MMO concepts - aggro and taunt

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So we all know that 4e is borrowing some concepts from MMO's; some of us think that's a great idea, and some of us are frothing at the mouth and trying not to swallow our own tongues from the sheer outrage. Personally, I think it's a pretty good idea as long as they don't go overboard.

One thing I'm curious about is how people feel about the MMO concepts of "aggro management". For those not familiar with MMO's, here's a brief explanation: the enemies you fight are controlled by the game's AI, so the AI needs to decide who it wants to attack in your group. It attacks whoever it has the most "aggro" (aggression) towards. You generally gain aggression by doing more damage than the rest of the players in your group. This presents a problem: the DPS ("Striker" in 4e terms) does the most damage, but has the weakest armor and lowest hit points, while the Tank ("Defender" in 4e terms) does less damage but has better armor and hit points. You want the Tank to take most of the hits. So, most MMO's give the Tank various "Taunt" abilities, which he can use to add additional aggro and force the emeny to keep attacking him instead of the weak rogues and wizards who are really doing all the damage. This whole "aggro management" game can get fairly complex in the late stages of most MMO's.

Of course, in D&D, all the enemies are controlled by another human, so there isn't really an Aggro meter. To compare, "aggro" and "taunts" usually have no effect in MMO's in player vs player combat; each player attacks whoever he feels like.

Should D&D have some sort of taunt/aggro management? We've seen a bit of it in the PHB2 Knight class. I think some sort of taunt/aggro is necessary if they want to have a real "Defender" role in the game. It would be a little unfair if the DM could just constantly have every monster you come across walk right past the defender and attack the squishy mage. Even from a roleplaying standpoint, it would make sense that almost any creature, from animals to the highly intelligent, would try to first kill the weak, unarmored guy that's blasting them with fire before wasting any time on the slow-moving, heavily armored guy that's attempting to chase them around the battlefield. On the other hand, if the aggro system was too rules-heavy, it would again hurt roleplay as the DM wouldn't have much choice in making the enemy act intelligently; it would be a shame if encounters started looking like MMO encounters, where all the enemies surround the taunting tank and keep attacking his invulnerable defense in vain, while a mage two feet to their left is burning them alive and a priest two feet to their right is continually healing the tank.

Opinions?
I am sorry but I have to say, in my opinion, Aggro is itself the absolute WORST aspect of MMO's. now I do not want any real MMO elements in D&D because frankly MMO's just take rules from games like D&D and dumb them down so that you can run them on such a massive scale player-wise. NPC combatant tactics should be adjudicated by the DM, and we do not need a rule structure for that, if you put one in place then that can really hurt the game both ascetically and mechanically.

I see no benefits for using any kind of aggro system as opposed to the more rational use of DM discression. In an MMO the aggro is basically the AI's way of saying 'ok this person is here, and this person may be the biggest threat, what this person is doing is bad' its AI, and AI on a very broad scale to make the game more balanced and make play interesting on that level. This dose not translate well into D&D. They do not factor in personality, specific tactics of more complex NPCs as far as their attack strengths are concerned, the orders of some twisted mage or overlord commanding them. I understand the ability to 'taunt' may be nice in theory and you need aggro for that but in practice it dose not work well both because it dose not factor in many things that the DM may have planned up for the encounter and because, well, I do not think that if a big ogre is charging at the party's mage, the fighter screaming "HAY! YOU! FIGHT ME!" or some such will really draw him away.

Its an ok thought, but in any form of practice it really dose not work.
"Aggro" is a formulaic creature-management tool in MMOs. It really doesn't have any place in D&D where creatures are expected to assess things intelligently.

Something like the knight's challenge isn't out of line with D&D abilities, but creatures should never be reduced to something along the lines of, "Opponent X has done the most damage to me, therefore I will blindly try to attack it despite the tactical stupidity of doing so."
The term 'aggro' itself makes me want to vomit. It is my impression that there are 3.5 rules for 'taunting,' and those are fine, but to allow someone to 'pull aggro' in a D&D session is disgusting.

I myself have seen no movement towards an MMO feel. I feel it would be rude an inappropriate to express what I think of those who consider the 'Online Play' an MMO.
Let your voice be heard! Tell WotC to Publish D&D 4e under the OGL!
I think the fundamental baseline for DMs controlling opponents is that they attack as they see fit, depending on their intelligence. A form of 'aggro management' would be a headache for DMs to keep track of, especially in big fights. Just who does the ogre hate most at the moment, and how will the orc captain respond to that heal the cleric just did on the fighter? Aggro management systems really are best left to MMOs, which can handle all the number-crunching involved.

But taunts can be implemented. Consider the following "The haughty elven swordsman insults you, delivering precisely cutting slurs against your bravery and parentage, making your blood boil with fury. Roll a Wisdom check against DC 10." On a failure "You're so angry that you rush forward to strike at the elf before you know what you're doing." Since people in real life are often provoked into doing what they otherwise wouldn't if they thought about it, it makes sense for PCs to occasionally be affected this way. Especially ones with low Wisdom who are fundamentally violent.

I believe there'll be options that fighters and paladins can use to protect 'squishies' from a foe trying to squish them. Taking a blow meant for the wizard on their shield, weapon or body is conducive to cinematic heroism. Imagine a fighter using his immediate action to dive across a battlefield and take the greataxe blow of an orc trying to slay the wizard. That'd be a highlight in any session.
There probably are such options - taking a look at the ToB classes, and especially the crusader's disciplines, there are a bunch of martial maneuvers and stances which allow you to cause grief to those who insist on attacking someone other than you.

But they still have the option to try if it makes sense for them to do so, unlike MMO aggro.
"Aggro" and "Aggro management" and "Taunting" are all only necessary in an MMORPG because there's no thinking human being on the other side directing the monsters, only a computer following strict hardcoded rules.

There is a thinking human being on the other side of the game table, called the Dungeon Master. "Aggro" is entirely based on the DM's judgement. There is no need for a "taunt" skill or ability.
Well, a lot of hate towards aggro management; that's to be expected. What are some ways that the "Defender" can fulfill his role without having taunts? I am of the opinion that in core 3.5, he doesn't do a very good job. The only thing a plate-wearing, shield-carrying fighter can do to try and stop people from attacking the wizard is to stand in front of him and get AoO swipes at the creatures that move past him to get to the wizard.

I like Nautilus's idea of being able to use a free action as an "interrupt" to dive across the battlefield and take a hit meant for someone else, but I worry that allowing complex actions out-of-turn like that might make the rules more complex. I also don't think the PHB2 Knight's taunt is enough to cover the whole spectrum of what a "Defender" is expected to do.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that 4e should take the freedom of the DM to decide what his creatures do completely away. But some sort of control is necessary if they want to use the concept of "Defender" as it's generally known. As I said, if the DM is trying to play the enemies tactically, it's almost NEVER a good idea for anyone to attack the Defender. The only time anyone would do it is if they had no choice, or if it was hard or dangerous to attack the squishy folk.

Here are some ideas that I've seen in a few games:

- The Defender can choose to "cover" one party member, and gets a chance to intercept any attack meant to hit that party member and take it himself.

- The Defender can slow/stop a melee creature by intercepting it, thus ensuring that it will have to attack him rather than simply taking the AoO and walking right past him.

- The flavor of "taunt" can be changed so that it's not actual taunting; it can be something like causing extra-painful wounds or feigning weakness, anything that might cause a creature to decide to attack the Defender rather than an easier target. Non-taunt "taunts" would be good so that the taunting mechanic isn't solely based around Will saves. The Defender should have some sort of taunt-esque interception that he can use on high Will creatures.

- An improved and simplified version of things like Grapple and Bull Rush would be good; something so that when the ogre is beating up the wizard, the Defender can run over and knock the ogre away from him. Or, perhaps a way to switch places with the wizard without the wizard taking an AoO, throwing the wizard out of harm's way but taking an AoO yourself.
"Aggro" is a formulaic creature-management tool in MMOs. It really doesn't have any place in D&D where creatures are expected to assess things intelligently.

Something like the knight's challenge isn't out of line with D&D abilities, but creatures should never be reduced to something along the lines of, "Opponent X has done the most damage to me, therefore I will blindly try to attack it despite the tactical stupidity of doing so."

Not all monsters are intelligent. Some act on instict.

Not all DMs are likewise smart enough to make their monsters act intelligently :P

Having some kind of aggro tracking system as an add-on option for some encounters is not a bad idea in itself. It will depend on the implementation.
If your DM is not smart enough to manage something that basic, he should not be a DM.

I am sorry but if you can't even manage what monsters attack what, even based on the tactis of "lets hit the closest guy first' mentality like some goblins may have, you need to go back to study the DMG again. Aggro is just an AI component used because you can't have a person controlling every monster, and its very simplistic to save on coding so that they dont bog down the game.
If your DM is not smart enough to manage something that basic, he should not be a DM.

Sometimes, you have no choice :P

More often, the DM's quite good at other elements (i.e. fluff, setting, NPC interactions) but sucks at combat.

I'm a combat junkie, but I'm not going to deprive less skilled DMs of tools and guidelines they can use :P
Aggro is just an AI component used because you can't have a person controlling every monster, and its very simplistic to save on coding so that they dont bog down the game.

I'd have to disagree. Aggro and aggro management was designed to enhance the gameplay of the MMO, and to solidify the gameplay of the 4 roles, the same 4 roles that 4e will be using. Lots of games use different sorts of AI algorithms to decide what to attack. Aggro is not just a lazy AI algorithm; it's a game mechanic that is purposely made transparent to the player, with a host of abilities for them to play the "aggro management game" while in combat. Whether or not you find it fun is somewhat aside from the point.

If your DM is not smart enough to manage something that basic, he should not be a DM.

As I said earlier though, most of the DM's creatures, either roleplayed or powergamed, would almost always choose to NOT attack the tank. Aggro/taunt was put into MMO's to solidify the tank's gameplay purpose.
Aggro is an AI mechanic, if you want to argue Ill find a text book and dig up a quote.

Its just alot better for a DM to say "ok this person is closest to this one, its a goblin, it'll hit that person" Its not hard to decide who it is that attacks who, any Aggro rules are put into MMO's because the computer dosent know who to attack otherwise. Its simply a term for the very simplistic AI that you have to use on a massive scale because the computers need some form of instructions.

I am sorry if I sound harsh, but frankly There is no benefit to any 'aggro' system. its another layer of complexity that makes you have to decide who will attack what when chances are unless they are fairly cunning They are going to go for the closest threat in full on melee.
Aggro is an AI mechanic, if you want to argue Ill find a text book and dig up a quote.

An AI mechanic is still a game mechanic. Just because it's a machine doing it doesn't make it any less useful.

Its just alot better for a DM to say "ok this person is closest to this one, its a goblin, it'll hit that person" Its not hard to decide who it is that attacks who, any Aggro rules are put into MMO's because the computer dosent know who to attack otherwise. Its simply a term for the very simplistic AI that you have to use on a massive scale because the computers need some form of instructions.

Nobody is saying we use computers to decide how to attack. What people are saying is that it's a good idea to have a set of rules and guidelines on how monsters pick their targets based on a set of believable in-game factors.

I am sorry if I sound harsh, but frankly There is no benefit to any 'aggro' system. its another layer of complexity that makes you have to decide who will attack what when chances are unless they are fairly cunning They are going to go for the closest threat in full on melee.

I am sorry if I sound harsh, but you're doing nothing but prove that you're an anti-MMOG fanatic without a shred of rationality whatsoever. You are not contributing anything useful to the discussion.
I contributed the same thing most of the people did "its alot more realistic and alot quicker to just have the DM adjudicate, and the reason they have the AI in there is because you can't have a person controlling everything for every person in every fight on a server"

That is a fact, live with it. Tell you what, if you can come up with an aggro system for D&D that doesn't muddle the game up and that provides something you can't just house rule with a bluff check or the Knight class, then I will apologize, but frankly I think you just don't like me, and thats your whole issue.
I contributed the same thing most of the people did "its alot more realistic and alot quicker to just have the DM adjudicate, and the reason they have the AI in there is because you can't have a person controlling everything for every person in every fight on a server"

And again, the fact that it's controlled by the AI is NOT the issue. It's the *algorithm* and the *mechanics* behind the AI's decision-making is what CAN be adopted into an RPG.

You just refuse to listen.

That is a fact, live with it.

It's a fact that you apparently have no idea that a mechanic used by an AI can be used by a DM.

Tell you what, if you can come up with an aggro system for D&D that doesn't muddle the game up and that provides something you can't just house rule with a bluff check or the Knight class, then I will apologize, but frankly I think you just don't like me, and thats your whole issue.

A challenge? Sure.

Here's a fairly simple aggro system:

Say you want an aggro system based on unintelligent creatures having a specific anger towards specific types of classes, items, or races.

For instance, say we've got an Ooze creature that is naturally inclined to attack creatures that are magical or have lots of magic on them. Let's call it a Magic-Consuming Ooze (for the purpose of simplicity).

Would it be realistic for the DM to have it choose a target intelligently based on the tactical situation? Or would it be more realistic that it acts on its instinct? I would say the latter is more realistic because it's an Ooze and it has no brains.

For the Magic-Consuming Ooze, we can have a system that you get points of aggro depending on the following factors:

5 points for Wizards, Sorcs, or other arcane caster classes
3 points for Clerics, Favored Souls, and other divine caster classes (it likes arcane magics more)
1 point for every magic item on the character
10 points if the creature is magical
-1 point for every space between you and the ooze (it's lazy and prefers closer targets)

And so on.

What you do then is to add up the points, maybe roll a dice and add the result for some randomness, and the character with the highest score gets to be the Ooze's target.

Of course, this system is still clunky and will need streamlining, but at its heart it is the same aggro system used by MMOG AIs.
Fine, you now have a home brew system for aggro, but personally I don't understand why you would ever use it. Why not just say the mindless ooze goes for the first viable target possible, the goblins attack the big guy up front or run away because he looks scary, The dragon knows darn well what robes are and goes after the spellcaster first just to be rid of the nuisance. That takes about two seconds of thought. I know a DM CAN use the algorithm, but really in that same time you can make a common sense snap judgement and do the same job without adding a step. Why would you subject yourself to that needlessly?

THAT was the point I was making the whole time on this thread. I understand you can use aggro, but aggro is, and always has been, Monster AI. Think about Digimon world, or chorno trigger. Monsters move around, you get too close to them or step in the wrong spot and a fight starts. thats part of aggro. From there its just basic tactics that will work well agasint the streamlined classes MMORPG's have while still not bogging down the game. You can't write complex AI for a game like WoW because too many people use it at once. You can't disagree with that, because its true. Now quit pestering me because of whatever chip you have on your shoulder and please, PLEASE try to post something useful somewhere else.
Fine, you now have a home brew system for aggro, but personally I don't understand why you would ever use it. Why not just say the mindless ooze goes for the first viable target possible,

Define "viable".

And let me tell you now that the way you define it is an aggro mechanic in itself.
Viable as in not something redundant. Something that serves some use that can't be met in some quicker or more efficient way.

and yes, it is an 'aggro mechanic', but its one that is simply intuitive DM discression. You don't need more than that in D&D really, You plan it out, or you just go for what you think the creature may go for first. There really is little point to making an equation to pick out who your creatures are just going to attack. after all at least 60% of DMing is improv.
Viable as in not something redundant.

No, no. You said "Why doesn't the ooze just attack the first viable target"

Define how do you pick a "viable target."

Go ahead.

Once you do, you've created your own aggro mechanic.
if you want to get technical then yes its an 'aggro mechanic'. but really you could call it 'common sense' and be right too.what I am saying is that you don't need a system laid out, just let the DM make a snap judgment. That was my point the whole time. You don't need an aggro mechanic written up in a book, just go ahead and pick the first target that comes to mind.
if you want to get technical then yes its an 'aggro mechanic'. but really you could call it 'common sense' and be right too.what I am saying is that you don't need a system laid out, just let the DM make a snap judgment. That was my point the whole time. You don't need an aggro mechanic written up in a book, just go ahead and pick the first target that comes to mind.

Common sense isn't.

And if you say that it can be done via a snap judgment, then why bother having so many of the other tables in the game? Why not give away treasure as part of a snap judgment? Why not give away XP via snap judgement?

The point is that mechanics help DMs do their job. They don't have to be slaves of the mechanics, but they sure can get ideas out of them.
Yep, pretty much. A DM who can't figure out that a magic-eating ooze (see: Arcane Ooze) is going to go after the biggest source of magic nearby is someone who shouldn't be running a game.

You don't need an "aggro points rule" system for that. You don't need a "deaggro" skill, you don't need a "taunt" skill.

In an MMORPG, creatures that 'aggro' on someone will inevitably ignore all other possible targets unless distracted.
In a face to face game, with a real person controlling all the monsters, the only time this is likely to happen is when the DM is running mindless creatures in combat.
Yep, pretty much. A DM who can't figure out that a magic-eating ooze (see: Arcane Ooze) is going to go after the biggest source of magic nearby is someone who shouldn't be running a game.

What if you've got four highly magical targets? How do you pick one then?

And what of the temptation to do something that is against the instincts of the creature, but would serve a much better purpose tactically?

DM tactical decision-making is never perfect. Guidelines can help.

In an MMORPG, creatures that 'aggro' on someone will inevitably ignore all other possible targets unless distracted.
In a face to face game, with a real person controlling all the monsters, the only time this is likely to happen is when the DM is running mindless creatures in combat.

Funnily, I know of very few encounters in D&D that end with the majority of the bad guys retreating alive (adventures often don't even have "What you can learn from prisoners" sidebars). More often, they stand, fight, and die to the last man, which is frankly contrary to what intelligent creatures do when faced with a combat situation.

Which isn't actually very different from your standard MMOG fare. So much for the theory that playing D&D automatically results in more intelligently run encounters.
What if you've got four highly magical targets? How do you pick one then?

And what of the temptation to do something that is against the instincts of the creature, but would serve a much better purpose tactically?

DM tactical decision-making is never perfect. Guidelines can help.

You just pick. so what if they are not perfect, the monster is not perfect. It dosent matter. a monster should not know exactly how your party works anyways. its not like they hand out docies on the people coming by that day. If the thing is of animal intellect it will probably attack the first threat, as animals do, if it is smarter, then it probably has its own personality, and if you cant guess from the way the creature fights in fiction and stuff, then make it up and call it good. one of the perks of being DM. who cares if it wont match up just perfectly? honestly I dont know a single DM that would even think of bothering with such a thing.


Funnily, I know of very few encounters in D&D that end with the majority of the bad guys retreating alive (adventures often don't even have "What you can learn from prisoners" sidebars). More often, they stand, fight, and die to the last man, which is frankly contrary to what intelligent creatures do when faced with a combat situation.

You have not seen kobolds stare into the face of Thriv Scaleclaimere now have you? hehehe. In our game we do have people run though, if it fits, run for help, run to man some ballista, the point is though that it is so easy to adjudicate what a monster will do, that making a system for it just so you get it 'just right' is pointless, overly complex and really im quite sure you are only arguing for it to try and be right about something. besides since when do you need a 'sideboard' for anything? just Roleplay it, wing it as you go. dont worry so much about the particulars.

Which isn't actually very different from your standard MMOG fare. So much for the theory that playing D&D automatically results in more intelligently run encounters.

You just totally lost me. The point I am making is that you don't need such an overly complex system, If a fighter is attacked by a gold dragon first out of the party he is not going to ask 'why' he is going to try and put a sword in it. Being a DM is AT LEAST as much art as it is science. sure you can write up an algorithm for aggro if it is really that vital, but chances are you could wing it, heck you could pick your first attack at random, and nobody will question why. the game will go on in the same way for the most part, and only you will know that you just picked at random.

But this dose prove to me you have a chip on your shoulder about me.
You just pick.

Again, if that's your philosophy, why not just give away any treasure you want? Why not do anything you want? Ditch the rulebooks and guidelines. Just do what you want.

That's the point of the rules and mechanics anyway: Give guidelines so you don't have to "Just pick".

'just right' is pointless, overly complex

I thought you wanted complexity? :P

However, as I said, this is merely a proof of concept. I'm sure with refinements it can be made much simpler, and more elegant.

But this dose prove to me you have a chip on your shoulder about me.

You are free to have your own delusional beliefs. But annoying you brings me no comfort. Showing counter-proofs against standard Tabletop Elitist beliefs (which you are supplying in droves) does however :D.
There are no counter points here, though I find it funny you call me delusional.

The fact of the matter is the rules are guidelines, nothing more. Its ok to throw out rules, or make them up, especially when you are the DM. Honestly I don't understand the first part of your statement at all, because frankly whats the fun of DMing if you make everyone follow a strict path and dont adapt and change. The rules are goign to get pushed or have points where they don't apply, or times when they don't matter. Part of being a good DM is knowing when to use the rules, and when to SAY you are using the rules and making it up to save a playere/give a player the shaft/ext. its been done by countless DMs all over the world, so I am not alone. It is even mentioned in the DMG.

Still, you provide no valid argument, you simply say my opinion about 4e is dumb because it dosent fit what you think. I am the 'tabletop Elitist' and therefor the evil monster you have to slay. At this point though its gotten past the point of infuriating, and flipped over to comical, especially on this thread. So far all you have proven is that you are a slave to the rules rather than using them as tools, and thats OK, just keep in mind not all of us play that way.
Well, a lot of hate towards aggro management; that's to be expected. What are some ways that the "Defender" can fulfill his role without having taunts? I am of the opinion that in core 3.5, he doesn't do a very good job. The only thing a plate-wearing, shield-carrying fighter can do to try and stop people from attacking the wizard is to stand in front of him and get AoO swipes at the creatures that move past him to get to the wizard.

"Tank" is a term that I think belongs to the MMO. "Defender" is a stupid term 4E designers came up with so they could avoid using "tank" while saying the exact same thing. However, for people who optimize and play strategic 3.5E, this concept boils down to "battlefield control," which isn't limited to the melee combatant. For example, a vanilla wizard is excellent at serving this role because he can cast quickened silent images and solid fogs since he's got overland flight and maybe an invisibility up on himself.

But the melee battlefield controller serves as a good party member because he can often soak up attacks with high AC, high HP, and possible DR as well as threatening AoOs with a high attack bonus. Consider the following, a generic, core-only, low level guy: Human, 16 STR, 16 CON, fighter 2/Barb1 wielding a spiked chain. Rage, get enlarge person'd by the wizard. Now you've got 22 STR, 20 CON, and threaten AoOs anywhere in a FIFTY FEET BY FIFTY FEET square. Anyone comes in, you trip them. Now your party is safe.

Isn't that so much better, more complex, more satisfying, more realistic, and more elegant than a stupid numerical aggression management system that relies on continuous healing to work?

Just to be clear, I'm not saying that 4e should take the freedom of the DM to decide what his creatures do completely away. But some sort of control is necessary if they want to use the concept of "Defender" as it's generally known.

No. 3.5E does it pretty well if you know the options available to you. The problem is that most newbies and casual players don't. D&D has to be more friendly to casual players, not more idiotic to everybody.

As I said, if the DM is trying to play the enemies tactically, it's almost NEVER a good idea for anyone to attack the Defender. The only time anyone would do it is if they had no choice, or if it was hard or dangerous to attack the squishy folk.

Bingo. The whole point of battlefield control is to limit mobility and ability to attack the party as a whole, and the squishies in particular.

Example: It is pretty stupid that in WOW, the warrior sits there and takes hits for the length of the battle, soaking up damage and heals. How stupid does an ancient dragon who is secretly ruling as the regent of the human kingdom have to be if she just sits there and takes it up the butt from all the rogues and mages while the one guy she keeps whacking is not losing any life due to heals?

Meanwhile, in D&D, the dragon would go straight for the mage. Luckily, the mage would have the ability (unlike his WOW brethren) to throw up a quickened silent image of a wall in front of him, run to the side, and throw out a solid fog onto the dragon, effectively immobilizing him for a few rounds. The druid meanwhile, summons some dire lions or whatever, and the dragon has to chew through the meatshields while he's getting out of the fog. That's how you control the battlefield without idiotic numerical aggro systems.

- The Defender can choose to "cover" one party member, and gets a chance to intercept any attack meant to hit that party member and take it himself.

- The Defender can slow/stop a melee creature by intercepting it, thus ensuring that it will have to attack him rather than simply taking the AoO and walking right past him.

Sure. As long as it involves tactics instead of who has the higher number.

- The flavor of "taunt" can be changed so that it's not actual taunting; it can be something like causing extra-painful wounds or feigning weakness, anything that might cause a creature to decide to attack the Defender rather than an easier target. Non-taunt "taunts" would be good so that the taunting mechanic isn't solely based around Will saves. The Defender should have some sort of taunt-esque interception that he can use on high Will creatures.

Requires roleplaying: DM has to decide whether or not the creature takes the bait, rather than having the mechanics take care of it.

Edit: What I meant above was that you're trading a valuable resource defined in game mechanics (feat or level) for a benefit that depends on DM roleplaying. Ripe for player-DM friction, since you can't anticipate how much of a benefit you're going to get and you might get a lot less than you'd hoped.

- An improved and simplified version of things like Grapple and Bull Rush would be good; something so that when the ogre is beating up the wizard, the Defender can run over and knock the ogre away from him. Or, perhaps a way to switch places with the wizard without the wizard taking an AoO, throwing the wizard out of harm's way but taking an AoO yourself.

I like the way 3.5E did it: Figure out how to beat that kind of stuff with the tools available to you. Wizards always kept a dimension door memorized so they could escape a grapple, since it didn't have a somatic component. With the Miniatures Handbook supplement, Benign transposition was a cheaper, and sometimes more vicious alternative. It does the exact thing you describe: switch places.
This argument reminds me somewhat of the old social skill brawls. While a DM is always free to houserule anything they want, and remove anything they think is silly, WotC publishing some form of guideline is often very useful. Look at WBL. No-one says that all parties must slavishly conform to expected wealth, but a DM can, by quickly refering to the table, see what they're doing. If they want the PCs to be poorer than the expected value to reduce the Christmas Tree effect, the WBL guidelines can tell him how to do that. It also tells him to make sure he is careful with ideas from published sources, as parties will be expected to be able to afford some means of flight by an item, rather than waiting a day and burning all the wizard's 3rd level slots, or losing a PC to a poor Balance or Climb check. The existence of vague "attack priority" guidelines allow the DM to consciously vary from them, rather than blindly negating a party member. If no-one wants to fight with the fighter, and everyone can get around the fighter without fighting him, what good is the fighter?
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What if you've got four highly magical targets? How do you pick one then?

And what of the temptation to do something that is against the instincts of the creature, but would serve a much better purpose tactically?

DM tactical decision-making is never perfect. Guidelines can help.

You are completely wrong. Your example of the unintelligent ooze with a clear, definable, easy-to-implement set of instincts is highly misleading. What about a dysfunctional group of bandits, one of which is a necromancer with a pair of zombies and a girlfriend/cohort (also a necromancer with her own skeletons)? They are jealous of the bandit leader, an evil druid who never speaks. The group's MO is that whoever lays the final blow on a guy gets the loot off that body. They all react to every other group member's actions dynamically in the course of battle, and ultimately serve themselves, except for the two lovers. Now tell me how you write an aggro formula for that. Now tell me how you do it for an infinite number of similarly complex encounters, while keeping the general framework cohesive, easy-to-use, and appealing for the average DM.

You can't. Don't be stupid.

Which isn't actually very different from your standard MMOG fare. So much for the theory that playing D&D automatically results in more intelligently run encounters.

I've played my share of WOW and a little bit of some other MMOs. I'm not an anti-MMO crusader. I'm just a realist, so here's some realism for you: People make highly complex decisions every day that can be crudely modeled mathematically but are more quickly and efficiently done by the human brain. It's a cost-benefit thing, and the costs of creating a bloated aggro system for the infinite possibilities of human and (supposedly) inhuman psychological motivations are astronomic.
But the melee battlefield controller serves as a good party member because he can often soak up attacks with high AC, high HP, and possible DR as well as threatening AoOs with a high attack bonus. Consider the following, a generic, core-only, low level guy: Human, 16 STR, 16 CON, fighter 2/Barb1 wielding a spiked chain. Rage, get enlarge person'd by the wizard. Now you've got 22 STR, 20 CON, and threaten AoOs anywhere in a FIFTY FEET BY FIFTY FEET square. Anyone comes in, you trip them. Now your party is safe.

As soon as I wrote the above, I knew someone was going to say "spiked chain trip monkey!" I almost actually went back and edited my post. Basically, I think spiked chain trip monkey is an incredibly silly looking thing that hurts the believability of combat. I don't like the idea that to be a defender, you have to wield a ridiculous chain with spikes on it, and especially not that you need to be polymorphed into a war troll or some such your whole life. I also don't enjoy the image of a battlefield full of klutzes that spend the entire time prone due to the hypersonic whirling of the chain. To me, this looks much sillier than the dragon that keeps attacking the taunting warrior even though the mage is doing more damage to it.

I think Defenders should be able to do a fairly decent job of defending with any sort of weapon, and with no spells cast on them. Actually, I think they should probably be better at defending people when they have a shield, and probably not so good if they've got a weird giant spikey length of chain.

Plus, battlefield control is more in the domain of the Controller. Keeping monsters prone is much more a "Crowd Control" thing in MMO terms, not a Tank thing. In fact, most of the time, spiked chain trip monkeys don't entice creatures to attack them; if something's easily trippable, it just spends its entire time on the ground prone taking AoO's until it dies.


Sure. As long as it involves tactics instead of who has the higher number.

This is always something that bothers me, but figuring out or reading off of the Char Op boards that the spiked chain is the best weapon and then using it for the rest of your D&D career isn't really "tactics". There's a little tactical thought in first figuring out which weapon is the best, but afterwards it's just a matter of the DM needing to change all of his encounters to ensure that everyone's not just tripped the whole time. I think the trip mechanic is fairly terrible and scales very badly. I would much rather have something simpler but more balanced at various power levels.
Look into the knight in the DMG2, he can draw other foes to fight him instead, and indeeed he is based around the 'controller' idea. other than that though I think mentioning the spiked chain offset an otherwise accurate image. Take the dwarven defender. Put two or three of them, or indeed two or three people around a person standing in a corner. That is a 'defender ' tactic right there, to get at the person behind them they have to go though them. In real combat protection is not about yelling at someone until they come over to fight you. Making sure you have a decent wall of bodies, or hide the person in a spot where they are easily defended is key, otherwise it is hard realistically. There are spells though that can help protect someone, usually by taking half the damage you do on yourself, but again there really is no reason for 'aggro' in that case. Its alot more intuitive and realistic to just do it by common sense and tactic, Yes a guy with a shield has higher AC and make you a better wall against melee, but really taunts are of little use on the battlefield. if someone would provoke attack for some reason, the best tactic is throw them behind you out of the way and attack anyone who trys to get past.
Again, if that's your philosophy, why not just give away any treasure you want? Why not do anything you want? Ditch the rulebooks and guidelines. Just do what you want.

Let me introduce you to a concept called a fallacy. The one you a seem to primarily be using is the straw man. Basically, you are ignoring his actual stated position and bringing up distorted example of his position.

This is very much like cheating at cards. You're not playing fair. You can't win by arguement so you exaggerate his arguement and say his argument is useless because of your distorted and inaccurate example.

Having said that, I don't think your point of view is out of line. Just your tactics.

That's the point of the rules and mechanics anyway: Give guidelines so you don't have to "Just pick".

I agree.

That said, I am not sure if a mechanic is necessary. I think a GM can make some reasonable assumptions by reading the monster's entry and deciding from there.

In the example of the the magic eating ooze:

If you have 4 targets equally brimming with magic, the ooze goes for the nearest one. It is hungry and unintelligent. It doesn't have the capacity for anything beyond, "hunger, food, and more food."

If on the other hand, you have one clearly ahead? Maybe you have a situation with a fighter in magical plate, shield, sword, and boots, where everyone else only has a ring of feather fall, or a minor cloak. It goes after the fighter because he is more food, which is better than only a little food.

This changes when you look at creatures like the rust monster. It likes ferrous metals in preferance to every other metal. That means iron and steel. But in the creature notes, it mentions it will stop for any food thrown in its direction.

So, who has the most ferrous metal? Usually the fighter type. If he's smart he drops his sword or shield (whichever is cheaper to replace) and starts to run. The rest of his party attack the rust monster from range. Kite the monster as necessary. Hopefully it won't like the abuse it's taking and run away to find a nicer meal that doesn't hit so hard.

In the case of intelligent monsters, it gets a bit more tricky. With dragons it will depend on who it determines is the bigger threat.

If the caster just stands there and casts protective spells on itself while the fighter is beating on it, obviously the fighter is the bigger threat. If the dragon has room to fly only ranged characters (including mage types) are a threat. If the dragon nearly kills the fighter and/or wizard in one stroke and the cleric heal them, maybe the cleric is the real threat.

Tactically, a dragon is smart enough to use terrain to his advantage. Even if that means he plops down in the center of the party so he can take swipes at everyone as necessary.

It doesn't need to be perfect, nothing in a game ever is. The goal is to get as close as necessary without being overly complex. Sure that means the DM is going to have to think. Sure they will occasionally make mistakes. But then, that's okay. Creatures make mistakes too.

You can attempt to be insulting and call me an elitist if you like, but I've played a number of MMOs and I enjoy them. I played EQ for 6 years, EQ 2 for 4 months, Horizons for 6 months, CoH/CoV for 14 months, Star Wars Galaxies for a while, and currently play WoW where I am up to 2 years. Some have been consecutively and some concurrently. Sometimes I even go back after months or years away. This doesn't even include the MMO's I've beta tested or played free trials for.

I just don't think an agro system is necessary for a tabletop game. I think it would add more complexity, when the DM can make a judgement call. If he's got a monster book and/or creativity he should be able to figure it out or think on his feet. Heck, he could even come up with something story wise why a particular creature attacks a particular person. "They hate the color red, man. Run!"

When all else fails, he can use a die and roll it. Or have the players roll a die and the closest (or furthest) from the number in his head get whacked.

As always, your mileage may vary.
As soon as I wrote the above, I knew someone was going to say "spiked chain trip monkey!" I almost actually went back and edited my post. Basically, I think spiked chain trip monkey is an incredibly silly looking thing that hurts the believability of combat. I don't like the idea that to be a defender, you have to wield a ridiculous chain with spikes on it, and especially not that you need to be polymorphed into a war troll or some such your whole life. I also don't enjoy the image of a battlefield full of klutzes that spend the entire time prone due to the hypersonic whirling of the chain. To me, this looks much sillier than the dragon that keeps attacking the taunting warrior even though the mage is doing more damage to it.

And as soon as I gave the example, I knew someone was going to call it an anomaly, haha. Okay, fine, take it out. Use a greatsword. You've got a strike zone ten feet out, and as long as you position yourself correctly, get AoOs before anyone can get to your casters.

Alternatively, wield a spear, or halberd, or something else. You've got a deadzone ten feet in, but nobody can reach you without going through your strike zone, and as soon as they come in, you stab them or trip them. Next round, you bull rush them out/drop your spear for a greatsword/etc. Or your friendly neighborhood cleric stays inside to protect your deadzone. Whatever. Tons of things to do without resorting to spiked chains.

I think Defenders should be able to do a fairly decent job of defending with any sort of weapon, and with no spells cast on them.

If they're already good at it, what's the point of a buffer party member then? Also, opening up options with spells or items or feats or prestige class abilities or other cool synergies is a rewarding part of the game. If you don't reward doing that, why should anyone care about making the right choices to make his character better at tactical combat? If he's got all the tools he'll ever need, he can just take Silver Palm and Toughness as feats and take fighter levels all the way down.

Actually, I think they should probably be better at defending people when they have a shield, and probably not so good if they've got a weird giant spikey length of chain.

Sure, I agree with this. But that's because of 3.5E's subtle and difficult-to-correct design flaw--that improving your offense is always the best way of improving your defense. You almost always want to completely rock the other guy first so he can't even do anything to you, rather than bunker down.

Plus, battlefield control is more in the domain of the Controller. Keeping monsters prone is much more a "Crowd Control" thing in MMO terms, not a Tank thing. In fact, most of the time, spiked chain trip monkeys don't entice creatures to attack them; if something's easily trippable, it just spends its entire time on the ground prone taking AoO's until it dies.

This is the design flaw of the MMO. The tank's functional role is to prevent damage to the rest of the party. However, his only way of doing this is to make the enemies attack him. In D&D, you can prevent party damage a billion different ways, and they're all cooler than "GROG TANT, GROG TAEK HIT, GROG TAEK HEEL."

In WOW, very few raid fights (at least back when I quit) showcased how crowd control could be an effective way of preventing damage. Razorgore was one, but that was only with the adds rather than 'gore himself. The problem was that every boss of consequence was immune to everything. Regular fights were much cooler, actually. Being a lone warlock with a pet, you could come across four mobs, dot all, fear one guy off, have your VW tank two, drain tank the fourth, re-dot, sack the void, drain tank the third, juggle fear the second, drain the first, and finish off the last guy, make yourself a new healthstone, blah blah. That was cool.

Anyway, WOW PVE group fights were invariably about coordination and timing rather than tactics and strategy. PVP was where tactics and strategy actually played a role. PVP also ignored aggro. Coincidence? I don't think so.

This is always something that bothers me, but figuring out or reading off of the Char Op boards that the spiked chain is the best weapon and then using it for the rest of your D&D career isn't really "tactics". There's a little tactical thought in first figuring out which weapon is the best, but afterwards it's just a matter of the DM needing to change all of his encounters to ensure that everyone's not just tripped the whole time. I think the trip mechanic is fairly terrible and scales very badly. I would much rather have something simpler but more balanced at various power levels.

I suppose. I've never played a spiked chain tripper. My meleers are much cooler. Favorite relied on rampaging bull rush/knockback/shock trooper/leap attack combo with just a greatsword to ruin enemies. Not as defensive as the chain tripper, but I loved the synergy.
I can see why the "aggro" mechanic is useful since really, there are only two "tank/defender" classes in the game. Namely the crusader and the knight.

The spiked chain fighter suffers from two problems. It needs a certain weapon (a weapon, I might add, that many people think is just plain stupid. Hell not even MMORPGs use that weapon as it doesn't look goog) and it needs to be enlarged/polymorphed.

Personally, I prefer the crusader's use of manoeuvers as they seem better and more believeable to many people than the knight shouting out a taunt.

However, I think some form of mechanic that allows a person to actually play bodtguard is needed. The tank/defender role may've been named by MMORPGs but the *IDEA* of such a role is classic and existed long before EQ and Ultima Online.

I don't think an actual aggro mechanic is needed since that is more paperwork on the part of the DM and hopefully 4E makes combat less burdensome.

The problem with the use of AoO is that there is nothing *forcing* the monster to focus on the AoO-guy over the other guy. Sure, the monster takes a hit but intelligent monsters can do tradeoffs and if the guy wielding a sword in front of me is only doing 1 pt of damage and the guy behind is doing 10 pts of damage, the monster can and should decide "ok, sword wielder I can safely ignore and kill that other guy who is actually hurting me"
Three points on this.

1: Taunting already exists in DnD, it just doesn't have a bunch of numbers assigned to it because it is supposed to be one of the RP elements. If it must have a number, use one of the social skills like diplomacy opposed by a sense motive check or level check. Then maybe apply a minor penalty akin to the demoralize condition caused by intimidate. Just because you ticked someone off doesn't mean they attack you right then and there after all.

2: An aggro mechanic is completely unnecessary and would make combat take even more time that it currently does. Having to maintain and update a "hate list" for each and every NPC in a battle would be mind numbing, especially with combats looking to have more than one NPC standard. One chart with a running tally of modifiers from every PC, and NPC on the players side may be manageable in the short term, but four or more will just bog things down to an unbearable crawl.

3, This is kind of a tangent, but still appropriate for this thread:The one overlooked reason they even have an Aggro mechanic in most MMOs I have played is do to lack of clipping. Just physically moving in between something and it's target is enough to make it have to deal with you most of the time, unless you are in an MMO where pathing codes would make clipping a nightmare on servers. Jumping in and taking the hit for someone else is one of the more heroic actions you get to see in tabletop games, and I feel it should be used a bit more often.
The spiked chain fighter suffers from two problems. It needs a certain weapon (a weapon, I might add, that many people think is just plain stupid. Hell not even MMORPGs use that weapon as it doesn't look goog) and it needs to be enlarged/polymorphed.

I agree with most of your post, but I do have to add something here. The spiked chain may seem stupid to a lot of people, but if you've ever seen a proficient user in chains (or even ropes with a blunt weight at the end) you will change your mind. It is rather a beautiful combat instrument, and a complex variant (kusari-gama) was actually quite popular in Japan, apparently good against swordfighters.

Also, you don't need to be enlarged to use a spiked chain well, but everybody benefits from that, even regular OGG SMASH barbs.
There are no counter points here, though I find it funny you call me delusional.

Yes there is. It's called "What you're proposing is that there should be no rules at all."

Perfectly reasonable argument, and your failure to acknowledge it only makes your position even more delusional.
You are completely wrong. Your example of the unintelligent ooze with a clear, definable, easy-to-implement set of instincts is highly misleading. What about a dysfunctional group of bandits, one of which is a necromancer with a pair of zombies and a girlfriend/cohort (also a necromancer with her own skeletons)? They are jealous of the bandit leader, an evil druid who never speaks.

Again, note my scope and limitations: An aggro system is fine in cases where the DM doesn't know tactics well OR if the monster acts more on instinct than intelligence. Your example of a group of bandits is thus beyond the scope of what I have said is achievable because said bandits are intelligent, and their interelations are so complicated I wouldn't suggest a DM to try it if they're not good at tactics.

So, let met throw it right back at you. You are completely wrong.
Let me introduce you to a concept called a fallacy. The one you a seem to primarily be using is the straw man. Basically, you are ignoring his actual stated position and bringing up distorted example of his position.

Not really. What I'm actually employing is a hyperbole, which shows what happens when you take the policy to the extremes. His position is that rules on aggro are unnecessary. Taken to the most extreme, all rules are actually ultimately unnecessary.

Of course, it can be construed as a strawman attack, but frankly I honestly couldn't care less. There are no rules governing debates in the Internet.

I just don't think an agro system is necessary for a tabletop game. I think it would add more complexity, when the DM can make a judgement call. If he's got a monster book and/or creativity he should be able to figure it out or think on his feet. Heck, he could even come up with something story wise why a particular creature attacks a particular person. "They hate the color red, man. Run!"

When all else fails, he can use a die and roll it. Or have the players roll a die and the closest (or furthest) from the number in his head get whacked.

As always, your mileage may vary.

True, which is why I said that the main purpose of an aggro system would be to serve as guidelines for very specific situations. I never said you should let the aggro system do all the work for you if you're a DM who's tactically capable.
Again, note my scope and limitations: An aggro system is fine in cases where the DM doesn't know tactics well OR if the monster acts more on instinct than intelligence. Your example of a group of bandits is thus beyond the scope of what I have said is achievable because said bandits are intelligent, and their interelations are so complicated I wouldn't suggest a DM to try it if they're not good at tactics.

So, let met throw it right back at you. You are completely wrong.

I've read all of your posts up until now. You have not made a single post in which you have implied that an aggro system should only be applied to certain monsters. Here's the clearest you ever got to defining what it is you wanted to get at, bold mine:
Nobody is saying we use computers to decide how to attack. What people are saying is that it's a good idea to have a set of rules and guidelines on how monsters pick their targets based on a set of believable in-game factors.

Look, it doesn't really matter, all of your posts do is start silly defensive arguments. Here's a great example you just posted:

Not really. What I'm actually employing is a hyperbole, which shows what happens when you take the policy to the extremes. His position is that rules on aggro are unnecessary. Taken to the most extreme, all rules are actually ultimately unnecessary.

Notice that the two bolded subjects do not at all refer to the same thing. Re-read that again. How absurdly disingenuous does that sound? Rules on X are not needed. SO I GESS WAT U SAY IS ALL RULE BAD LOLOL? It's funnier because even you realize this, as you acknowledge with your next statement:
Of course, it can be construed as a strawman attack, but frankly I honestly couldn't care less. There are no rules governing debates in the Internet.

GG you lose. You admit to trolling, and I'm reporting your post.
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