Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monster Tactics cont.

Continuing to come up with a system to help me run monsters.  First a few thoughts I've had since last post:

I thought of "want to touch you" as an additional kind of behavior category.  This would include rust monsters and anything that wants to lay eggs in you.  But I realized, that I have no problems knowing what those things will do when and encounter happens.  The more unique a monster the more I feel comfortable knowing what tactics it will probably use.  This is more about trying to add complexity to the kind of battles that happen very frequently in my games where giant rats just suicide attack a party if their morale doesn't fail.  (I also want to work up a framework to deal with parties of humans, which I've largely avoided up to now.)

That being said, we have to keep in mind that if the majority of the behaviors depend on outnumbering the party to attack, # appearing for monster encounters becomes much more important.  Too few rats, and vermin never attack outright which is effectively reducing the number of wandering monsters in a dungeon.  Too many rats, though, and you basically moot the whole behavior system with the rats attacking as normal.

I think one way to address this is to allow for escalating numbers.  In other words, vermin that shadow the party for, say, a whole turn will accumulate more vermin.  Shadow for another turn more vermin gather, until the party leaves the dungeon or does something about the vermin.  Then all the number based behaviors become a ticking time bomb.

Another possible approach is to use escalating behaviors.  If it seems a bit much that more and more of these monsters appear in a dungeon you could just make them more and more bold.  With a bit of adjustment, the list of animal behaviors from last post becomes almost a list of increasing boldness:
  1. Defensive Attacker
  2. Vermin
  3. Scavenger
  4. Pack hunter
  5. Lone Hunter
  6. Aggressive Attacker
Here, I've added a category for animals like bulls and rhino that won't bother you if you leave them alone, and when they do fight will likely fight to drive you off, not to slaughter everyone in sight.  Aggressive Attacker is just a more descriptive name for grizzlys and orca and such that will attack in an aggressive and straight forward way, taking down one target before moving to the next, combining what I called "mindless" and "high threat" last post.

So, except for the lone hunter step, this gives us a pretty smooth progression from little to more boldness and aggression.  I think my current lean is to go with escalating behaviors.  So, for example, the party encounters a pack of sickly scavenger dogs.  There are too few dogs for them to attack outright so they start shadowing the party hoping for food.  After a certain amount of time of not being fed by the party or by corpses from the party's other encounters (1 turn, 1hr?)  the dogs will have lost their fear enough to start acting like pack hunters, with the highest hp individuals darting in for attacks and dogs attacking from multiple sides.

Sentient Behaviors
One thing I realize is that maybe the "tactics" in the title is not quite right for what I want here.  I want, not only help in know how groups will fight, but what the heck they want if they parley.  With that in mind here are some categories I came up with for groups of humans and other intelligent foes:
  1. Bandits
  2. Slavers
  3. Guerrillas
  4. Warriors
  5. Soldiers
  6. Adventurers
Bandits want money and don't want to risk their skin if they don't have too.  Give them what they want and they will likely just leave you alone.  If they are outnumbered or outpowered, they might try subterfuge, trickery, or predicting where the party might be later and meeting them there.

By Slavers I'm thinking any group that wants prisoners, so they could be cannibals or zealots gathering religious sacrifices, or just slavers.  They will use try to use non-lethal weapons and maybe swarm opponents with grappling attacks or try to disarm foes.  But if they have to kill a few folks to break resistance they will.

Guerrillas are used to fighting an occupying force that outnumbers them.  They will shadow and reconnoiter carefully before committing to doing anything.  They will try to predict where the party will be later and set up an ambush.  They will try to use traps and missile weapons to their advantage.  They may break off the attack even if it is going well, just to be careful as well as trying to demoralize the party.

Warriors come from a society that honors and values individual bravery and feats in combat.  They aren't necessarily hostile, but once they are they will have high morale and be dangerous.  They are skilled warriors, fighting man to man and trying to quickly take out the highest threat targets in the player party.  They are less likely to take prisoners.

Soldiers are trained to fight as a group and will use group tactics like shield wall and fighting retreats.  They will have a leader that, if taken out, will cause them to suffer severe morale penalties.  They
are more likely to parley and accept surrender.

Adventurers are the least clear in my head and might just be a place holder until we think of a better category.  They are essentially like the party a mixed group individuals of varied ethnicities, gender and abilities.  Loose cannons, they may act as bandits or as warriors.

And that's what I have so far.  I'm sort of assuming fairly homogeneous groups for my own sanity's sake.  So, even if it makes sense to have a ragtag bunch of bandits where each of them have different weapons and armor types, I will try to avoid that for simplicity.  Also, I'm hoping that these guidelines will help when I add magic-users and divine-types to the mix.  Magic-users with slavers will try to use their spells too immobilize and knock out the party, guerrillas MUs will use spells to aid in stealth, reconnaissance and misdirection, etc.


  1. I'm interested to see where you are going with this.

    I like the idea of tactics (especially for intelligent opponents) based on more than just a simple morale or reaction check. The idea that bandits, guerrillas/rebels, and soldiers could each have identifiably different tactics is a good start. I would also look at the differentiation by culture and or troop type as well e.g. French knights will fight differently than will Mongol archers.

  2. Absolutely. This is just a kind of framework and lots of variations can be laid on top of it. So soldiers might include deserters or crusaders. It might include archers or

    And this is almost enough for me and my own game, I just need to flesh out encounters-- armor, weapon type, hp range or level if a class-- and assign them a category for each dungeon or wilderness area. I suppose I could make a list of explicit goals in order of priority. Like 1) always set trap and watch result before 2) set ambush near exit etc. But I don't want to get too scripted

    And it also depends a lot on context. For example, if a dungeon has several possible ways a party might go, I'd probably roll randomly to determine where the foes set up an ambush. Then, if the party is lucky and goes an alternate way they might come up behind the unexpecting ambushers. That kind of emergent play is my goal. Thanks.

  3. I find this interesting, Did you receive your print copy of "On the Non-Player Character"? Many of the ideas seem similar.

    I only ask, because I'm curious about the ideas in there in relation to monster motivation listed here.

  4. I did, thanks. I've looked back through it and see that you have monster reaction rolls affected by their number in relation to the party. But I don't see anything about what tactics monsters will use when the roll goes bad. And no categories based on behaviors like "vermin" or "slaver." You do have some categories for your "what are the monsters doing," section like "cultists" but again, nothing about what they'll do if fighting breaks out.

    1. Yes, that's correct. I was only asking because this series seems like an expansion along those lines.