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Rhynn
2013-03-14, 02:43 AM
Inspired by discussion in this thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=275117). This is system-neutral, but mostly for something more realistic/gritty than 3E D&D (if only even older D&D).

How would you implement monsters as puzzles, somewhat in the style of The Witcher?

The idea is that "real" monsters are rare, and fighting them is a momentous thing. Giants, gargoyles, dragons, even giant animals or dinosaurs - they've all got tremendous advantages and abilities over people that, in reality, would make fighting them incredibly hard.

Rather than going in and rolling to hit until the monster dies, you'd actually have to use tricks, tactics, and cleverness to fight them - determine the right weapons or create some (whether mundane, or magical la Dragonslayer (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragonslayer)), find and apply some specialized magic or a chemical or a scientific principle, create a trap, choose an environment that's advantageous...

What sort of principles (rather than specific rules or mechanics) would you use to facilitate this? How would you reinforce (or enforce) the need to get clever like this? How would you reward, in general mechanical principles, these tricks and tactics? Would this all have to be ad hoc, or do you think it could be systemized to some degree?

Edit:


I think Monsters as Puzzles is not quite the right concept. Typically a puzzle has one and only one correct answer. Which once the puzzle is answered the monster can't be used again because its secret is known.

"Puzzle" is a bad word for it, yes. Can't think of a better one, though. For the record, IMO there should never be just one solution to a problem in a RPG.

DMMike
2013-03-14, 09:26 AM
Good question, and one that I've looked at before.

The first thing I ask: why do the characters NEED a method other than clobbering?

Enemy is:
1) Too tough for characters' weapons
2) Too dangerous to approach
3) Ghostly
4) More useful alive than dead.

If any of these conditions exist, characters will need to solve the puzzle.

They already have the machinery they need to use skills to solve puzzles, ala 4th edition.

Tricks and cleverness could also be up to roleplaying though. Which needs more babysitting than rules. Set your enemy motivations and vulnerabilities. Decide how much time is required before the characters fail. Possibly most importantly, decide how much nudging along the players will get from the GM, since they can't rely on rolls to save them.

NichG
2013-03-14, 10:35 AM
If enemies have a few absolute vulnerabilities, they can be much stronger in all other ways. For instance, you could have an enemy who can utterly obliterate anyone who gets within melee of it, but who is susceptible to being summoned and bound (so you can restrict them to a summoning circle which takes them some time to break). You could have a monster that, despite its flight and near vulnerabilities to everything cannot cross running water (including by flying over it), and so can be caged in by decanters of endless water or even tricked/pushed/etc into a stream to seal it forever. You could have a monster that cannot refuse an offer for a duel or contest (even if no consequences of such things would necessarily be binding), and basically pin it down with one person engaging it in a long but non-lethal contest while others set up what is needed to contain or destroy it.

For this to work the players need to be faced with the monster's handiwork and lore long before they get to a 'roll initiative' point or they'll just rush in and get slaughtered.

Mr. Mask
2013-03-14, 11:24 AM
You could have a monster that, despite its flight and near vulnerabilities to everything cannot cross running water (including by flying over it), and so can be caged in by decanters of endless water or even tricked/pushed/etc into a stream to seal it forever. This makes me think, "Headless Horseman".


We could break the main areas that come with fighting a monster like so:

1) Recognizing the Threat.
Studying your target is especially important if its a unique creature, or if no one is sure how to fight it. Think, "Rumplestiltskin" in particular.

This part could also involve testing the monster.
Put out bait and see if it bites. See if it will chase your ex-friends across the river. Does garlic really effect vampires? Feed them one of your surviving friends, soaked in garlic, to find out!

-

This part would require stealth, information gathering from locals or experts, some espionage for setting up and testing these things, and perhaps studying some ancient legends and tomes.

None of those things have really been fleshed out in RPGs to my knowledge. I have some ideas for how you could make a game out of them... but, I doubt it'd work out with what I have so far.


2) Planning and Preparation.
After learning what you can, you need to work out the best plan of attack to defeat the creature, and make preparations. This involves investigating areas you could lead it to, seeing if you can rent a scorpio on short notice, and working out some backup plans.

-

Doesn't require anything too fancy to do this mechanically. Need some rules for hiring villagers or sending for mercenaries, and leasing siege equipment from the King or Lord of the land. If you want things to be authentic, it would be nice if you couldn't buy poleaxes and other cutting-edge weapons from the rural villagers (unless they've been stocking them up, like in Seven Samurai).

You would need some rules for pit traps and such as well. The complication of that is largely dependent on what wounding model you're using (HP is easy).


3) Execution.
Lead them into the trap, attack them with the weapons specialized for killing them, have the mercs you hired charge, or do a combination of many options for greater chance of success. If things go wrong, unleash your backup plans (which should include fleeing in terror).

Hard to comment on what you want here mechanically, since it can vary a lot. You've been discussing the mechanics in that other thread you linked to?

Jay R
2013-03-14, 11:25 AM
It's an important part of stories. You can't defeat the sphinx in combat; you have to answer its riddle. Or a monster gets renewed strength from touching the earth. You must pick it up, not knock it down, to defeat it.

There was an aspect of this in D&D, but only until all the players owned the books. The biggest problem with it is that everyone already knows to use silver blades, or garlic, or whatever.

An article in The Dragon once had (roughly) this situation:
DM: You see three Clickclicks.
PCs: We shout out "November"!
DM: That's right - the Clickclicks fall over dead.

But once people in the D&D world know how to "solve the puzzle" of Clickclicks, somebody will go hunting, and there will be no more Clickclicks.

I once went through the list of monsters (in original D&D), and re-wrote them, adding twists like this. Hippogriffs would be addicted to coffee beans, and could be easily tamed by the person who supplied them, etc.

It didn't work well. Nobody's going to think of it unless you supply a too-obvious hint.

It works fine in a videogame, in which you intend to go through the same situation over and over until you solve it, and don't really care if your character dies a dozen times first.

Someday, I plan to have a major monster, guarding something extremely important, which is unbeatable without the right knowledge. Then finding that knowledge will be the real trick.

elliott20
2013-03-14, 11:48 AM
the trick is not actually to formulate a million puzzles and re-write every monster in the book, the trick in all of this is that the players need to spend time and energy figuring it out. The act of pursuing the knowledge, I think is more important than the actual act of executing the plan.

For this to work, I imagine you would need several factors

1. the PCs themselves are not incredibly powerful. At least, not so much that it's enough to simply crush them with sheer numbers. I mean, really, why bother figuring out the secret name of the Demon of Alkazeem if you can just ubercharger it for 900 points of damage and splatter it into a bloody pulp?

2. the monster can't be too ubiquitous, unless you want to see the extermination of this monster populace become a story point. also, once you've solved the puzzle, there is very little point to have the players do it again unless you can throw a twist on it.

So how would you actually do it?

Well, 4E had the right idea there. They needed you to use your skills to do stuff prior to achieve the goal, but left the exact formula up to the players. You can do something similar here.

What you would do is that you would have this mysterious monster oozing with lore on them, and then basically ask the players to go out of their way to figure out the solution themselves. But here's the trick: you didn't write anything up in the start. What you're actually doing is letting the player's own investigation become the solution, and you are simply allowing them to create their own.

It doesn't have to be as mechanically forced as the 4E solution, but that is effectively what you're doing narratively speaking.

mjlush
2013-03-14, 12:15 PM
Inspired by discussion in this thread (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=275117).

What sort of principles (rather than specific rules or mechanics) would you use to facilitate this? How would you reinforce (or enforce) the need to get clever like this? How would you reward, in general mechanical principles, these tricks and tactics? Would this all have to be ad hoc, or do you think it could be systemized to some degree?

I think Monsters as Puzzles is not quite the right concept. Typically a puzzle has one and only one correct answer. Which once the puzzle is answered the monster can't be used again because its secret is known.

Monsters as Tests may be a little better... to pass the test you have to kill or survive the monster and there are many different ways to achieve that.

Say the monsters strength is that it draws 100% healing from touching rock, In the first encounter they use levitate, next time the meet it its in a cave they cast levitate and it just reaches up and touches the roof.

A kappa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kappa_%28folklore%29) can be defeated by bowing to it, it bows back and spills the water in the bowl on its head. Perhaps the next kappa they meet has taken to wearing a watertight hat. It still has the same exploitable weakness but they have to use different tactics to exploit it.

Rhynn
2013-03-14, 02:37 PM
Good stuff! Keep it coming! I'm still trying to get my head wrapped around this idea myself.


I think Monsters as Puzzles is not quite the right concept. Typically a puzzle has one and only one correct answer. Which once the puzzle is answered the monster can't be used again because its secret is known.

"Puzzle" is a bad word for it, yes. Can't think of a better one, though. For the record, IMO there should never be just one solution to a problem in a RPG.

My usual method is to come up with no solutions myself and let the players worry about that side. They wouldn't think of the ones I come up with anyway, most likely, and I wouldn't have thought of the ones they come up with.

I'm definitely thinking killing, capturing, binding, banishing, or defeating, though, rather than merely surviving or getting past (although those are fine challenges too).

valadil
2013-03-14, 02:51 PM
I was thinking about this the other day. Jim Butcher's underrated Alera series has me thinking about cinematic movement in combat. The conclusion I came to was that if I want to force the players to do anything but slug it out, I'd have to give them opponents that would squish them if they went toe to toe.

I agree with the assessment that puzzle solutions are bad. A game where the players flail around until they realize they have to knock the water tower on the generator while the godzilla is eating a powerline is just too specific. You run the risk of the players losing because they never bump into the one true solution. I'd rather give the players the entire city and let them work out a solution. Of course the problem there is that once they learn how to topple a skyscraper on their foes, every skyscraper is going to look like a weapon.

Slipperychicken
2013-03-14, 06:27 PM
Someday, I plan to have a major monster, guarding something extremely important, which is unbeatable without the right knowledge. Then finding that knowledge will be the real trick.

Sounds like a railroady terrible adventure, liable to end with a post here saying either:

1. "My PCs are so dumb! They got TPK'd by the unbeatable homebrew grudge-monster I had guarding the MacGuffin, which can't be bypassed or reasoned with. How do I a) get them to read my mind and b) scare them into running away next time???"

2. "My PCs are such munchkins! They managed to bypass my unbeatable homebrew grudge-monster, and didn't even retreat to do the railroady side-quest I never told them about! How do I ban them from using magic or skills without looking like a jerk???"


All it does is turn the game into "read the DM's mind before he kills you". Which, contrary to many DMs belief, is not fun for most players.

Rorrik
2013-03-14, 06:35 PM
While new mechanics to support the puzzle solving can be helpful, I think monster challenges can be created with existing monsters and mechanics, just clever situations. I do this a lot in my homebrew.

One possibility is to use classed characters as monsters. If the enemy has all the options the player has, they first need to research and feel him out to determine how he will fight to determine how to engage him. I once had a mad wizard they had learned enough background about they could distract him by pretending to be the ghost of his dead father before engaging him. I had informed them that he was very dangerous and they needed to find a way to get the upper hand or they would lose the fight.

Another possibility is using terrain. My players once attacked and retreated against the same city occupied by mercenaries three times in the same night before finding a way in. Even once inside they ran into obstacles while investigating looking for information that required them to solve more puzzles.

Basically any situation with fleshed out terrain and an enemy well beyond the pay-grade of the party turns into a real test. Whether by numbers or power, if the party can't beat them toe to toe, they will need to come up with clever solutions.

Rhynn
2013-03-14, 07:05 PM
Sounds like a railroady terrible adventure, liable to end with a post here saying either:

...

All it does is turn the game into "read the DM's mind before he kills you". Which, contrary to many DMs belief, is not fun for most players.

:smallconfused:

That's not what "railroading" means, and how is needing to do in-character research the same as needing to mind-read?

If the PCs charge into every combat unprepared (or fight to the death once it becomes clear they're unprepared), they deserve to get killed. That doesn't even work in MMORPGs.

Slipperychicken
2013-03-14, 07:07 PM
:smallconfused:

That's not what "railroading" means, and how is needing to do in-character research the same as needing to mind-read?


They will likely need to mind-read just to know they have to do the in-character research. Especially if they haven't heard of the unbeatable homebrew monster, or only learn about it once they're in the dungeon.

"Do what I want or die" is the definition of railroading.

Rhynn
2013-03-14, 07:29 PM
They will likely need to mind-read just to know they have to do the in-character research. Especially if they haven't heard of the unbeatable homebrew monster, or only learn about it once they're in the dungeon.

:smallconfused:

Researching new monsters, or monsters you had to retreat from but want to beat, is completely standard, surely. In D&D 3.5, it's even codified and simplified into a knowledge roll. It's basic.

"So we ran into these big green dudes who kept putting themselves back together when we hacked them up."
"Ach, son, those be trolls. You got to use some fire to kill those."

That's the most basic example, really.

I mean I get that if you're running 3E or 4E, your players are likely to assume that they are supposed to have at least fair odds of defeating any enemies they find because it's that sort of game, but that's just lazy and silly, to me, and plain not very involved in the game world. Smart players figure out what they're up against - in the case of powerful enemies (dragons, liches, etc.) they even scout the terrain beforehand.

Mysteries and investigations are perfectly playable, and even fairly common, in RPGs. Why couldn't defeating the monster be the mystery?

"You can't win by brute force, you have to retreat and think a bit" is a perfectly fine scenario in pretty much any RPG.

I mean, going to take a basic (old-school) D&D dragon's hoard required a lot of prep like this. First, you have to track down rumors to figure out what dragon it is. Then you need more rumors or some scholars to tell you what type of dragon that is, and possibly to explain what its strenghts and weaknesses are (does it breathe fire or lightning, etc.). Then you need to figure out exactly where it's lair is, what sort of allies it has in the region (subjugated humanoids, etc.), and then scout the area and the lair, figure out how to enter, figure out when it's safe to enter, have the right kind of weapons, etc.

This sort of thing, but on a smaller scale, is what I'm thinking about. The Witcher really is the closest equivalent to me - you need to figure out what kind of weapons work, what sort of magic or poison or salve will help best, maybe lay a trap, and definitely come up with some tactic (even if it's just "survive until first light to break the curse").


Edit: I have to ask - do other people regularly allow PCs to use OOC knowledge their first time fighting trolls or dragons or anything else with immunities or special abilities like that? I don't, and my players don't even try. If their PCs have never run into trolls before, and/or haven't heard about how trollish regeneration works, they won't use fire or acid on them (unless they had flaming weapons or fire spells prepared already), because their characters don't know.

Jay R
2013-03-14, 07:36 PM
Sounds like a railroady terrible adventure, liable to end with a post here saying either:

1. "My PCs are so dumb! They got TPK'd by the unbeatable homebrew grudge-monster I had guarding the MacGuffin, which can't be bypassed or reasoned with. How do I a) get them to read my mind and b) scare them into running away next time???"

2. "My PCs are such munchkins! They managed to bypass my unbeatable homebrew grudge-monster, and didn't even retreat to do the railroady side-quest I never told them about! How do I ban them from using magic or skills without looking like a jerk???"


All it does is turn the game into "read the DM's mind before he kills you". Which, contrary to many DMs belief, is not fun for most players.
Impressive. You have the ability to critique my scenario, not only before playing it or reading it, but also before it's even written.

Slipperychicken
2013-03-14, 07:40 PM
a knowledge roll.


If they get the weakness from a Knowledge roll, that's way different from doing the research during the session. Also much more reasonable than expecting them to retreat to a library for a few weeks before coming back with the weakness ready.


Impressive. You have the ability to critique my scenario, not only before playing it or reading it, but also before it's even written.

Argumentativeness, arrogance, and assumptions give me truly great powers. :smalltongue: [I'm kidding. Sorry]

Madeiner
2013-03-14, 07:48 PM
Most of my bosses are puzzle-like encounters.
Hacking at them like normal monster WILL NOT work, and usually my players know when it is puzzle-time.

An example (even if i think i posted it on this board someplace else...):

The Jailer, a monster taken from Darksiders. I described his three pulsing orbs on his body and the players realize it wasnt a normal monster just by the description.
They hit one orb and it reforms one round later. Then, they hit all three together and the monster is stunned for two rounds, lowering his DR and AC. After recovering from the stun, he performs a wide cleaving attack, and then rages. The cleaving attack is strong and almost take outs the PCs. They are clever enough to understand that this first "unexpected" attack was weaker then the the next cleaving attack (hint: it also raged) that happens as soon as they stun the monster again, so they will keep their distance (or die) the next time

Arbane
2013-03-14, 08:28 PM
D&D already has some puzzle-monsters. Trolls were mentioned, but also vampires: they're tough, exploiting their weaknesses makes them vastly easier to kill, but then you have to jump through some hoops to make them STAY dead.

Jay R
2013-03-14, 09:38 PM
Argumentativeness, arrogance, and assumptions give me truly great powers. :smalltongue: [I'm kidding. Sorry]

Oh, well done. Now I really am impressed.

Totally Guy
2013-03-15, 06:39 AM
If you want to see the logical conclusion to this "monsters as puzzles" philosophy check out the setting book Isle of the Unknown. On every page there is a monster or maybe two that makes no sense whatsever. If fact it was the source of much amusement when I showed my brothers it over Christmas.

The three legged pyramid bird can only be hurt by bronze weapons.

The flying psychic death koala can be transformed into a cleric.

The goldfish with human legs is impervious to elemental spells.

The book pretty much guarantees that when you put the players in the setting they will have to discover the properties of the unique creatures without metagaming a solution. As such I recommend reading it! If only to thwart the design intent behind it.

Friv
2013-03-15, 09:33 AM
I had a puzzle monster boss set up for my last session, but the players solved the puzzle before they knew the monster existed, so it was not a very difficult fight.

Specifically, a disease-spreading monster that could devour the souls of people who had been infected long enough, allowing it to recover from harm. The players checked the disease first, determined that the sick were feeding energy somewhere else, found a cure for the disease, and spent long enough to make sure that the cure was everywhere before going into the mines to look for the monster.

The monster was not a threat once there were no sick people. ;)


If you want to see the logical conclusion to this "monsters as puzzles" philosophy check out the setting book Isle of the Unknown. On every page there is a monster or maybe two that makes no sense whatsever. If fact it was the source of much amusement when I showed my brothers it over Christmas.

I must find this book. :smalleek:


If they get the weakness from a Knowledge roll, that's way different from doing the research during the session. Also much more reasonable than expecting them to retreat to a library for a few weeks before coming back with the weakness ready.

Why is that unreasonable? That's practically a standard for fantasy and mythical literature - if you don't know the weakness of the beast, it's nearly impossible to defeat. As long as it's clear that such a weakness exists and can be found, ideally in multiple ways, what's the problem?

AmberVael
2013-03-15, 09:52 AM
I keep seeing this assumption that once you know the trick, defeating the monster is easy. For some cases, this is true (if it can be only hurt by a certain kind of thing, for example, generally all you have to do is get that thing), but in others...

When I saw this thread, the first thing I thought of was Shadow of the Colossus. The ultimate answer to each monster was always very straightforward: Stab it in a weak spot until dead. Each one essentially used the same mechanic, and generally it wasn't even too terribly hard to figure out where the weak point was.

But with each monster, reaching that point was different, depending on the terrain and the shape of the monster. And it wasn't always easy to pull off, either, even if you knew what you were doing. It was very much a puzzle to do it just right, but also a test of skill- jumping onto a giant that is stomping around, trying its best to murder you, shake you off, fling you onto the ground, or even worse, flying around or burrowing or swimming or some combination of those... it's not exactly a simple task.

I think comparable puzzles would be far more interesting than just "you need to know to bring the right weapon" kind of fights, and definitely more rewarding to complete.

Rhynn
2013-03-15, 10:18 AM
I think comparable puzzles would be far more interesting than just "you need to know to bring the right weapon" kind of fights, and definitely more rewarding to complete.

How do you execute that in a tabletop RPG, though?

I could easily see how to do it in D&D 4E, but that's one (very atypical) game.

NichG
2013-03-15, 10:31 AM
It does seem like one element of pulling this off is going to be fighting player psychology. Maybe the key is to ease them into the idea that on any monster hunt they need to research and scout out the thing first before engaging.

Have the first monster they hunt be very hard to locate. It hides in particular places, leaves no trail beyond a certain point (or has a trail that is very misleading by its nature), etc. Perhaps they find the research this time very simple - they find the body of another monster hunter with some of his notes on the thing, talking about certain books that might hold the key or whatever. Basically, to even find the thing they need to research it enough to know that it only has one weakness.

When this dynamic is repeated for a few games, you can back off on the very obvious guidance and hopefully they've gotten the idea. The key though would be to not let up on this theme - make it obvious when they're facing something that needs to be handled carefully (maybe even give this class of creature a special term people use to refer to it, like Daughter of Typhon or something).

AmberVael
2013-03-15, 10:42 AM
How do you execute that in a tabletop RPG, though?

I could easily see how to do it in D&D 4E, but that's one (very atypical) game.

With a bit of work and cleverness.

As an example, lets talk about translating a colossus type monster into a d20 system. Something like D&D or M&M.

A good option would be designing the monster as more of a dungeon. Rather than statting out the monster as a single entity, you would make them in portions. The legs could have their stats, the arms could have their stats, and then the rest would actually just be a dungeon or series of rooms in disguise- environments in which you would need to make acrobatic type checks to get across or maneuver around. In theory each part on its own could be attacked and damaged, but they'll be tough or annoying enough that you'll want to go for the weak spots instead, which would be specific points with certain amounts of durability, but exceedingly less than other parts. Each weak spot could disable a portion (or the whole) of the monster.

To spice things up you could add in traps or environmental hazards/effects in the form of acidic blood, noxious stench, wind rushing around a flying monster, underwater environments from something swimming, all kinds of things. And generally, you'd want to have attacking the weak spots being difficult somehow, whether from an effect that sends the PCs flying (like a monster trying to shake them off), or having some kind of protection (tough eyelids that open and close at certain points).

I'd probably have each limb have its own kind of range (able to attack in only certain parts of the 'dungeon') and abilities (feet could have nice ground pound attacks, hands could grab and punch, that kind of thing).

Sebastrd
2013-03-15, 12:43 PM
Shadow of the Colossus was my first thought, as well. I think MMOs are another good source of inspiration. Most raid bosses require specialized tactics and/or puzzle solving.

For example:

The PCs enter a cavernous room, upon the wall of which is displayed a countdown in a dead language nobody understands. A crazed storm giant has erected a barrier that seals away the override switch for the ancient doomsday device he is guarding. The players must battle the giant and the air elementals he summons. The giant, saturated with power, uses lightning attacks slowly activate the controls for the machine, and has an aura that produces beneficial effects that become deadly with overexposure. As the machine powers up, the giant begins using reverse gravity periodically. Once nine power cells are charged, the giant's powers increase and his aura begins randomly granting a fly spell. Someone must navigate the ancient "ventilation" system in the ceiling to reach a lever that lowers the barrier to the override switch. Once the giant is defeated, the PCs must solve a mastermind-type puzzle in order to deduce the correct code and shut down the machine.

Now, all of that may not be intrinsic to the monster itself, but it would make for a heckuva climactic battle.

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-15, 01:43 PM
Examples of puzzle monsters from my games:

Mind-reading jellyfish. One sting paralyzed you, but while the jellyfish was eating your brain attached to you, you could see the spirit world and hear thoughts of others. Of course, being jellyfish, they could not survive outside water. One character went through the trouble to acquire a special aquarium hat, and immunized himself to the paralysis, just so he could get constant ESP. :smallbiggrin: This proved vital in solving some other puzzles.

I hope this illustrates that not all puzzle monsters need to be strictly hostile entities.

Deaths. These, well, kill you. But, they can only manifest where it is dark and cold. You can drive them away with warmth and light, such as a big honking fire. Other method involves becoming a ghoul.

Ghouls. Handymen of Deaths. These are actually fairly straightforward to fight, but there's a catch: each ghoul has a soul purse, like the sole white feather of a raven, that gives great magical fortune to anyone who manages to acquire one. The trick is, no ghoul will unwillingly give one away, and if you try to kill them, they will destroy their purses out of spite, and curse you to boot. Tricking the purse from one was the puzzle.

Also, ghouls could anticipate calamities and ill intent, so their presence was an indicator of future events to a knowledgeable character. Rather than being the puzzle, they could be used to see if one was about to present itself.

Wraiths. In my setting, Wraiths can only be injured by weapons from whichever battle that created them. Cue fervent history research. They were powerful enough to duel with Deaths. However, their wrath could be extinquished by submerging them in enough water. Also, while powerful, their strenght was not without limit - so there were numerous inventive ways you could use to shake them off your trail.

Elves. The flesh of elves was very poisonous, so no eating any! They were also carriers to many deadly diseases they, themselves, were immune to, so just the presence of elves could be unhealthy.

Rhynn
2013-03-15, 01:50 PM
One character went through the trouble to acquire a special aquarium hat, and immunized himself to the paralysis, just so he could get constant ESP. :smallbiggrin:

Beats eating a floating eye. :smallyuk:

That's some good stuff, though - the mystery can become "what use is this monster to me?"

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-15, 02:02 PM
I see someone else has played roguelikes. :smalltongue:

Slipperychicken
2013-03-15, 04:02 PM
Why is that unreasonable? That's practically a standard for fantasy and mythical literature - if you don't know the weakness of the beast, it's nearly impossible to defeat. As long as it's clear that such a weakness exists and can be found, ideally in multiple ways, what's the problem?

Because it is extremely unintuitive, and highly against the spirit of a dungeon-crawl to retreat to civilization in the middle for any reason short of a TPK. It's almost always the case that you could have it all in one go. You hear people complaining enough about resting in the dungeon...

Rhynn
2013-03-15, 04:09 PM
Because it is extremely unintuitive, and highly against the spirit of a dungeon-crawl to retreat to civilization in the middle for any reason short of a TPK. It's almost always the case that you could have it all in one go. You hear people complaining enough about resting in the dungeon...

The original dungeon-crawl was the campaign dungeon. You go in and come back out every session, over and over and over... people still do this.

You're arguing from some really specific foundations here.

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-15, 06:06 PM
Because it is extremely unintuitive, and highly against the spirit of a dungeon-crawl to retreat to civilization in the middle for any reason short of a TPK.

Let's just say you don't play dungeon crawls in any way resembling how I do them.

During my two-year long maritime campaign and one-year-long dwarven mysteries campaign, each and every dungeon was visited at least twice. Some were visited nearly ten times before being thoroughly looted. My players learned quickly that it was wiser to quit while still winning, than try to struggle through a dungeon in one go after depleting half their health.

russdm
2013-03-15, 07:21 PM
What about the players who know the Monster manual so well they have their characters use the proper stuff without rolling knowledge checks? Do you waste time listening to them complain about having to roll when they already that stuff?

Its a problem for my party: 3 of the players pretty much know how to take out monsters and they use their metagame knowledge completely.

Jay R
2013-03-15, 10:24 PM
Because it is extremely unintuitive, and highly against the spirit of a dungeon-crawl to retreat to civilization in the middle for any reason short of a TPK. It's almost always the case that you could have it all in one go. You hear people complaining enough about resting in the dungeon...

That's what happened to the dwarves in Moria - more than once. If you never leave the dungeon before a TPK, you will eventually get a TPK. I find it highly unintuitive to follow a rule like that.

I've seen many dungeons-crawls that nobody could "have" in one go. Some that were still fighting back after years.

Once you get into caverns, it can keep going down forever - until you awaken the nameless horror in the depths.


What about the players who know the Monster manual so well they have their characters use the proper stuff without rolling knowledge checks? Do you waste time listening to them complain about having to roll when they already that stuff?

Its a problem for my party: 3 of the players pretty much know how to take out monsters and they use their metagame knowledge completely.

There are several solutions:

1. I tell people that what they know from the books is the stories that have heard around the campfire, from people who never faced these monsters. And I change some information on some creatures. (It doesn't take many.)

2. The first time they see something, I don't give them a description out of the MM. "You see a vaguely man-shaped creature. In the darkness, it's hard to tell much more detail, or even its rough height. This could be a kobold, goblin, orc, ogre, zombie, ghoul, wight, or maybe Umber Hulk.

3. Read old legends. The original vampires looked like bloated corpses. Until you've fought one, you cannot tell it from a vampire.

4. If an NPC is on guard, he's likely to yell, "Goblins are coming," regardless of what it really is.

5. Illusions.

Jack of Spades
2013-03-15, 10:34 PM
The lack of this sort of thing is one of the many reasons I tend to shy away from the heroic fantasy genre in any sort of game. If your big bad boss monster is just a strong dude with a lot of hit points, it takes all the fun away for me. I want my boss monsters to be something I have to figure out, not just an artificially longer fight.

This (http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/06/30/dd-in-the-elemental-chaos-part-2) is always one of my go-to examples for puzzle combat, and also my go-to example of how 4e can be as good as if not better than 3.x with the right group.


What about the players who know the Monster manual so well they have their characters use the proper stuff without rolling knowledge checks? Do you waste time listening to them complain about having to roll when they already that stuff?

Its a problem for my party: 3 of the players pretty much know how to take out monsters and they use their metagame knowledge completely.

Throw rocks at them until they stop metagaming?

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-15, 11:22 PM
For me, metagaming is no problem. It just flatters me because it tells my players have read my works. :smallbiggrin:

Rhynn
2013-03-16, 04:13 AM
What about the players who know the Monster manual so well they have their characters use the proper stuff without rolling knowledge checks? Do you waste time listening to them complain about having to roll when they already that stuff?

My players don't try to cheat, but if they did, I'd go "nope, you don't do that because you don't know to, cheater."

But this does relate to a general problem with RPG monsters, and D&D monsters specifically. Probably the majority were originally introduced by an adventure module, and most AD&D 1E adventure modules introduced at least one new monster. That was awesome, because it meant each adventure had a completely new monster that the PCs knew nothing about. But then they all got re-published in monster manuals, and became standard fare, and for some reason DMs mostly stopped inventing their own.

Madeiner
2013-03-16, 06:48 AM
My players don't try to cheat, but if they did, I'd go "nope, you don't do that because you don't know to, cheater."

But this does relate to a general problem with RPG monsters, and D&D monsters specifically. Probably the majority were originally introduced by an adventure module, and most AD&D 1E adventure modules introduced at least one new monster. That was awesome, because it meant each adventure had a completely new monster that the PCs knew nothing about. But then they all got re-published in monster manuals, and became standard fare, and for some reason DMs mostly stopped inventing their own.

I usually let my players get away with it instead. I don't find it fun to "fake" being surprised when the troll doesn't die.
It doesn't help that we are all very long time players.

I just think of new level 1 characters as much better than the original level 1 characters we created 10 years ago.
I consider them as having seen most "normal" d&d things already, or read about it.

Rabidmuskrat
2013-03-16, 06:52 AM
Several thoughts on these "puzzle monsters" (let's call them that, why not?).

First, there is the possible research to find the monster or its weaknesses. This in itself could involve adventuring to find old tomes/adventurers/temples of gods/whatever sources of information makes sense or just going to the library and making a search check. If the monster itself is aware of this, and it is able to, it might attempt to interfere in some way.

Second, there is the preperation. Only silver from the forge of Grulack the Demon Blacksmith can hurt the monster? Go find Grulack and his forge and get your silver. Something common and general like 'garlic for vampires' or 'silver for lycanthropes' is very boring, but possible if you don't want to spend a lot of time. Just change it up (silver for vampires, garlic for lycanthrops?) to prevent metagaming. Even something as simple as obtaining a siege weapon to hurt the beastie can be a cool adventure on its own.

Third is the actual fight. I suspect this is the one you are actually talking about (prep and special weapons are either quick or too much effort for anyone but the BBEG), so I'll spend some more time on this to vomit out ideas.

A simple thing could be to simply take a big creature (huge or larger) and alter the combat rules a little bit.
Give a DR bonus to larger creatures, then allow called shots to bypass this DR, depending on where you attack. Give circumstance bonuses to attacks based on where you are attacking from.

Allow 'grappling' of creatures that are two sizes or more larger than you. Their grapple check is reduced, but you cannot hold them still, merely climb on them. Don't just stick to the rules mechanically, make it fluffy with players having to describe where exactly they are trying to climb/jump/run on and assigning DC checks accordingly. Think of what happens if they fail.

Instead of treating the creature as a single entity, model it as a collection attached bodyparts, each with their own HP, AC, DR and attack(s). Give the creature a facing instead of just making it occupy all its squares.

Instead of just having a creature have 'attacks', be more specific. Sweeping strike that hits all creatures in an arc in front of it unless they either jump or manage to reflex save out of its way (DC depends on where they are). Crushing blow that automatically crits if it hits, but can be reflex saved against. Rapid strike that deals half damage but always treats its target as flat footed. Tailor such things to whatever monster you have in mind.

Think contingencies to specific actions characters might do such as flying, ubercharging, casting save-or-die/sucks, etc. Don't be afraid to add passives for your puzzle monster to prevent instant death or make it killable, such as "it always makes its will saves without needing a roll" or "always fails its fort saves against poison".

Fast healing is a neat addition if you want your monster to be really tough to kill through conventional means. Fire doesn't even have to be a weakness if you don't want it to be. This forces players to attempt to find other methods of attack, especially if you tell them "its wounds close as fast as you make them, yes, even those made by your flaming blade".

I will end off with a condensed example of a puzzle monster I have made. I'm only including the important stats.
Hydra Frog
A large bullfrog with 6 snakes coming out of its mouth. It sits on the key you need to leave the room, but doesn't move (even ignoring ranged attacks). It makes no attacks of its own. It has very low AC.
Fast healing 30 (or more)
Snake tongues: Each snake is an individual monster (medium viper) with reach of 15ft from the frog. They occupy no specific space, but can be attacked from anywhere within 15ft of the frog. If a snake is killed, the frog spits up the remains and another takes its place.
Special: The frog always fails all its saving throws against poison (this is optional, depending on how challenging you want the encounter to be).

Here is a creature that is nigh unkillable by regular means for a lvl 3-5 party, but can be killed without needing to bring anything with you into the room. It literally provides its own weakness. In addition, it also has an extremely low damage output except for the snake poison. You don't need to tank it as much as you just need to make your fort saves all the time.
Solution: Kill a snake, take its corpse (now ejected by the frog) and use it as an improvised weapon to attack the frog and inject it with 1d6/1d6 con-venom. You can't fast heal a con-death. If the party has other means of doing poison damage, good on them. But they don't need it. (hint: the special!)

Frozen_Feet
2013-03-16, 11:08 AM
If my players are smart enough to stock on wolfsbane and garlic in preparation for traditional monsters, they deserve a pat on the back. I find it cheating on the GM's part to penalize them for paying attention at a mythology class. :smalltongue:

Mr.D
2013-03-16, 04:31 PM
In terms of OOC knowledge being allowed, I would say it depends on how common that knowledge is in setting and OOC. EVERYONE knows you need to stake Vampires through the heart, and that they are killed by sunlight. It's fair to assume Adventurers of any kind would know that sort of thing. for bigger baddies people might have to do in game research.

I remember my brother talking about a game once (I think it was Spartan:Total Warrior on XBOX) where he said he kept getting his ass kicked by a Hydra and I immediately responded with "Well just use fire to seal it away or cauterize the wounds when you cut off the heads" and he was shocked, saying it took him loads of attempts to figure it out "How did you know that!?" Easy, it's one of the trials of Hercules! (Or Heracles, or whichever other spelling you're fond of).

I would personally be inclined to have NPC's drop hints.

The old man leans in close and whispers "They say it can't be killed by no ordin'ry weapons....that you have to weapons o' gold to even scratch, or so's they say...."

But obviously then you're faced with how to insert these handy NPC's!

elliott20
2013-03-16, 11:14 PM
As I said before, IMHO the best way to handle this is to not use standard weaknesses (i.e. garlic for vampires, silver for werewolves, etc) on standard MM monsters. You do that, OF COURSE your players will know to use stakes and stuff. There is a statute of limitations on player knowledge, guys. You can only force them to play dumb for so long before it just gets stupid. Besides, how would you expect your players to handle this situation if it's not communicated to them? Where does OOC knowledge stop and IC begins? It's honestly best, I think to just assume that OOC knowledge WILL come in and prepare accordingly.

So if *I* had to do this, I would this in several steps

1. pick a monster that is beyond their CR. Way beyond. They need a reason to need to use their weakness.

2. you got two options here, a) create the weakness yourself or b) let the players create it on the fly.

What you actually choose to do is really not that important. In either case, it's a matter of communicating to them that they need to do some homework before taking on the threat, and that rushing will be their undoing. As long as they put in the effort (beyond just rolling a knowledge check, that is), you let them have SOMETHING.

Weaknesses can manifest in a variety of ways, but the easiest way to do it is to treat it like it's an access to a spell that works on this monster and ONLY this monster.

i.e. a sleep spell that ONLY works on a tarrasque if you play this special song.

It even has the nifty casting needs set. Use that as your base, then drill into what each thing means and what it's manifestation looks like. So if a spell has a lot of somatic components, drill down into what that somatic components actually are. If there is a verbal component, figure out what those words are exactly. If there is a material cost, talk about EXACTLY what that material is. (Heck, expand on it) If there is XP cost, make that into some kind of character plot-point / emotional issue. The fact is, once you have broken it down into HOW you want to manifest and what it takes to get it manifest, you can just modify it a bit here and there to make it fit.