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[MONSTERS] Design Discussion and Preview

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I've been meaning to comment on this for a while, but only found the time to post on it just now. These are my thoughts on GlassJaw's initial post.

GlassJaw said:
Attacks that bypass a creature’s regeneration now listed.
Yes, please. I can't tell you how many times I've seen creatures with a regeneration value listed, and then no entry detailing what overcomes it. Somebody should have started putting the attack types that overcome regeneration right into the stat block a long time ago.

GlassJaw said:
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.
I like this ability modifier/average/good skill breakdown a lot. That said, I think that it's only half of the equation (albeit the more important half).

In addition to listing the values of skill bonuses, I'd also like there to be some sort of matrix on quickly assigning how many average/good skills a given creature is likely to have. I'm guessing this would give each monster X number of good skills, with a notation that an average skill is worth two good skills, and the bonuses are shown on the table that each monster has. That way, I can quickly pull-and-plug a given set of skill modifiers in with a set number of skills, and the work is done.

For example, in the sample stat blocks PDF, we're given the average and good skill bonuses for a pit fiend. Ideally, there'd be a listing saying that a pit fiend gets thirteen good skills (or two average skills per good skill given up), so I can just plug in the listed average/good skill breakdowns listed for the pit fiend.

GlassJaw said:
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.
You're going to have a problem with this, since size is different depending on what you apply the modifier to. It's one value for attack/AC, another value for Stealth, and another for CMB/CMD (as listed in Trailblazer, though that's a combined value).

I'm not sure how you could make the size modifier both conspicuous and easy to remember.

GlassJaw said:
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.
Also a great idea, though I think you'd need to reprint Trailblazer's section on giving monsters class features right next to this, so that between that and quick templates you'd have maximum customization with minimum work.

I also think that while none of the quick templates change CR by themselves, if a DM multi-stacks them (either several templates, or the same one several times) that will change the CR, so maybe there should be some sort of fractional CR value?

GlassJaw said:
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?
Please do this! These two things would never be enough to warrant their own book, and they both need an overhaul quite badly.

Trap stat blocks are a mess. The information itself is fine, but the way it's presented leaves a lot to be desired, particularly in terms of CR construction (and, though I doubt anyone cares, in the skill check to create a trap). Likewise, not withstanding Unearthed Arcana's complex skill check rules, skill challenges have been totally ignored. I'd really love to see what you guys can do with these.
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
In addition to listing the values of skill bonuses, I'd also like there to be some sort of matrix on quickly assigning how many average/good skills a given creature is likely to have.
In my view, that won't even be necessary. The stat block will include a list of "common" skills for that creature type. After that, it's up to you. If your aboleth needs to make a Stealth check, pick something on the fly. Either use just its base ability mod or the average or good modifier if you want it be more "stealthy".

In the grand scheme of things, a creature's skill points have almost no effect on its CR or the challenge of a given encounter. Ideally, skill checks should be designed to provide a reasonable challenge to the PCs but not hinder their progress.

There will be a table that gives some rules of thumb on what modifiers to use for each creature type. For example, animals usually use "average" modifiers for all skills while outsiders use "good".
 
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GlassJaw

Explorer
Originally Posted by GlassJaw
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.
You're going to have a problem with this, since size is different depending on what you apply the modifier to. It's one value for attack/AC, another value for Stealth, and another for CMB/CMD (as listed in Trailblazer, though that's a combined value).

I'm not sure how you could make the size modifier both conspicuous and easy to remember.
Currently, the only stat block entry that lists the size modifier is AC. I've done some stat block experimenting with regards to other size modifiers.

One idea was to create separate line entries for Size and Type instead of having them on one line. Next to Size, I would include the modifiers. For example:

Size Large (-1 attack, -1 AC, -4 Stealth, +5 CMB)

Another idea is to include the modifier in each existing entry. That means in order to include the modifier to attack, you would have to expand it to include all modifiers, a la AC:

Melee 2 claws +7 (+3 BAB, +5 Str, -1 size)

I like the completeness of this stat line, as well as the uniformity with the AC stat line. It will also help notate feats like Weapon Focus and Weapon Finesse, which are easy for a DM to miss.

It might get a little cumbersome because you also need to include damage. Unless you put damage on a separate line as well...I think you see where this ends up going.

So there is a point where you have to draw the line. I'm still experimenting.
 

booboo

Villager
I'm not a big fan of 4e but there monster manuals have done lots of things right. like that each creature has more than one build giving more range of CR for each creature saving the DM lots of paper work.
 

ValhallaGH

Villager
Size Large (-1 attack, -1 AC, -4 Stealth, +5 CMB)
This.

I trust the author to correctly include the benefits of weapon focus, weapon finesse, size, and so forth in the stat block. (I've been let down before but that's my principal.) If I really need the size modifiers (usually not but sometimes) having them next to size is most appropriate. Bonus, you can include things like x# carrying capacity, +X to Strength checks, etc (in case I need an Ogre or Balor to bash down a sealed door or pick up a wagon).

Further, this option keeps the stat block from gaining six lines.
 

BryonD

Villager
I don't see how this helps.
For one thing, it seems to add more data to the sheet. I thought the point was to reduce and compact the stat block.
Second, scattering data about one topic doesn't make it easier to read.

If you want to note the size impact on CMB, then follow the lead of AC and put it on the CMB line.
CMB: +8 (+3 BAB, +1 Size, +4 Str)

But even then it doesn't offer anything beyond QC.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
My option is to almost always ignore the size modifier for Stealth.

I do this primarily by not having things as big as a barn even bother trying to hide.

If for some reason I need a T-Rex to stalk the players, or if I want to hide an elephant behind the couch, I can trouble myself to jot down the modifier.

You're sending a mixed message here. On the one hand you say "Skills don't matter, they don't matter, they don't matter, just wing it..." and in the next post you're talking about encumbering the statblock with the Size modifiers for Stealth. (Point taken, it extends beyond simply Stealth.)

We are trying to make things easier on the DM. First and foremost, make sure your statblocks are correct-- YOU do the work for 500+ monsters and make sure the size modifier is included for stealth and everything else.

Moving beyond that, we do not have a message of "strict adherence to numbers." Our message is, "Don't sweat the details, get on with the fun."

If the DM wants to change a monster's Stealth entry on the fly, he should just DO IT.
 
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BryonD

Villager
In the rare cases something Large or more is also presumed to be stealth based, there is always some environmental modifier in the form of a hand-waved "big enough" circumstance modifier, and/or the ever popular, all-powerful racial modifier that the size modifier goes away amid the smoke.

And it can certainly make sense. The gargantuan people eater of Death Swamp is likely to be very good at remaining unseen when in the waters of the swamp. Whereas if it is teleported into the nearby forest it will find it much more difficult to hide behind a tree than Bob the wizard does.

But how often have you ever had a gargantuan monster try to hide away from its native environment? I'd wager rare enough that simply making a ruling on the spot is far more practical than trying to worry about it.

Imagine a stone giant ranger stalking a party in a "giant's forest" of 500 foot tall, 20 foot across pine trees. Maybe it makes sense to rule that the tree's afford the giant concealment to his scale, and thus he suffers no size penalty on his stealth checks. Whereas the PCs are so small compared to the trees that there is no concealment offered. Just as if the party were hiding near a barn in daylight. Either they are behind the barn and receiving complete cover, or they are in line of sight and unhidden. The giant ranger can position himself amongst the trees to remain hidden in exactly the same way a classic wood elf does in a normal forest. But even the party rogue can't move the thirty feet it takes to get around the tree quickly enough to truly hide in this forest.

Obviously the example gets kinda tortured. But it just shows how size modifiers for large creatures stealth checks are kinda an appendix of the anatomy of a rule system. Its a completely natural part of the system, but it doesn't do anything unless it gets infected, then it can be fatal.

When all is said and done, size modifiers themselves are static. If you really need them, hot down the full list somewhere on your DM screen or cheat sheet. Every large creature has a -4 size modifier to stealth. So writing that "-4 size" down over and over again is just baggage.
 

BryonD

Villager
If the DM wants to change a monster's Stealth entry on the fly, he should just DO IT.
I started writing my post before you edited yours. And then I had to take a phone call.

All in all, I'm saying exactly this same thing.

As I said before, the monster should be what it should be.
If the monster makes sense as a 50 foot tall ambush predator, then any decent DM will give it a stealth check to fit.

And as Psion frequently said and I 101% endorse:
"Use the rules. Don't let the rules use you."
 

GlassJaw

Explorer
Ok, the size Stealth mod is out. Not that crucial for the stat block and easy enough to adjudicate on the fly

Personally, I would like having the size mod to attack and CMB listed, although technically, the attack modifier is the same as the AC modifier.

So I guess the question is, if the size attack modifier is listed, does that open the need for all attack modifiers (like I listed above)?

I tend to fall into the camp that more info = better but I know that there is a point of information/stat block overload.

I thought the point was to reduce and compact the stat block.
That not really the goal per se. My goal going was to make the stat block more "usable" for the DM. If the stat block ends up getting smaller, so be it. So far, that hasn't been the case. Our stat block definitely has more "stuff" but to me, it's practical info that will help the DM and laid out in a way that I think is intuitive.

Second, scattering data about one topic doesn't make it easier to read.
Are you referring to the stat block or this thread containing multiple topics? If things are getting cluttered, we can fork the thread.
 

booboo

Villager
I like small stat blocks, lot of the extra details could be examined in the spine of monsters section of the book.
 

BryonD

Villager
Are you referring to the stat block or this thread containing multiple topics? If things are getting cluttered, we can fork the thread.
I was referencing the stat block.

It had been suggested that the size statement of the stat block include the CMB modifier. Thus you would have information regarding the CMB many lines away from the record of the actual CMB.
Better to say:
CMB: +8 (+3 BAB, +1 Size, +4 Str)

Than:
Example Monster of Death
Size: Large (+3 CMB)
stats
stats
stats
BAB: +3
stats
stats
stats
Abilities
Str: 18 Dex: 14 Con: 16
Int: 4 Wis: 8 Chr: 10
stats
stats
CMB: +8
 

Toy Boy

Villager
In the game that I am running, I find that the PCs can handle the encounters as written very easily. Perhaps they are just an exceptional group. I have made modifications using the encounter buy table in Trailblazer but I'd like a much easier way of increasing CR. The idea of monsters at various levels of CR would be great. I would use these pre-built baddies all the time. Not to mention that it gives a little more flavor to the monster.
 

Wulf Ratbane

Villager
In the game that I am running, I find that the PCs can handle the encounters as written very easily. Perhaps they are just an exceptional group.
Sounds like a tough group.

If you had to put them on a spectrum of power with "1" being "Darth Vader" and "10" being "Superman," how would they rate?
 

Toy Boy

Villager
I'd rate them around Wolverine.

Will those who buy the paperback also get access to the PDF? I like the idea of printing the monsters that I will use in the game, but I also would like and actual book to reference when preparing.
 
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GlassJaw

Explorer
I've been tweaking the stat block and working on some test creatures, specifically those that use natural and manufactured weapons.

One of the entries I've been toying with is the BAB/CMB/CMD line.

For example, the medusa has Weapon Finesse, which changes the CMB and CMD values for certain combat maneuvers since some allow the use of weapon feats and some do not.

For creatures like this, what formatting option do you prefer?

BAB +6; CMB +6; CMD 18

BAB +6; CMB +6 (+8 with dagger); CMD 18 (20 with dagger)

BAB +6; CMB +6 (+6 BAB, +0 Str); CMD 18 (12 touch, +6 BAB, +0 Str)

BAB +6; CMB +6 (+6 BAB, +0 Str) or +8 with dagger; CMD 18 (12 touch, +6 BAB, +0 Str) or 20 with dagger
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
For creatures like this, what formatting option do you prefer?

[...]

BAB +6; CMB +6 (+8 with dagger); CMD 18 (20 with dagger)
I prefer this one, which is odd because usually I'm in favor of stats that show how they were constructed.

EDIT: If the book is supposed to place an emphasis on monsters being easily customized on the fly, however, I think that this one is the better option:

GlassJaw said:
BAB +6; CMB +6 (+6 BAB, +0 Str) or +8 with dagger; CMD 18 (12 touch, +6 BAB, +0 Str) or 20 with dagger
Yes, it's quite hefty in terms of presentation, but putting everything there prevents the DM from having to do the "heavy lifting" on their own when deciding that this medusa uses a quarterstaff instead of a dagger, for example.
 
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Wulf Ratbane

Villager
My suggestion was not to include Weapon Finesse into CMB/CMD at all. <shrug>

I still feel like 3e players are decrying the complexity of the rules one moment and yet demanding total transparency to every last bonus/penalty the next.

What do you gain by knowing where the bonuses are derived from, if ultimately you're not going to sweat the small stuff?

On the other hand I definitely see the advantage of making it "correct" if you're going to go through the effort of printing it in a book. I just don't want the extra information in the statblock to negatively impact usability. (It's a UI issue, really.)
 

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