Thursday, 1 March 2012

Group Templates

The Yellow Banner doing what it does best - bringing the thunder!

"The maths is broken". It's a common complaint heard on the message boards - monsters from the first two Monster Manuals don't pack enough punch, especially at high levels. Wizards of the Coast consequently errata'd their official rules on monster creation, lowering defences and upping damage across the board. But was it really needed?

Yes, it was. In fact, I'd say it doesn't go far enough. True, damage for paragon and epic tier monsters wasn't high enough - but I think that's only half the problem. What encounter groups still lack at higher levels are power synergies and "gotcha!" powers.

Take my group. Every encounter, there are no less than three interrupting powers they can use to screw with an enemy attack. The ranger can make a disruptive strike, dealing damage to the monster and imposing a penalty to its hit roll. The battlemind can perform a lightning rush, gaining a free attack and taking the blow if he hits. The paladin can use guardian's counter, swapping places with the target, taking the hit himself, and then gaining a free counter-attack. Potentially, all three could even be used on the same attack. These are what I call "gotcha!" powers:

Me: "Lord Fatbeard laughs cruelly as he closes on the wizard. He raises his mace and..."
Tjaart: "Disruptive strike. Hits 37 AC. 24 damage, -6 to hit."
Me: "...damn."

In my opinion, the balance here is pretty screwy. As players go up levels, they gain greater and greater power variety. This versatility isn't shared by monsters - as they go up in levels, their power variety remains pretty much the same. Sure, their damage output goes up, but I don't think that's enough.

Again, take my group. Right now, we have two leaders (one dual class, one pure), but even so:

  • I'm adding +10 to all pre-Monster Manual III damage.
  • I frequently chain two encounters together into one.
  • Two of my players are cursed, meaning that whenever one takes damage, the other gets stung for half. 

Yet I still find it difficult to challenge them.

The attached rules are designed to counter that. The basic idea is to provide a set of "group templates": special power sets that are shared between all creatures in the group. By applying one of these templates to the group, they all gain access to a special trait and a number of shared powers (mostly interrupts and reactions). At higher tiers of play, power versatility increases. I've not tested them yet - I'll be trialling them this weekend - but hopefully they'll give my encounters a bit of added punch!

See what you think:

3 comments:

  1. Excellent, quick, simple article! As you're pointing out; it's not rocket science here, if the PCs substantially gain more power in some way as they level, so too should their enemies.

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  2. This is absolutely marvelous. I also soup up the damage, but you are absolutely right about the synergy component missing from monster groups. I'm going to give this a try this in Friday's game. I have a solo battle in Epic Tier that the solo group template could really help accentuate. I'll let you know how it goes!

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  3. Glad you like it, Casey! As for trying out them out yourself, I'd love to hear how that epic level battle goes, ER!

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