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #73 on: February 19, 2012, 01:06:28 PM »
That's a good point that I've been thinking about too, Mike.

Somewhere in the beta process, I think Adam and Sage will want a "Keep on the Shadowfell" baseline dungeon with fixed damage, armor and numbers of monsters in each "room" and ask playtesters to use that as written and report back how it goes with a fixed number of PCs. 

That might not be how most would want DW dungeons to be written/created/run going forward but it might be necessary for playtesting.

And maybe the dungeon should be for 5th level so more mid-level playtesting is done.

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noofy

  • 777
Re: New Monster Building Guideline Weirdness?
« Reply #74 on: February 19, 2012, 08:00:37 PM »
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:
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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 houseruling!

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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:
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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:

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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.

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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.