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[InBetween] Monster Qualities, help me assess them

Bwian

Retired User
... I am struggling with how to assess them for flaws/overpowerdness/bad combos... So I was hoping that more eyes might help, which is why I am here.
Hi Hituro.

That looks like a fun list of abilities. Without a better feel for the system, and without understanding all of the terms used in the Quality definitions, I find it very difficult to judge in any detail.

Some general comments though:
- in general, 1 monster die seems like it might be a pretty valuable resource
- but the value of each die is probably greater than its predecessor (i.e. the 4th die is worth more than the third, is worth more than the 2nd is worth more than the 1st)
- some of your qualities are one-off effects, whereas others are infinite use abilities (and some are e.g. 3 uses): it is likely that their relative value is affected differently for a small monster vs a large one. A large monster is more likely to last multiple rounds, so an infinite use quality is more valuable (relatively speaking) to it than a one-use quality; conversely a small monster might only expect to last one round, so an infinite use quality is worth relatively less
- some qualities affect one target, others multiple targets; so their relative value depends on the group size; and there might also be complex interactions with the combat duration, since a combat with multiple PCs against one monster will tend to be shorter than a combat with one PC against the same monster...
- this kind of thing is notoriously difficult to balance
- from the sound of it, fine-tuned balance might not really be critical issue, because the GM gets to make up the monster size on the fly anyway; so I suppose what you are really trying to do is to create a guide to help the GM judge the relative challenge.

I will have a look at combos now... ;)

Cheers

K
 

Bwian

Retired User
Here's the list of Qualities I've got so far.
I've had a quick look down page 114 so far, focusing on potential imbalances. Congratulations on the variety and interest. I like that some of the powers have different triggers, so its not always a matter of rolling more dice. Well done!

I notice that some qualities (e.g. Brutal, Bully) do +1 <typed damage> whenever the monster does damage; and certain other qualities do +1 damage (e.g. Ambush, Bloodthirsty, Vengeful, Venom) under specific circumstances. There is potential for 'powerful combos' here, especially for qualities that can do +X damage more than once (e.g. Venom, Bloodthirsty)

All else being equal, infinite use powers e.g. Clumsy, Venom are obviously better than one-off powers like Ambusher and might need to be costed accordingly.

Bloodthirsty seems very difficult to cost; much depends on how many dice the monster has to start with. A 2 dice monster with Bloodthirsty will never get to use more than 1 of its three possible uses. A 10 dice monster might hit the three-use limit immediately.

The power of many qualities is highly contingent e.g. Flying would be much more useful in a scenario where the PCs were behind an obstacle; Crushing is useless if the PCs have no objects that can be crushed. Others are contingent depending on the monster power. If the monster is low-powered, then it is unlikely to do beat the PCs, so powers that require it to beat the PCs are less valuable than they are for a high-powered monster. Generally, many qualities look like a better deal for more powerful monsters than for weaker ones.

'Advantage' looks as though it has a rapidly increasing value as you buy multiple levels of it. I am guessing that obstacle 4 is more than twice as good as obstacle 2, and obstacle 8 would be very tough indeed.

I'm not sure how you intend to use something like 'Determined'. It has 0 cost. Does that mean that every monster has this quality? Or is it just something the GM can add at no cost. If the latter, it is clearly an advantage, even if it is not a very large one, so surely it should cost something.

'Lethal' looks like it is a power where the GM gets to decide exactly what the effect is. So its power-level depends entirely on what the GM chooses. So potential for imbalance on that one.

'Lurker' doesn't really look like a combat power at all, so it is very difficult to assess its relative power.

For a few of the powers I can't really work out what effect practical they will have e.g. Enormous

If I assume that monsters will almost always be defeated, then Vengeful is probably worth more than Ambusher, because it is more likely to take effect in a single encounter.
 

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
B Bwian Thank you, that's some quality feedback there, and just the sort of thing I need to get me thinking on the right lines.

Determined is indeed a 'free' power, and it's been suggested by playtesters that I remove it from the Quality list and just make it a default rule for Monsters and Players alike, I'll probably do that.

Lethal is designed to model traps and other things that won't inflict damage unless you do the wrong thing, and then just get to inflict a big bit of damage without a roll. I was thinking of Mousetraps specifically. I agree that a guideline(s) on its use will hurt no one (except the mice getting crushed of course).

Lurker is designed to improve the chances of a monster appearing. Players can always make scouting tests to try and find danger before they encounter it, and then avoid it. A Lurker is going to be hard to avoid. A monster that wasn't scouted, and was hiding, gets to ambush, so Lurker + Ambusher seems a likely combo.

Enormous is actually pretty powerful, and I almost more worried about it than the others. Increasing size by 1 has the following effects when facing smaller things:
  • You ignore 1 (more) damage a turn, or 1 (more) fact asserted about you
  • You give +1 Bonus Dice to things trying to hide, dodge, or run from you
  • You require 1/2 (more) additional success to be declared Dying when Taken Out
  • You can cross gaps and obstacles that are 1 size larger than before, but cannot enter spaces that are 1 size smaller than before
  • It's been suggested that it should also add damage to Brutal/Overwhelming
I think Clumsy isn't too bad, it is supposed to hinder the GM as much as anything, replacing successes you'd rather have spent on something else with damage. It's mostly intended for Humans holding mice. I agree that Brutal, Bully, Venom and the like are more risky. On the other hand they only do damage if the Monster wins a roll. For that reason Vicious is much more dangerous, in that it works when they lose a test as well. Overwhelming which just happens, is the most dangerous of all.

I agree with the general proposition that many Qualities are a better deal for big monsters than small ones (or strong ones vs. weak ones). I am not sure of the best way to solve that. Maybe I should strive to come up with a few Qualities that aren't dependant on winning a roll, but which don't substitute for the effects of a bigger dice pool — e.g. more defensive ones?
 

Bwian

Retired User
A pleasure!
Lurker is designed to improve the chances of a monster appearing. Players can always make scouting tests to try and find danger before they encounter it, and then avoid it. A Lurker is going to be hard to avoid. A monster that wasn't scouted, and was hiding, gets to ambush, so Lurker + Ambusher seems a likely combo.
Righto. So that's an indirect combat advantage; but Ambusher itself is not very powerful as its only +1 damage once, as far as I can see. It looks like a way to give a weak monster a chance to do damage. Which is cool. Maybe you could combine the two into a single quality, useable for all/ both purposes.
Enormous is actually pretty powerful, and I almost more worried about it than the others. Increasing size by 1 has the following effects when facing smaller things:
  • You ignore 1 (more) damage a turn, or 1 (more) fact asserted about you
  • You give +1 Bonus Dice to things trying to hide, dodge, or run from you
  • You require 1/2 (more) additional success to be declared Dying when Taken Out
  • You can cross gaps and obstacles that are 1 size larger than before, but cannot enter spaces that are 1 size smaller than before
  • It's been suggested that it should also add damage to Brutal/Overwhelming
That looks like a good way to model it to me (I'm not really sure being bigger makes it harder to run away... but hey). The big practical advantage looks to be the first one. Ignore 1 damage per turn is especially good if you're hard to damage in the first place; so that makes it a very good deal for a powerful monster. It's good you have limited it to a maximum +1 size level, because the ability to stack multiple levels of this ability would be extremely attractive if you just want an invulnerable threat.

If it also adds extra damage to Brutal/ Overwhelming then it is definitely compounding and could easily get overpowered. As I understand it, I can take e.g. Brutal more than once. So if I had 3 levels of Brutal, I'd get +3 damage for buying Enormous.

On the other hand, it would be perfectly logical for a big critter to do more damage. So why make that contingent on buying a second quality? Wouldn't you just call it +1 Damage/ Absorb +1 damage per turn, and charge a lot for the quality?
I think Clumsy isn't too bad, it is supposed to hinder the GM as much as anything, replacing successes you'd rather have spent on something else with damage. It's mostly intended for Humans holding mice.
I must have misunderstood the description. I thought if you spent a success you would a) get whatever you spent the success for; AND b) roll for incidental damage. Might need some clarification.
I agree that Brutal, Bully, Venom and the like are more risky. On the other hand they only do damage if the Monster wins a roll. For that reason Vicious is much more dangerous, in that it works when they lose a test as well. Overwhelming which just happens, is the most dangerous of all.
I agree with the general proposition that many Qualities are a better deal for big monsters than small ones (or strong ones vs. weak ones). I am not sure of the best way to solve that. Maybe I should strive to come up with a few Qualities that aren't dependant on winning a roll, but which don't substitute for the effects of a bigger dice pool — e.g. more defensive ones?
I'm not sure how much the balance between weak and stronger monsters matters. They are not going to fight each other much, are they? I think the important thing is that you pick up any places where the GM might accidentally create something very overpowered. As I understand it, the GM can assign a monster any power level that seems suitable...
 

Bwian

Retired User
Sorry Hituro - struggling with the editor here...
B Bwian I agree that Brutal, Bully, Venom and the like are more risky. On the other hand they only do damage if the Monster wins a roll.
I misunderstood this. They say that they do damage when the Monster does damage. I took this to include cases like Ambush, Bloodthirsty, Vengeful and Vicious, where the Monster does NOT seem to need to win a roll. So if you combine say Bully with Vicious, Bully would get to apply its affect whenever Vicious did damage and ALSO whenever the monster wins a roll.

I guess it seems ambiguous what when the Monster does damage means. Does this mean each time a quality is triggered that does damage? Does it mean per point of damage? Does it mean when the monster wins the roll?
Maybe I should strive to come up with a few Qualities that aren't dependant on winning a roll, but which don't substitute for the effects of a bigger dice pool — e.g. more defensive ones?
You already seem to have a couple, including those I listed above. But yes, I think variety in this dimension is a good thing. I guess there might be an issue that a) a quality that is very much more powerful the weaker the monster might create the danger of the GM underestimating how effective the 'weak' monster is with that quality added; b) related to that, being 'weak' is meant to be a disadvantage; so if there are qualities that can make a 'weak' monster a lot more effective than a 'strong' monster, there might be something wrong with your point system?
 

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
No problem :D

I agree 100% with your analysis. I think abilities for weaker monsters should make them interesting, not deadly. For example an ability that defers damage, or trades damage for gaining items, or which hinders rather than kill, are all great things. The question is how to stop those very abilities being abusive for more powerful things.
 

Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
That looks like a good way to model it to me (I'm not really sure being bigger makes it harder to run away... but hey). The big practical advantage looks to be the first one. Ignore 1 damage per turn is especially good if you're hard to damage in the first place; so that makes it a very good deal for a powerful monster. It's good you have limited it to a maximum +1 size level, because the ability to stack multiple levels of this ability would be extremely attractive if you just want an invulnerable threat.

If it also adds extra damage to Brutal/ Overwhelming then it is definitely compounding and could easily get overpowered. As I understand it, I can take e.g. Brutal more than once. So if I had 3 levels of Brutal, I'd get +3 damage for buying Enormous.
It is supposed to be easier to avoid big things, because you are so small in comparison. Ever tried to catch a running cat? Or a mouse? It's not impossible, but it's hard. So mice get bonuses to avoid humans, but can't really hurt them.

I'm going too and fro on the question of whether large size should automatically do more damage. Some playtesters want it because they like lethality, others don't, because they dislike lethality. One suggestion was that when you spend a success to do damage the amount of damage done is based on the difference in size (min 1). So a Size 4 cat hitting a size 1 mouse does 3 damage for each success spent.

It has the virtue of being very elegant, but it is also multiplicative, and that's probably awful. Alternatively I could upgrade brutal so that *it* does the 1/size difference, but then it needs to cost more than Bully?
 

kenco

Registered User
Validated User
It is supposed to be easier to avoid big things, because you are so small in comparison. Ever tried to catch a running cat? Or a mouse? It's not impossible, but it's hard. So mice get bonuses to avoid humans, but can't really hurt them.
Aha! Makes sense when you say it like that. I thought by 'run away' you meant 'outrun/ outrace/ out distance', rather than 'avoid capture/ avoid being hit/ escape into nearby cover/ etc.'
I'm going too and fro on the question of whether large size should automatically do more damage. Some playtesters want it because they like lethality, others don't, because they dislike lethality. One suggestion was that when you spend a success to do damage the amount of damage done is based on the difference in size (min 1). So a Size 4 cat hitting a size 1 mouse does 3 damage for each success spent.
It's certainly naturalistic that large size means more damage. Whether that's lethal or not depends on other aspects of your system, such as e.g. what resources your little creatures have for avoiding being hit or transforming adverse results.

The proposal for a damage multiplier sounds logical, but I suspect it might be problematic in practice. If the thing is big enough, even a single success will cause lethal damage. An adder has exactly the same problem, however.

One approach I've never seen in practice, but might work for you is as follows. The damage depends on the number of successes in a fixed way (i.e. regardless of size difference e.g. 1 HP per success - but it could be exponential or anything you like, really, as long as it increases monotonically with increasing successes); but the size difference increases the number of your successes that you are allowed to spend on damage. So an equal size thing might be allowed to spend up to three successes on damage; then add +1 maximum damage per +1 size difference. Likewise a smaller size thing has fewer maximum successes allowed on damage; if its three or more levels smaller, it can't do 'damage' at all - although it might be able to do a lot of other things (including causing the big creature to do damage to the environment or to an ally) with all its spare successes.

If you're looking for a rationale, just take away the small creatures 'dodge' bonus for being smaller, and call the ability of the small creature to seemingly take minimal damage as the chance that it will take glancing blows etc.

All this is predicated on creatures HP (or whatever) being pretty much scale independent...
It has the virtue of being very elegant, but it is also multiplicative, and that's probably awful. Alternatively I could upgrade brutal so that *it* does the 1/size difference, but then it needs to cost more than Bully?
I guess you could. That would make brutal a better deal for large creatures as compared with small ones...

I think it is hard to avoid balance problems in a points-buy system as the result of compounding effects unless you do something like Hero system (tries to do) with advantages and limitations, by reflecting the compounding aspect in the points cost.

If your main goal for weak creature qualities is to make interesting rather than powerful creatures, but you are worried that the same qualities are too cheap for big creatures then a) limit the use of those qualities to weak creatures; b) make the point cost proportional to the power level (e.g. 25% of your points); or c) make the combat usefulness of the big creatures an exponential function of their power level; d) attach a caveat for the GM. To some extent you already have (c) in place, because the 5th combat die is surely worth more as an increment of power than the 2nd? On the other hand, probably the 11th is worth very little, because a 10 die monster is already overwhelming...
 
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