Huge monsters in E6

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I'm starting a new thread from http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/299069-what-world-needs-e6-book-format-4.html

To focus this, let me start with my thesis: that in an E6 game, high level monsters need to be pruned back, or the very nature of the game world will change.

Really, humans aren't the apex predators: the PCs are.

I don't buy it. Again, most TSR settings have high-level characters running around, and powerful magic armor and weapons suitable for humans around.

The Orcs do come out of the mountains and attack Waterdeep.
Orcs are perfect E6 villains. I have a hard time believing that E6-leveled orcs attacked Waterdeep, because the high-level mages in Waterdeep could stomp them into the ground long before they got to the city gates without any risk to themselves.

If it weren't for the archmage protectors backed by their deity Mystra, and others;
Elminster is one of the big complaints about Forgotten Realms as it is, because he takes away from what the PCs can do. If you have an Elminster-like character, how much more is he going to remind PCs that they are toys and everything really important is done by the DM's NPCs.

Orcs are just one example. Ogres are another. Hobgoblins. And, yes, Dragons.
But humans can kill orcs in an E6 world. They can't effectively kill dragons.

But the gods have stats in D&D, including two books focused on them: FR's faiths & Pantheons, and of course Deities and Demigods. Heck, Monte Cook's Call of Cthulhu d20 has a set of stats for Azathoth of all things (and the other Mythos members, like Cthulhu and Nyarlethotep), and I guarantee you no PC of a regular game will fight that guy for more than a round.
And the repeated complaint is that these stats are pointless and a waste of space. If you want the Monster Manual, you know where to find it. In any case, whether or not you need these stats in the E6 book is appropriate for the original thread, and not something I want to argue here.

Setting is more than what they would do normally. It is the perilous situation the characters find themselves in *right now*.

Maybe they just have to use dynamite on the Lonely Mountain, cave in the roof and crush the dragon.
Dynamite (invented 1867) is a touch anachronistic. Even large barrels of gunpowder are repeated controversy on these boards, and those are contemporary with some of the PHB's equipment.

Maybe they could quest for an artifact that could open a portal to the plane of water and *drown* the fire-breathing dragon. Maybe they need to make a pact with the Frost Giant Jarl, who sits on his throne in Jotunheim waiting to fight Thor at Ragnarok.
The Macguffin hunt. It's doable, but you don't really need stats for the dragon, and you can't really do it more then once, maybe twice a campaign.

Saying "it's E6: so there isn't anything beyond 6HD" doesn't make a good game, and it isn't E6.
I never said that; what I said was that high-level creatures, above CR10 or CR12, are generally unkillable and don't really need stats. It's no longer good enough to explain why they don't unify to conquer; a single adult red dragon can control as much territory as it likes with no resistance from humans. A cloud giant controlling an area needs MacGuffins or an extreme plan to deal with. A small group of fire giants could exercise control over half a continent, and there's nothing in their description to explain why they wouldn't.
 

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Corathon

First Post
I never said that; what I said was that high-level creatures, above CR10 or CR12, are generally unkillable and don't really need stats. It's no longer good enough to explain why they don't unify to conquer; a single adult red dragon can control as much territory as it likes with no resistance from humans. A cloud giant controlling an area needs MacGuffins or an extreme plan to deal with. A small group of fire giants could exercise control over half a continent, and there's nothing in their description to explain why they wouldn't.

I'm not very familiar with E6, so I could be totally off base, but couldn't an army dispatch some of these threats? E.g., suppose the cloud giant you mentioned was facing 100 infantry and 100 archers. The infantry engage while the archers shoot. The archers hit the giant on a 20, right? So 5 arrows a round hit the giant. The giant kills everyone that he attacks, but he'll still run out of hit points before the infantry unit is wiped out. A larger force could deal with the fire giants.

Maybe high level E6 characters need to become leaders or lords to fight these threats. The dragons may be beyond this, though.
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
To focus this, let me start with my thesis: that in an E6 game, high level monsters need to be pruned back, or the very nature of the game world will change.
I don't really agree with that thesis, however. I'm pretty sure E6 is very different things to different people, and is played for different reasons.

In the strictest mechanical sense in which "E6" refers to a game which is simply capped at 6 PC levels, the magic they can create and and those bbegs they can reasonably handle, then you're probably right. This is the style of game that is informed by essays like "Gandalf was a 5th level Magic User" and the Justin Alexander's similar essay on 3.5e.

But I know people manage to play very different games than that strictly low-level variant. In such games, PCs might have access to higher level spells via feats, groupcasting or rituals. PCs mighht cavort with high-level powers with roles like gods, legends or superheroes in their world. Some such setting might have functional magetech, flying ships, chain-lighting casters, teleportation circles or interplanar gates-- even though no PC could actually create such things. In a game like that, a tarrasque or balor might be perfectly reasonable, as divinities, as advisors, as forces of nature, or simply as really, really tough bbegs that require special magics, special cleverness or armies of brute force to take down.

To my mind "E6" isn't really a game, per se, but simply a term for a bag of rules/mechanics that happens to be especially amenable to a particular style of low-power play. By no means, however, does it have to be limited to that style of play or the worlds such play occurs in.

In any event, this post isn't intended as a threadcrap, but rather just to point out that using the term "E6" as if it's actually a particular game or playstyle can be very confusing when there are so many perspectives on what exactly "E6" means. This is something I've recently come to understand while working on an "E6 SRD"!
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
But I know people manage to play very different games than that strictly low-level variant. In such games, PCs might have access to higher level spells via feats, groupcasting or rituals.

I think that fits with "the very nature of the game world will change."

To my mind "E6" isn't really a game, per se, but simply a term for a bag of rules/mechanics that happens to be especially amenable to a particular style of low-power play. By no means, however, does it have to be limited to that style of play or the worlds such play occurs in.

I would say that a pure E6 cross with the PHB strongly heads towards that style. It's hard to say overall, because there's so many D&Ds that you can cross E6 with, but that's the normal. It's like D&D itself; you couldn't really play Athas with AD&D until they tacked on enough rules to make it work.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
I'm not trying to really comment specifically on anything anyone has said upthread, but I do want to make a remark about the type of e6 game I will be running (or think I will be running!)

I intend to use monsters no higher than 8 or 9 CR in building my adventures. There will be a rumor of a dragon in the depths of the dungeon, but the PCs will have to deliberately choose to go after him; if they decide to do so, they may find they've bitten off considerably more than they can handle; he'll be strong enough that only a small army will dispatch him.

As far as access to magic and spells, I expect to stick pretty close to "what a 6th level caster can do, the world is limited to," although I may allow some 4-5th level spells in as group rituals in limited situations. I intend that there will be very little otherplanar travel (only 2 other planes really exist as far as the PCs will ever know - effectively the ethereal/fey and astral/shadow planes). I want a low-magic, though not particularly gritty, feel.

Monsters like giants will be lone or small group creatures, who will have their own agendas that rarely matter to the "demihuman" world. A giant would completely fail to understand any desire to rule a human world, and humans look upon such creatures more as forces of nature than as living individuals. Even an E6 hero would hide when he felt the ground shake beneath their tread.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
I'm not very familiar with E6, so I could be totally off base, but couldn't an army dispatch some of these threats? E.g., suppose the cloud giant you mentioned was facing 100 infantry and 100 archers. The infantry engage while the archers shoot. The archers hit the giant on a 20, right? So 5 arrows a round hit the giant. The giant kills everyone that he attacks, but he'll still run out of hit points before the infantry unit is wiped out. A larger force could deal with the fire giants.

Now you make me want to run this as a tactical game. Because if the cloud giant is smart enough, he's not just going to let them surround him. He's got a 50 speed, 3/day levitate and obscuring mist, 1/day fog cloud, improved overrun and improved bullrush. Does the giant go through the infantry or run around behind? Can they finally manage to overwhelm him or will he get them first? Running is a partial success for the attackers, but the giant will likely be back.
 

Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
I play E6, but I use the Basic/Expert sets instead of the d20 System. This requires very little tweaking: the baddest, toughest monsters in the Blue Box actually probably could be defeated by a lucky army of humans or party of 6th level characters. The meanest dragon is the gold (11 hit dice); hydras with enough heads can have 12 HD; storm giants and purple worms have 15 HD, but the former really would be a "force of nature" and the latter more of a "cthulhuian horror" that the heroes shouldn't fight anyway. Then there's the 20 HD bronze golem, and, well, a fight like that would pretty much go just like it did in the Harryhausen "Argonauts" movie.

The d20 System, problematically, uses the same inflated hit dice for huge monsters that characterized AD&D 2nd edition, the point of which was to make giants and older dragons seem "huge" even to 20th level characters. That's all very unnecessary in an E6 game. Maybe the easiest way to translate this feel back to d20 System games is to use monsters from a version where they've already been somewhat nerfed. What if one were simply to use the monsters out of d20 Modern, Urban Arcana, the Menace Manual, d20 Past, etc., which are already constructed for a world where high-level spells do not exist, and just pit those against D&D E6 characters?
 

Stalker0

Legend
I'm not trying to really comment specifically on anything anyone has said upthread, but I do want to make a remark about the type of e6 game I will be running (or think I will be running!)

I intend to use monsters no higher than 8 or 9 CR in building my adventures. There will be a rumor of a dragon in the depths of the dungeon, but the PCs will have to deliberately choose to go after him; if they decide to do so, they may find they've bitten off considerably more than they can handle; he'll be strong enough that only a small army will dispatch him.


Yeah I agree with this. E6 doesn't mean the world can't have powerful monsters...but you have to take them in context.

If a powerful monster could be taken out by an army, that its fine to have in the game world. The PCs could never defeat it alone, but with an army backing them it might be possible.

This is one of the things I like about E6. For some threats, the party will never be good enough to take it by themselves. They have to acquire people and equipment specifically to take on the target.

What you have to watch out for are the creatures that have defenses such that an army couldn't defeat them (like a CR 15 monster with DR 15/- or something of that note). Such a monster is practically invincible to anything the world could throw at him, and in which case its hard to argue why he hasn't "won" yet.
 

fireinthedust

Explorer
Humans: look at the stats of NPCs. They're mostly peasants whose villages get overrun by orcs, torched by dragons, and what have you. They need heroes to do anything for them.

In POL the PCs are the epic level heroes. In E6, 6th level is epic. There aren't other high level characters out there.

In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf is the biggest wizard other than Saruman, who isn't that much better. Galadriel is basically a noble/diviner. Yet there is still the dragon Smaug, who could have defeated Gandalf. I have an E6 Balrog who has much the same ability (CR9, but PCs can't touch him thanks to templates).

Big dragons aren't there for regular work. They're tough opponents the PCs hope they never fight. Hopefully the worst they'll do is roll spot checks while the PCs loot their hoard. Yet they should be there.

E6 is about little fish in a big pond. Big monsters don't need to be nerfed, they need to be expositioned, avoided, and present challenges. This is the same reason as putting in an Adamantine safe the fighter can't smash: the Rogue is the only one who can pick it; or maybe the combination lock can only be opened with the secret code at the bottom of the merchant prince's tomb.

And an E6 bestiary should be mostly NPC humans and others the PCs will fight. A neat Orc tribe with class levels, and some other options, fine.


In my world I have all sorts of big bads. Thing is, they also have the epic-level magical items I know the PCs care about. I don't think they'll ever get taken, or found, but the PCs can research them.

Maybe they have to bargain with the dragon, or negotiate. Or there are those players who just can't help themselves and *need* to try to get that weapon away from the dragon, and darn those other player characters' objections.
 

fireinthedust

Explorer
What you have to watch out for are the creatures that have defenses such that an army couldn't defeat them (like a CR 15 monster with DR 15/- or something of that note). Such a monster is practically invincible to anything the world could throw at him, and in which case its hard to argue why he hasn't "won" yet.


But he has "won": he's got a lair filled with treasure at the deepest level of a dungeon. If he comes out, the kings of the earth throw gold and magic at his feet, and feed him maidens on a platter. He's big, and stupid, and that's enough for him.

Not everyone is ambitious like Lex Luthor. Some people are fine with full bellies. Others with enough rum to keep them drunk. Why would a lot of the big monsters want anything more? They're not social animals like humans are.
 

prosfilaes

Adventurer
fireinthedust said:
E6 is about little fish in a big pond.

I think that there's far from consensus on that. That's one way to play it, but not the only way, and I'm not sure that's the way most people play it.

But he has "won": he's got a lair filled with treasure at the deepest level of a dungeon. If he comes out, the kings of the earth throw gold and magic at his feet, and feed him maidens on a platter. He's big, and stupid, and that's enough for him.

I think that comes down very strongly on the "the very nature of the game world will change". The concept that a maiden eating dragon doesn't come to an end at the hand of the protagonists is alien to pretty much all fiction I know of.

And canonically, dragons aren't stupid. At older ages, they can be brighter than any E6 PC could be without the aid of magic.

Not everyone is ambitious like Lex Luthor. Some people are fine with full bellies. Others with enough rum to keep them drunk. Why would a lot of the big monsters want anything more? They're not social animals like humans are.

Some of them are. Mind flayers, for example. Cloud and fire giants are social, even if they aren't quite as social as humans. Several of the dragons can be quite social; the description for PF's brass dragons is "Consummate conversationalists, brass dragons prefer to talk instead of fight. Brass dragons lair near humanoid settlements, where they can hear the most recent news and gossip." That's a passable summery of the 3.0 MM description.
 

Runestar

First Post
Think there was a thread at giantip about a 6th lv party who was able to defeat a balor. :confused:

So yeah, why bother holding back? :D

Still, this means those demon lord aspects would make for excellent boss-type characters.
 

Aus_Snow

First Post
Maybe the easiest way to translate this feel back to d20 System games is to use monsters from a version where they've already been somewhat nerfed.
Exactly! :cool:

Also, "You must spread some XP around (etc.)" :rant:

Redesigning (or, indeed, "porting") dragons makes a lot of sense for e6. Because, I would have to agree, many things just don't, by default.

Even with prestige feats and, more importantly, Incantations (or the like). Essentially, access to higher-level stuff. Yeah, even then, it ain't gonna cut it. Not against such redonkulously inflated critters.

I suppose I'm more or less in agreement with the OP, in that I see e6 being in need of some serious house ruling. So, naturally, that's exactly what I did. ;)
 

Jorunkun

First Post
In my book, a dragon would be a perfect fit for an E6 campaign - as the scourge of the campaign world, the arch-opponent, a threat to be fled dozens of times before it is faced once, in the game's ultimate combat encounter. Where it can only be defeated by the greatest heroes of the age, after much thorough preperation, using all their might and magic. What could be more rewarding?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Allow me to offer a "middle ground" theory.

There is a place for balors and dragons and demigods in an e6 game, even as adversaries that the PC's confront.

However, "beating" them doesn't involve attack and damage rolls vs. AC and HP and fireballs and whirlwind attacks.

Beating them involves skill use and macguffin hunting and minion-slaying and weakness-hunting.

Think of an '80's slasher flick villain, or a werewolf, or the old vampire stories.

No mere mortal can simply walk up to these bad dudes and start beating on 'em. They must be clever, careful, and adroit. They must find the silver bullet, or consipre to drive a stake through its heart. They must find and exploit a weakness, or seal away evil with a ritual.

E6 heroes generally don't walk up to the Terrasque and start beating its face in with their rusty swords.

But they might learn the magical lullaby that, when sung into its ears, will lull it into sleep for another millennium.

This involves quests (learning the verses to the lullaby), minion-slaying (gotta fight the BBEG that awoke the thing!), skill use (dodging stomping feet and clawing hands and biting maws to climb and jump and fly alongside the thing and find its ear with your monster knowledge and sing well enough with your performance skills and distract the enemy from the good singer with your bluff checks), and even only partial-victory (the thing isn't dead, it still will live, but its fury, for now, is spent).

Think about the enemy more like a force of nature. You can't fight a flood; you can't beat up an earthquake. You can survive them, you can protect against them, and you can be heroic in the face of them, but it doesn't involve killing anything. This is not Achilles beating up a river. This is Odysseus lost at sea.

(personally, I think a lot of high-level monsters can be dealt with more entertainingly in this way, but that's an axe to grind some other time)
 

Aus_Snow

First Post
In my book, a dragon would be a perfect fit for an E6 campaign - as the scourge of the campaign world, the arch-opponent, a threat to be fled dozens of times before it is faced once, in the game's ultimate combat encounter. Where it can only be defeated by the greatest heroes of the age, after much thorough preperation, using all their might and magic. What could be more rewarding?
Yeah, nice.

Except they would *fail*. Dismally. Not to mention... swiftly.

Checked some 3e dragon stats lately? :eek:

I'm talking proper, bloody big dragons. Not the little ones. Killing dragon whelps might be the height of heroism in some stories/campaigns. But... yeah. :\
 

Dice4Hire

First Post
Yeah, nice.

Except they would *fail*. Dismally. Not to mention... swiftly.

Checked some 3e dragon stats lately? :eek:

I'm talking proper, bloody big dragons. Not the little ones. Killing dragon whelps might be the height of heroism in some stories/campaigns. But... yeah. :

Come on 5,000 1st level mages can take one with magic missile.

Just gotta find 5,000 1st level mages.
 

Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
Come on 5,000 1st level mages can take one with magic missile.

Just gotta find 5,000 1st level mages.
Hehe, this actually brings up a really good point. Even under the strictest interpretation of E6 rules, there can be a huge range of power levels in the setting.

A common default assumption is that E6 worlds are 99% populated by 1st level NPC classes. But one can just as easily build a high-magic (as in high amount of magic, not high-level magic) setting, even in a very strict E6 world, in which the populace is mostly geniuses and olympic athletes of 4th or 5th level. In such a world, the nobility might maintain huge stores of magic items, and sponsor mage academies precisely so they can pop off thousands of magic missiles when a dragon harasses the city.

So, yes, as the OP says, that certainly changes the nature of an E6 campaign, even without house rules to up the PCs' power level.

It also occurs to me that for E6, I tend to prefer advancing (in HD, size, templates) lower-level monsters rather than using higher-level ones. In the case of a young adult (or even just a juvenile) black dragon, for example, it's fairly straightforward to simply increase it to huge size, to give it a boost to AC, hp and damage, without boosting its special abilities. It's not optimal, but it's a start toward embiggening a beast in a way that doesn't necessarily immediately toast E6 PCs.

(Fwiw, I'll also mention the E6 "baseline" SRD thread in Legacy forum. As it happens, at the moment we're talking about which monsters (and feats) to include and how. It would certainly be helpful to hear more input. Here's a link to the beginning of the monster discussion.)
 

Jorunkun

First Post
Yeah, nice.

Except they would *fail*. Dismally. Not to mention... swiftly.

Checked some 3e dragon stats lately? :eek:

I'm talking proper, bloody big dragons. Not the little ones. Killing dragon whelps might be the height of heroism in some stories/campaigns. But... yeah. :

Well, I wasn't talking about an ancient red. And obviously it would be tough, that's the point. But still - a good size party at 6th + a couple of extra feats, with a good range of items and spells prepared for the occasion ...

Keep in mind, this wouldn't be a random encounter/plain stand-up fight, but the end-point of the campaigns meta-plot - something to prepare for many sessions ahead, including finding legendary items that protect against dragon breath, or a sword forged to defeat it, a map of its lair to take advantage of terrain, trick it ...don't think it might work?
 
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fireinthedust

Explorer
Magic Missile: Aside from the PF version, I think the "broad magic" setting (ie: lots of low-level magic) could do well with also using scrolls of MM, and arming citizens with high enough Charisma to UMD with them. Not just wizards, then, but sorcerers and bards, paladins, clerics, and some rogues. No wands I think, but lots of scrolls; unless the wand rules are expanded for braod magical settings.


Back on topic: the geist of what's being said is that it's unrealistic to assume uber monsters can be defeated by E6 characters. I get that, and agree on principle: it's a good idea for a generic encounter, or even a dungeon boss, to not use them.

The OP, having quoted me for the OP, should know that the point I'm getting to is that having uber monsters in a setting doesn't mean they're like normal monsters or even need to be fought. That's the geist of what I'm saying (as has been echoed by a chorus of other posters here).

So they have a place, it's just a rare one.

And there are ways to beat them, they're just not standard methods.

AND that using them is for story purposes and plot reasons.
 

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