Showing posts with label Monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monsters. Show all posts

Friday, February 18, 2022

The Dread 'n Mechanics

In my post about our hexcrawl sessions, I was trying to show my son the difference between visceral and existential threats by using ghouls as the monster. 

Ghouls are ghoulish. They are the wolves of the undead world. On either of two attacks, they can paralyze a target. And then they eat you. There is also the concept of being turned into a ghoul, which is out of scope mechanically but may hang out in your player's head. Dang, that's all so scary. It's also existential as it begs the question, do you want to engage this threat or flee? 

Unless you are an elf who is immune. Or if you don't know what a ghoul is or does, then it's less scary. The existential threat changes from fear of being eaten alive (existential) to the likelihood of loss of life or limb (visceral). 

In these events, a paladin slammed into a pack of 5 ghouls not realizing what they were. No one did. Once the paladin was paralyzed, everyone realized what these things could do. The party had a choice: try to regroup and come up with a plan or press the attack. 

They decided to press the attack for a couple of reasons. First, I was trying to explain to my son that a pack of ghouls against 4th level characters isn't much of a threat. 

Ghouls have 9 hp, which makes them 2 or 3 hit monsters. I come from a wargaming background where hits count. With a d6, the average roll is 3.5. That's your damage against the 9 they have. Chances are you will kill them in 2 to 3 rounds and in that last round, they won't have time to do anything important.

Second, in pressing the attack, the party was preventing the downed Paladin from being eaten. The party had the ghouls outnumbered. The rank closing in on the ghouls was made up of a Fighter, an Elf, a Cleric, and a Ranger. On the wings, a Bard and Theif had bows ready. I used green to display characters that were not threatened by the ghoul's special attack: the Elf by her nature, and the Bard and thief were at a safe distance. 

My son objected to this as the ghouls swing twice. But they are facing armored opponents and have much less of a chance of hitting than the player characters do. Additionally, they strike with much less power, 1d3 hp. If they hit, then the paralysis comes into play. That is a whole other die roll where the player characters stand a good chance to resist.  

I explained to him that the threat is the most important part of the fight. With the odds loaded in the players' favor, the ghouls don't have much of a chance of winning. The players should know that, but maybe they don't. 

That's great. The Cleric is in the front rank and has a chance of pulling a Big Damn Hero moment by attempting to turn. Potentially, the Cleric could take out some or all of them. If a ghoul paralyzed someone, the Bard and the Theif have a moment to save the day with a timely arrow. Even an unaware party has some great counter moves for a paralyzed character. 

Thanks to some really awesome die rolls (from the DM's perspective), the last round of combat occurred simultaneously. In the exchange Rolf, the Fighter was hit and paralyzed as he took out his ghoul. I could not have planned that outcome, thanks to random dice. 

"So, what happens next? How long are the paralyzed?" my son asked. 

My answer was simple. The rules don't say, so I guess I, the DM can keep this sense of dread up as long as I want to. In a hexcrawl, that really doesn't come up as much as it does in a dungeon. A hexcrawl is ruled by long-term mechanics, usually days over minutes. Hurrying in a hexcrawl is done in hourly increments. By any reasonable measure, the paralyzed characters will be up before the DM has to call another event. 

A party in a dungeon doesn't have the luxury of waiting it out. They will if they have to, but that cranks up the threat level. Stuff happens fast. When in a dungeon setting I will tell every player that they feel the effects of paralyzation kicking in regardless of their saving throw: 

"Your arm feels like putty and lead..." 

"Pins and needles race up your leg..." 

"You are so cold..." 

Unless I feel it's too much stress, that is. Sometimes, the players don't need more stress. It's a judgment call that needs to be made in the moment.  

So what happens next? In this case, the party took action that resolves everything. They dropped the tent and walked the Paladin and the Fighter to the hex with trees and shrubs. Then some return to pick up the tent and settle in for the night. Presumably, the Fighter and Paladin will stand up on their own before morning. 

The great thing about ghouls against a well-trained and armed party is you can adjust the feeling of threat without tinkering with mechanics or dice rolls. 

Since I mention dice rolls so much, The Red Dice Diaries has a nice pair of episodes on fudging die rolls. 

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Kobold Warren Folly

Update - This post has been expanded into a short book with 4 maps on DriveThruRPG. It's priced at PWYW, with a suggested price of $1.99.  

Like the Compass Rose Inn Mini-Setting, this set of maps and descriptions are rule set agnostic. 

And now on to the original post from my birthday, Jan. 17th, 2016. 

This map is of a folly in the southwest of Potamus Bay. Who built the folly is lost to time. There is a larger ruin closer to the Lake, but it isn't as well preserved or interesting as the folly.

The tale of the folly's preservation is very odd and owes its history to the river. The river is subject seasonal flooding and one of those floods brought the kobold's to the folly.

The kobold's had their own underground village, which made them very happy. They stole the best food, killed the prettiest animals and had wild political intrigues that often ended in bloodshed. One day, the ruling clan pushed the wrong buttons and were tossed in prison to await their doom, as soon as the method could be decided.

A chance rainstorm freed the rulers, but washed them deep into the cave system. The village rejoiced at the apparent deaths. They were very kobolds happy, indeed. The ruling clan was washed away into the cavern system under the folly. They were able to squeeze and claw their way into the basement of the structure. The family rejoiced when they discovered the ring of pear and apple trees, the fresh water and rabbits.

There are no furnishing, no details inside the Folly.
The kobolds keep the interior bare.
The ring of trees continues, but is obscured by the
upper two levels. 

Over the years, they have set themselves up a kings and queens of the folly. They do not understand the principle of a folly, they believe that human or elven kings hold court in an empty building. The six rulers have set themselves up as the High, Middle and Low Kings and Queens. They receive guests through the windows, as there are no doors except trapdoors between the levels. They keep the folly up, but they do not live in it. They live below in finely finished chambers. Recently, they have hung curtains in all of the windows of the folly, purple, yellow and red. 


The family plans on enlarging the chambers, but for now they are satisfied.


The lowest level is almost all natural, only the eastern side has any finished features. The western side is often flooded with fresh water and sometimes contains fish.

Folly Details:
One Square equals 5 feet.
Height: 45 feet.
Depth: 75 feet below ground, as near as anyone can tell.
Population: 17 adults, 33 children.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The 3 Toadstools and #tenmonstersetting

Shane Ward, over on MeWe suggested a great starter idea for world building. Pick a book then pick 10 monsters to populate your world. On Shane's blog, The 3 Toadstools, he added a 10 categories based on feedback from the MeWe community:
  1. semi-intelligent humanoid
  2. undead
  3. ancient fey race 
  4. giant/ogre/troll race
  5. great wyrm or lizard
  6. aerial
  7. Aquatic
  8. dimensional  
  9. classic mythology
  10. chthonic
I grabbed my classic red book and came up with the following list: 
  1. Orc, many tribes in the mountains. 
  2. Wight, found on the plains. They inhabit burial mounds. 
  3. Pixie, live on the edges of forests and will turn over characters to the Sprites within if there is trouble.  
  4.  Ogre, a large semi-nomadic tribe. They trade fresh food to the Lizard men. They have a tiny range from north edge of 'Potumus Bay to the Grand Plateau in the mountains. They winter on in the caves at the edge of the Grand Plateau.  
  5. Black Dragon, only one and he inhabits a lonely crag. He eats orcs and hippos and avoids men and ogres. 
  6. Sprite, typical fey folk who are nicer than Pixies who live just outside their forests and meadows. Slightly more organized than Pixies, they can dish out what approximates for justice according the fey if someone messes with the Pixies or Sprites.   
  7. Lizard Man, a single tribe located on, in and around a high tarn. Relatively peaceable, they will trade metals for fruit.  
  8. (None in the book) I selected a Djinni. Actually, a family of Djinn. Two boys, three girls and mom and dad. They live below the dragon's crag. They guard a cave which leads to the realm of air, but no one but Djinn can see the gate. 
  9. Pegasus. A seemingly, a singular creature. They live far to the north, beyond the mountains and a few get blown off course from time to time. While lost, they will visit the many tarns and lakes in the area. They have no fear of humanoids and can sometimes be found grazing with domesticated horses on the plains.  
  10. Giant Ants, a pest of urban settings. They often invade towns in the spring, via sewers. A massive headache to clean out. 
9 out of 10 creatures from one book isn't bad. It totally works for my Peninsula of Plenty campaign. I can't wait to get these ideas into that world. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gruesome Feast

I was fighting a Flesh Golem and took it down as a Tomb Troll Necromancer entered the room. Instead of attacking me, it did this:
With a ravenous glint in his eye, a tomb troll necromancer pounces upon the body of a flesh golem and begins feasting on its abdomen. Within seconds, the golem’s midsection is torn asunder and the troll necromancer looks up from his meal with gore dripping down his face. A tomb troll necromancer looks much healthier after consuming his gruesome feast!
I’ve never seen that before. And really don’t want to again.

My pet theory - Monster Combat Tactics

I have a pet theory. If a creature can’t hit you with weapons, it switches to magic. If that fails, it will try combat maneuvers.

This is roughly how a combat maneuver appears to a sorcerer.

At level 60, I can’t help but notice how often Hisskra will attempt their dart maneuver or how shield bashy Tomb Trolls can get.

One of these days, I will roll up a swinging type character and take them to the Tower or Keep to see if they get the same effect. At level, I suspect that cman’s are just one tool. When fighting at a disadvantage, cman’s will be used to affect characters.

Remember, this is just a theory.

Decaying Citadel Guardsman Plasma Attack?

The Rest is always full of surprises. 

>A decaying Citadel guardsman raises her red steel Hammer of Kai high
above her head and begins twirling it around. Faster and faster it spins, causing radiant white flames to fly out in all directions and shower the room in motes of searing plasma!

One of the brilliant white motes heads right for you!
A mote of radiant white energy passes harmlessly by you!
Roundtime: 3 sec.

I suspect this would hurt. I have no idea what it would have done to me. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Right! Now we are going to have company again! (Vampires)

What do you do when vampires show up? The old classics: garlic, holy water and crosses.
What do you do if you don’t have those things?
 Looks like I wasn’t the only one who got lucky last night.
Get creative or die. If it all goes to hell, you die creatively and that’s something to be written on your tombstone.
Remember the basics. Vampires can’t enter a home uninvited. Should this happen, a quick exchange of money can fix the situation. Stables, churches and other areas are not homes. Don’t hide there without a backup plan.
Holy water is great, but grease and oil are surprising. Lock the door, grease the floor and upturn a table in the middle of the room. When the vampire smashes his way in, down he goes, ready for a nice stake.
Variation two involves spraying oil under the door as the vampire attacks it. This keeps him out for the short term.
Both of these tricks makes vampires respect locked doors.
Water is another great benefit, as are small boats. Packing a rowboat full of characters in the middle of body of water is an impenetrable barrier to blood suckers. Should they turn to gas or a bat and attack the boat this way, it can be capsized and hidden under.
Fire on a larger ship is a nightmare, but doubly so for vampires. Always burn the ship before it gets dark and well out to sea, just in case.
Seeds. Vampires have obsessions and counting is one of them. Throwing seeds is a great delaying tactic. Make sure you are not holding an envelope full of seeds labeled “144 count”. This never works.
Tying is another obsession of vampires. Braiding or unbraiding your hair can be of use. However, half of this is the delaying action and half is emphasizing your neck as a target.
Many rule sets allow for knockouts if the damage is high enough. A wand of fireballs can turn a flock of vampires flying over a moat into fish food quickly. Fireballs do more damage in confined spaces. Fireballs do not have to fired direct at a target to do damage, so fire them behind the target to knock them forwards. Or in front of them to force them back.
Always remember the game mechanics that allows you to move other characters. You can’t hurt a vampire barehanded, but boy does the sun sting if you shove them outside.
There are myriad ways of dealing with vampires. Let me know if you have any favorites.