Friday, April 29, 2016

Yet More Monster Metrics

Hopefully you recall our simulation work to generate our MonsterMetrics results from a few weeks ago (link). Today you'll see a few iterations on that concept, based on some recurring comments from the discussion here that followed. Things you'll see below:
  • Monsters assessed with 8-sided hit dice as a default. Knowledgeable readers will know that I personally run my games still using the 6-sided hit dice for monsters as they appeared in Original D&D (Vol-2; while using 8-sided dice for fighter hit dice, as per Sup-I Greyhawk). Granted that most people use 8-sided dice, it seemed warranted to run an assessment on that more common configuration. This, then mostly matches the stats as in Moldvay B/X or the AD&D Monster Manual. (Notes: While skeletons & zombies were boosted to 1HD and 2HD respectively, I kept other undead as in OD&D/BX, not the +1 HD boost for other undead as in AD&D. Normal men are therein uniquely 1d6; NPC fighters 1d8.) This will give most monsters a bit more power against the men.

  • Fighters assessed with advanced equipment. To measure a raw "equivalent hit dice" value (EHD), the initial assessment program kept fighter equipment constant (chain mail, shield, +1 sword), with the emphasis on correct XP awards. Here, for the purpose of balancing encounters, we may also simulate more expected gear for high-level fighters; plate-mail, shield, sword, and a 20%/level chance of boosting any of those by a +1 bonus (swords still start at +1 by default). Counter to the preceding, this may give the men quite a bit more power against the monsters.

Let's see what happens. First, simply switching from d6 monster hit dice to d8's (men still in chain and shield; no added magic per level):



This makes a fairly small difference in most cases. Previously our toughest monster, the Vampire was measured at EHD 36; now it is EHD 39 (in both cases, equal to 4 12th-level Lords). Hill Giants were EHD 8 and are now EHD 9 (previously worth 5 0-level men and now worth 6). New EHD values are given above if this matches how you run your game; but the differences are not great, and I don't see any need to change XP "boosts" (asterisks) as shown previously.

Now, the case of monsters with 8-sided hit dice against fighters more fully equipped (plate, shield, 20%/level to boost any of their armaments):



Now, that's quite a different story. I've removed the appearance of the EHD column, because these measurements are totally not comparable (and I don't want any readers to be confused by that; again, I suggest using this table for balancing encounters but not XP awards). We see that a fully-equipped Lord of the 12th level can fend off much larger numbers of low-level types: 40 orcs, 45 bandits, 65 kobolds or giant rats, etc. One such Lord has about an equal chances to defeat 2 giants or trolls single-handedly; and 2 or 3 Lords may be victorious over a vampire or purple worm. Note that this is still without any extra attacks by the Fighters (which is more fodder for my frowning against AD&D-style mega-attack counts; surely fending off a half-hundred normal men is sufficient, and we need not further boost that by an order of magnitude!). Also: Fighter stats are on average just straight 3d6; if we dialed that upwards due to expected survival bias, the men would be at even more of an advantage.


Finally, let's include the case as in my games where monsters have 6-sided dice, and men have arms and magic as expected above:



Again, the change in monster hit dice from d6 to d8 or back is not very great. The 12th-level Lord is now only worth 44 orcs instead of 40. Numbers against the upper-level monsters are mostly unchanged. Not a big deal either way.

That said: I would highly encourage any DM's playing with post-Greyhawk 8-sided monster hit dice to try switching back to the original, and rolling d6's for hit dice instead. It's so much easier to find, keep, and use a batch of that die type; as we can see here, the effect in battle is practically negligible; and my players have never noticed the difference.

Want to run these assessments according to your own custom parameters? Here's MonsterMetrics v.1.01 which lets you do that. As usual, download and unzip the first file, and from the command line type java -jar MonsterMetrics.zip to get it running. Now, you can add a command-line switch like -b=3 to indicate the base armor type for your fighters (3=plate, 2=chain, 1=lather, 0=none). Also now included is the switch -p=20 to set the percent chance per level for a magic boost to any item (default is zero if none specified). Finally, changing monsters stats requires editing the monsters data file; included below is the alternate file Monsters-d8.csv with 8-sided hit dice for the monsters (rename this as Monsters.csv to get the program to use it as input). Any interesting new discoveries?

11 comments:

  1. I think the biggest difference with d8 hit dice (which isn't tested here, since all the fighters have swords) is that it makes it significantly less likely on average that a character rolling d4 or d6 damage dice will kill a low-HD monster in one blow. A tough monster with 7 or 8 hit points is at least two hits for a magic-user or cleric unless he has a high Strength score - or if a cleric uses a flail, which I interpret to be two-handed, thus being a trade-off rather than strictly superior to the mace. Also makes the monsters more resilient against slings and arrows, for the same reason.

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    1. True, possibly to a smallish degree. Do you think that a good or bad thing? That is, do you prefer cleric/wizards to be (a) a bit more likely to knock down a 1 HD monster, or (b) a bit less likely to knock down a 1 HD monster. Or:

      d8 or not d8 - that is the question
      Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
      The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
      With a higher or lower hit die type.

      (I also treat flails as two-handed, I agree that very nicely gives something to balance every weapon type.)

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    2. Personally, I lean toward making the monsters a little tougher. I like how it makes, for example, AD&D's Leader/Assistant orcs with 8 hit points each actually FEEL tougher more often - since if you kill it in one hit regardless, then it doesn't actually feel any tougher than the rest. It lets the fighters shine a little brighter - the guys with the d8 weapons are the only ones with a chance at one-shotting those 8 hit points leaders; even more so with high Strength and/or a two-handed sword.

      Also note, while it made things a hair more complex, I was a fan of the "different damage versus S/M or L creatures" idea. Bringing in a two-handed sword to deal 3d6 damage against Large creatures was really the only thing that made 3+3 HD warhorses and the like manageable. It was also an extra layer of strategy in weapon choice, as well as giving a mechanical reason for swords to be the weapon type that is always enchanted for Dragon Slaying, Giant Slaying, Troll Slaying, or what-have-you. Maces and axes are simply less deadly to those big beasties, so anyone serious about fighting them wouldn't want to enchant a sub-optimal weapon, just like no one creates a Spear of Disruption on account of a mace - just by virtue of being a mace - being a better weapon for battling the undead.

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    3. Yeah, I'm definitely not a fan of the size distinctions in weapons. To me is complicated to keep track of, the charts looks ugly (and hard to remember), and my players I get almost never pay attention to the relative strategic advantages.

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  2. I treat flails as 2/3rds handed. You can wield one with a shield or else you can dual-wield three of them. Pretty sure it was a rule in Unearthed Arcana.

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    1. Does that require a non-weapon proficiency in juggling as well?

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    2. Dual-wield three of them? Maybe you mean a 3-headed flail like Yeenoghu has?

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    3. I guess they were 3/2 handed...

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  3. Although 1d6 vs 1d8 did not make much difference with monsters, it may make a big difference with PC Fighters.

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    1. Even if it's not a large difference in practice, it's definitely a big deal in players' minds. That ties back into the whole reason for hit points in the first place - Dave Arneson came up with them because his players didn't like having their characters killed in one hit, and really didn't mind so much whether or not their enemies took multiple hits to defeat.

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    2. That very roughly is in line, I think, with my intuition that there's no necessity for fighters and monsters to use the same hit dice (for me: fighters d8 and monsters d6).

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