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[MONSTERS] Design Discussion and Preview

GlassJaw

Explorer
I’ve wanted to get this post up a while ago but the holidays, traveling, and some real-life stuff created some unavoidable delays. Anywhere, here it is.

I’ve been doing some preliminary work on the Trailblazer Monster Book (working title) for a while now and Wulf and I have had a lot of discussions on its contents.

In this thread, I’ll discuss our overall design philosophy for a monster book in general and then get into some discussions on the contents.

Design Philosophy

1. Create a stat block that is highly informative and DM-friendly.
2. Make monsters highly customizable without requiring a lot of (or any) calculations.
3. Return some of the power to the DM that 3ed has taken away. In short, let the DM “wow” his players once more.

Stat Blocks

Our goal for the stat block is to give the DM everything he needs to run that creature and do it on a single page. We have also reorganized the stat block to provide a more user-friendly layout and I’ve also begun to rewrite and standardize the text of all special abilities (Improved Grab, Swallow Whole, racial skill bonuses, movement skills, etc).

I’ve attached a few sample stat blocks. Here are some of the additions and changes:
• Stat blocks contain the following sections, from top-to-bottom: Senses, Defense, Offense, Statistics, Abilities.
• Auras now listed in the front “Senses” section.
• Attacks that bypass a creature’s regeneration now listed.
• More detailed information of abilities. For example, if a creature has a poison ability, the attack in which it delivers its poison is now listed.
• Some entries were moved around and reorganized (Space, Reach, Speed, etc).
• Combat Maneuver Bonus and Defense modifiers listed on same line as Base Attack Bonus.
• Combat Reactions, including a creature’s Dodge and Block bonuses listed.
• Ability and skill modifiers now listed in a table (see Skill System below).

Skill System

One of the most drastic changes of our new stat block is the monster skill system. Before I get into the system itself, these were our design goals:

1. Be able to calculate skill modifiers for creatures and NPCs quickly.
2. Determine an NPC or creature's skill modifier for an unlisted skill on-the-fly.
3. Adhere to the philosophy that creatures and NPCs follow different rules than PC's.

WULF: To provide a bit of context on that last point, I'll note that far and away the most frequent complaint is the skill portion of the statblock (followed by having to look up spells and special abilities). My philosophy-- emphasized in the new statblock-- is that skill points for monsters don't matter all that much. Fudge them! As the DM, you want the monsters to have skills that (a) make sense (maintain verisimilitude) and (b) are scaled properly for their CR to provide the right obstacle for your players.

Without writing a single skill point down in advance, the DM can simply make the call at the time that it matters. The two gnolls guarding the edge of the camp? If and when the rogue tries to Stealth past, you make the call then and there that they have "good" Perception-- that's why they are on guard duty. The chieftain has Intimidate (if and when you decide he needs it) and perhaps the shaman has Sense Motive (if and when you decide he needs it).

That being said, as an additional timesaver, we're including "recommended" skills in the statblock, including those skills that appeared in the SRD and any skills that might require additional calculation.


Our original thought was to leave all the monster skills as-is and create a skill system for NPCs. However, as we started fleshing it out, we realized that going back and applying the system to all existing monsters gives DMs a lot of flexibility for customizing monsters on-the-fly, which is one of our primary design goals.

Each creature essentially has three skill entries: ability modifier only, average skills, and good skills.

Average skill modifier = ability modifier + ½ the creature’s HD.
Good skill modifier = ability modifier + creature’s HD + 3 (for being a “class” skill).

The DM now has three choices for quickly determining and customizing a monster’s skill modifiers. And overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the system is tracking fairly well to the SRD values yet without any cumbersome skill point allocation.

Below the Abilities & Skills table some skills and modifiers are listed. These are skills that are common for a typical creature of that type. I also included any skill that had some kind of modifier, whether it was a feat or racial skill bonus. Again, our goal is to have everything in the stat block that the DM needs without any additional calculation.

One notable exception to this is Stealth. Stealth is modified by a creature’s size. Wulf and I have had multiple discussions on whether we should include a creature’s size modifiers somewhere in the stat block. (We also discussed rolling a creature’s size as a modifier to the viewer’s Perception score rather than a modifier to Stealth but that’s another discussion.)

There will be some discussion in the book on “rules of thumb” for assigning skill modifiers. For example, most animals use the “average” modifier for their skills while creature’s like dragons, demons, and devils use the “good” modifier.

One rule of thumb is to use the creature’s CR to determine what the skill modifier of a “trained” PC of the same level will be. This way, you can determine the probability of success and level of challenge that you want for the encounter. (Note to self: make a chart.)

Quick Templates

Continuing with our design goal of giving the DM the tools (and power) to customize monsters quickly, Wulf and I have been working on something we call Quick Templates.

The basic idea is to create options that the DM can quickly apply to a creature that meet three criteria:
1. Requires little to no stat block recalculation.
2. Does not change the creature’s CR (about the power of a feat or two).
3. Adds a highly descriptive and “visual” change to the creature that surprises the players.

I’ve listed some example below. Don’t get too hung up on the mechanics at this point. We are only in the brainstorming stage. We may also recommend certain creatures or subtypes for each of the Quick Templates.

Shifty – The creature constantly hops and moves in combat, making it difficult to target. The creature and make a 5-foot step as immediate action. Additionally, give the creature the Spring Attack feat.
Recommended creatures: kobolds, skeletons, ghouls

Fiery, Icy, Corrosive, Shocking – The creature has been infused with elemental energy. The creature has a breath weapon and energy resistance.

Shaman/Witchdoctor/Mage – The creature has some basic spellcasting ability. Give the creature a few spells of a spell level appropriate to its CR.
Recommended creatures: humanoids, giants, skeletons, wights

Armored – The creature is clad is heavy plates or armor. Increase the creature’s AC by +4 – 8.

Aggressive – The creature has the Pounce ability.
Recommended creatures: trolls, ogres

Solo Monster Design

I’m a huge fan of solo monsters and boss encounters and I’m definitely planning on including some additional design options and abilities for solo creatures.

Here’s the start of a design discussion on various types of asymmetric abilities for solo creatures, in order of increasing “power”:

1. Ability that grants the creature extra actions (action points).
2. Creature can summon allies (more actions to bring to bear against PCs).
3. Single-target debuff – An ability that reduces the number of actions of a single PC (fear, hold person, petrification, stun, knockdown).
4. Multiple-target/AoE debuff – An ability that reduces the number of actions of multiple PCs (fear aura, mass hold person, "giant stomp" knockdown, dragon wing buffet wind blast, mindflayer stun)
5. Single-target conversion – An ability that reduces the number of actions of a single PC and grants additional actions to the creature's side. In other words, the PC is “converted” to the creature’s side (charm, suggestion, confusion).
6. Multiple-target/AoE conversion – An ability that reduces the number of actions of multiple PCs and adds those actions to the creature's side (mass charm, mass confusion).

Monster Customization Example

Using the Skill System and Quick Templates, I’m going to modify an existing creature.

The PCs are exploring (or trespassing, as the case maybe) a mysterious tropical island. They have heard rumors of a mythic beast that dwells in the center of the island and is worshipped as a god by the natives.

This creature is a solo T-Rex but I want it to be more than a big bag of hit points with sharp teeth.

First of all, I want the T-Rex to hunt and stalk the PCs, and it’s +2 Stealth modifier isn’t going to cut it (Average skill: +10 – 8 for Huge size). I’m going to bump up its skill modifier from Average to Good (+22). With the Huge modifier, it now has a Stealth of +14. The T-Rex is CR 8. An 8th-level rogue or ranger will probably have a Perception score around +12-14 (max ranks, +3 class skill, +1-3 Wis mod). Assuming average rolls, our T-Rex has slightly better odds of eluding the PCs. And to top it off, our T-Rex will be coal black, which explains it’s increased Stealth

If you want the T-Rex to be stealthier, since it’s a solo and will already have a boatload of hit points, why not drop one of the Toughness feats and give it Skill Focus (Stealth)?

Ok, so we have our stealthy T-Rex. But how can we really make it something the PCs have never seen before? Maybe the island has mysterious properties and has imbued the T-Rex with supernatural properties. I’m going to give our T-Rex the Witchdoctor template and give it a small spell list. Hmm, how about Blur, Bestow Curse? That gives it some extra defense and debuff option.

And since it’s a solo, how about some crowd control? Acid Fog, Cloudkill, or Waves of Fatigue would be pretty nasty. I like it, but perhaps I’ll keep those in my bag of tricks and see how the battle goes first. I could also give it an AOE physical attack, like a tail sweep. However, I do need to keep in mind that asymmetric abilities may affect its CR.

The T-Rex is covered with strange runes and symbols that glow when it invokes its powers. Yeah, that will freak the players out!

Does this ancient arcane power source still exist on the island somewhere? If so, where? Wait, did a Quick Template just create a possible adventure idea?!

It took me a LOT longer to write this than it did to actually modify the T-Rex. What did I really do? I boosted it’s Stealth modifier, gave it a couple of spells to use, and added a unique visual description. Really simple, yet the players won’t know what to expect, which is exactly what we want.

Questions for you!

Wulf and I have also discussed including Traps and Skill Challenges in this book to make it more of a “Challenges & Encounters” book rather than just a monster book. Thoughts?

Size modifiers – include in stat block somewhere? This would include modifiers to attack rolls, CMB, and Stealth.

Have any Quick Template ideas?

Anything else you’d like to see?

Well that’s it for now. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things but I at least wanted to get the ball rolling and kickoff the monster discussion. And as always, your input is invaluable. Without it, Trailblazer probably wouldn’t have happened in the first place so thanks!
 

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Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Gotta watch out for that Swallow Hole.

One of the advantages of posting in this forum is that I have moderator powers here; you will occasionally see me editing GlassJaw's posts (including adding my thoughts for context), merging or forking discussions, etc.

One of the unexpected joys of working with GlassJaw is that he doesn't commit egregious grammar or spelling errors or typos. No, he makes mistakes like Hole/Whole and Its/It's, so that I can't use a spell checker and instead have the pleasure of carefully reading each and every word he writes.
 
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GlassJaw

Explorer
One of the unexpected joys of working with GlassJaw is that he doesn't commit egregious grammar or spelling errors or typos. No, he makes mistakes like Hole/Whole and Its/It's, so that I can't use a spell checker and instead have the pleasure of carefully reading each and every word he writes.
One of the expected joys of working with Wulf is that I count on him going out of his way to be sarcastic to make his point rather than handle things directly and to the point.

And for the record, there are no It's/Its errors and I fixed the "Hole" brain fart.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
One of the expected joys of working with Wulf is that I count on him going out of his way to be sarcastic to make his point rather than handle things directly and to the point.
It's true. So very, very true.

Consider it my own spin on the Socratic method.

And for the record, there are no It's/Its errors and I fixed the "Hole" brain fart.
Don't be so hasty.
 

joela

Villager
It's true. So very, very true.

Consider it my own spin on the Socratic method.



Don't be so hasty.
Grrrls, you're beginning to sound like a married couple. Again. Leave the arguments behind closed doors, okay? Remember you're trying to sell product here :p

Glassjaw, the propositions sound wonderful. I've downloaded the pdf and will mull over its contents over the weekend. Oh! Personally, I prefer Monster Book versus Challengers & Encounters. Makes it easy to insert with my other bestiaries. BTW, what happened to to the new classes supp and Spell updates? I'd especially like to the see the latter and see your takes on what's Rote, Restricted, and a Ritual.

Have a great weekend! And keep up the great work!
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
First, this sounds like an excellent project headed in the right directions.
Quick Templates = awesome variety and resource; kudos for that one. You may want to add in some air, earth, water, positive, negative, and fey templates to the list. Shifty looks mean, but until it is edited I can't be sure.
Skill System - FINALLY, no requirement to be as fiddly with monster skill points as with PC skill points. They don't need to follow the PC system, and it's good to see a simple and effective replacement that doesn't.
Stat Block - A bit bulky, but that's sort of unavoidable. It does actually look really usable, though. Enough white space to scribble notes, enough information to need just the stat block and the spell effects.

I do like the idea of a Challenges book.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
First, this sounds like an excellent project headed in the right directions.
Good. Please keep up the comments. We want the process to be as open as last time, with players driving the direction-- only this time without the years' long run-up.

Quick Templates = awesome variety and resource; kudos for that one. You may want to add in some air, earth, water, positive, negative, and fey templates to the list. Shifty looks mean, but until it is edited I can't be sure.
I envision dozens of templates, general templates, templates by type, and so on.

Skill System - FINALLY, no requirement to be as fiddly with monster skill points as with PC skill points. They don't need to follow the PC system, and it's good to see a simple and effective replacement that doesn't.
As GlassJaw noted above, it's particularly gratifying that the results of our TLAR method track pretty closely to the skill totals in the SRD. (Much of that is due to the fact the the original designers didn't spread skill points around too much; generally speaking they picked a number of skills equal to the skill points and maxxed them out.)

Stat Block - A bit bulky, but that's sort of unavoidable. It does actually look really usable, though. Enough white space to scribble notes, enough information to need just the stat block and the spell effects.
This is the "new" statblock pioneered by WotC and/or Paizo (shortly before Paizo stopped doing official adventures). You hit the nail on the head with the "white space" comment.

Try visiting my favorite website for this style of statblock:

http://mikael.borjesson.net/dnd/monster-list.asp

Once there, pick a statblock and print it out. This is my "Go To" website for game prep. I jot down a list of every monster that will be "on stage" for the evening, print out a one-page statblock for each of them, and then just make notes all over the pages as we play.

Our monster book will perhaps be most useful in PDF format, wherein page count is not an issue. In that format, I can maintain the "one page per creature" format and you can print each monster right out of the PDF so you have a hard copy for game night.

If at all possible, I will do the same for the print version. Quite frankly I would skip the print version entirely, but some folks are certain to want it.

There's no possibility* that it will be anywhere close to as lavishly illustrated as folks prefer, but I have had Scott Purdy quite busy indeed with more illustrations along the same "silhouette" style already seen in Trailblazer. (Those are Scott's illustrations on the cover and in the monster types/subtypes/abilities section.)

I do like the idea of a Challenges book.
I'd still prefer it to be arranged with the monsters, because I am not certain that Traps (and other Skill Challenges) constitute enough content to appear alone.




* No possibility? Well, there's a possibility if I were to test the patronage model on the monster book. In effect, the patrons would be guaranteeing the art budget in advance.
 

BryonD

Villager
If you are willing to really crack things open, I think a root cause of many problems is that everything in monster design is anchored to Hit Dice.

If you break that foundation you can make things much easier.

For example, quit fixing skill points to HD and you can build the monster with the skills the monster SHOULD have rather than trying to get "close enough" with the skill points the system decrees and then having to worry that you may have ended up off by one or two. A gargantuan dinosaur herbivore doesn't get forced into piling a bunch of skill points into things it doesn't need while the 2 HD ambush predator gets stuck with a handful of ranks in hide and spot. And the dino doesn't also get forced into a reflex save that makes a mongoose hang its head in shame.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
If you are willing to really crack things open, I think a root cause of many problems is that everything in monster design is anchored to Hit Dice.

If you break that foundation you can make things much easier.

For example, quit fixing skill points to HD and you can build the monster with the skills the monster SHOULD have rather than trying to get "close enough" with the skill points the system decrees and then having to worry that you may have ended up off by one or two. A gargantuan dinosaur herbivore doesn't get forced into piling a bunch of skill points into things it doesn't need while the 2 HD ambush predator gets stuck with a handful of ranks in hide and spot. And the dino doesn't also get forced into a reflex save that makes a mongoose hang its head in shame.
In some ways, this is already done: certainly Trailblazer doesn't place much of a premium on skill points, at least as far as CR goes. You're not going to break anything with skill ranks alone.

Concurrent to this, the racial bonus (particularly in the case of animals) goes a long way in this regard. If you want your 2HD predator to have a crazy high Stealth score, give it 5 ranks (2HD+3), and another +8 racial bonus.

Your last example is a little trickier, because with Reflex saves, we are talking about something that is directly tied to the Spine, which ensures that the creature presents the right kind of challenge for the PCs it is likely to be facing.

This particular example (dino Reflex save) is about a 7 on the Simulationist (1) <---> Gamist (10) scale. I know that you personally lean towards the simulationist side; you may not ever be satisfied with the gamist necessities of the Spine.

But if the dino-- say a Triceratops-- has 16 HD and is CR9, it doesn't do the game any good to deflate its Reflex save down a few points out of slavishness to simulationism. The trike has a +9 Reflex save because that's the right save for it to have against 9th level PCs.

I'll mention in passing the highly abstract nature of hit points and saving throws-- it doesn't matter to the mongoose that the trike has a better Reflex save, it matters that the trike can eat a half-dozen fireballs. It's not a valid "real world" comparison to say that the trike must be "quicker" than the mongoose because it has a higher Reflex save; the abstract nature of hit points makes the comparison invalid.

I think with regards to you and I-- and for the sake of other readers, I'll point out that BryonD had a lot of inside influence over the design of Trailblazer; you'll see his name on the credits page but he could just as easily have had 3rd billing-- we have very different simulationist/gamist expectations.
 

BryonD

Villager
Racial bonuses are ok. But really they are just a fudge factor to fix the reality that the SP/HD system doesn't work. If you are going to apply a fudge factor to fix a busted system, why not build a better system?

Why does the trike need to be CR9?

If the trike's ref save simply represents an ability to "eat" fireballs, then why does the capacity of fireballs to erode the trike's abstract HP get arbitrarily discounted, while the capacity of greatswords to erode the trikes abstract HP is not changed. The trike has a lot of HD, which is why it has a lot of HP, which is why it can eat a lot of fireballs. And yet it ALSO gets to make more saves against fireballs because it gets a lot of HD. It is circular logic.

I understand that a low reflex save will make it more easy to take out. But fly is also a L3 spell and a single fighter with a decent bow and boots of flying will find a trike to be no more than a waste of time and arrows. Is it CR9? Should the trike get a racial ability DR 20/[creatures not flying] so as to live up to a CR of 9?

I think part of the problem here is putting the CR too early in the calculation. Forget the CR and make the trike be what the trike should be and then assign a CR that fits after you are done. And any landbound, melee only, bag of hit points is going to be limited in the level of challenge it can be.

Also, it points out that circumstance is a huge part of challenge. Often the defining part.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Stat Block - A bit bulky, but that's sort of unavoidable. It does actually look really usable, though. Enough white space to scribble notes, enough information to need just the stat block and the spell effects.
The stat block did get bigger, no doubt. But the reason for that was to make the stat block more informative and to reduce the need - as much as possible - for additional rules lookup.

Every ability description is also getting a rewrite. And while the entries still may be shorter in the stat blocks than they are in the rules section, they should be a lot more informative.

There are some things that are still "left out", namely the size modifiers to attack rolls and Stealth that I mentioned above. I'm also still debating whether to include the actual die types and Con modifier for hit points rather than just the number of hit dice.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Why does the trike need to be CR9?

I think part of the problem here is putting the CR too early in the calculation. Forget the CR and make the trike be what the trike should be and then assign a CR that fits after you are done. And any landbound, melee only, bag of hit points is going to be limited in the level of challenge it can be.
Wulf and I have talked a lot about what Hit Dice actually mean. Is it just pure meat? Is it innate talent? Is it training? Or is it a combination of the three? And if it is a combination, is each component weighed equally for every creature?

Does the CR9 triceratops have the same amount of meat, talent, and training as a level 9 human fighter?

I agree that some values can be assigned, and I think we've started to do that with our new skill system, Quick Templates, etc. However, at some point, you have to choose a value to use as a basis for determining the "power" of a creature or encounter.

Essentially you are proposing a point-buy system for every value: hit dice, base attack bonus, damage, saves, skills, etc.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
Racial bonuses are ok. But really they are just a fudge factor to fix the reality that the SP/HD system doesn't work. If you are going to apply a fudge factor to fix a busted system, why not build a better system?
Honestly? It's outside the scope of what I want to do. The Spine is part and parcel of the level-based (and HD-based) system. It's the smallest quantum I want to deal with.

Why does the trike need to be CR9?
Well that's another question. It doesn't need to be CR9. But it is CR9, which is why I'm satisfied with its Reflex save.

But since you bring it up... This came up recently when GlassJaw and I were discussing racial Hit Dice.

Below a certain threshold, hit points lose their abstract nature and become a more and more literal measurement of "mass" and "toughness." Some subsystems like Wounds and Vitality address this directly.

If we put a more concrete measure on those "lower threshold" hit points-- say, for example, all hit points equal to CON, plus a fixed value for size, say +2/+4/+8/+16 across the increasing sizes, then it may be that a triceratops only "needs" about 30 hit points to satisfy a more simulationist approach. So you could certainly build a more "realistic" triceratops down around the CR4 or CR5 range.

If the trike's ref save simply represents an ability to "eat" fireballs, then why does the capacity of fireballs to erode the trike's abstract HP get arbitrarily discounted, while the capacity of greatswords to erode the trikes abstract HP is not changed.

The trike has a lot of HD, which is why it has a lot of HP, which is why it can eat a lot of fireballs. And yet it ALSO gets to make more saves against fireballs because it gets a lot of HD. It is circular logic.
But you could make the argument that the wizard's fireball gets more and more abstract the more damage it deals. You're assuming that the fiery damage keeps a fixed, realistic ability to deal damage against a moving, abstract total of hit points; in fact both the damage and the hit points get more and more abstract as the totals increase.

And it's also worth noting that Trailblazer does increase the fighter's ability to deal "abstract" damage as he levels up. A 10th level fighter deals more damage than a 1st level fighter, despite the fact that the greatsword doesn't change.

I think part of the problem here is putting the CR too early in the calculation. Forget the CR and make the trike be what the trike should be and then assign a CR that fits after you are done.
But you define "be what the trike should be" from a simulationist approach; we can do that: see above.

But from a gamist approach, the trike already IS what a trike should be: a CR9 critter. The starting point for the gamist approach is exactly that: let's make a CR9 challenge.

And any landbound, melee only, bag of hit points is going to be limited in the level of challenge it can be.
Agreed-- the average meatbag perhaps isn't the ideal creature to discuss this, because it begs to be seen from the simulationist's point of view.

The same thought experiment with a mind flayer might be more instructive. If you were going to make the mind flayer "be what it should be," how would you start?
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
If we put a more concrete measure on those "lower threshold" hit points-- say, for example, all hit points equal to CON, plus a fixed value for size, say +2/+4/+8/+16 across the increasing sizes, then it may be that a triceratops only "needs" about 30 hit points to satisfy a more simulationist approach. So you could certainly build a more "realistic" triceratops down around the CR4 or CR5 range.
I did want to note that one of the things our new statblock will provide is "Spine CR."

For the meatbag creatures, Spine CR will be very close to its listed CR, because almost all of its CR "cost" is its HD, with very little spent on anything else. For Animals, "anything else" usually just means size and attack sequence. (Perhaps, poison, constrict, trample, etc.)

But with this extra information provided, you could subtract out the Spine CR, leaving the DM with a benchmark CR for its other abilities. Then you could, for example, "de-level" the triceratops to a lower HD rating and still have a good idea what CR it represents as a matter of its threat.
 

BryonD

Villager
And it's also worth noting that Trailblazer does increase the fighter's ability to deal "abstract" damage as he levels up. A 10th level fighter deals more damage than a 1st level fighter, despite the fact that the greatsword doesn't change.
More later, both of you have good comments I want to reply to, but no time now.

But, I did want to point out that this point actually favors my side of the debate.
I'm complaining that the wizard's damage is arbitrarily discounted while the fighter's is not. Your rebuttal is that the fighter actually gets a boost.
 

BryonD

Villager
Honestly? It's outside the scope of what I want to do.
That is certainly a very fair point. What I'm talking about is pretty fundamental. On the other hand, I think being locked to a per HD model will limit a lot of your goals.

GlassJaw said:
Essentially you are proposing a point-buy system for every value: hit dice, base attack bonus, damage, saves, skills, etc.
To an extent, yes. But I don't think that would handle it. For one thing, I think you could say that a "75 point" creature is CR6 and then proceed to build three 75 point creatures that would reasonably be considered as CR3, CR6, and CR9.

I think it would have to be a series of criteria. How hard is it to hurt and how much hurt can it take. What is it's best melee attack? What is its best ranged attack? What cool tricks does it have?
Then it has to have "this much" killing power to qualify for CRX. But it must also have "this much" lasting power" to qualify for CRX. And if it doesn't meet this or that criteria, it CAN'T be above CRX. (The trike here, a landbound striker. I don't think any trike you build could ever be a true challenge to a L9 party. Put it in a narrow, enclosed, anti-magic field tunnel, sure, but as a creature on its own merits? No.) Also you limit certain powers so that their presence automatically puts in a minimum CR. (Give your trike the ability to cast "Wail of the Banshee" 1/day and now in it is a CR10+ TRAP with an otherwise negligible monster window dressing)

Obviously, this is already unwieldy and I've not put a single real number on it. As was said, way out of scope. The question is can you find a balance?

The point buy / power level structure of Mutants and Masterminds applies. But that again gets into proscribing potency based on predefined PL (CR in hero tights), rather than building as should be and deriving and answer.

As an aside, the best way to build a good trike with what we have right now would be to take an solid CR4 Elephant or similar analog and then make it be a TB solo monster and scratch off the name.

And yes, the system MUST also handle Mind Flayers as well as HP bags.

But from a gamist approach, the trike already IS what a trike should be: a CR9 critter. The starting point for the gamist approach is exactly that: let's make a CR9 challenge.
But is it really? I doubt it. The overwhelming asymmetry of abilities possessed by a L9 party against this type creature trumps everything else. My distaste for gamist approach aside, I think in this case the gamist approach fails even by its own standards.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Divorcing monster design from HD requires a complete rewrite of the monster system. Which means, among other things, that people using TB can't use their dozen (or more) d20 monster books, instantly negating one of the advantages of playing a 3.x derivative system. That's a failure as a business product tapping into the d20 market.

Separating monster abilities from HD is possible (though the ripple effects are large, going into skills and numerous spells) and might be worthwhile from a game play perspective. That doesn't make it appropriate for the scope of Trailblazer. And maintaining scope focus is key to any project.

The point buy / power level structure of Mutants and Masterminds applies. But that again gets into proscribing potency based on predefined PL (CR in hero tights), rather than building as should be and deriving and answer.
[tangent] That's how you assign PL as a Game Master of M&M (2E). You build the challenge as it should be built then look at the skills, saves, abilities, save DCs, attack bonuses, and defenses, then compare it to the PL chart to find what PL it is.
Then compare it to the level of challenge you want it to be (i.e. compare to the PCs), and decide how else to modify the encounter to get the desired challenge.

The only reasons to assign PL first is if you want to grant X power points per PL (which is how PCs are generally handled, so a lot of people mistakenly believe that's how it has to work) or because you want something to be in a specific challenge / power category and you assign that so that you remember how badass it is supposed to be.
A PL 7 dude is so cool that it is difficult for most folks to comprehend his amazing ability. A PL 10 dude is a powerful demi-god that can challenge most anything, or is a low-power god. A PL 15 is equivalent to a high-power deity, master of all he surveys. A PL 20 is equivalent to a over-god that could reshape all of reality at his whim and dictates terms to the High Gods. (Cthulhu was defeated by a fishing trawler; he's PL 8, PL 12 tops.) [/tangent]
 
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BryonD

Villager
Divorcing monster design from HD requires a complete rewrite of the monster system. Which means, among other things, that people using TB can't use their dozen (or more) d20 monster books, instantly negating one of the advantages of playing a 3.x derivative system. That's a failure as a business product tapping into the d20 market.
Well, Wulf already said that this was out of scope. So it is pretty settled.

However, I disagree with what you are saying. My Utopian system would divorce monster design from HD as a requirement. However, it would still just calculate CR based on whatever final design the monster took. Therefore, a monster that happens to have its SP tied to its HD would still function just the same.

In other words, all existing allowable builds would still work, but the current domain of allowed builds would become a subset of the new domain of allowed builds.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Hey guys, I pseudo-forked this thread and started a thread in General about monster customization and prep time, which is very much tied to our discussion. Check it out here.
 

Primal

Villager
Have you guys considered tying monster skills, saves and HPs more strongly into level and roles, as 4E does? I know it's bad for backwards compatibility, but as you're already apparently willing to try new approaches and divorce monster/NPC stats from 3E conventions, I don't see that as a problem (naturally, people who *do* want to use 3E monster books alongside TB might oppose this). What I mean by this is that rhino might be, say, a 5th level animal "brute", and thus get (on top of 5th level animal "base" stats) +4 to AC, +8 to STR and CON, -2 to REF Saves, +4 to Fort Saves, and +2 to Will Saves (I'm just dropping these numbers without any actual rhyme or reason). In fact, these roles could work as TB Quick Templates (some already remind me of 4E monster design).

Just some thoughts...
 

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