Socialist Monster Design

today’s article is a guest post from Dan Burke. If you’re interested in submitting a guest article, hit me up!

Socialist Monster Design OR  Everyone Gets to Play

We’ve been talking about total game participation.  This means everyone from level 1 to level 50 gets to play.  Some of the ideas that have been bounced about this, such as transforms on lower level characters have been posted up here.

On the flipside of that would be monster design:  This is the portion of the game which drives the actions of the player base at a logistical and tactical level.  If the story keeps putting out creatures which encourage players to stick themselves in golems…or get silver weapons…or do more damage…that comes back to how the creatures being used to push that plot were designed.

Having been around since the end of 6th edition rules and the introduction of 7th, seeing how monster design has shifted to be more inclusive over time is a good thing, but some of us are still on a crusade to eliminate ‘you can’t play this game’ moments.

A good example of things which have fallen to the wayside would be “Old Threshold”.  Originally this was a skill which said “if you do not swing more than X, no damage is dealt”.  On monsters this was a pain in the butt, as it essentially eliminated lower level players from participating.  These creatures typically were also high body so casters had to overdo it to achieve anything or flip into bind-o-mancy.

These days we have more forgiving mechanics in monster design, specifically “Minimal” and “Damage Cap” .  Rather than saying “You do nothing” if you do not break that magical X amount, you do a minimal amount of damage.  So it’s something versus nothing. The other end of this is Damage Cap, which is to say that a monster will only take up Y value in damage, with exceptions within the rules for overkill (slays, assassinates).

There are still a few places where “you don’t get to play” applies.  A noteworthy example would be “Magic to Hit”.  Magical weapons are a rite of passage in NERO.  You made it, you’ve been adventuring long enough to either luck into or maybe if you have a team, build your own magic weapon!  Now you can fight death knights!  How many months or years were you hating life that you would, at best, get 3 swings in with an Enchant Blade spell?

Consider if Magic to Hit monsters were made instead to “Cap 5 VS Non-Magic Damage”

Suddenly a magical weapon is the preferred weapon to use again this creature, but you can still inflict some damage.  This is not something to be applied to ALL instances obviously, a boss monster should not have a gaping weakness to slays just because.  Where “Cap VS Non-(damagetype)” would shine is on field and woods encounters where you cannot predict scaling.  It would allow for the use of ‘Cool’ monsters, without the fear of removing a portion of the player base from participating.  In a module situation (or for an appropriate Boss monster) using the standard “Magic to hit” would be fine.

Where else could you think of places that would encourage more participation without sacrificing the quality of experience for all levels of players?

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  1. #1 by Jyn on June 24, 2011 - 3:01 pm

    Love the title, and the concept. Reasonable damage cap is a great equalizer, and has the bonus effect of making damage casters more effective, rather than watch their spells dwarfed by ever-escalating monster body. I’ve also seen people use plot mechanics and circumstantial statting to give lower-level characters room to shine.

    In one game I play, there are certain NPCs who are particularly aligned with the inexperienced for IG reasons, and will give them boons or hook special encounters to them, that are tied into the overarching plot. Or sometimes, if a plotline required 3 or 4 tasks/mods to resolve, one of those tasks can only be undertaken by a group of low level characters. It can be overdone, but it really helps when there is something special that lowbie characters bring to the table.

    I’ve also seen people design encounters where certain monsters were very visibly differentiated and intended to be fought by lowbie characters. During the prep before the fight, the NPC hook explained to us that these monsters would magically adapt to their opponents. As long as only inexperienced people fought them, they were beatable, but if they were attacked by experienced folk, they would become exponentially more powerful until that opponent was down.

    • #2 by Daniel Burke on July 3, 2011 - 4:39 pm

      There was a similar type of monster back at NERO NH – where it would ‘pump up’ based on the # of people fighting it. So 2 people could fight it relatively safely, more than 2 and it would just hulk, more than 4 and it quickly become apparent that you needed to get back to 2 VERY quickly. Lead to a lot of round robin ‘tag me in!’ moments, and was interesting to fight against.

  2. #3 by Davydd on August 12, 2011 - 11:02 pm

    flat Damage Reduction # (take # off the top) in place of Threshold (doesn’t kill newbies) or Damage Cap (doesn’t invalidate earned levels).

    • #4 by fresh heir on August 31, 2011 - 2:51 pm

      I strongly dislike flat damage reduction as it adds another layer of arithmetic to every weapon swing. Flat DR is good for tabletop and computer games, but the pace of LARP combat is too fast for it.

  3. #5 by אלרט פיי on August 5, 2012 - 1:41 pm

    I have been checking out many of your posts and it’s clever stuff. I will surely bookmark your blog.

  4. #6 by Kristopher on May 4, 2013 - 4:58 pm

    to hit monsters can better be addressed by changing enchantment spells, like Magic blade, to last the battle. This encourages working with others at lower levels (caster for the spell, melee type for higher damage), and empowers high level self-buffers to be able to enter the fray without a permanent weapon. In both cases resources are used, which lends to the value of craft skills (for scrolls), or buff-type spells. Both of which add to the game without remotely shaking power levels or encounter scaling.

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