Friday, November 6, 2009

Reading T&T 7.5 - Monsters and Monster Rating

Now we have come to an interesting section in the rules, monsters. In some other games, it's well known that stat blocks take up quite a lot of space. In T&T the space needed to describe a monster is minimal, thanks to the very elegant solution of Monster Rating, MR.

From one single number you get the dice a monster will roll in combat, its combat adds and its stamina or CON. Now, while the procedure is simple, it still involves an element of confusion. To get the dice you have to round down, and to get the adds you have to round up. Why? I know that some people have made fun of this tendency in rpgs to spend silly amount of time on dictating rounding. Sometimes I think the criticism is valid. Why on earth can't we just assume everyone learned rounding in school? Well, it's not a fault of T&T, really.

One thing is different enough from former editions to warrant a note in bold letters. The dice rolled for a monster never decrease, like they used to. Now only the adds whittle away as the MR decrease. Small changes in how this have worked, with e.g. full MR only used on the first combat round, have been tested. I think the present system works just fine, and the beauty of it all is that it's dead simple to use any way, in concert.

On thing I really like is that Ken gives us some idea on how to scale the MR of a monster to the strength of the delvers. Some gamers in the OSR contingent sometimes rage against the "decadence" of 3rd ed D&D, where Encounter Ratings and similar calculations play an important part of encounter planning. Personally I find the idea of encounters scaled to the strength of the player characters to be a complex subject. If the players start to expect everything to be beatable, or "fair", I groan and long for the bygone days. But, I also think that having some kind of way to know when you send in certain death is nice, at least it will give me the opportunity to drop hints of the danger before the first character bites the dust. But, back to T&T. I think the advice Ken gives is good, but one of these days I'm going to collect hard data on the importance of combat adds. The characters in my campaign had totally brutal adds, but could sometimes roll quite bad, which changed a lot.

After telling us all about MR, the rulebook talks about monsters. The list of monsters we get in the rulebook is just a list of names, and MRs. Frankly, it's not very useful. I will now turn to one of the other volumes in the boxed set, Codex Monstrum, since it's actually referred to in this section. The monsters in this book is described, are illustrated and have notes about special defences, attacks or magical abilities. The neat thing here is how sixes rolled for attack (which I'll talk more about later) trigger special effects. This is a new addition to the T&T system which I find very inspired. I used similar effects on magic items of my own design, and it worked very fine. The CM is a fine addition to the 7.5 rules. Now I once again wonders a bit about the organization of the rules. Having described the MR system, and how it can be used, I wonder why the idea of spite damage or triggers for special effects isn't mentioned until you turn to the monster book? A list of monsters take up most of a page in the rules, and it could have been better used to just describe all the rules about monsters and how to design them.

There's another thing which I think deserves mentioning. More than once on these three pages we can read how fun it is to create your own monsters, and how the creativity of the individual GM is a fundamental part of monsters. That's the spirit!

Considering how I wrote a few days back about how the world of Palladium fantasy is presented in the rules, I find it notable that the monster section in these rules actually mention Trollworld, and gives us some glimpse of it's fauna. I kind of wish there was more of that in the rules. I will probably write more about that later, though.

Next we will write about fighting all these monsters, in the Combat Rules!

7 comments:

  1. I'm pretty new to T&T, but I found the MR thing a welcome change the the way other FRPGs run. It definitely makes monster creation a whole lot easier.

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  2. It sure does. I have converted adventures from other systems on the fly that way. Very elegant, I think.

    MR 88 2/Hidey hole

    or

    MR 88

    are both very concise, even with the added "complication" of 7th ed special attacks.

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  3. 6's to activate effects of magic items is good. I like that.

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  4. I wonder how many house rules I have been using subconsciously?

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  5. There is a good reason why activating magical effects for monsters is not mentioned in the 7.5 rules. It's because it wasn't my idea. Back in 2005 when Fiery Dragon did the 7th edition, they did their own version of the game that was meant to be a miniatures version, perhaps using the little monster pogs they provide with each set. When they wrote up some monsters for that, they gave many of them monster effects. Since the idea for spite damage was already well established, they grafted the magic damage system onto the spite damage system. It made perfect sense and helped explain how damage got through superior fighting and armor. But it wasn't my idea. Thus when I wrote the 7th edition rules, completely unaware of what they were doing with their version of the game, I didn't mention magic damage on 6s. The 7.5 rules are a re-edit of the 7.0 rules, and a hasty one at that, so again that point was missed. Monstrum Codex isn't my idea either. It is the brain child of Jim Shipman of Outlaw Press, and came about entirely after the 7th edition of T & T. Thus, he incorporates the magic damage on 6s idea in monster descriptions. So you see how that happened. Perhaps the chaotic 8th edition, for which I am still gathering ideas, can incorporate the change.
    --Ken St. Andre

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  6. Thanks a lot for that information Ken! I sure hope the 8th will have this feature. I like it a lot.

    I read the FDP booklet with T&T variant rules and felt most of them sucked pretty badly. I'm glad to hear that at least something was good, though.

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