Author Topic: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play  (Read 2156 times)

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MilwaukeeJoe

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Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« on: August 30, 2010, 08:08:11 PM »
I run quite a bit of one-shot convention-style gaming. Gencon, dnd.meetup.com and some smaller cons.

For 4E (using level 7 pregens), I found that if I took a monster and did the following:
  • Halve it's hitpoints, AND
  • Double it's damage output

I found that the monsters hit hard, but died quickly.... which for a 4 hour adventure is pretty nice. When I announced damage on the PCs, I could hear the players say, "oh, whoa..." as they felt the hits. But, the challenge of the encounter stayed pretty close to the original.

What about you, any monster tweaks you've done that in a similar fashion?

MilwaukeeJoe

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2010, 11:22:26 PM »
Monsters can use the treasure.
Monsters "ought" to make or ~find the treasure-to-be, as something useful to them.
8 or 9 or 10 encounters per level ... means
if there's a numerical advantage, the longer the leveling, the more time for that advantage to happen.
Monsters can use a many Rituals as they (read you) desire.
Lastly, Monsters with Class Template, should use their Daily X powers as soon as possible.
Math-wise it increases the chance of a swingy monster win.

'Course this is all from the standpoint of the Monsters actually trying to survive; or even win ...  :o


Otherwise:
Simple +1 or -2, or more either way.
It gives you a clear idea about how close to the PSG math rules -ish center of the game, the party is.
And it's in the rules.
And/or it doesn't really matter.
And it's much much easier.

If you really want the monsters to lose,
you just have them use role-over-and-fenistrate tactics.

MilwaukeeJoe

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2010, 11:28:46 PM »
If you really want the monsters to lose,
you just have them use role-over-and-fenistrate tactics.

I can see in my post where you would get the impression that I just want the monsters to lose. Actually, I'm trying to shoot for a challenge to players, but not take as long in combat. When I was running MM1 monsters as is, it seemed like it took a long time for the PCs to get the monster HP down... longer than i wanted to.

Is there 4E rules that govern giving monsters magic items and how it would affect the XP value of the encounter?

MilwaukeeJoe

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2010, 09:37:09 PM »
Yeah but it's disappointing.

Yes they can use items ... it just won't do much.
You're talking about a +1 to some little something, one property, and one magic item daily.
This doesn't even qualify as a monster theme, let alone a Class Template.
It doesn't increase the exp budget of an encounter.

You can "give" the monster items they would actually make.
And then those items are much less likely to be useful to the PCs.
All it is, is something annoyingly valuable as
future magic item pixie dust, to make what the PCs really wanted.
This is kinda a previous edition approach to magic items.
Expect c-rai-ing from the players: "I want my Wishlist !  I want my Wishlist too !! "

Further afield, any given Monster could have an Artifact.
That gives them quite a boost.
Again, no change in the exp budget.
Still, the PCs would be expected to beat it
... and now they have something really good, but possibly extremely difficult.
Artifacts can be very nerfing to the player dumb enough to take it on.


If you really want the monsters to win ...
you have to use monsters the PC builds can't handle.

MilwaukeeJoe

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2010, 09:55:52 PM »
If you really want the monsters to win ...
you have to use monsters the PC builds can't handle.

I try to avoid that, given that I pretty much run convention-style games where I bring the pregenerated characters. I chose the builds, so if I put in encounters designed to specifically go after flaws in those builds... well, that's just not nice.

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2010, 11:25:43 PM »
" ... not nice ... "

Heh, why of course !!


I was just going by a tight rules basis.
The wotc 4e CO-board isn't really interested in what the monsters do.
It is possible to put a Class Template on any given monster,
and then you have an Elite (or Solo) that has some of the mojo the PCs have.

The other stuff to do is use lots of Traps within an Encounter.
The trap functions as a monster, in terms of the exp budget.
Then it's just a matter of how much screwy stuff happens to the party,
while the monsters know all about it.
Problem ... sooner or later the party catches on to Traps being something
to pay attention to. Then they almost don't work anymore.
High Percept or Thievery or Dex builds can handle them right off the bat.
But the rest of the party has to come up with a Process to figure out how to handle.

And later you nail them with a Two trap combat ... or More  :o
I'd save this for the toughest combats.


Even so, the PCs are still supposed to win.
You have to hit them with a Too Hard combat,
to make them actually have to retreat.
That word doesn't exist in 4e  ;)
Seriously scan the whole text of every 4e book.
You won't (will) find that word.

MilwaukeeJoe

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2010, 02:36:57 PM »
Thanks, ADG, you're giving me some good ideas for future one-shot encounter design.

For me, the best "too hard" encounters are the ones where, afterward, the players admit, "I could have avoided that if I did XYZ." In other words, if the players feel like they could have made different decisions to have survived it, instead of, "well, we just didn't have a chance, it's the DM's fault!"

Now, the question becomes - how does a DM produce that kind of encounter? :)

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2010, 09:20:11 PM »
Getting to too hard, is tricky.
You've got to test the PCs and the players ability,
to handle +2 or +4 or ... higher level encounters.

The game has a mini-game built into the middle of it.
PCs have Dailies they can use, or not.
DMs have higher level encounters that need Dailies to beat, or not.
The PCs and the DM play a game of liars Poker, complete with bluffing ...  ;)

Ultimately the DM controls whether a Milestone is reached or just lots of extended rests;
or whether the party gets an extended rest to recharge the dailies.
The party might be stuck with encounter novas only.
OR
The party Daily novas, and then takes whatever spanking the DM wants to give, until the next extended rest.
They don't know AND you don't know.
Those are the extremes.
In between is the game as currently played.

"I could have avoided that if I did XYZ Daily(s)" ... is the goal.

To be trickier: "Why didn't the monster use the item Daily?"
That gets the party thinking scary thoughts ...  :bigeye
"The monster was gonna take on something worse, and didn't think we were the cheese we ended up being."
(evil grin)

dither

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Re: Monster Tweaks for Con-Style Play
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2010, 10:38:39 PM »
I think the approach you used, with halving hit points and doubling damage (along with the +1/-2 rule), is probably the best you're going going to get for on-the-spot tweaks to monsters. I might have a monster do something weird or off-the-wall to get an extra 1-2d6 damage like a striker if it seems like the situation calls for it (it runs straight up the wall, rebounds, and hurtles towards you -- only works when within 5 feet of a wall at the beginning of its move, etc.).

I find that I like to throw a lot of uncertainty into just how powerful a monster is to make the encounter worse in the minds of the players than it actually plays out. This is hard to do, and usually requires knowing the players well enough to play on their specific fears. You know one way to really scare the players? Ignore the defenders and go straight for the strikers and controllers. Have the enemies throw themselves at the weakest party members in desperation. :D
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