The Monster Roles Project

Ask your True20 rules questions here, or answer questions from other True20 fans. And don't be surprised if you get official answers as well!
Locked
The Shadow
Posts: 1525
Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2005 12:49 pm
Location: Oregon, USA
Contact:

The Monster Roles Project

Post by The Shadow » Sat May 03, 2008 1:01 pm

As per the D&D 4e thread, a project to codify monsters as roles rather than types is underway.

To start things off... Will monster roles have more points than PC roles? I'm of two minds.

On the "yes" side, many monsters will be needing to fight whole parties of PC's. While this can often be accomplished by making the monster higher level, sometimes the points may not come out right. The existing monster types sometimes burst the boundary of 5 role points, certainly.

On the gripping hand, it'd sure be nice to be able to be reasonably confident that a monster of X level is in some sense "equivalent" to a PC of the same level.

Either way, it may or may not be possible to translate d20 monsters straight across. I think we should shoot for it, but not stress over it.

I feel there needs to be some sort of limit on the number of trait-points a monster can have without being boosted in level. The Companion's level lag guidelines will help here.

Finally... We should at least consider the 4e route of giving monsters roles but not building them the same way as PC's.

Baduin
Posts: 264
Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 12:40 am

Post by Baduin » Sat May 03, 2008 1:26 pm

D&D 4ed solves the problem with solo (equivalent to 4 characters), elite (equivalent to 2 characters), normal (normal) and minion roles. We already have minions. The separation of elite and solo enemies is too hair-splitting, I think.

So, you could introduce solo roles, opponents for 4 characters at once. There is one problem, however - according to 4ed, they need not only better numbers, (in True20 better toughness and a lot of conviction), but first of all more actions or actions which can affect many characters.

Except for that, I think that level should be equal to level - all enemies of a given level should be similarly dangerous. This decidedly simplifies things.

There is one problem - characters get equipment. Monsters need some additional abilities equivalent to player's equipment. And here we have a serious problem - True20 is a generic ruleset, and there is no yardstick for equipment at a given level.

I think we need to create first a basic level of equipment at a given level, either magical or technological, and suggest that Narrators adjust level of encounters if their characters are equipped worse or better.

I think here about such basic things as damage and armour - technology here can be easily equivalent to magic.

Father of Dragons
Posts: 780
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2006 10:37 pm
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, US
Contact:

Post by Father of Dragons » Sat May 03, 2008 2:38 pm

Baduin -- these monsters need equipment and multiple actions? Sounds like a job for Conviction! Give them lots of conviction and maybe rules for trading in conviction for appropriate equipment at the beginning of a fight.

I don't know if it's something that would help or not, but a while back, I created a bunch of Core Abilities for Monsters with Conviction.

Kendermage
Posts: 426
Joined: Sun Oct 08, 2006 11:49 pm
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Contact:

Post by Kendermage » Sat May 03, 2008 9:58 pm

Father of Dragons wrote:Baduin -- these monsters need equipment and multiple actions? Sounds like a job for Conviction! Give them lots of conviction and maybe rules for trading in conviction for appropriate equipment at the beginning of a fight.
Its the Batman's Utility Belt core ability. :)

ValhallaGH
Posts: 1859
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 11:05 pm
Location: Home of the Tigers
Contact:

Re: The Monster Roles Project

Post by ValhallaGH » Sat May 03, 2008 10:17 pm

The Shadow wrote:As per the D&D 4e thread, a project to codify monsters as roles rather than types is underway.

To start things off... Will monster roles have more points than PC roles? I'm of two minds.
It should vary with Role.

Some monsters should be better than PC roles. This would be for powerful beings of myth and magic, physically mighty masterminds, powerful warrior mages, super-skilled warriors and others that should have that extra edge. Usually used as either solo encounters or as the primary villain to end a story.

Many monsters should be as good as PC roles. This would be powerhouses, skilled warriors, mighty mages, masterminds, and dangerous assassins.

And a few monsters should be weaker than PC roles. The minion rules are great for weak versions of the greater roles but sometimes you need something that is simply inferior. This is the niche that goblins, kobolds, and dretches currently fill, utterly hopeless minions with no potential for heroic ability.

Baduin
Posts: 264
Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 12:40 am

Post by Baduin » Sun May 04, 2008 4:04 am

Monsters don't need equipment. However, if characters get swords with 3 damage and armor 5, monsters need equivalent damage and equivalent armor, or they will be weaker. So, it is important to decide when characters get +3 swords and +6 full plate, and when they get +8 plasma guns and +12 power armor, if you want to have properly balanced monsters.

Generally, all monsters and characters of equal level should have equal power. That way, you can easily estimate whether the opponents will be difficult to defeat or not. If levels don't provide this, they are useless; in that case point-buy system or general guidelines would be better.

You can have monsters designed to fight multiple combatants of equal level, but you must clearly designate them as such. The simplest rule to get a solo opponent would be - conviction equal to a character of equal level, plus they can spend one free conviction per turn.

Monsters don't need to be created exactly equal to characters. They need to be balanced in one combat, not for multiple combats and non-combat activilty. So, they eg need less conviction. Additionally, out-of combat abilities, both skills and feats, shouldn't be generally decided by role. Such abilities would be given as bonus, with only general guidelines.

77IM
Posts: 265
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2003 1:33 pm

Post by 77IM » Mon May 05, 2008 7:18 am

I'd think it should be very obvious how monsters compare to PCs, balance-wise, to make it easy to build an encounter. I think the easiest way to do this is to make monsters equal to PCs -- so a Level 12 normal monster is equal to a Level 12 PC. This makes it easy to mix-and-match NPCs with monsters and easy to judge encounters (for example, if you throw four lv12 monsters at your group of four lv12 PCs, expect it to be a tough fight, since they are evenly matched).

As Baduin points out, True20 already has minions, and any monster can become a minion easily with just a few rules tweaks. I think we should come up with a similar switch to turn regular monsters into "boss"-grade monsters.

Here's a quick, not-fully-thought-through brainstorm, based on the idea in Baduin's previous post:

1. Boss monsters get 2-4 standard actions each turn, depending on how scary a boss monster it is. The only restriction is that they can't take the same standard action twice in one turn. For example, the monster could attack two different characters, or could attack a character and then use a supernatural power on the character, etc.

2. Boss monsters roll multiple dice (2-4, depending on scariness) for their Toughness saves, and take the best one. This means their max Toughness result isn't any higher than normal, but they are more likely to be near the top of the Toughness curve.

3. Boss monsters get 2-4 extra Conviction, depending on scariness.

My idea here is to not modify the monster's numbers at all (for example, not giving them bonuses to attack or Toughness). It's similar to the minion rules (they don't really get any numeric penalties) and makes the math easier. In fact you could have a single monster stat block before you and use it for both boss and minions -- an interesting encounter might be a boss ogre (scariness 3, for 3 attacks and 3 Toughness saves) plus four minion ogres.

-- 77IM

razorwise
Posts: 324
Joined: Thu Jun 23, 2005 9:39 am
Location: Hither and Yon
Contact:

Post by razorwise » Mon May 05, 2008 8:26 am

77IM wrote:I'd think it should be very obvious how monsters compare to PCs, balance-wise, to make it easy to build an encounter. I think the easiest way to do this is to make monsters equal to PCs -- so a Level 12 normal monster is equal to a Level 12 PC. This makes it easy to mix-and-match NPCs with monsters and easy to judge encounters (for example, if you throw four lv12 monsters at your group of four lv12 PCs, expect it to be a tough fight, since they are evenly matched).
I'd concur with this direction.

Regards,

Sean

Baduin
Posts: 264
Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 12:40 am

Post by Baduin » Mon May 05, 2008 12:03 pm

I think this discussion goes in the right direction; now would be the time to prepare and check some options from mathematical point of view.

I think we need to prepare standard roles first. Options for "Solo" monsters can be designed only after we have baseline monsters. This way we will have a base which will allow us to properly balance them.

There is also one additional thing which is very important - we need a standard for Toughness, Defence, Attack, Saves etc, depending on level and role - without taking into account abilities etc. This should be something similar to M&M power level. Of course I speak here only about general guidelines, with possibilities of adjustment M&M style. Such a baseline would allow us to avoid unbalanced opponents - invulnerable Toughness, untouchable defence, unavoidable attack etc.

PS. There is also a possibility to create monsters not intended as combat opponents - eg herbivorous dinosaurs, or intended to fight with whole ships - eg kraken. Such mosters shoudn't use standard roles and guidelines, and should be created in much more freeform way.

ValhallaGH
Posts: 1859
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 11:05 pm
Location: Home of the Tigers
Contact:

Basic Concept

Post by ValhallaGH » Mon May 05, 2008 7:46 pm

Okay, for this project to work, it's got to have some basic principle guiding it. We can't be designing willy-nilly, we need a goal. A statement declaring our intent and design principles.

Here's my understanding and what I'm using thus far.

A villain role is designed with three basic concepts in mind:
1. As a Narrator, you have limited amounts of time, especially for creating opponents. Villain roles are meant to make the process quick and as painless as possible. As such, they will replace all monster roles.
2. The heroic roles are designed with the assumption that each player has to keep track of only one character. As such they are detailed and flexible, allowing players to customize the roles to make just the character they want. More, they have the ability to require a lot of tracking and complex choices during play. Wonderful for players but bad for Narrators that have to run multiple NPCs and villains during an encounter. Villain roles should counter these problems and make a Narrator's life easier.
3. Villains can break the rules. While the player character roles must be balanced against each other, a villain needs only to be balanced against the party as a whole. A villain’s level isn’t like a hero’s level; a villain’s level is a measure of what level hero he is a powerful challenge for, not what level hero he is equal to. Villain roles have levels from 1 to 20, though most have a narrower range due to their abilities. A number of villains equal in number and level to the party should have a good chance (50% or better) of defeating the party.

People can’t study in schools to join villain roles, and player characters can’t take levels in them. They are a pure game mechanic conceit designed to give Narrators a flexible toolset for creating non-player characters easily.

Remember that while player character roles offer many options, Narrators don’t need that same level of detail. Too many details can make it hard to create NPCs and keep track of their powers and abilities during an encounter. A villain need only present a viable challenge to the characters based on their level and the villain’s Level. How he arrived at that level doesn’t matter to the system as long as he makes a good opponent.

ValhallaGH
Posts: 1859
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 11:05 pm
Location: Home of the Tigers
Contact:

Example Role

Post by ValhallaGH » Mon May 05, 2008 8:10 pm

Using the above guidelines, I've created a villain role. This is how I currently envision villain roles working, creating complete opponents that merely need some flavor text and a couple small traits to work perfectly.

Brute
Physically powerful and very dangerous, the brute excels at close combat. Whether a demon or beast tearing apart prey, or a mighty warrior crushing weaker foes, the brute closes with and destroys his enemies through sheer power.

Level: A brute of the indicated level is a good challenge for a party of about four heroes of that level. One-on-one, a brute has a good chance of defeating a single hero. Brutes are rated from 3 to 10, as they should be interesting opponents throughout that range. Past that, they are good minions and cannon fodder.
Skills: Brutes have well-developed physical talents, but are otherwise poorly trained. Their limited intellects prevent them from developing any complex skills. A brute has ranks equal to its Level + 3 in Climb, Jump, and Notice. You can substitute different skills if you wish. Apply the brute’s ability score modifiers to the skill ranks as normal.
Feats: Brutes are unsubtle opponents and very simple fighters who rely upon their prodigious physical abilities. As such they acquire feats that fit their style. They gain the indicated feats at the indicated levels.
Damage: A brute gets a single attack each round with the indicated bonus to damage. This could be powerful jaws, rending talons, a huge axe, a magical sword, or a firey aura that surrounds his hands. Give the appropriate descriptors for the particular concept of brute used in the encounter.
Toughness: Whether from thick hide, protective scales, primitive armor, or some other source, the brute gains the indicated bonus on his toughness saves.
Size: While brutes can be any size, do not adjust their abilities to account for changes in size.
Abilities: Brutes of the indicated levels have the indicated ability scores.
Traits: Additional traits can be added but keep in mind that they make the brute even more challenging. As a guideline, give a brute no more than one trait per four levels, though two weak traits may be substituted for one strong trait.

Code: Select all

Level BCB Fort Ref Will Feats             Damage Toughness Str Dex Con Int Wis Cha
3        +4    +3   +2   +1                           +1           +1           +4   +1   +3   -2   +1   +0
4        +5    +4   +3   +1 Cleave               +1           +1           +4   +1   +3   -2   +1   +0
5        +6    +5   +4   +1                           +1           +2           +5   +1   +3   -2   +1   +0
6        +7    +6   +4   +2 Attack Focus     +1           +2           +5   +2   +4   -2   +1   +0
7        +8    +7   +5   +2 Improved Speed +2          +3            +6  +2   +4    -1  +2   +0
8        +9    +8   +6   +2                            +2          +3            +6  +2   +4    -1  +2   +0
9       +10   +9   +7   +3                            +2           +4           +7  +3   +5    -1  +2   +0
10     +11   +10 +7   +3                            +2           +4           +7   +3  +5    -1  +2   +0
11     +11   +11 +8   +3                            +3           +5           +8  +3   +5   +0  +3   +0
12    +12    +12 +9   +4 Great Cleave      +3           +5           +8  +4   +6   +0  +3   +0
13    +12    +13 +10 +4 Improved Speed +3           +6           +9  +4   +6   +0  +3   +0
14    +12    +14 +10 +4                            +3           +6           +9  +4   +6   +0  +3   +0
15    +13    +15 +11 +5                            +4           +7          +10 +5   +7   +0  +4   +0
16    +13    +16 +12 +5                            +4           +7          +10 +5   +7   +0  +4   +0
17    +13    +17 +13 +5                            +4           +8          +11 +5   +7   +0  +4   +0
18    +14    +18 +13 +6 Improved Speed +4           +8	        +11 +6   +8   +0  +4   +0
19    +14    +19 +14 +6                            +5           +9          +12 +6   +8   +0  +5   +0
20    +14    +20 +15 +6                            +5           +9          +12 +6   +8   +0  +5   +0
P.S. Sorry for the table format, it's the best I could work out.
Last edited by ValhallaGH on Thu May 08, 2008 5:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

The Shadow
Posts: 1525
Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2005 12:49 pm
Location: Oregon, USA
Contact:

Post by The Shadow » Mon May 05, 2008 9:48 pm

VGH, I very much approve of the design goals. Question, though: Is it (or should it be) possible to add heroic roles to a monster if desired?

I'm not clear on why the Brute is only from levels 3-10, either. Other than that, looks very good!

I'm wondering if adding certain traits could mess up the level system?

ValhallaGH
Posts: 1859
Joined: Tue Jun 27, 2006 11:05 pm
Location: Home of the Tigers
Contact:

Post by ValhallaGH » Tue May 06, 2008 6:26 am

The Shadow wrote:VGH, I very much approve of the design goals.
Excellent! Then we've got a basis to work from.
Question, though: Is it (or should it be) possible to add heroic roles to a monster if desired?
If the Narrator wants that kind of headache then so be it. The villain roles are meant to provide nearly complete opponents of the desired challenge, which can be finished off with flavor text and traits.
For example, powerful zombies could be built using level 3 brutes. Remove Con and give a bonus to toughness of +2. Then limit them to a single standard action each round (as if they were staggered). You now have some terrifyingly powerful zombies running around trying to mess up your heroes. They're even good enough to threaten level 10 heroes, while still being push-overs.
Alternatively, you could give level 10 brutes a once-per-day breath weapon (+8 damage in a cone), make them large (no mechanical effect), and you've got hulking, fire-breathing hell hounds to be hunting dogs for your demon knight. Nasty enough to worry level 18 heroes (some) when used as support for the demon knight.
The Shadow wrote:I'm not clear on why the Brute is only from levels 3-10, either. Other than that, looks very good!
Scaling issues, mostly. I've got a table that goes all the way to level 20, but at that point they've got a +25-ish to hit, a 30-ish defense, with +17 damage and +17 toughness. Danged scary, and about the same as a living-mountain demon I remember from Land of the Crane.
On the low end, it's hard to scale him back properly and still get him being effective. To fill his role in the world, I kept feeling like he couldn't really be any weaker than level 3. If you can find a way to prove me wrong, I'd be fine with that.
The Shadow wrote:I'm wondering if adding certain traits could mess up the level system?
They could. Invisibility, even if it's passive and a limited number of times, would be nasty. Regeneration or Fast Healing would make him god-like and nearly immortal. Damage Reduction is superfluous and shouldn't be used.
That said, most traits are not a problem, though they should be avoided unless appropriate.

The Brute is a tool, a basic structure which can be modified to fit any vision of an opponent that simply charges in and smashes. Add the needed traits to represent the visual impact of the creature and you should have no problems at all.

Nellisir
Posts: 74
Joined: Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:57 pm

Post by Nellisir » Tue May 06, 2008 7:39 am

Not quite what I expected; it's a bit less like roles as defined by True20 and a bit more like villain classes. Still thinking about it; haven't had alot of time.

iwatt
Posts: 1141
Joined: Wed Aug 09, 2006 1:31 pm
Location: Lugar de Condores

Post by iwatt » Tue May 06, 2008 10:20 am

Nellisir wrote:Not quite what I expected; it's a bit less like roles as defined by True20 and a bit more like villain classes. Still thinking about it; haven't had alot of time.
Well, that is basically the main idea from were I'm coming. Basically, for some monsters, all you really care about are Attack, Damage, Defense, Saves, and Grapple. Just describe them appropriately and you're done. Add traits for flavor (and some even for a power boost), and you're done.

i.e a Fire breathing brute would probably have energy immunity fire, a breath weapon he can use every 3 rounds for X damage (X=monster Level). I'd say that would mean a +1 to +2 adjustment to his level*.

* I promise I'll get to it at some point during the weekend. :D

Locked