Who does the monsters attack?

It seems to me that if they focus fire on the low AC nerds they could win easily

is that what they do? Or should I roll randomly on who they attack etc?

I introduced the rule that seemed good that I would announce who the monsters attack, and then the PCs could intercept and take some monsters on them.

That was good, faster than rolling a die for each attack (which, practically, ugh) and giving the players some agency.

But do the monsters then stay there for ever? Or can they leave? And then be re-intercepted by someone else?

One idea is that if they do leave without disengaging, the original interceptor/tank can "re-intercept" (keep) up to half of them, rounded down. (If they disengage they disengage. This is only if they just plain up leave.)

And then other protectors in the party need to step up to intercept the ones that get away.


  • Depends on the monster.

    For unintelligent undead, I go for the closest and break ties with dice.
    For intelligent creatures, I consider who would they think is the largest threat and go with that.
    Most predators attack a target that seems lone or weak.
    Most creatures that are out to kill for the sake of killing (or revenge, or whatever), if self-confident, will attack the biggest or flashiest target, or if not, get what they can or whatever seems most dangerous.
  • edited June 2018
    Trying to rephrase clearer:

    The house rule I've used for a few months

    DM announce who the monsters attack. PCs, their friends, their horse, w/e.
    Then other PCs can "intercept", taking some of these attacks on themselves instead. "I'll jump inbetween, taking five of those raptor attacks!"

    The hitherto-untested addition to that house rule

    The monsters spend at least one turn in those groups, but the next turn they can leave and go for their favorite target. However, the original interceptor can "re-intercept"/keep up to half of them. This is on top of Opportunity Attack, Defender and other existing game features/mechanics.
    For intelligent creatures, I consider who would they think is the largest threat and go with that.
    Most predators attack a target that seems lone or weak.
    This means that they can very easily kill their enemies. Large groups of monsters using focus fire is very strong.

    Is that fine? Maybe?
  • I take it that you don't really use positioning in combat to determine this stuff? It's common to determine targets, blocks and intercepts by figuring out individual positions and tactical formations, after all. A combatant physically blocks five feet of frontage, you can't attack what you can't reach, monsters often choose the closest and most obvious target, etc.

    If you prefer to have the combatants sort of float in an undefined combat space where everybody can by default fight everybody else, then I suggest that the simplest way to establish precedence for stuff is to look at initiative scores. The simplest would be to say that the combatants declare their targets in initiative order, and if you're targeted by somebody quicker than you, then you can only target one of your attackers yourself or try to disengage to try again next round. If you want to protect somebody, then you declare so on your initiative (or the previous round already), and get the privilege of engaging anybody trying to engage your protectee. This gets the job done and is simple.

    For added nuance you could say that characters particularly well positioned to block or intercept get virtual initiative bonuses for determining this stuff. Like, a knight is protecting a magic-user from monsters, so you might say that only the monsters who have an initiative advantage of +5 against the knight get a swipe at the magic-user, with the rest being successfully intercepted.

    Putting all this positioning and targeting weight on initiative works well for the most part, but you might wish to give dedicated combat classes a bit of an initiative bonus in some way, as in many D&D treatments initiative is something of a step-child of the combat family, and it can be difficult to optimize it appropriately. Something like a +1 per level for Fighters on a d20 initiative roll might feel appropriate, for example.
  • My advice is to try to see the fight through the monster's eyes and if that doesn't lead you to a strong conclusion about who to attack, resort to random rolls. It can help to assign some basic motivation to the monster to help inform the choice. I think one of the key things is to be open to it changing tactics as things develop (for instance if another PC hits it really hard, it might change its focus to that character because it is angry). Also I think it is valuable to keep in mind that monsters and NPC opponents can and should try to run away sometimes. Something intelligent can try to surrender or negotiate. Most people and creatures want to survive.
  • Eero: the point is to make a system that doesn't rely on miniatures. To develop positioning in predicate space rather than cartesian space

    Brendan: seeing through the monsters eyes they're gonna one-shot a PC and then leave
  • My approach is like Brendan's: basically, as the GM, my job is to roleplay the monsters as well as I can. When I create or generate them, I think about their level of intelligence and organization in combat, and then portray that in action. My players will have a very different fight when facing a flock of maddened wild beasts than half a dozen trained soldiers who are telepathically linked to each other.

    In cases where it's not clear, I randomize.

    Not too different from playing NPCs, in my mind.

    Still, very curious about other approaches.

    Brendan: seeing through the monsters eyes they're gonna one-shot a PC and then leave
    Then that's what they should try to do, and it's up to the PCs to figure out how to respond and/or counter that.

  • Right, and that's why I want to test out some rules that allow the PCs to do that; to protect the 'back rank'.
  • If you do not use positioning, here is an alternative: If someone chooses to attack, they do not pick a target at all (unless there are targets that are in clearly different locations or something like that). Rather, after everyone has declared when they are doing (spellcasting, fighting, run away, something fancy), roll determine a random target for everyone who fights. They find an opportunity to strike that target in the chaos of melee, so that is who they roll an attack roll against.

    The fictional model is one where everyone is pretty careful about not getting into danger, and then someone makes a mistake or runs out of space and people act and strike at whoever seems vulnerable. The situation calms down a little as the next turn begins. I used this with Into the odd -style attack rolls.

    Zombies and slimes and other things that are not careful at all might always be an option for targeting. Likewise, if giant is double the size of everyone else, archers should have no problem shooting at them. Etc. There are always edge cases.
  • Right, and that's why I want to test out some rules that allow the PCs to do that; to protect the 'back rank'.
    My take on this is that attacking someone in the "back rank" would require some special effort; this means that opponents would need a clear incentive to do so. In most fights, what would that be?

    The logical outcome is that staying in the "back rank" is safe enough in the vast majority of encounters. (Unless you're ambushed from behind or anything similar, of course - a perfect example of a fictional situation where the opposite holds true.)
  • My take on this is that attacking someone in the "back rank" would require some special effort
    Right, those are the type of rules I want to develop with my "intercept" stuff above.

    My system right now doesn't literally use "back rank" and "front rank" but that's a good idea. The Dark Spire, and The One Ring use similar systems and I think I've played with similar systems under Labyrinth Lord DMs but I guess I didn't realize that that was going on.

    As far as incentives go, there's plenty. Usually b/c the back rank are high damage output, low armor. That's an obvious incentive right there. Or it's a chance for the monsters to eat the party's horse and then they'll all starve because they can't carry food and water

    I'm thinking I want to write something up for the DMs guild. Not super sold on it since they want things written there to be exclusive rather than open source:confounded:. My guide to TotM. The bulk of the text would be mêlée groups, weapon reach, movement etc the rules I've been using for years that work well. Based on my reading of the RAW. Teaching the predicate space stuff (without using that word or language; I'll use pictures and come up with easier words). But for appendices I'll venture into more houseruly territory. Initiative can get one appendix, HP and arrow threat another, and then one for if I can crack the "who does the monsters attack" problem, either via "intercepting" as outlined earlier in this thread, and/or some "back rank / front rank" division.

  • Hi Sandra, you should definitely check out the positioning and intercepting rules for 13th Age. I think it overlaps with a lot of your goals here.

  • If simple and clear rules, for a boardgame-like feel, are what one's after, then it seems relatively straightforward to me:

    A melee combatant can be on either offensive or defensive; it's a mechanical status flag. The distinction is that whoever's currently on the offensive is the one who is pressing an engagement against the defender. An offensive combatant can disengage on their action as they'd like, while the defensive combatant cannot disengage without whatever complications the system offers (opportunity attacks, a disengagement check, whatever).

    When a melee is initially engaged between two combatants, whoever attacked first is on the offensive. Anybody who gets attacked is immediately flipped into defensive (or they allow an undefended attack against themselves, I suppose, but that would presumably be rare).

    A defender can only attack a character currently offensive against them on their turn without taking the aforementioned consequences for ignoring their enemies. They can attempt to disengage instead of attacking, in which case they drop all their attackers for the moment.

    In upcoming combat rounds the status flags are retained, so even if a defender gets first initiative, they cannot just run off to attack somebody else; the combat is on-going, the other guy is still threatening immediate injury. However, if you have a better initiative than your offender and attack them, the offense is flipped: you become the offender and they become the defender. It takes a round, but the next round you're free to disengage, as now you're on the offense and they're on the defense. A dynamic initiative that changes from round to round would be nice with this, so in an on-going duel who's on offense and who's on defense can change around round by round; you would essentially need to win initiative to be able to disengage safely.

    All this means that a single combatant can effectively tie down a single enemy combatant in melee, but if there are multiple attackers, a defender can actively only tie down one of them: the others participate in harassing the defender out of the goodness of their hearts, not because the defender is somehow forcing them to fight him. You might want to give defender classes some mild advantages in all this, like maybe they can maintain pressure against several opponents at once, or whatever. Heroic fantasy, after all.

    The above parameters mean that if you have initiative you can pick your target rather freely for the first round. The slower defenders will mob you on their turns and "release" your initial target from the melee by forcing you on the defense, but on that first attack you can get whomever you want. Considering the predicate space, this should probably be dealt with by defining the activities/positions of "guarding" and "back line": a character guarding another one seizes initiative as an immediate interrupt if their charge is attacked, and can thus assault the attacker before they reach their target. A character in the "back line" is positioned so carefully against a certain axis of attack that they are considered as being guarded by everybody in the party who is not in the back themselves. (Being in the back obviously does nothing if the enemy attacks from any but the expected direction. "Guarding" works from all directions because the guard is immediately close to their charge, but for the back line arrangement to be effective you need to know where the enemy is coming from.)

    With these concepts in place the adventuring party has all the tools they need to prepare to defend non-combatants in advance: just define a marching order in which characters A, B and C are in front while D and E are in the "back rank", or perhaps declare that A is "guarding" D and B is guarding "E", or whatever seems most sensible. This will ensure that at least the first couple of monsters will be engaged by the front line rather than the back. If the combat occurs in an open field any extra enemies will have free hand to either focus fire on the front line or spread out to attack the back line, whichever they find convenient - that's the advantage of greater numbers.

    (Of course more could be done in the realm of combat pairing. I allow characters to provoke enemies to make it more likely that they'll concentrate on them, for instance. That goes into the realm of combat psychology more than combat physics, though.)


    D&D mechanization doesn't traditionally track the "stickiness" property of real melee combat in any way, which is clearly a mistake because it produces a counter-intuitive inability for defenders to actually influence attacker behavior. Early gamers preferred to deal with the issue with the ideas of "blocking" (venues of attack) and "protecting" soft targets: fighters would move to physically prevent movement next to the magic-user, thus preventing monsters from attacking them with a literal meat shield. This worked because despite the rules being silent on the issue, the referees were running the combat simulation with enough fictional positioning to say when a target could or couldn't be reached. It wasn't the most realistic, which I presume is because the vast majority of gamers were culturally relatively ignorant about how swordplay works, so the combat imagination often took a distinctively gridiron feel: the combatants would line up like in American football, and then they would sort of tackle and push at each other. In that context physically standing in between an attacker and their target is of paramount importance, like when defenders protect the ball-thrower in American football.

    Later on 3rd edition D&D put this whole thing upside down in an interesting way by simulating melee stickiness with opportunity attacks: a combatant could not disengage, and certainly could not run around, an active opponent without suffering retaliation. Active interference still doesn't matter in 3rd edition, so a character is free to attack anybody within their reach despite being under assault themselves. It's by no means perfect, but still a massive improvement on essentially nothing at all.

    My own experience is that the game is only improved by adding more and more stickiness, though - it's more realistic, not any harder to adjudicate, and the strategy and tactics become more meaningful. The two core concepts here:

    Realize that a combatant who is being attacked is fully and completely focused on the fight they are currently in; a referee would be rather fair, speaking with a realism-seeking wargame ethos in mind, to say that a combatant in melee should not gain any information about the wider battle going on around them unless they specifically sacrifice combat effectiveness to pay attention to secondary issues while under lethal assault. The whole concept of daintily picking and choosing who to attack round by round is crippled at the core.

    Realize that it is practically impossible to defend yourself against multiple attackers without massive amounts of footwork. D&D combat is constantly crippled by the static miniatures chess preconceptions. The only real (as opposed to fantasy) way to defend yourself in melee against two attackers is to back-pedal and circle around at full steam, preventing the two from flanking you. To be flanked is essentially to lose in real terms, barring an immediate and successful active defense (riposte or maneuver to get out of flank). D&D's insistence on not acknowledging character facing (or, as I prefer: focus of attention) and not having reactive combat movement (where defender moves in response to attack) are crippling flaws as well.

    Do something (whatever you want) about those issues, and it becomes much easier to get D&D to produce intuitively realistic melee skirmish.
  • Thank you for that, Trent! I do need to review it, yeah. Much appreciated

    And… as usual when doing design work, one either cloisters herself in a clean white room, or, as I did when I cooked up my inventory system: reads a lot of different games.

    Eero, are you familiar with 5e, which already has mechanics that fill the niche you describe? 'Stickiness', disengaging, reach etc etc. Instead of 'defender/offender' flags, it's based on weapon reach, so if both combatants have 5ft reach, the stickiness is mutual. (One problem that we're running into in our 5e games is that you only can make one opportunity attack per round so, as you note, a whole hoard can easily leave you, you'll only get a free swing at one of them.)

    Our existing 'intercept' house rule, described upthread, works similarly to your "guarding" concept except post-hoc. But the problem is this:
    If the combat occurs in an open field any extra enemies will have free hand to either focus fire on the front line or spread out to attack the back line, whichever they find convenient - that's the advantage of greater numbers.
    (Not only can the extra enemies do that for free, the one-attacker-per-defender can do it for the low price of just getting a single opportunity attack on them.)

    The reason this is a problem is that it gives too much agency to me as DM. Meaning that if they focus fire on the front line, those players whine and moan, and if they focus fire on the back line, those players whine and moan.

    Last Saturday I had five Deinonychus attack the super armored guy over and over again, completely neglecting the more squishy party members. The wizard had levitated away but the horse, the archer and the jeweler could all have been deino snax if I had realized just how low the price of breaking away from armor-master was. (Either spend 1 action on 'disengage', or, better, accept one single free swing [one total, for the whole group of five, not one each!]. A bargain!)

    I felt bad afterwards because staying my hand and showing mercy always feels like I'm cheating. In my defense, I honestly didn't think of this until after the game.

    That was Saturday. Also, last Tuesday they were fighting skellies. Super armor guy had the skellies all in his mêlée group but the skellies were shooting at archer. Taking disadvantage at their shots b/c in super armor guy's group. Again I didn't realize that they could've just moved away, and gotten rid of the disad. Meanwhile archer is whining&moaning that they're shooting at him instead of at armor guy. ???? of course the pretty pretty skeletons are gonna shoot at main DPR with triple stacked Hunter's Mark, Slayer's Prey and Sharyshooter, who is downing one skelly per shot, rather than some weak armor guy that's barely giving them sweet caresses while also being nigh untouchable.
  • Come on, they're skeletons. They could all just decide to drop dead and it'd be precisely as reasonable and realistic as anything they might decide to do. Unless the group is willing to get into an in-depth exegesis of the undead state in a fantasy world (which I am very willing to discuss, myself) to determine how skeleton psychology works, it seems like the GM literally cannot make a wrong call on something like that. Whatever the skeletons did, that's what this brand of eldritch undead is like.

    More generally, would you find it helpful if you kept track of monster psychological state for each individual combatant, and used that to determine who attacks whom? For example, you could have these states:

    Rational: The monster observes their enemy, makes a plan and sticks to it, possibly in cooperation with allies. They spend one round observing/defending (preferable pre-combat) to pick out the most dangerous or otherwise mission-critical opponent, after which it focuses fire on a chosen target to take them down, only stopping at obstacles when doing so increases the odds of achieving the mission objective.

    Instinctual: The monster attacks the closest and greatest aggressive display, which may or may not also be the greatest threat, depending on circumstances and the monster's powers of perception. They will only cease after failing a morale check.

    Teamwork: The monster attacks anybody attacking its own allies, prioritizing aid to friends being ganged upon, and ganging with friends if own party has superiority of numbers.

    Sneaky: The monster preferentially attacks soft targets, expending combat rounds (preferably pre-combat) in hesitation and maneuver to find a non-aggressive back rank target to surprise, and disengages if faced with superior threat.

    You could assign an appropriate default psychology to mindless monsters and beasts, such that e.g. predator dinosaurs are always "instinctual" in combat tactics, or whatever. Meanwhile intelligent monsters could get a psychology assigned at the time of combat - maybe everybody gets the same, or maybe every goblin has their own randomized stance. The psychology could also change during combat: for example, a troop of orcs could start combat in "Teamwork", but then slip into "Instinctual" after the initial clash, until their commander shouts instructions at them to get them to do "Rational".

    Some monsters could be manipulated into desired psychology, of course: enrage them to get "instinctual" or shout diplomatic arguments to get "rational", for example.

    I could see a gaming group where a GM using something like this would get less flack from the players, simply because they would be more explicitly aware of the deeper issues involved in target selection. Players probably complain because they don't really believe/understand that the GM is determining targets from fictional precepts. A GM who could just state that "this monster does psych profile X all the time, and that's how I'm running them" throttles much complaint in the cradle, seems like.
  • edited July 2018
    I'm beginning to understand the issue better now, given your descriptions of play, Sandra.

    It sounds like you are torn between "being fair" to the players (both in your role as referee in general, and to specific players in particular - you don't want anyone to feel "ganged up on") on one hand, and playing the opposition as mechanically effective on the other hand.

    I think that those are two very different priorities for you as a GM, and you need to pick one and stick with it.

    For instance, I generally strongly dislike "boardgamey" combat like you're describing, so I always play my monsters from the fiction first, rules be damned. I decide what my skeletons are like in my game, and they act accordingly, whether that's mechanically advantageous or no.

    My monsters - if they're smart - might do clever things in the fiction (the skeletons spy on the PCs and only attack when they don't see any crushing or bludgeoning weapons?), but they aren't "aware" of hit points and combat rules and whether it's a good move to suffer an attack of opportunity to have a chance to take down the Mage, because that would defeat the party's area attack abilities.

    If the rules make that seem ludicrous, I'd change the rules first, instead of having skeletons act in a way that's not justifiable for me fictionally.

    I can see the appeal of a more oppositional game, though, where the GM is expected to play the GAME itself as hard as possible, to challenge the players hard and make them use every mechanical advantage they can in order to have a chance to win. Like a good opponent in a board game, both sides play to win, challenging each other as much as they can. There's some serious fun to be had there, I'm sure (it's just less to my taste).

  • edited July 2018
    I like Eero's "combat profiles" as a more strict, defined version of that mentality; it's a solid tool for the GM and interesting enough for the players to be able to interact with, as well.

    There could be some really interesting interactions between these "profiles" and Morale checks - perhaps a full failure means they run away, but a middling result means their "combat profile" shifts by one, instead.

    That way you could prepare a display of force to frighten the Orcs... it's unlikely to scare them off altogether, but if you're good you might be able to force them into Instinctual mode, nevertheless....
  • edited March 2019
    Edit: I wrote "whining" but in hindsight seeing how awesomer fights are with the new system, the whines were definitely legitimate complaints. Feedback from the players is helping me improve as DM. I was already best DM in the world but that doesn't mean I should get complacent

    Paul, rather than those two incompatible positions… Eero, rather than realism…

    Think of it this way:

    The one thing I want is buy-in.

    Right now, at my table, we have buy-in for:
    • When monsters show up
    • Who those monsters are
    • How much food and water you need to survive
    • How difficult it is to find food and water
    • How difficult it is to not get lost
    And that is awesome: if they buy the rule I don't have to sell the consequence.
    What we don't have is buy-in for "Who does the monsters attack".
    That is something that is constantly being protested and whined legitimately complained about.

    And it's been a no-win: I was doing the "You get one each" for a while. Inspired by DW's hack-and-slash move, if you went to tango with them they'd try to hurt you back. And, that was also good game design, felt like it was flowing naturally, felt like I wasn't consciously choosing.

    But one of the players is also a "DM"… a fudger. I played in his campaign briefly. And when I confronted him about it, he was like "Tu quoque! You are running the monsters so weakly when you just divide them up or when you roll a dice to decide [uh, I hadn't decided by dice in like four years at that point so I don't know where that came from]. That is your mercy, your subjectivity." And I was like… ok, he has a point, that's is a little bit subjective. It does make more sense for the monsters to focus fire, take one down, hide, rest up, return for more. Or w/e, depending on monster type. That's how I used to do it in the early years, before I made it all dungeonworldy. Having a "what would make most damage to the party" heuristic would be easy, and would be similar to how the party thinks vs the monsters. (Of course, one could also do the opposite: have them stupidly but consistently go for the reachable character with the best AC. Any heuristic in a storm… but I am a cruel and brutal DM.)

    Unfortunately, now there's constant whining legitimately complaining and moaning from the so-called players. Including him. "Why me, why me?? Boo-hoo" (I guess they hate each other out of game and so they only see one valuable PC at the table: their own.) But… they have a point too. I'm not in the business of hanging people, I'm here to sell rope and keep my hands clean.

    Introducing the 'intercept' rule seemed like a godsend, it emulates both "guarding" and "front rank/back rank". It gave the PCs some lagom chance of influencing / mitigating the focus fire. But one problem is that the monsters still make ranged attacks at the squishies (albeit at disadvantage), and another problem is that there's nothing really keeping more than one of them there (in an open field).
  • That's precisely the creative issue I was trying to address with my suggestion, though: if you can sell the players on something like "there are three orcs, not two or four", then perhaps you could also sell them on "the orcs use this selection heuristic for whom to attack"? After all, it's very much something that you could print in a stat block for them: "Psychology: brutal" or whatever.

    So once you have that in the stat block, why wouldn't the players buy it as a game world fact? You're not choosing it, it's just how this particular type of monster is. If it's legit for the monster itself to appear, surely it's also legitimate for it to be of a type that e.g. focuses fire on the weakest target, or one that focuses fire on the strongest target, or whatever this particular type of monster would do.

    And once the players buy into that idea - that monster psychology has rules that determine whom they attack - then it should be easy to add elaborations to those rules to satisfy various situations. More psychology types, rules for how and when different types of monsters switch psychology, that sort of thing. And it all happens above-board, there is never a black box moment where the GM "just decides" whom the monster attacks: once the monster is established on the table, it just goes and ticks on its merry way according to psychology rules that any player can confirm for themselves. "OK, I guess that if these monsters really are 'sneaky', and given that my character is objectively the softest target here, then the choice to have them gang up on me was not something the GM did - the rules did it."

    Also, I have a text recommendation for you: go and get Dragon Union. It's pay-what-you-want, and I suspect that you'd like it - could be who knows how relevant to your play, as it's entirely compatible with 5th edition rules. Most importantly for the present conversation, it's got its own funny, entirely objective monster attack routine rules that might make useful food for thought. (Hint: they always go for the Elf first and Halfling last.)
  • I had a post on here yesterday that I ended up chickening out on before hitting "post comment", it was "perhaps they should go in charisma order, eating the ugly ones first"
  • the orcs use this selection heuristic for whom to attack
    Right, but the bottleneck I have is how to codify selection heuristics in the first place. Once there is a notation, then I can try sell them on it.

    And, in that case, having a bunch of selection heuristics is overkill. Even getting ONE would be good. (And extreme fictional positioning can override ← standard "human judge" disclaimer.)
  • That Dragon Union flowchart looks to be gold, Eero, I thank you for it. (Last page of the PDF.)

    But, it presupposes that there is only one Fighter, only one Cleric etc.

    In our party right now we have… three "Fighters"! (Rather, one "samurai", one "champion", and one "monster slayer".) One dwarven albino spirit warrior and one hobbit jester magic-user.

    So halfling is halfling and dwarve is dwarve, so far so easy. The champion is a gnome which is the closest to "elf". And the monster slayer archer ranger can fall under "thief". Instead of backstab, he is using slayer's prey, sharpshooter and similar shenanigans.

    Should they get a real thief or similar that is even more suitable for "thief" I'll reshuffle these. As long as I have a mapping from party member to Dragon Union role…

    (And I'll also take a look at that 13A stuff as promised.)
  • edited July 2018
    Reading 13A right now (the One Ring later). Wow, they even came up with the same "intercepting" concept. Thanks again for the tip, Trent. (Also these two ideas can combine: a preference heuristic for the enemies and some weak martial battlefield control for the players.)

    OK, so one diffs between 13A and what I've been doing on my own. The whole "nearby" stuff is similar to what I have, and the interception stuff too.

    It seems like in 13A you get infinity amount of opportunity attacks. They count as "free action" and it says: "It’s up to the GM how many free actions a character can take". In 5e they count as reaction i.e. one per turn. That makes it more sticky.

    Other than that, 13A has the same problem of "they can just leave". accepting OAs but going for their preferred target.
  • Reading The One Ring, the Rearward predicate, and the restrictions in place to take it (can't be outnumbered 2:1 party:monsters, and only up to a third of the party might apply the Rearward predicate) might be fruitful, as does the algorithms for dividing up combatants, recommending a 3:1 max.

    But I have a question to any The One Ring experts… the assumption for Volley rounds seem to be that you shoot and close, shoot and close. Whereas my D&D group often does kite fights, i.e. shoot and run, shoot and run.
  • Reading 13A right now (the One Ring later). Wow, they even came up with the same "intercepting" concept. Thanks again for the tip, Trent. (Also these two ideas can combine: a preference heuristic for the enemies and some weak martial battlefield control for the players.)

    OK, so one diffs between 13A and what I've been doing on my own. The whole "nearby" stuff is similar to what I have, and the interception stuff too.

    It seems like in 13A you get infinity amount of opportunity attacks. They count as "free action" and it says: "It’s up to the GM how many free actions a character can take". In 5e they count as reaction i.e. one per turn. That makes it more sticky.

    Other than that, 13A has the same problem of "they can just leave". accepting OAs but going for their preferred target.
    Hi Sandra, as the GM you could just houserule a character can't disengage unless they make their disengagement save (or, in the case of 5E, eat up an action to disengage), period. No opportunity attacks need apply. I've done that in my 13A games to make combat flow a bit more smoothly. I also allow unengaged targets to intercept ranged attacks too (a major tactic of my evil wizards' minions).

    The fighter and rogue both have talents that make this more interesting, of course. The fighter's skilled intercept let them pop free and intercept another enemy even if they're already engaged in melee whereas the rogue's tumble gives them a huge bonus to disengage saves and lets them make saves to avoid being intercepted, as well.

    Food for thought.

  • Trent, that is a major increase in stickiness compared to the houserule I suggested at the start of this thread, that they can "re-intercept"/keep up to half.
  • Re-reading TOR, I remember that what I dislike about it is it's rigid structure and high number of assumptions. Even the picture on the very same pages have some orcs up on a ledge shooting down at the hobbits and humans—and the rules can't support that since the rules assume all combat situations are closable. :disappointed:

    And the stiff "declare first, then resolve when that action's init number comes up" system is something I do not want, compared to the free-flowy dungeon-worldy conversational style I've gotten used to.

    But… trying to decouple two things from TOR that I am interested in:

    the "Rearwards" predicate, and the monster attack selection algorithm,

    leaves me with this:

  • edited July 2018
    If by "design work" you mean ripping off The One Ring and Dragon Union, then I'm proud of the design work I've done so far. :fearful:
    I'll playtest it tomorrow. I think it's going to be unreasonably cumbersome but… I'm going to do my best. :bawling:

    Here is a PDF with my decoupling of the rearwards heuristic & monster attack abilities from TOR on one side and my 5eification of the monster target preferences from DU on the other side.
  • Hah hah, very good. I would be surprised by the... bluntness of intellect that a player would require to still complain about your target selection heuristics after you put these down.
  • Yeah, knock on wood they seem pretty all-encompassing!
  • If I'm reading this right, it also removes quite a bit of choice from the players, right?

    It's a very interesting bit of design! I like how I makes numbers really matter in combat.
  • Yeah, it seems like that, Paul. I want to playtest to see if does too much.

    One of the restrictions in player's choice is how to gain the "away"/"back rank"/"Rearwards" predicate/condition. But since that condition didn't exist before, that's not a removal of choice.

    The other player choice restriction is that every Front Rank PC needs to take on one monster. That's bigger :cold_sweat: :bawling: :heartbreak: :heart:
  • Oh, so "monsters choosing targets" doesn't limit the characters' choices? Like, if the Ogre is attacking me, it doesn't matter, I can still target the Goblin with my attack?
  • edited July 2018
    Paul thank you so much for this question because it left me slack-jawed in "I hadn't thought of that"-mode, and I needed to sort it out before the playtest tomorrow. So that was good.

    In TOR you'd be right (if I understand TOR correctly), you'd be stuck with the Ogre and could also only do mêlée, you couldn't shoot. (I can see where TOR combat gets its "boring" reputation.) You get assigned your tango partner and that's how it is. It changes round by round though. Every new round a new dance couple.

    Here, in 2097e (at least for this one session), what happens is this:

    The Ogre engages you in mêlée. If you wanted to shoot the goblin, you'd be at disadvantage. If you wanted to leave the ogre to go hit the goblin, you'd either have to spend a Disengage action, or take an Opportunity action on you. And then the Ogre would be free to move too (once it gets a Movement). So the Ogre could still hit you.

    However, "engagement" lasts across rounds in 2097e, unlike TOR. And, since the "target preferences" flowchart makes the monsters want to change their targets often, they're going to take a lot of opportunity attacks.

    Edit: And, that's no different from how it worked before these flowcharts. The Ogre could engage you and it'd work as I just outlined. The flowchart restricts the monster's engagement though. The biggest new restriction is the "monster limits" (3:1, or since Ogres are Large, 2:1).
  • Interesting! Let us know how it goes in practice...
  • I love this flowchart. <3
  • The part that doesn't make sense to me at all is the 'the front rank PCs take on one monster each, they choose'. I know some games like Firebrands and PbtA have made great use out of that kind of 'select your own trouble' mechanic but they seem out of stance for the kind of experience I've been going for. I can't really slot it into my phrase glossary.

    "Five ninjas are attacking you, what do you do? As long as you each decide to go to mêlée with a separate ninja." That doesn't seem to make sense.
  • edited July 2018
    And, changing that to the monsters always choose means I could remove the entire right side of the flowchart, since it'd just boil down to the monster limits. (At least one per front rank PC, and no more than three per, unless they all have three per.) Along with the rearwards predicate, the monster number limitation is the big improvement here.

    But then it does look lopsided and unagential that the monsters always get to choose. Ideally, I would want to preserve the PCs choice. But how would I sell a rule that they can't focus fire? Especially what's the diegetic sell?

    I painted myself into this corner… at the start of the campaign, I was using my new 'tapping' initiative system, and using the monster actions to sort of emulate Dungeon World's hack-and-slash move. You fought with someone? They fought back at you. You stood slack-jawed? They attacked you. Limited by the 5e action econ, for both players and monsters. But when the 'tu quoque' convo happened, that I was showing mercy because I wasn't focus firing, I just plain forgot that that was the rule I had started following. I hadn't codified it enough. So then I cooked up a quick heuristic but I had completely forgotten the DW-roots. I started using the monsters more brutally which, of course, pushback and it led us to here. It's so strange how my addled&feeble brain could just plain lose part of the recipe like that.

    But putting all three into the mix somehow:
    1. Using the dungeonworldly convo as a starting point / framework, instead of TOR's stiff protocol
    2. Limiting PC actions, conversationally, by the limits of the rearward predicate ("With Musharib and Cailu occupied with guarding Jen, three skeletons close in on you, Raved, what do you do?"), by the action econ ("Ran, you were still working on your spell while this was happening. Fox, what do you do?"), and by the monster limits (here is where I have missing vocab :frowning:)
    3. Limiting monster actions (and monster responses) by the action econ, by the monster limits (easy on that side) and by the target preferences. ("Nalla, you see the deinonychus turning to bite at Fox, you have an opportunity for an attack -- do you take it?")
    Btw thank you Guy♥
    As you can see it's WIP AF ♥
  • Ok so brainstorming how the convo could flow…

    "You see three ghouls closing in on the party, what do you do?"
    player A responds by attacking & engaging with one ghoul, which is fine. When player B tries to go for the same ghoul:

    "The other two ghouls are in your path, what do you do?"

  • Burning Wheel's solution is a separate "engagement roll", where all of the engagements are determined, then fighting actions happen, and every x time a repositioning occurs. Maybe your solution can be something like replacing initiative with "initiative plus initial positioning" rolls, and then codify repositioning?
  • Guy, I’ve already conversationalized initiative. Burning Wheel is similar to TOR in this regard, while I want what I’m cooking up over here to be more similar to Apocalypse World.
  • What about taking Eero's basic idea of using initiative scores to settle such disagreements?

    ("You're not fast enough; the ghoul gets in your way.")
  • It's to do it do it. If someone goes to the ghoul they do. And then if more people want to go there, who "can't", they can't. And the dice layer will probably pretty clearly translate to the cloud layer ("the other two ghouls are between you").

    Today wasn't really a good test. The first fight, the party was in three different locations, split. I confused and bumped the hit point trackers. Everyone was kind to me for messing up.

    There were two fights against Swarm keyworded enemies, they ignored the monster limits. And one of the swarms could fly. The target preference rules though meant that the fights became dynamic. Lots of opportunity attacks were made.

    There was one fight against ONE snake. So stupid. They got 10 xp each. Color I guess.
  • For four years I've been using sorobans to track monster HP. But that isn't good anymore since the monsters are moving all over the place, it's hard to connect each monster to a soroban.

    I've been using playing cards to keep track of action econ and engagement/reach (and conditions, I flip it over). Works well but again, too detached from the HP trackers. I'll try to think of something soon.

    Doing game design is the part of gaming I get the biggest kick out of. That is my CA. I'm a "Mel" in Rosewater terms.
  • edited July 2018
    Playing cards inherently have an id ("4♥" for example) so that could be it, tying those id:s in to however I track hp.

    Alternately some sorta protocol. This is inspired both by Mikael Bergström and by Stan Shinn.

    Five columns. Fourth column, D : monster's name. Column E: action econ.
    Column C (middle column): HP.
    Column A and B: "attacked by" and "attacking".

    Uh I'm not really satisfied with that yet. But that's the general area I'm exploring now.
  • edited July 2018
  • this is a good chart
  • edited July 2018
    i like good charts♥
  • It's weird even tho this system with the dragon union protocol really tie my hand and leave me with zero choice… it's really fun to use! especially in combination with the TOR predicates.

    i'm enjoying the combats for the first time!

    usually a game sells itself to me by having interesting choices. but this has zero choices, it's so strictly procedural like candy land or chutes and ladders (on my end — the players have LOTS of choices and the fights have become more interesting than ever for them).

    it's kinda like sudoku tho, sudoku doesn't have choices either, there is only one way to place the numbers. but doing it is sort of fun.

    that's a bad sign for me selling this (uh, re-selling, since i snarfed it from TOR/DU) to others, if its kinda like puzzle solving when applying it? people tend to not like puzzly things?

    oh wait there is some choice if they have both ranged and melee attacks. choosing who to backrank etc etc for the monsters is interesting

    also the players… SUPER buy in, from DAY ONE. and like patience in the start when I was struggling and so happiness now that it's singing? so cool

    they know there's an algo that I sometimes reference but they haven't seen it. they're trying to figure it out. i told them i'd show it to them after a while

    the also love how the monsters are running around, changing targets etc etc. making the battlefield (and we're doing full totm, zero minis/maps) more dynamic without keeping track of ranges and stuff

    i also no longer feel guilty for the monsters attacks! they're following the algorithm
  • edited July 2018
    The dragon union rules showed them selves from their harshest side today as the monsters killed a downed sneak attacker. it felt pretty bad & vindictive on the part of the monsters and def not in the best self interest of the monsters.

    re-reading the original DU it only says "until thief falls". i had mine written as "try to kill". :frowning:
  • Live by the algorithm, die by the algorithm. Simple iterated rules are the wave of the future IMHO.
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