D&D 4th Edition Working in the Game Mine - Page 18


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  1. #171
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ratskinner View Post
    I think, as much as I like 4e's monster design philosophy, that the roles perhaps stood out a little too strongly. Perhaps they have it backwards. Don't start with role and then add a skin for the monster flavor. Start with the monster core and then skin with roles. Perhaps roles should even be monster themes that you could ignore for a more old-school feel. Even so, I have some reservations about how that affects different types of monsters. It sounds fine for humanoids and the like, but I'm not sure how well that works for say....manticores.
    Start with the monster core and then skin with roles works ok until you run into the problem that 4E was trying to solve with roles in the first place. It's most obvious when you consider adding caster class levels to monsters in 3E. Adding 1 or 2 levels of sorcerer or cleric or wizard or druid isn't a big enough deal to matter much what monster you do it to, once you get past CR 3 or 4, but adding 6+ levels is. You start with something like a mind flayer, 6 levels of caster is significant. You start with a hill giant, it isn't chicken feed, but nothing compared to what 6+ levels of barbarian would do.


    At that point, the meaning of "level" has gotten really fuzzy--thus the wonky adjustment math that grew up around this issue. What a lot of people wanted was either:
    • I'm making a hill giant barbarian or hill giant druid. How many levels do I need to get him to do what I want? Then what is the real CR?
    • I'm making a hlll giant barbarian or hill giant druid of CR N. How many levels do I add to get that?
    Where in this example, "CR" means the real number that can be compared to other CRs and work, not the formula in 3E that often broke down under such manipulation. At some point in the first forumulation, you reached a point where "druid" became more important than whatever the hill giant brought to the table, and this might not be where you were going with druid when you started there. Obviously, the caster level issues had a lot to do with this, because if all you really wanted was a hill giant that could do a handful of druid-like spells of 2nd and 3rd level, but that were challenging to opponents of a hill giant, you had to reach a bit.

    Presumably, you could get to somewhere similar with a 1E/3E/4E mix, perhaps with something like "role" in a slightly different context, and as the middle step out of three. That is, you start with 1E monster. Then you apply an 4E-ish role (if needed) to establish a new baseline, maybe as simple as "dvine caster". Then on top of that you add, as per 3E, whatever cleric, druid, etc. levels you need.

    In my example above, you go to manipulate your hill giant. He's already ready for barbarian stuff. So you don't need a role and/or it already has a "brute" default role. Ergo, tacking on barbarian levels has an expected effect. Then you decide to make a druidic shaman. You take the same base hill giant and assign "divine caster" role. This changes the base creature, possibly moving power up or down (depending upon whether you retain its full "brute" strength). Now with this divine caster hill giant, you can slap on as many druid levels as makes sense.

    That won't match 4E in fast to build monsters, but it would address that 3E problem of getting real numbers for challenges that work and mean something.

 

  • #172
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    He is.
    Nope! Because the question said "in the sense of defining abilities". I haven't said anything about abilities. Our discussion was in the context of hit points, saves, etc. Basic stat stuff. You read too much into it.

  • #173
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fifth Element View Post
    Nope! Because the question said "in the sense of defining abilities". I haven't said anything about abilities. Our discussion was in the context of hit points, saves, etc. Basic stat stuff.
    What you say here is exactly what I had in mind when I posed my (rhetorical) question, and worded it as I did.

  • #174
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    What I do like about the 3e design is that I can easily identify where the monster gets everything on its sheet. What comes from its class, or advancement, and what is racial.
    Why does this matter? I mean, beyond being a set of mechanical devices for building monsters (occupying the same functional space as HD in classic D&D and level + role in 4e), what is it adding to the game? For example, I don't see how it answers any questions that might arise about the nature, or context, or backstory of the creature in the fiction.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    I can tell immediately what would be there at level one and what would change (or level up) if I advance it.
    D&D is no different in this respect. Every level up/down adds/subtracts 1 from defences, attack bonuses and damage, 1/2 from initiative, perception, skill and stat bonuses, and 6, 8 or 10 from hp (depending on role).

    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    With 4e design, on a practical sense, I can swap out powers or do advancement to get a higher monster but since there is nothing but racial abilities I can't as easily eliminate the racial from the 'skullcleaver' when I want to make a completely unique form of the creature.
    Why wouldn't you just build the monster you want? If you think it would be cool to have an Ogre that can do Goblin Tactics, just do it. It's almost certainly not going to break your game!

    I still haven't really worked out what you think is at stake. Why can't you just decide what your unique skullcleaver looks like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tovec View Post
    I have the skill to do it but having a index of what is 'monsterclass' and what isn't would be more helpful
    I guess my question is, helpful for what? What difference does it make to the content, accessibility or interest of the fiction?

  • #175
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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    What you say here is exactly what I had in mind when I posed my (rhetorical) question, and worded it as I did.
    I suspected as much, and I appreciate the consideration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post
    I guess my question is, helpful for what? What difference does it make to the content, accessibility or interest of the fiction?
    My guess would be, "Not much". But never underestimate the joy some take in building with metaphorical Legos, which seems to be what he's advocating for.

  • #177
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    Ignore Ratskinner
    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Jerome View Post
    Start with the monster core and then skin with roles works ok until you run into the problem that 4E was trying to solve with roles in the first place. It's most obvious when you consider adding caster class levels to monsters in 3E. Adding 1 or 2 levels of sorcerer or cleric or wizard or druid isn't a big enough deal to matter much what monster you do it to, once you get past CR 3 or 4, but adding 6+ levels is. You start with something like a mind flayer, 6 levels of caster is significant. You start with a hill giant, it isn't chicken feed, but nothing compared to what 6+ levels of barbarian would do.
    I don't think that's necessarily true. Just because you're not doing it like 4e, doesn't mean that you have to do it like 3e. I'm looking at the way they've set up PCs and thinking that's a model. So, maybe the default Hill Giant theme is "Rock Chucker" or "Brute", if you replace it with "Shaman" you get some relevant spell-like abilities and changes to base stats. The definition of the "Shaman" theme could either have specific abilities attached, or perhaps something like "choose three druid spells of level no higher than half the creature's level." Old(er) school games could restrict themselves to the default themes or ignore them entirely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crazy Jerome View Post
    At that point, the meaning of "level" has gotten really fuzzy--thus the wonky adjustment math that grew up around this issue. What a lot of people wanted was either:
    • I'm making a hill giant barbarian or hill giant druid. How many levels do I need to get him to do what I want? Then what is the real CR?
    • I'm making a hlll giant barbarian or hill giant druid of CR N. How many levels do I add to get that?

    Where in this example, "CR" means the real number that can be compared to other CRs and work, not the formula in 3E that often broke down under such manipulation. At some point in the first forumulation, you reached a point where "druid" became more important than whatever the hill giant brought to the table, and this might not be where you were going with druid when you started there. Obviously, the caster level issues had a lot to do with this, because if all you really wanted was a hill giant that could do a handful of druid-like spells of 2nd and 3rd level, but that were challenging to opponents of a hill giant, you had to reach a bit.

    Presumably, you could get to somewhere similar with a 1E/3E/4E mix, perhaps with something like "role" in a slightly different context, and as the middle step out of three. That is, you start with 1E monster. Then you apply an 4E-ish role (if needed) to establish a new baseline, maybe as simple as "dvine caster". Then on top of that you add, as per 3E, whatever cleric, druid, etc. levels you need.

    In my example above, you go to manipulate your hill giant. He's already ready for barbarian stuff. So you don't need a role and/or it already has a "brute" default role. Ergo, tacking on barbarian levels has an expected effect. Then you decide to make a druidic shaman. You take the same base hill giant and assign "divine caster" role. This changes the base creature, possibly moving power up or down (depending upon whether you retain its full "brute" strength). Now with this divine caster hill giant, you can slap on as many druid levels as makes sense.

    That won't match 4E in fast to build monsters, but it would address that 3E problem of getting real numbers for challenges that work and mean something.
    Ye gods. With the exception of PC races, I don't want to be "adding levels of X" to things again. I think its workable in far simpler construction than you've suggested, in particular by making monster themes level-aware. So maybe the "Brawler" theme says "add 10 hp plus 2 hp for each level of the creature" and then gives it a relevant attack ability that does "1d8 +2 for each level damage". I do feel that "casters" are the important breaking point, but I don't think that adding levels of a casting class is the only solution. As I mentioned above and inspired by 4e, you've really only got to worry about a handful of spells/abilities, key the lower level stuff in as either constant abilities/auras or base stats. (Keep in mind, instead of just a handful of "role" themes, these themes could be far more specific with a wide variety of flavors.")

    What I'm not sure of is things like Solo-Elite-Minion. Months ago, they were talking like Bounded accuracy would let HP and damage create this effect naturally, but I'm not sure what that means for "Goblin Chieftains" and their ilk. Having a separate 3rd level "Goblin Chieftain" core in addition to the 1st level "Goblin" core sounds rather lame. Perhaps there would be a special set of themes that did modify the level of the creature. I dunno.

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