Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another Monster and a New Stat Block

I always find it interesting how important actual play is to understanding a game, and how to judge its design, and how its presentation. For example, as much as I love 3.5 on paper, I don't enjoy playing it.

In this light, I have decided to change the stat block I use when creating monsters. In play, the guys that I sit at the table with like to explore the wilderness, hunt down lairs and loot them. As such, I have been highly dependent upon random encounters and have found the follow items from a monster stat block to be essential:

  • Number Appearing — This gives me a baseline for determining the number of creatures encountered (and how many to expect inside a lair).
  • % in Lair — this helps determine whether or not the party has stumbled upon the monsters in or out of their home.
  • Morale — since this comes into play so much, especially with larger encounters in the wilderness, I need this stat at my finger tips.
  • Hoard Class — When that lair is actually found, I need to know what kind of treasure is in it.
  • XP — If I know exactly how much XP each monster is worth, I can easily keep a running tally.

I have also found that the following items unnecessarily clutter up the stat block:

  • AAC — though I have a group of guys that discovered our hobby through 3.5, they have adjusted very smoothly to AC and using THAC0.
  • Challenge Level — Frankly, I've never used this. The players know quite well that I don't dumb down or weaken the monsters in places they have no business being. Characters have been killed for not running away when they should have. The game is about choices. When I present to them a monster, it is what it is. The characters are then free to try their luck and skill or to run away and then face the consequences of their choice.

Keeping these things in mind for my home-brew monsters, I present the Flacara:


[Those] Who said, "Let us inherit the holy place of God for ourselves."
O my God, turn them like a wheel,
Like straw before the face of the wind,
Like fire that burns through a thicket,
Like a flame that sets mountains on fire;
Thus You shall pursue them with Your storm,
And You shall trouble them in your wrath.

—Psalm 83:13-16

Number Appearing: 2d4
% in Lair: 25%
Alignment: Chaotic
Armor Class: 3
Move: 9
Hit Dice: 2+1
Attacks: 1 weapon (1d6+1) + Flame Damage (1d6)
Special: Flame Damage
Save: F3
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XIV
XP: 59

These vile creatures are about the size and stature of a Dwarf. Their flesh is cracked, blackened, and emaciated. As though burning from within, flames burst through the cracks and orifices all over their bodies. A Flacara's face is a mask of pain, something they take delight in inflicting on others. Every round spent in melee with a Flacara, a character must make a save vs. breath or take 1d6 fire damage. When a Flacara is using metal weapons or is fighting unarmed, any successful hit will generate an additional 1d6 flame damage unless a save v. breath is successful. They are immune to fire and cold attacks will actually add hit points. Flacara value gems over all other treasure.


Alexis Smolensk said...

I have some suggestions for you:

Fenway5 said...

The notion of choice and how one exercises it is core not only to the success of the game, but to every life, and most importantly was given to us as a gift from God. When a game (or more recently our own government) endeavors to make everything equal and fair, the first thing removed is freedom of choice. In the case of Challenge Level, I too have loathed this mollycoddling stat.

There are some beasts the characters should run away from and if they choose not to then they suffer the consequences...and they LEARN! Part of the the freedom to choose is the notion and experience of exploration. In the game exploration is not limited to simply roaming of ancient halls and dusty crypts, it is the exploration of the boundaries of heroism, cowardice, friendship, and exploring the limits of a persons abilities through a paper avatar and some dice. The game in essence is a vehicle to explore your own personality in fantastic situations exploring all sorts of choices that you may never make in real life with the only victim being a sheet of paper if the choices are bad.

The challenge level stat is a reflection of socialized system game play: Provide a system of regulated choice to try and insure the characters always have a better than average chance to succeed at the expense of choice.

This system regulates and controls the level of danger, challenge, and uncertainty to maximize character success if you used "properly."

By adhering to challenge level you remove the most critical element of exploration: freedom of choice. The Referee is then limited artificially as to what they should use in created challenges, and the players choice to fight or not is also removed. When you know you have a better than average chance to beat any encounter, then you always fight.

Choice is about risk, and with risk comes the chance to succeed spectacularly or to fail miserably. Both ends lead to some of the greatest experiences in both gaming and life. Rags to Riches...and Riches to rags. Removing or limiting that essential part of the human experience given to us by God seems as if it must be a sin.

FrDave said...


I appreciate your brand of D&D and applaud the level of detail that you put into your gaming. For my part, I don't have that kind time, nor do I find that my gaming experience actually benefits from that level of detail. One of the reasons I use random tables is to allow me to experience the game as if I were a player — I am sometimes as surprised as the players by some of the random results. It makes things more fun. To that end, I find simplicity in my preparation saves me a lot of time and results in more enjoyable play.

FrDave said...

Fenway 5,

Challenge Levels are only one of many mechanics in newer editions of D&D that limit choice. Playing 3.5, for example, is a exercise in frustration management rather than a good way to have an entertaining evening. It looks fancier, it has more bells and whistles, but at the end of the day it railroads players into certain choices at every turn. As I've said before, I much prefer older editions and their clones. They don't look as fancy, they don't have bells and whistles, but they not only allow for a tremendous amount of player freedom, they demand it. This reflects my own religious views of human freedom far more elegantly than any of the later editions can ever come close to.