[NAME / 9P] Please critique my game's monsters

edited October 2014 in Game Design Help
I few months ago I had my first exposure to Steven Moffat's Doctor Who and noticed something he did well: opposing each of his various monsters required a different set of techniques.

I had been playing a bunch of Pathfinder, in which too many monsters are little more than differently decorated piles of hit points. They may have one or two special abilities that help them attack. But those abilities very seldom change the strategies and tactics clever heroes would use to oppose or fight them.

So I rethought the monsters for the sample setting of my diceless, two-person RPG, Narrative Adventures Made Easy. Now I ask for feedback. The monsters now require more distinct styles of opposition. Each type also has its own flavorful treasure.

Please take a look at the NAME monsters. Do the monsters seem like interesting creatures? Would role-playing the hero or heroine opposing them be interesting and fun?

What stands out for good or bad?

Where do my skills as a wordsmith need work?

Other constructive comments?

Thank you very much for helping me!


  • edited December 2013
    The flavor is amazing. The concepts and examples are all brilliant -- I want to encounter these things right now!

    Some of the monster weaknesses are more exciting than others. "Don't get dive-bombed by a Fuse, don't get enveloped by a Puddle" sounds merely okay to me (and you can certainly find analogs in Pathfinder), while the stuff about Bugaboos is fantastic! Alter its texture and enlist an imaginary friend's aid? Awesome!

    As for invoking different player techniques, I can't tell whether you've achieved that just by looking at the monsters themselves. I think it depends on two things:

    1) How the monsters' natures and weaknesses are communicated. Do players learn these things by (A) clever investigation of the monster while fighting it, successfully rolling the right skills or asking the GM the right questions, (B) simply by surviving a fight with the monster long enough for the GM to reveal stuff, or (B) being told before the encounter?

    With (C), you get variety, but not the thrill of life-saving discovery or synthesis.

    With (A), players might just use a boilerplate approach, not knowing a monster's unique attributes.

    (B) might split the difference.

    2) Your combat system. How does a PC defeat a monster? How does a monster defeat a PC? Are there hit points and to-hit rolls? If so, how large are the bonuses players get for acting on monsters' weaknesses or succumbing to their strengths? I looked at your index page and couldn't easily spot where the "fighting a monster" rules would be.

    If you don't want your critters to be "differently decorated piles of hit points", I'd say the monster-fighting rules are the most important part, and the first thing you should get feedback on.

    P.S. Are the monster type names meant to be out-of-game terms only? If so, cool. If not, you might want to kid-ify some of them. I'd say that bugaboo, witch, dragon, and puddle are cool. For the rest, maybe multi-beasts, scary animals, faces, robots and zombies, perhaps?
  • love the bugagoos! Read the "dead kitten" description and said "jesus" and got the willies!
    great descriptive, evocative writing
  • David,
    Yeah, I agree with most of the previous posts. The Bugaboo was a strong opener. In general, this is a great menagerie. I haven't been impressed with a logical way to make one set of stats apply to multiple monsters like this since Beyond the Supernatural first came out in the 90s. This approach is in some ways more novel, since the generic-ness is not a faux attempt at scientific classification, but an in-setting grouping of monsters by their creators.

    I did catch a typo:
    "Maidens are enchantresses. Maidens are conjurers Crones are transmogrifiers." should probably be: "Maidens are enchantresses. Matrons are conjurers Crones are transmogrifiers."

    I am not sure I like the name for puddles. They just sound like a nervous dog to me. And also, what is the point of the two smaller sizes? How do they make an interesting story? I am not asking that to be a dick, I just couldn't think of anything.

    Also, for Cyborgs, I am not sure how the name fits with your setting. The rest of the monsters are some sort of take on classic medieval monster. Then there is cyborgs. You might want to go with something like clockworks or tinkerterrors.

    Lastly, the lore is a little uneven. In some cases there is very specific tools provided to the players to deal with these adversaries. In other cases it is left up to the imagination. Now there are very strong arguments supporting each approach. However, when you mix those approaches, it seems that the players are left to guess which approach is best suited for the current encounter (can we trick it into imprinting with candy canes or do we have to find some special magic or?). My experience has been that with a tight group, this allows for awesome variety. And when the players are not all on the same wavelength, it can become a wedge between the players.

    So, I know there is a lot of criticism here, and for that I hope you take it as constructive feedback and not internet trollery. These monsters do seem cool and makes me want to know more about this game.
    Dave M
  • edited December 2013
    Thanks for all the replies. Sorry I was busy. Anyway, here is attempting to respond sequentially...

    How the monsters' natures and weaknesses are communicated?
    Any of your A-B-C. There is an Identify/Lore skill to implant A in game mechanics, or it could come out through the role-playing. I expect B would happen with a competent GM but perhaps should actually note that in the rules. C could happen with a skill roll or some prudent investigation before an encounter if the Player knows what he or she will be fighting. I doubt a kid would independently think to do prudent investigation, but the adult GM could advise it and the kid would soon catch on.

    I couldn't easily spot where the "fighting a monster" rules would be.
    There are none because monsters are merely obstacles. The skill use does not care if the PC is trying to open a door, bargain well, win an oratory contest, or kill a monster with a sword. The same techniques and real-life lessons apply.
    • Skill ratings are compared. Perhaps the Player is happy with the result!
    • Perhaps the Player can get a bonus from a situational advantage, use of expensive consumable equipment, etc.
    • Perhaps the Player can be clever and use a different skill. The skills Press and Provoke are especially widely applicable.
    • Still can't do it? Time to cut your losses. Flight or defeat can still let the story continue.
    Are the monster type names meant to be out-of-game terms only?
    For the moment. Being a mathematician I am personally fond of the most precise name. For example, "Bugaboo" was picked not merely because it sounded like a child's word (even though it is not) but because "Childhood Fear" applied to many things besides monsters and "Bugbear" emphasizes that the imaginary monster was an invention of the parents.

    I probably should kid-ify the others.

    ...in-setting grouping of monsters by their creators.
    Yes, a great inspiration (that I credit to God, you may disagree and I will not feel hurt) was to make each of the Powers responsible for a type of dungeon, contest, champion, gift, and monster. I love including things that do not make sense in a fantasy setting. (In The Hobbit I adore how the stone giants are just *there* in the mountains without any context or explanation I can find in any of Tolkien's world-design.)

    Now I can have a very carefully built magic-ability and magic-item system so the Player knows with certainty about his or her PC's resources and options--and also have an excuse to have weird things just be there in the setting. Part of me dislikes how the detail decreases as I describe champions and gifts, but I am vague for a reason.

    I did catch a typo
    Fixed. Thanks! All the HTML is just typed in Geany on my Ubuntu laptop, so I get typos.

    I am not sure I like the name for puddles. They just sound like a nervous dog to me. And also, what is the point of the two smaller sizes? How do they make an interesting story? I am not asking that to be a dick, I just couldn't think of anything.
    I am open to changing the name.

    Puddles are the monster of Futhorc, whose story I wish I had time to type out. As a puny Kobalt who became a Power, he oversees normal (or even lowly) people doing great things. So it is fitting that his monsters start out being used in outhouses, but can become much more.

    You might want to go with something like clockworks or tinkerterrors.
    I do want a different name. I am confounded by needing to include both clockwork and steam-powered machinery. I do like Tinkerterrors.

    However, when you mix those approaches...
    Agreed. Please elaborate. Optimally the monsters are pretty well-defined. More varied would be any enemies from the intelligent races, especially champions. One lesson I want the setting to subtly teach is that people can be the most dangerous and unpredictable--monsters are fun to fight in stories but more deeply serve to define what "monstrous" means when we apply it to people.

    Whew. Thanks again.
  • David,
    Compare Insiders to Bugaboos.
    Bugaboos allow for GM creativity in creating a truly awful monster, and gives the players buttons and levers to push to make rules happen as well as leaving room for creative approaches.
    While Insiders have no specific rules (except for a vague ruling around containers (I say vague because the size of the container is not specified. For instance is a poodle-sized Insider considered in a closed container if you shut the door to a cathedral?). And even then, it gives the players/characters no tactical advantage. We don't know what rules are triggered when we approach these creatures.

    In both cases, these are wonderful solutions to defeating monsters. But when a player encounters a monster, then they are stuck puzzling out. Is this a monster that is defeated by a specific thing, or is it defeated by an imaginative use of my characters abilities? If they guess imagination, they could spend quite some time (an potentially die trying) coming up with a suitable strong enough creative solution, only to discover that it can only defeated by black-handled knives (a weakness of eastern European vampires, FYI). While another player might be trying to discover the exact thing to do, only to later discover(possibly after their character is dead or defeated) that the solution was to come up with a creative approach to this monster.
    I am doing my best not to harp on this detail, it doesn't really matter in groups that are all on the same page. But it can magnify the friction between players that are not in sync.

    These are a really amazing menagerie of beasties and I look forward to seeing a finished game. But right now, I wouldn't know what to do if my character was facing a monster. Would my character have to hit the books and try and find its historic weakness (imaginary friends perhaps) or am I as a player supposed to come up with an imaginative approach to defeating a monster (like tricking the Insider into thinking its craving is fulfilled). If I guess wrong, I am wasting everyone's time going off on a wrong-headed tangent, you know?

    Good luck man, this seems like it will be a pretty ool game when it is done!
    Dave M
  • Thanks again for all the feedback.

    Fell Animals have been renamed Bigbeasts.

    Puddles have been renamed oozes, and bit was added to explain why Futhorc creates small and non-threatening ones.

    The winter-themed Cyborgs have been renamed Abominables.
  • The link to your document is 404'd and now I'm terribly interested in reading about Bugaboos
  • edited March 2014
    Heh. Fallout of the "Help me rename my game" thread!

    Here is the new link: http://davidvs.net/ninepowers/

    You reminded me to go through my forum posts to update their links. I think that's done now.
  • It's looking excellent, but with the normal problems of these sorts of monsters. The first is that the monster manuals need to be kept secret from the players, and the second is that the monsters all appear to be puzzles. Which leads to stumping if they can't be understood. LoFP doesn't have a Monster Manual for precisely this reason.

    Not objecting to any of the monsters. They all look good - but there are problems with the approach that need thinking about. (As there are with any approach).
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