Complete Disagreement With Mike on Monsters (see post #205)

pemerton

Legend
Dr. Awkward said:
I don't know about that. What if skills have been simplified to the point where you get two or three good ones, and then level-based defaults in all the other ones. If the centaur has his two or three good skills defined, and Rope Use isn't one of them, then you know exactly what its Rope Use skill is because the system defines it in terms of the centaur's level or hit dice, and there's a table that lists Rope Use for all Xth level characters of the centaur's type.
Maybe, but I sort of hope not. I think it would be good for the game - and in particular, for the flexibility of building NPCs and monsters - to divorce hit dice from some notion of skill/experience/prowess.

Thus, for PCs, I think that things will be as you say - a PC will have a few good skills, and the rest will default to a level-based bonus a la Star Wars Saga.

But for a monster, I hope it will be possible to have a creature with a high hit dice, and perhaps a few good skills, without that therefore defining a default leve/hit-dice based skill bonus for the creature. For example, a Troll or Minotaur should have a reasonable number of hit dice to reflect its size and toughness (the alternative is giving a very high Con, but at a certain point this becomes a bit inane, eg if Str is 25 but Con 80), and a good Survival skill bonus to reflect its ability to track and live in the wild, but shouldn't get the default skill bonuses that a PC of the same hit dice enjoys. In the case of the PC, that default bonus represents generic heroic capability - the monster having no such capability should not enjoy the bonus.

As per my earlier post, however, that wouldn't mean that the GM couldn't give a particular Troll or Minotaur a particular skill bonus if that was appropriate for that monster (given it's in-game history, background etc and how that fits into the challenge the GM is trying to set for her or his players). What the rules then need to do is tell the GM how to calculate a challenge level/XP that corresponds to the skill bonus assigned.
 

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Hussar

Legend
Just to go back to the whole Monsters=Cthulu thing for a sec.

IMO, Mearl's wasn't referring to the flavour of monsters, but the comparison of monsters to PC's. In games like Mutants and Masterminds for example, the difference between the good guys and the bad guys are negligible from a mechanics standpoint. A superstrong bullet proof guy can be a hero or a villain.

OTOH, in D&D, there is a huge difference between the PC's and the monsters. Even if you use monstrous PC's, there's still a big difference. A 1st level PC doesn't come close to comparing in power to a very large part of the Monster Manual. Even a 10th level PC is easily overshadowed by a large chunk of the monsters. And, as you progress to the very highest levels, the monsters are still bigger than you.

This is the point he was making. Not that the monsters are beyond comprehension or anything like that, but, the power comparison between PC's and Monsters in D&D is closer to COC than Champions.
 

JoeGKushner

First Post
Hussar said:
Just to go back to the whole Monsters=Cthulu thing for a sec.

IMO, Mearl's wasn't referring to the flavour of monsters, but the comparison of monsters to PC's. In games like Mutants and Masterminds for example, the difference between the good guys and the bad guys are negligible from a mechanics standpoint. A superstrong bullet proof guy can be a hero or a villain.

OTOH, in D&D, there is a huge difference between the PC's and the monsters. Even if you use monstrous PC's, there's still a big difference. A 1st level PC doesn't come close to comparing in power to a very large part of the Monster Manual. Even a 10th level PC is easily overshadowed by a large chunk of the monsters. And, as you progress to the very highest levels, the monsters are still bigger than you.

This is the point he was making. Not that the monsters are beyond comprehension or anything like that, but, the power comparison between PC's and Monsters in D&D is closer to COC than Champions.


That still makes no sense because in M&M a 10th level 'normal' Champion can be fighting a 20th level one. A 250 point character in Champions can be fighting a 1000 point boss guy and better hope that he and his friends have teamwork to add up the stun that gets past.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
pemerton said:
But for a monster, I hope it will be possible to have a creature with a high hit dice, and perhaps a few good skills, without that therefore defining a default leve/hit-dice based skill bonus for the creature. For example, a Troll or Minotaur should have a reasonable number of hit dice to reflect its size and toughness (the alternative is giving a very high Con, but at a certain point this becomes a bit inane, eg if Str is 25 but Con 80), and a good Survival skill bonus to reflect its ability to track and live in the wild, but shouldn't get the default skill bonuses that a PC of the same hit dice enjoys. In the case of the PC, that default bonus represents generic heroic capability - the monster having no such capability should not enjoy the bonus.

You can still do that with a level-based bonus. Just assign penalties for those skills you think that monster should be crappy at.
 

Hussar

Legend
JoeGKushner said:
That still makes no sense because in M&M a 10th level 'normal' Champion can be fighting a 20th level one. A 250 point character in Champions can be fighting a 1000 point boss guy and better hope that he and his friends have teamwork to add up the stun that gets past.

Yes, but, at the end of the day, the only difference between Hero and Villain is fluff text. Or, to put it in a Marvel perspective;

"This character is a brilliant inventor who battles wearing powered armor armed with a variety of weapons."

Is he:

A)Iron Man
B)The Green Goblin

Based on that description, there's no real way of knowing. OTOH, it's pretty hard to imagine an Aboleth as anything other than a monster bad guy. Tentacular, slimy creature living in the depths that mind controls is pretty much screaming "BAD GUY" to me. Which, I think is the point that Mearls is trying to make. In D&D, there are races that are "good guys" (standard PC races), races that are "usually bad guys but could be good guys" (Orcs, Drow) and races that are "Pretty much always the bad guy" (Anything that you really can't make a PC race out of in the vast majority of campaigns.).
 

the Lorax

First Post
Zaruthustran said:
This approach is just so much better. If the designers want a kangaroo to have a +12 jump but only 2 hd, they shouldn't have to worry that they're breaking the game
<snip>
Instead of having to calculate out each. Individual. Skill. Point., the DM can just look up in a table the max skill modifier for a villain of the appropriate encounter level, and assign that to whatever skills are important.
<snip>Just set the value where it needs to be, and move on.

Ya know, this pretty much describes how I do it now, I'm not sure how that changes how one should design monsters to be able to be used as PCs or not.

Heck, one of the most recent new (side) characters to join our epic level game is a Harvester Devil.

Going back to a time when you had to kit bash rules together to play a monster as a PC is not especially exciting.

And as far as stat blocks go, I can strip them down pretty far:

Orc Fighter 4 HP:37 AC 16 (chain+shield) BAB+8 (1d8+5/x3 Battle Ax) F+6 R +1 W+1

which should work pretty well for what you needed the orcs to do.
 

JoeGKushner

First Post
Hussar said:
Yes, but, at the end of the day, the only difference between Hero and Villain is fluff text. Or, to put it in a Marvel perspective;

"This character is a brilliant inventor who battles wearing powered armor armed with a variety of weapons."

Is he:

A)Iron Man
B)The Green Goblin

Based on that description, there's no real way of knowing. OTOH, it's pretty hard to imagine an Aboleth as anything other than a monster bad guy. Tentacular, slimy creature living in the depths that mind controls is pretty much screaming "BAD GUY" to me. Which, I think is the point that Mearls is trying to make. In D&D, there are races that are "good guys" (standard PC races), races that are "usually bad guys but could be good guys" (Orcs, Drow) and races that are "Pretty much always the bad guy" (Anything that you really can't make a PC race out of in the vast majority of campaigns.).

But that's still not how the games work. You could have an aboleth in a Super Hero game as some type of Elder Evil. Guess what? It's still built the same as the characters.

"This master of magical arts using the latest in technology to augment his fantastic armor."

Is he a high level fighter/Mage-eldritch warrior with a ton of alchemical and magical items or Dr. Doom?

Heck, don't make me go through some super hero books to find things like the Brood which fight the X-Men or other inhuman entities just to showcase that monstrous entities can be built using the same method.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Mouseferatu said:
Even a 20th-level PC can't fire off 10 different offensive spells in a single round. (Or even three, if you only want to count a singe "arc" of fire.) Without being completely reconceptualized, beholders simply can't have the same CR and HD.

Take a look at what they're doing to Demons and Devils and the poor Erinyes.

Reconceptualizing monsters isn't a problem. That's part of what a new edition is for, after all. A Beholder pretty much needs eye rays, but firing off 10 a round? Even 3? Does it really need that?

And if it does get that, if it really does need all those actions, is it really strange to think of a PC who can do more than one thing at a time like that? We're already hearing about Leaders who heal just because they exist. What's the problem with a 15th level character spurting out a Sleep attack of some sort just because they're around, in that context?

pemerton said:
It is very clear that monster stats in 4E will read the same as PC stats, in that they will consist of numbers allocated to the same categories, and having the same meaning within those categories. The difference will be in the way those numbers are worked out (and I don’t mean "worked out in the gameworld" – which comes from magic, which from natural armour etc; I mean "worked out at the metagame level", by application of the game rules): PCs will be built level-by-level, following rules for feat and talent selection and magic item acquisition, while monsters will be built according to a system of allocating a given set of numbers to fill a particular role at a particular challenge level.

Therefore, there will be no reason at all why the Mind Flayer can’t joint the party. But the way its stats have been built will mean that there will be no completely straightforward way of comparing it to a PC build to work out what level of PC it is.

Sure, but if I get different numbers, or if a creature who was once a monster becomes an ally and suddenly changes stats, that kicks my realism in the groin and takes it's wallet. If I want to play a drow, I want to play a drow, not some sort of pseudo-drow who almost looks kind of like the other drow in the world if you squint.

There are at least two questions here. First, should the system tell you what effect a given Rope Use bonus has on challenge level? Yes it should, and it is clear that the aim of the 4e designers is to produce a system that gives these answers (admittedly they seem to be focusing most on combat challenges, but they have also talked about social challenges, and I’m sure the rules will say something about the sorts of “survival” challenges that might bring Rope Use into play).

I can tell how well a centaur can tie ropes right now in 3e, and, for some crazy reason, I don't really think the designers really took that into account when assigning the creature CR. The reason? Becaues it doesn't really affect the CHALLENGE of the creature. It's breadth without deapth -- gives it more stuff to do without making it really any more potent in the combat.

A centaur that can tie a slipknot really doesn't affect your basic centaur combat in the slightest, but it means that if I use the centaur as a setting element rather than as XP gristle, I have a starting point for saying, for instance, if a centaur hangman makes sense, or if the centaurs might have boy scouts with knot-tying merit badges.

Use Rope is kind of an absurd example, and I'm fairly confident we won't even SEE Use Rope in the next edition, but think of the Survival skill. Most of the time, it doesn't matter how a monster gets food, but if the PC's are lost in the forest and befriend an alien creature, it can be useful to know if said creature can feed themselves as well as the PC's.

Second, will the centaur stats in the Monster Manual enable you to derive a rope use bonus? Well, the centaur will have a Dex bonus and skill bonuses, so you’ll be able to look and see. But if the centaur is being presented as filling the role of brute or archer (as seems likely), then the absence of any Rope Use skill can easily be seen as metagame information economy – there is no need to include a Rope Use skill bonus to enable the centaur to play either of those roles – and would not, as far as I can see, preclude the GM from attributing such a bonus to the centaur should the issue come up and need to be resolved.

But that's the thing: "attributing such a bonus" = "Make Stuff Up." Make Stuff Up sucks. There's no solid reason, as far as I can see, why I should have to do that, when the centaur can be easily designed to fill the role of "brute" or "archer" in combat, as well as the role of "protector of untouched wilderness" in the world, and the role of "potential ally for the party druid" for the PC's (for instance).

What considerations would guide the GM in making that decision? The same ones, presumably, as would guide the GM in deciding whether the NPC wizard should have access to 2nd or 3rd level spells – in particular, How competent do I want to make this centaur as an antagonist for my players to have to deal with?

Centaurs are more than just antagonists. They're spirits of hedonism. They're horrible underworld terrors. They're evocative of a Mediterranean atmosphere, and conjure images of Hercules and Poseidon. They're creatures of the sea, they're trainers of heroes. They're sylvan defenders of the forest. They're monstrous savage brutes from distant lands.

And that's just the standard roles that they *should* be designed to fill.

If what you want is a system that models the in-game growth of a creature, so you can look at a centaur’s stats, from them read off its degree of in-game experience, and therefore work out how many skill points it has free to assign to Rope Use, 4e will not give you what you want. It is becoming very clear that the only game element whose stats will be derived in this fashion is the PC. For NPCs and monsters, it is the GM who decides (not the rules) how experienced or capable they are, and then (following the challenge-building guidelines) assigns stats that are appropriate.

I don't like just deciding how something is. I like arriving at my conclusions through a logical process of extrapolation (some of that is my improv-heavy DM style speaking, where logic leaps along a path, rather than springing fully formed to my mind unbidden).

But if I can't take a centaur and not only say how well it peppers PC's with arrows, but also how well it will serve as a tutor for the party's Barbarian, then the 4e team, for all it's efforts, is not designing the monster for it's use. They're designing it for combat and combat alone -- a shallow design goal that does not speak to how monsters are truly used in at least MY campaign.
 

Pale

First Post
Thank you for being so eloquent and in-depth with your post KM, you hit exactly what I'm feeling about this new approach to monsters.

In this respect, we are simpatico.
 

Stalker0

Legend
For something like the beholder, I wonder if an aura mechanic might be appropriate. Instead of 10 nasty ray attacks, what if some of the eyes emanated an aura when they are open (assuming you are able to view them).

I mean, this is similar to how gaze attacks work now, affecting everyone that views them. But these would be more passive abilities, so the DM could focus on the 2 or 3 offense eye beams.
 

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