Monday, August 9, 2010
Mulling Over Monsters
To my thinking, there are four classes of opponents in most RPGs
Muscle - Your basic creature who kills you with weapons, sometimes a claw or slam, usually roughly humanoid, few (if any) special abilities - in other words (and to use Swords and Wizardry terminology) the Hit Dice and Challenge Level are usually the same. The main different between these creatures is the Hit Dice and maybe Armor Class and Damage - usually all ascending at the same time. This category has the axis of kobold - goblin - orc - hobgoblin - gnoll - bugbear - ogre, but also probably includes the minotaur and the simpler giants.
Magic - The flip side of muscle, these guys have a big gap between Hit Dice and Challenge Level because they are really all about the special powers, which are usually magical. What these creatures lack in hit points they need to make up with difficulty in hitting, or the fights will be too short to be interesting. Here, you can file the dryads, nymphs and pixies, among others.
Monsters - This category is just muscle + special attacks and defenses, physical and magical. The focus here is usually on a physical attack form (constriction, poison, etc) or maybe a magical power (petrification, confusion). They often have multiple attack forms, so unlike the muscle, which challenge with numbers, the monsters can take on a full party by themselves. These things can be humanoid, but usually are not. Things like chimeras, giant spiders and gorgons.
Ubers - The uber category combines Muscle and Magic, and are often used as BBEGs in the game - rakshasas, hags, ogre magi, storm giants, etc.
Of course, no little system, especially one so hastily assembled, can fit everything in, but it seems to me that these are the four bases to cover in monster design - you want a good variety of these kinds of monsters at different power levels to scale with the adventurers as they gain levels and keep each dungeon from being exactly the same - i.e. you would like multiple "monsters" for "mid-level" play, so the mid-levels of every dungeon don't play quite the same.
So - is there anything I am missing here? Let me know.
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* I think I'm adding a St. Iggar to NOD. Or maybe St. I-Gar.