Legends and Lore: Monster Design in D&D Next, Part 2

Legends and Lore:
Monster Design in D&D Next, Part 2
by Mike Mearls

In this week's Legends & Lore, Mike tackles monsters again, but this time he focuses on complexity, numbers, and presentation.

Talk about this column here.
 
astralArchivist.com - 4e D&D house rules, homebrew, and story hours - now featuring ENWorld's Zeitgeist adventure path! Will Thibault is a winged, feathered serpent rarely found anywhere except in warm, jungle-like regions or flying through the ether. Due to his intelligence and powers he is regarded with awe by the inhabitants of his homelands and is considered to be divine.
I have always liked the use of units, even when it wasn't convenient.  Convenient units would be very handy.  I like the direction, with monsters evoking more imagination and less statblocks.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

I think the concern of "Do the monsters actually play differently?" is a very legitimate one. While it is true that complexity creep is bad, 4th edition did a very good job of making fighting a group of kobolds actually interesting.
I think the concern of "Do the monsters actually play differently?" is a very legitimate one. While it is true that complexity creep is bad, 4th edition did a very good job of making fighting a group of kobolds actually interesting.


It's an interesting pickle. I think having a "leader" bestow powers to the other humanoids is a fair middle ground, but I admit my goblins felt a little boring.
I will say, that if I were better prepared and less rusty I would have probably done a better job of making them feel "gobliny" with DM magic. For example Kobolds being a horde that hides and uses traps vs. goblins being a horde that runs straight into the heroes in endless swarms.
But yeah, it's tough.
However, I HATED the idea of having a lurker goblin, a brute goblin a____ goblin in 4e. It just always seemd unnecessarily sloppy to me. 
A few guidelines for using the internet: 1. Mentally add "In my opinion" to the end of basically anything someone else says. Of course it's their opinion, they don't need to let you know. You're pretty smart. 2. Assume everyone means everything in the best manner they could mean it. Save yourself some stress and give people the benefit of the doubt. We'll all be happier if we type less emoticons. 3. Don't try to read people's minds. Sometimes people mean exactly what they say. You probably don't know them any better than they know themselves. 4. Let grammar slide. If you understood what they meant, you're good. It's better for your health. 5. Breath. It's just a dumb game.
I think the concern of "Do the monsters actually play differently?" is a very legitimate one. While it is true that complexity creep is bad, 4th edition did a very good job of making fighting a group of kobolds actually interesting.


It's an interesting pickle. I think having a "leader" bestow powers to the other humanoids is a fair middle ground, but I admit my goblins felt a little boring.
I will say, that if I were better prepared and less rusty I would have probably done a better job of making them feel "gobliny" with DM magic. For example Kobolds being a horde that hides and uses traps vs. goblins being a horde that runs straight into the heroes in endless swarms.
But yeah, it's tough.
However, I HATED the idea of having a lurker goblin, a brute goblin a____ goblin in 4e. It just always seemd unnecessarily sloppy to me. 



I liked it because it meant that even if I populated the adventure with nothing but one creature type (plus a few pets) it would still be interesting and allow for a variety of fights, but there was some sort of thematic element to it. Not saying that there needs to be tons (less scaling means less NEED for tons) but I think its a good thing, and honestly, "go for the leader" all the time sounds like it is likely to become rote (and also make ranged characters much stronger than melee characters, as they'll be able to concentrate their fire on whomever they like, and if there is a central character to every humanoid encounter...).
Toward the end of the Article Mike talked about monsters having a menu of options, presumably so you could choose to use or not.  Although I might have misunderstood this - after all it he might only be refering to non human or solo type monsters.  Mike also said this option was a personal preference so if we'd like to see further options presented as a optional to a monster then I think we ought to say something.  

In any case I can agree somestimes a fight dispenses with tactics and its a brute show of strength and survival - so its over quickly, say like a random encounter.  But in addition there is no reason why monsters can't add to their tactics by clever use of their environment.  For anyone stepping into the Caves of Chaos, they saw how the Kobolds used a pit trap, such environmental aids can further strengthen combat.  Blind spots, rock falls, other creature lairing nearby, use of cover and height etc might all go to make the environment a good base for tacticle opportunity.

But ultimately I'd like more options baked in, even if they are added as optional in the monsters stat block, so I can make the choice, straight out the gate or even use such options as the starting block for me to improvise at the table or reskin such attacks for a planned encounter before hand etc.

I am grateful Mike has put this out there, as I think that this can further strength the call to see what we want clarified going forward.   





 
I don't see why the interesting abilities should be shifted to the leader enemies.  Racial abilities on monsters was very nice, I don't want to go back to the "sack of HP" design.  

Why not just have the leader able to boost the existing abilities of their followers or grant them new ones without taking the old away?
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
I don't know if I like all non-chieftian/mages being different level "sacks of HP".

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!



I have a question for the thread.  Mike's third bullet under Strength in Numbers reads "It provides a better fit with world building. The orc warband that can threaten an 8th-level party is still too few in number to sack a town. A great wyrm can attack the town and destroy it, but it still risks death if the town guard can turn catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire against it. We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."

 
What do you think of this? 

I ask because that line worried me greatly. If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm. 

It also seems to contradict Mearls' own idea about the flatter math meaning that the PCs will fight off hordes of monsters at higher levels. If a PC falls into the same "tough, powerful opponent" category as a Dragon, then the same town militia that can bring down the lizard can also bring down the adventurer. Not very heroic, if you ask me.

A former player of mine once described 4e's tiers of play as "Save the kingdom, save the world, save the universe", and maybe he was abstracting it a bit much, but he was basically right. The implication that the playtest has given me is that it's going to be more like "Save the town, save the region, save the kingdom" and I can't help but feel a little... underwhelmed by that idea.





I don't know if I like all non-chieftian/mages being different level "sacks of HP".

I'm more worried that they won't be different sacks of HP, and instead be one sack of HP that you multiply until you reach the XP value you want. Fourth level encounter? Six Orcs and an Orc Shaman! Twelfth level encounter? Twenty Orcs and an Orc Shaman! 

That'd get boring real quick. 

I don't disagree on principle with the idea behind their monster design/DM tools, but I don't like what I've seen of their execution so far. I want an Orc Hunter and an Orc Berserker to feel different in play just as much as I want a Gnoll Savage and a Hobgoblin Legionnaire to feel different in play. 

I agree with Mearls' sentiment about the basic characteristics of humanoid opponents, but I question his execution. In the interest of not putting my players to sleep or sending them diving headlong for their 3DSes and iPhones, I would consider making monsters mechanically varied and tactically interesting fairly critical. As I said in the article comments, "it's not boring; you can improvise!" is not an acceptable excuse.

I want the rules to cover 90% of what goes on in a fight. Improvisation is for the other 10% of cases that don't come up often enough to warrant space in the PHB. 4e did this well, and was also thoughtful enough to provide us with an adjudication system that played well with the game's core maths.
I have a question for the thread.  Mike's third bullet under Strength in Numbers reads "It provides a better fit with world building. The orc warband that can threaten an 8th-level party is still too few in number to sack a town. A great wyrm can attack the town and destroy it, but it still risks death if the town guard can turn catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire against it. We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."

 
What do you think of this? 

I ask because that line worried me greatly. If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm.


I just shook my head at the idea that the town and the orc band would use game mechanics when they were "off-screen".
It also seems to contradict Mearls' own idea about the flatter math meaning that the PCs will fight off hordes of monsters at higher levels. If a PC falls into the same "tough, powerful opponent" category as a Dragon, then the same town militia that can bring down the lizard can also bring down the adventurer. Not very heroic, if you ask me.

A former player of mine once described 4e's tiers of play as "Save the kingdom, save the world, save the universe", and maybe he was abstracting it a bit much, but he was basically right. The implication that the playtest has given me is that it's going to be more like "Save the town, save the region, save the kingdom" and I can't help but feel a little... underwhelmed by that idea.


I always saw 4e as more "Save the village", "Save the Kingdom", "Save the Universe" myself.  Still, that does go into the "Do they even know what they want to do?" pile.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
A former player of mine once described 4e's tiers of play as "Save the kingdom, save the world, save the universe", and maybe he was abstracting it a bit much, but he was basically right. The implication that the playtest has given me is that it's going to be more like "Save the town, save the region, save the kingdom" and I can't help but feel a little... underwhelmed by that idea.


I don't think 1st level PCs should have any expectation of saving the kingdom, unless there's a good long-range plot reason. But if we see the first tier as building up to being able to save a kingdom (say at 9th-10th levels) then I think that's compatible with that interpretation of the tiers, and with the rules and hints we've seen so far.

Z.


I have a question for the thread.  Mike's third bullet under Strength in Numbers reads "It provides a better fit with world building. The orc warband that can threaten an 8th-level party is still too few in number to sack a town. A great wyrm can attack the town and destroy it, but it still risks death if the town guard can turn catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire against it. We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."

 
What do you think of this? 

I ask because that line worried me greatly. If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm. 

It also seems to contradict Mearls' own idea about the flatter math meaning that the PCs will fight off hordes of monsters at higher levels. If a PC falls into the same "tough, powerful opponent" category as a Dragon, then the same town militia that can bring down the lizard can also bring down the adventurer. Not very heroic, if you ask me.

A former player of mine once described 4e's tiers of play as "Save the kingdom, save the world, save the universe", and maybe he was abstracting it a bit much, but he was basically right. The implication that the playtest has given me is that it's going to be more like "Save the town, save the region, save the kingdom" and I can't help but feel a little... underwhelmed by that idea.




So, if a tough party is equivalent to a great wyrm, then the town militia ia more powerful than the party, making the players actually incapable of defeating opponents the town guard cannot. That great wyrm, itself, really isn't strong enough to march into town and burn it dowm-- it really should be sneaking in during an overcast night, burning down somebuildings, then retreating. And the monster in question better hope to Tiamat that an irritated kingdom doesn't raise an army after finding out where it lives-- this bad old dragon that is not assured victory against a militia has no chance versus an army.

The core of 5E seems to posit a "fantasy" world where there are no legendary Monsters or mythic Heroes. Not really a game world I would be excited to play in. YMMV.



I have a question for the thread.  Mike's third bullet under Strength in Numbers reads "It provides a better fit with world building. The orc warband that can threaten an 8th-level party is still too few in number to sack a town. A great wyrm can attack the town and destroy it, but it still risks death if the town guard can turn catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire against it. We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."

 
What do you think of this? 



well thay say catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire, to me this does not fit with a town, wapons like that more sound like somthing a city might have.

We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."
this speaks about a army to defeat a powerfull monster to me a army is a lot bigger then the guards of a town.


all depends on how big they assume a town is.



I just shook my head at the idea that the town and the orc band would use game mechanics when they were "off-screen".

Precisely why I'm beginning to dread seeing the word "verisimilitude" in blogs and articles. That said, I assumed Mearls meant on-screen, and that's what I meant too. 

I always saw 4e as more "Save the village", "Save the Kingdom", "Save the Universe" myself.  Still, that does go into the "Do they even know what they want to do?" pile.

Well, scope is malleable, of course: my current campaign skipped the kingdom entirely (actually not true, the PCs were the ones running the kingdom by 8th level) and headed straight for saving the world. In any case, the new edition seems to have dialed down that scope quite considerably.

My complaint isn't with the default campaign scope assumptions. Again, those are malleable. What I am concerned about is the limits of that scope. 4e's default assumptions were more "high power" than previous editions, but they were also incredibly scalable, and you could effectively play anything from Cthulhu Mythos survival horror to Gurren Lagann without actually altering the math. With the new edition, not only have those default assumptions been dialed down again, but the scalability has been put in rigid lockstep with the mathematical backbone of the game. 

I'm going to play the kinds of campaign I like to play regardless, but I'm not going to use a system that fights me at every step, and I'm afriad this one is going to... actually, I'm certain of it at this stage.


....And I'd say at this point that pile of "How do we do this?" sitting in the middle of the designer pit at WotC HQ is orders of magnitude larger than the "Here's how we're gonna do this" pile. I'd be more optimistic about that if I had any hope that voices like mine might make an appreciable dent in all of this nostalgia that's caked on the game's framework. Since I'm capable of following trends and generally paying attention, however, I've known exactly what the new edition would look like ever since I first cracked open a copy of Heroes of the Fallen Lands two years ago. So far my predictions have been dead right, unfortunately.



I don't think 1st level PCs should have any expectation of saving the kingdom, unless there's a good long-range plot reason. But if we see the first tier as building up to being able to save a kingdom (say at 9th-10th levels) then I think that's compatible with that interpretation of the tiers, and with the rules and hints we've seen so far.

Z.

That's all a matter of perspective, but yes; my player meant it the same way you put it here. "Save the kingdom" is what you do throughout heroic tier, with the actual "saving" act probably happening toward the end of it. 

I disagree however that the new edition allows for the same progression of story scope as 4e did. Mearls' statement about gameplay and aiming for a bounded 20-level system (if he'd said 30, it would have generated an enormous amount of goodwill toward the game from me) implies to me that he considers, say, a Great Wyrm Red Dragon to be a suitable "series finale" encounter.

As far as I'm concerned, a Great Wyrm Red Dragon is a mid-season speed-bump while the PCs are on their way to deposing Demogorgon somewhere north of 30th level. That's just the kind of game I like. And I don't think the designers are building a game that can do that.


So, if a tough party is equivalent to a great wyrm, then the town militia ia more powerful than the party, making the players actually incapable of defeating opponents the town guard cannot. That great wyrm, itself, really isn't strong enough to march into town and burn it dowm-- it really should be sneaking in during an overcast night, burning down somebuildings, then retreating. And the monster in question better hope to Tiamat that an irritated kingdom doesn't raise an army after finding out where it lives-- this bad old dragon that is not assured victory against a militia has no chance versus an army.

The core of 5E seems to posit a "fantasy" world where there are no legendary Monsters or mythic Heroes. Not really a game world I would be excited to play in. YMMV.

Exactly. 

Why do fantasy worlds like D&D's need heroes? Because there are things lurking in the darkness beyond the edges of civilization which are simply beyond the capability of normal men to defeat, and sometimes those things get hungry. The Men defending Helm's Deep didn't hold the front gate. Aragorn and Gimli held the front gate. 

Just to say that i believe I read in Mikes Reddit AMA, that he mentioned the possibility of 20-30 being optional as a supplimental add on.  And if I remember correctly, he also said that no system has really ever gotten high level play right, although I think 4e has come the closest to making heroes seem legendary.  Although it seems its just providing enough challenge to the increadible resources that can synergise off one another at high levels, in 4e.  

Some of you have said that orcs at 10th level is not as fun as you might think, I'd not necesserily disagree but I'd add in if this is the edition for all editions, then there are many, many monsters out there you can easily add in and never need to see an Orc beyond 5th level ever again.  

For me the jury is a long way out on this whole flatter math thing and it will depend on what comes down the line as changes are made and or how modularity and scaling will put the the math on steroids to get to a more 4e level of feel.

  
Good article overall.  I like the idea of a return of Pike Hedges and Shield Walls tactics!  

I am not too fond of the idea of having all the cool abilities only show up in Chieftain's statblocks. Once the Leader falls (and PCs tend to focus on THAT guy generally lol) this ability goes away from the fight

So, if a tough party is equivalent to a great wyrm, then the town militia ia more powerful than the party, making the players actually incapable of defeating opponents the town guard cannot. That great wyrm, itself, really isn't strong enough to march into town and burn it dowm-- it really should be sneaking in during an overcast night, burning down somebuildings, then retreating. And the monster in question better hope to Tiamat that an irritated kingdom doesn't raise an army after finding out where it lives-- this bad old dragon that is not assured victory against a militia has no chance versus an army.

The core of 5E seems to posit a "fantasy" world where there are no legendary Monsters or mythic Heroes. Not really a game world I would be excited to play in. YMMV.



Eh.  Have you played Dwarf Fortress?  There's a little thing in that game, not a huge deal, but something I found very evocative.  When the world starts, it's said to be in "The Age of Myth".  In this age, Titans and Megabeasts(Dragons, Hydra, Bronze Collosus, Roc) roam the world.  But heroes and armies can slay these beasts, and when the they start to die off, the world enters "The Age of Legends"  and eventually "The Age of Heroes" when there are no more such things.  Eventually, if humans come to rule most of the world, it can even become "The Age of Fairy Tales".  Going from the Age of Myth to the Age of Heroes could take a couple thousand years, but if you got to be there for an Age change, it was a pretty big deal.  I wouldn't mind seeing a little of that put into D&D(other than just by me, I mean)
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.
I understand your concerns about downsizing the heroes relevance and power, but I think you're interpreting it in the most pessimistic way.

The way I see it, if there are monsters that can level a city down and they are common enough that a low-level party faces them frequently, then what's the point of building cities? Why are the cities and castles still standing?

Because even a powerful dragon would think twice before attacking a well defended city. After all, they have few hundred well armed soldiers, siege engines and maybe some magical defenses.
Even if he has a good chance of winning, he would still ponder if it's worth the (small) risk of dying.
Even if he is certain of victory, real people/intelligent creatures wouldn't usually initiate a fight that would make them loose over half your HP. Getting stabbed dozens of times is kind of painful.
It requires some extra motivation to put yourself trough that level of pain besides "I'm evil and I like to destroy"/"I'm greedy and I want gold".

By the same token, even if a kingdom can gather an army strong enough to defeat a dragon, why would they loose so many good men unless the dragon is a very immediate and dangerous threath, specially if there are other options (like the heroes).

I think this approach, if correctly implemented, can create a nice balance to the world. Its like mutual assured destruction: the dragon won't attack big cities, because he knows that he can die there, and even if he survives, the king may try to wipe him out with his army. The king won't send the army unless the dragon is really stepping on his toes too much, because if the dragon survives or escapes he will want revenge.

This scaling down also helps when the PCs get too cocky and disregards the city guard just because they are low level NPCs.
I understand your concerns about downsizing the heroes relevance and power, but I think you're interpreting it in the most pessimistic way.

The way I see it, if there are monsters that can level a city down and they are common enough that a low-level party faces them frequently, then what's the point of building cities? Why are the cities and castles still standing?

Because even a powerful dragon would think twice before attacking a well defended city. After all, they have few hundred well armed soldiers, siege engines and maybe some magical defenses.
Even if he has a good chance of winning, he would still ponder if it's worth the (small) risk of dying.
Even if he is certain of victory, real people/intelligent creatures wouldn't usually initiate a fight that would make them loose over half your HP. Getting stabbed dozens of times is kind of painful.
It requires some extra motivation to put yourself trough that level of pain besides "I'm evil and I like to destroy"/"I'm greedy and I want gold".

By the same token, even if a kingdom can gather an army strong enough to defeat a dragon, why would they loose so many good men unless the dragon is a very immediate and dangerous threath, specially if there are other options (like the heroes).

I think this approach, if correctly implemented, can create a nice balance to the world. Its like mutual assured destruction: the dragon won't attack big cities, because he knows that he can die there, and even if he survives, the king may try to wipe him out with his army. The king won't send the army unless the dragon is really stepping on his toes too much, because if the dragon survives or escapes he will want revenge.

This scaling down also helps when the PCs get too cocky and disregards the city guard just because they are low level NPCs.



By the same token, why does anyone live in New York in the Avengers universe? Why does anyone live in Japan in a universe that has Godzilla? Because, I think, it makes for more interesting stories. Personally, I would rather the "realistic" implications of the existence of dragons not interfere too much with the pcs being in cool stories.

If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm. 

Actually it helps justify important D&D (and general fantasy) tropes: How does a town attacked by a great wyrm (or powerful lich, or something equally horrible) ever survive long enough to hire the adventurers in the first place, and why are there dungeons? If a dragon can be reliably wore down by militia, it means its attacks will likely have to consist of quick raids to throw some fire breath around and take a maiden or two, and the lich will have to spend weeks to build up its powerful town destroying rituals. The big bad can't march down main street with AC based near-invulnerability and go on a relaxing kill-fest, which means the riders (or walkers) from town actually survive to find help and the town isn't reduced to an empty shell by the time adventurers arrive. From the other side of the perspective, the villagers know they can't hope to kill the main enemy in its dungeon (or cavern, or whatever) lair since it will likely have many small traps and minions that will kill them off long before they reach their target. 

Thus major threats and villagers are put in a long term and bloody stalemate that only adventurers can resolve. It doesn't sound that awesome, but this very well describes what is actually usually happening in the backstory of most (non-epic) quests in novels, movies, modules, etc.

< Edit: AndreRodrigues pretty much ended up saying the same thing while I was typing... drat >
Although I like the idea that the mechanics work in the background (the militia can kill the dragon), it does minimize the importance of the heroes. It stabs at their necessity a lot. Why do you need the heroes if you can take out the dragon?

It creates the "Elminster Excuse"

"I'm too busy running the city. Kill the goblins for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the kingdom. Kill the dragon for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the demiplane. Kill the demigod for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the Celestial bureaucracy. Kill Orcus, Demonprice of Undeath for me. I'll give you
gold."

seems blah to me. I don't always want to play Kingmaker as a hero or villian. Well, not it D&D.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm. 

Actually it helps justify important D&D (and general fantasy) tropes: How does a town attacked by a great wyrm (or powerful lich, or something equally horrible) ever survive long enough to hire the adventurers in the first place, and why are there dungeons? If a dragon can be reliably wore down by militia, it means its attacks will likely have to consist of quick raids to throw some fire breath around and take a maiden or two, and the lich will have to spend weeks to build up its powerful town destroying rituals. The big bad can't march down main street with AC based near-invulnerability and go on a relaxing kill-fest, which means the riders (or walkers) from town actually survive to find help and the town isn't reduced to an empty shell by the time adventurers arrive. From the other side of the perspective, the villagers know they can't hope to kill the main enemy in its dungeon (or cavern, or whatever) lair since it will likely have many small traps and minions that will kill them off long before they reach their target. 

Thus major threats and villagers are put in a long term and bloody stalemate that only adventurers can resolve. It doesn't sound that awesome, but this very well describes what is actually usually happening in the backstory of most (non-epic) quests in novels, movies, modules, etc.

< Edit: AndreRodrigues pretty much ended up saying the same thing while I was typing... drat >


Because conquest is often more useful than genocide. The dragon/lich/beholder/whatever doesn't want to sack the town, it wants to rule it. Massacred towns contribute no further resources AND become martyrs. Living, conquered towns continue to produce and actually help the conqueror protect his new territory from other encroaching forces.

Besides, you're talking about story and flavor, I'm really not. My concerns are mechanical. As I said a few posts upstream, I don't want a system that's going to fight me every step of telling stories I want to tell (I get enough of that from editors an agents, thankyouverymuch).

At risk of reiterating myself out of the conversation, a game system that's designed to be "universal" should be able to handle anything from Cthulhu Mythos survival horror to Gurren Lagann without re-wiring the game's mechanical guts. 4e could do that. Next can't. 
Although I like the idea that the mechanics work in the background (the militia can kill the dragon), it does minimize the importance of the heroes. It stabs at their necessity a lot. Why do you need the heroes if you can take out the dragon?

It creates the "Elminster Excuse"

"I'm too busy running the city. Kill the goblins for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the kingdom. Kill the dragon for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the demiplane. Kill the demigod for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the Celestial bureaucracy. Kill Orcus, Demonprice of Undeath for me. I'll give you
gold."

seems blah to me. I don't always want to play Kingmaker as a hero or villian. Well, not it D&D.



but at what cost when the melitia kill the dragon ?
players with their magic and high HP might survive the fight on low hitpoints.
While when the melitia beats the dragon that means 75+ percent of the able bodied men of the village lie dead on the battlefield.

the PC's would still be important to prevent this great loss of life.
Although I like the idea that the mechanics work in the background (the militia can kill the dragon), it does minimize the importance of the heroes. It stabs at their necessity a lot. Why do you need the heroes if you can take out the dragon?

It creates the "Elminster Excuse"

"I'm too busy running the city. Kill the goblins for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the kingdom. Kill the dragon for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the demiplane. Kill the demigod for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the Celestial bureaucracy. Kill Orcus, Demonprice of Undeath for me. I'll give you
gold."

seems blah to me. I don't always want to play Kingmaker as a hero or villian. Well, not it D&D.



but at what cost when the melitia kill the dragon ?
players with their magic and high HP might survive the fight on low hitpoints.
While when the melitia beats the dragon that means 75+ percent of the able bodied men of the village lie dead on the battlefield.

the PC's would still be important to prevent this great loss of life.


This is how I see it as well. An army taking out a dragon will lose dozens, maybe even hundreds, of soldiers. A group of monster hunting adventurers will be just as good at the killing part and hopefully live to tell the tale.
At risk of reiterating myself out of the conversation, a game system that's designed to be "universal" should be able to handle anything from Cthulhu Mythos survival horror to Gurren Lagann without re-wiring the game's mechanical guts. 4e could do that. Next can't. 



I disagree with you on the last two sentences. In 4e, the PCs always feel like superheroes. Nothing wrong with that if that's the game you want to play, but it never fit into MY style of campaign. Secondly we don't know that Next CAN'T scale up to run universe saving campaigns - we simply do not have enough information yet.

Veteran of The Transfer... Add 700 to my post count... 

@Fleck & edwin_su

I understand the fact that sending the heroes rather than the army saves lives, but it does remove some of the heroics. The heroes aren't "needed", they are "economical". They are medieval nukes. I am fine with that sometimes. But I'll miss the "Help me, Hero. You're our only hope.""You're going to trust these misfits, my lord/king.""Yes Bishop/Advisor/Councilman, We have no other choice." feeling.

Now the DM always has to neuter the army/militia to pull it off.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Just a bunch of random comments to random posts here.

1. Gimli and Aragorn did not hold the front gate by themselves, They were backed up by hundreds of men.  

2. The article did not say that a large army can "reliably" defeat a large dragon. The article said it was possible,  it did not say it was reliable.

3. I really don't get the idea of mortals being able to slay gods.  If you could do that, you would be a god yourself, and then your interests would not be focused on god slaying.  Further, if such a thing was possible, there should be no gods left in your campaign world, cause some team of adventurers would have slain them by now, or the various gods would have slayed eachother if they were petty enough to care about such things.

4. You can always scale up the game.  This idea that it's impossible to scale things up is nonsense.  Refluff an Orc Chieftain or the high level monster of your choice into a Orcus, and walla, you are now fighting divine beings.  You think your Orcus isn't strong enough compared to the dragon? Well now you are making a versimiltude argument.  It still bothers you? Then multiply all the numbers by 10 on the PCs and the Monsters.   Congrats, you now have "epic level" fights that don't take you 5 hours to complete.
 
@Fleck & edwin_su

I understand the fact that sending the heroes rather than the army saves lives, but it does remove some of the heroics. The heroes aren't "needed", they are "economical". They are medieval nukes. I am fine with that sometimes. But I'll miss the "Help me, Hero. You're our only hope.""You're going to trust these misfits, my lord/king.""Yes Bishop/Advisor/Councilman, We have no other choice." feeling.

Now the DM always has to neuter the army/militia to pull it off.

If the army goes after the dragon, then the city is defensless.  The party is then needed to either protect the city from people who like to invade defenseless cities or to go slay the dragon.  Players' choice.
Now the DM always has to neuter the army/militia to pull it off.



Having SEALs in your arsenal does not neuter the US Army (unless maybe you ask a SEAL... ;))

Veteran of The Transfer... Add 700 to my post count... 

At risk of reiterating myself out of the conversation, a game system that's designed to be "universal" should be able to handle anything from Cthulhu Mythos survival horror to Gurren Lagann without re-wiring the game's mechanical guts. 4e could do that. Next can't. 



I disagree with you on the last two sentences. In 4e, the PCs always feel like superheroes. Nothing wrong with that if that's the game you want to play, but it never fit into MY style of campaign. Secondly we don't know that Next CAN'T scale up to run universe saving campaigns - we simply do not have enough information yet.


That's my point. What fits my campaign doesn't fit yours, and vice versa. A system aiming at universality should be able to cope with both without major structural changes. My examples weren't chosen at random, and they aren't false either; I have run a Mythos horor/slasher game in 4e, and I've run an over-the-top, using-galaxies-as-shuriken campaign. I did both without having to tweak the game system. I could have dropped a PC from one into the other without any adaptation, no worse for the wear save some mood whiplash. 

And actually, yes, I do have enough information to draw my conclusions. It's called trending, and the trend in the game design pit right now is NOT toward the higher end of the sliding scale of PC power levels. This should be obvious to anyone who's been paying attention to the development of the game for the last seven months.
Although I like the idea that the mechanics work in the background (the militia can kill the dragon), it does minimize the importance of the heroes. It stabs at their necessity a lot. Why do you need the heroes if you can take out the dragon?

It creates the "Elminster Excuse"

"I'm too busy running the city. Kill the goblins for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the kingdom. Kill the dragon for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the demiplane. Kill the demigod for me. I'll give you
gold."
"I'm too busy running the Celestial bureaucracy. Kill Orcus, Demonprice of Undeath for me. I'll give you
gold."

seems blah to me. I don't always want to play Kingmaker as a hero or villian. Well, not it D&D.



but at what cost when the melitia kill the dragon ?
players with their magic and high HP might survive the fight on low hitpoints.
While when the melitia beats the dragon that means 75+ percent of the able bodied men of the village lie dead on the battlefield.

the PC's would still be important to prevent this great loss of life.



Exactly what I was going to post. Even if the town militia has a chance of killing the dragon (heck, even if it has a better chance than the PCs), most rulers would not be willing to sacrifice 50%+ of his people if it wasn't as a last-resource thing - that is, way after they have sent the PCs, who have a chance of killing the beast and not losing anyone, or losing just 1 or 2, in the process.

Likewise, most townspeople would be very afraid of going after a dragon, so convincing that milita is a hard task. Again, they'd only probably go as a last-minute resort, only if every single PC they have sent couldnt do the deed.

Plus, I imagine that the mechanics that allow the militia to kill the dragon will probably consider the role of the PCs in the fight. Probably, the militia will not outdamage the party (or at least, not by a wide margin); probably, there will be rules on how the PCs can rally and command the militia, making them feel important, even if its not actually them who are taking mist of the monster's XP; and (and I particularly like this one) probably there will be some way to ensure that the PCs make the last hit, if only because that makes for an awesome scene (after the militia wear the dragon down, it falls to the Ranger to hit a single arrow in the only weakn spot in the dragon's carapace / the Fighter to climb at the dragon's back, make his way toward it's head, and plunge his sword into the beast's skull / the Wizard to finally cast a spell that penetrates the dragon's defenses and utterly crush his lifeforce). I can totally envision a mechanic like "after the enemy has fallen to 0 hit points, it has to be hit by an attack made by a PC to definitely die".
Well, I like the direction it's trending. No way we're going to agree and that is the fundamental hurdle WotC has. I do not envy the designers at all...

Veteran of The Transfer... Add 700 to my post count... 

Well, I like the direction it's trending. No way we're going to agree and that is the fundamental hurdle WotC has. I do not envy the designers at all...


No, it's not. My opinion is so hugely in the minority that it might as well not exist. The developers' concern for satisfying my playstyle is nil, and I've known this for two years now.  
I am just going to learn to live with the loss with "Level X Dragon? Call level Y Heroes or Die" of 3E and 4E.

Trade the World Sense for the Loss of the Neccesary Big Heroes

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

I like the creation of a world with more internal logic. It makes sense that a kingdom's army can destroy a dragon and it explains why the dragon hasn't already destroyed the kingdom. A dragon can still ravage the "countryside" and small villages or poorly defended towns, but the biggest cities are generally off limits. I also like logic behind the necessity for heroes to make sense too. It is hard to gather an army to destroy a dragon or to chase it back to its lair in the mountains or even to fight it in its lair. Not impossible, but difficult and costly.

Kingdoms are generally large and relatively wealthy, but they can also be slow and have a vast array of demands, so it makes sense for them to use adventurers to cover the gaps. If the PCs were the only thing standing in the way of some rampaging dragon that has decided to destroy the kingdom, then the PCs could demand almost anything in return. Why should they settle on 10,000 gold? The kingdom almost certainly has more money than that. However, if the kingdom could go after the dragon itself, but it is very inconvenient to do so, then it gives the kingdom and the party a place to bargain from (ie. the reward to the PCs can only go so high before getting the PCs to do it isn't worth the price). This makes economical sense and allows the world, especially one where there is all manner of monsters and dangerous humanoid tribes running around, to have some internal logic. Sure, there can be a cost to this, especially with some styles of adventures or quests, but I think what it brings to table is worth it.

However, as to making some monsters, especially "humanoid" monsters simpler is just bad news. I like to mix a large number of varied monsters in my encounters to help challenge both my party and to give me something interesting to do and I would be fine with a general decrease in the number of powers a given monster has, but not the elimination of all powers. I'm not a big fan of recharge powers, especially if I have a couple of different monsters with them, so I'd be fine if they were completely eliminated in favor of just encounter powers, but I never want to see a monster that doesn't do anything but swing with a weapon (or used a ranged weapon) and then just deal damage. That sounds very boring.

As for giving racial-type powers to leader humanoids and leaving the regular humanoids blank, I'm not a fan of that either. If I want my group of orcs to feel like orcs and I plan to have my party encounter a number of orc groups, then I don't want every group to have its own shaman or its own "leader" as opposed to just grunts. I want orc grunts that are all by themselves, or when mixed with non-orcs, to still feel like orcs.
This is quickly becoming the D&D edition that I'd rather be an occasional player for than a dedicated DM.

@mikemearls The office is basically empty this week, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for low shenanigans

@mikemearls In essence, all those arguments I lost are being unlost. Won, if you will. We're doing it MY way, baby.

@biotech66 aren't you the boss anyway? isn't "DO IT OR I FIRE YOU!" still an option?

@mikemearls I think Perkins would throat punch me if I ever tried that. And I'd give him a glowing quarterly review for it.

This is quickly becoming the D&D edition that I'd rather be an occasional player for than a dedicated DM.


Interesting; although I understand why that is, and sympathise, it's having the opposite effect on me.

A well-scaled play environment where characters must strive hard to be heroes, and where I as DM get to sketch on a large canvas, filling in the details as needed, appeals to me greatly. I prefer that to an environment where the protagonists are assumed to be major heroes who outclass those around them by an order of magnitude.

I don't want the PCs to make my game world feel small; they can feel big by growing into it.

Z.


I have a question for the thread.  Mike's third bullet under Strength in Numbers reads "It provides a better fit with world building. The orc warband that can threaten an 8th-level party is still too few in number to sack a town. A great wyrm can attack the town and destroy it, but it still risks death if the town guard can turn catapults, ballistae, and massed crossbow fire against it. We can avoid a world where a mundane army simply has no chance of even harming, let alone defeating, powerful monsters."

 
What do you think of this? 

I ask because that line worried me greatly. If a Great Wyrm can be taken out by a town militia, then what purpose do the PCs play in the world? I've always worked off the idea that the town seeks out and hires the PCs precisely because the PCs are the only ones who even have a chance against the Wyrm. 

It also seems to contradict Mearls' own idea about the flatter math meaning that the PCs will fight off hordes of monsters at higher levels. If a PC falls into the same "tough, powerful opponent" category as a Dragon, then the same town militia that can bring down the lizard can also bring down the adventurer. Not very heroic, if you ask me.

A former player of mine once described 4e's tiers of play as "Save the kingdom, save the world, save the universe", and maybe he was abstracting it a bit much, but he was basically right. The implication that the playtest has given me is that it's going to be more like "Save the town, save the region, save the kingdom" and I can't help but feel a little... underwhelmed by that idea.



It always worries me when people put forth the idea that only the heroes can do anything in the world, and the world would basically collapse into chaos without them.  There are a lot more dragons in most fantasy worlds than there are high level adventuring parties.  What kind of footing does that put most of the towns of the world on?  Pretty shaky if you ask me.

Basically Mike is saying that an adventuring party, or medieval weapons of mass destruction can slay a dragon.  I have no problem with that at all. I think it makes a heck of a lot of sense.  Villages and hamlets must rely on heroes.  Towns can take care of some threats.  Citys and capitals can take on all but the most powerful threats.  Heroes can take them all on depending on level.  What's wrong with that?

Kalex the Omen 
Dungeonmaster Extraordinaire

OSR Fan? Our Big Announcement™ is here!

Please join our forums!

Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

This article makes me very happy.  Warm and fuzzy in fact.  

I do like colorful fun monsters but I also like the fact that there will be plenty of "sacks of hit points" as options.  Mixing this up is best.  Giving everything a power sloooows the game down.   I do think their basic attack though can be colorful.

I think Mike's nod to verisimilitude is a good thing.  If it doesn't bother you that is great but for a lot of people this kind of stuff is really important.  It really adds to the game when the rules reflect the reality of the world.  

The dragon is fiercesome and probably won't be killed easily by the townspeople but making it theoretically possible for them to kill it is a good thing.  The townspeople though aren't going out looking for the dragon though.  That would be a disaster if they were in the open.  The dragon is smart and will use hit and run tactics.  The party needs to track down this dragon and kill it.




 

My Blog which includes my Hobby Award Winning articles.

I like the idea, suggested previous in the thread, of having a "horde power".  So, while individual grunt orcs, goblins, kobolds, all function similarly on an individual basis, because they've got a tiny numbe rof hp and are expected to die quickly, instead of giving the leader a power that forces them to act uniquely, have a power that activates if there are more than, say, eight of a creature type.

So the kobold's "horde power" may be "shifty", allowing kobolds in a crowd to ignore the penalty (whenever they introduce it) of breaking off from melee.  The gnoll's horde power may be "pack attack", in which, at the end of any round in which the gnolls outnumber enemies 2-to-1, they make a single attack against any enemy adjacent to any gnoll.  Make up flavorful horde powers for each creature that might be found in hordes so they feel different, without overly slowing the combat down and without requiring there to be a leader that becomes the target fo focus fire.
Personally, I would rather the "realistic" implications of the existence of dragons not interfere too much with the pcs being in cool stories.



Nothing at all Mike says in the article even suggests that it will impede your ability to have the PCs in "cool stories."  Try not to be so over dramatic.

Kalex the Omen 
Dungeonmaster Extraordinaire

OSR Fan? Our Big Announcement™ is here!

Please join our forums!

Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

Sign In to post comments