Here we'll look at the Man-to-Monster mode, and find that we get a much more problematic set of data. In the current version, there are not one but two updates since we last run the simulator that work punishingly against our simulated gladiators:
- Previously we weren't including aging effects (here assessed s both ability-score penalties and level-loss after middle age, as per Gygax's Conan writeup in Dragon #36). And:
- Previously we weren't including any of the monster special abilities in the monster roster; that only got implemented at the time of the MonsterMetrics program in the last few months. Now our population of fighters will have to deal with poison, paralysis, petrification, level loss, dragon breath, swallowing, etc., for the first time.
Even at the 1st dungeon level, a character can easily encounter a 3rd or 4th level monster (on the 6-point scale), including such types as giant scorpions, wraiths, lycanthropes, gargoyles (with no expectation of having any magic weapons), etc. By the 3rd dungeon level, these types are the most commonly encountered, and any monster in the game is likely to be in play: dragons, vampires, hydra, balrogs, purple worms, etc. By my estimate, if a stock level of a megadungeon has around 30 encounters, then we would expect to find around 5 such top-level terrors on the 3rd level of your dungeon. Think about that for a second, a guess what you think the results might be, before reading further.
Okay: Let's combine the original by-the-book encounter table, the implementation of monster special abilities, and the effects of aging for the first time and see what the end result is. We consider a gladiatorial system that allows recruits so it has 10,000 fighters at any time, running for 100 years, with 24 fights each year. Monsters are matched against each fighter by rolling on the table above at a "dungeon level" equal to each fighter's level (or for 0-level recruits, the 1st level beneath the surface). The result is this:
The highest level in our population of 10,000 fighters are just a few Heroes of 4th level. Looking at the average age column we see: No one ever survives a single year! Even tracking everyone who ever lived and died for the entire century (what I call SupMaxAge here), no one ever lived past the age of 19. Even this is a bit deceptive: most of the population you see here was likely hired at age 18, one week before the turn of the year, which bumps up the age value to 19 almost immediately. So likely the longest that anyone lives is maybe just a number of weeks. And no one ever, ever reaches a level above 4th regardless of how high their ability scores are, or how lucky the get with magic items or opponent matchups or attack rolls -- even after possibly centuries of throwing 10,000 fighters at a time, on a biweekly basis, at the Monster Level Matrix shown above. It's a nightmare scenario.
I've tried a few tinkerings around that table to develop something more reasonable; for example, I've tried applying a modifier to the d6 roll on that table, perhaps on the order of −2 or −3 or so. Below I'll go whole-hog and apply a −5 modifier; that is to say, assume that every roll on the Monster Matrix is always a 1, and produce the lowest-level monster permitted in every case. Here we get:
That starts to look at little more reasonable, but: Still no one ever reaches Superhero or Name level, even after a century of biweekly adventuring. Over the course of the century, we found one Conan-analog who lived to the age of 28, but no one ever survives to their 30's, and almost no one lives for as long as 3 years. For this, we've already really abandoned the Monster Matrix, by effectively ignoring the roll entirely, and looking only at those cells that have the "1" result in each row.
I've also tried other more sophisticated techniques in conjunction to this modifier, like assuming that the fighters in question can "choose a lower level of the dungeon" on which to adventure, to some optimal level (like, one that accrues maximal XP before they start losing levels due to age). I'll spare you that series of searches and charts, and just say this: The optimal choice is always to stick to the 1st dungeon level forever. Anything else is just too dangerous.
Let's call a spade a spade: The OD&D Level of Monster Matrix is undeniably, clearly broken. For a playable game it absolutely needs to be fixed. This is highlighted by the fact that no one ever used it again in that format; all later editions of D&D provide some different take on the monster encounter table. In the next installment we'll look at using one of those to inspire a revised mechanic for our OD&D games.