Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Whatever Makes A Dragon Indestructible

In reference to the previous post, I have a different combat proposal which I do plan to implement - something which I will be testing in the next few weeks.  In the first instance, I expect it to be of enormous benefit to the players, as they are involved in a combat where they possess a mastodon.  In future, I expect the players to like it less and less.

In my neverending quest to increase the power and threat of big monsters, I have thrown out hit point upper limitations supported by the books, thus allowing massive hit points total for creatures weighing thousands of pounds or more (several posts have covered this, I suggest the gentle reader does a search).  This makes the monster more defensible, but not specifically more combative.

Given the opportunity to witness six or seven persons attempting to control a wild bull puts into perspective the danger presented in getting too close to the bull.  In D&D, as the rules apply, characters may simply make a ring around the animal and beat it mercilessly into the ground.  This seems ridiculous to me, in light of things I've witnessed.  So I have thought long on how the animal might give reason for players to hesitate approaching such a beast - the proposal in the previous post was one considered strategy.  This is another.

I intend to incorporate something I am calling 'incidental damage'.  This would be hit point damage that a large beast had the potential of delivering simply by virtue of its body mass.  As the aforementioned bull spins around, attempting to engage opponents with its horns, very often its body will smash into an individual who might be in the way.  This is combat damage not included in the 'number of attacks' of the beast - but I think it is important and ought not to be dismissed.

Therefore, the rule would function thus:

For each thousand pounds of the creature's weight, the creature would have a 50% chance of causing a maximum of 1 hp of damage to any attacker who approached within 5', or melee range, of the creature.  A large horse, for example, weighing 1,500 lbs., would cause 1 damage; a mastodon, weighing 5 tons (10,000 lbs.), would potentially cause 1-10 damage ... and so on.

It could be argued that as the potential damage went up, so too would the percentage chance of causing such damage.  It could also be argued that the larger the creature, the wider the area in which the creature could cause incidental damage.  I've considered both options, and have decided that for the sake of simplicity (or playability), not to play it that way.

However, as the creature can be expected to move, if the creature moves within 5' of an opponent in passing, incidental damage still has an opportunity to occur.  And so, for the party in their mass combat, if their mastodon blunders straight into the mess of defending goblins and hobgoblins, not only will the mastodon get its usual five attacks, but every individual within 5' of the mastodon at any time during a round has a 50% chance of suffering 1-10 damage.

I fully expect the rampaging potential of the mastodon to be something quite spectacular.

Moreover, while my stunning rules (again, search 'stun' through the blog) might stop the mastodon's attacks, incidental damage would occur regardless - so that even as it wallowed about in pain, it continued to smash its opponents.

It has always bothered me that dragons were not the deadliest creatures in the game.  Over the years, starting with suggestions from the Dragon Magazine, I have incorporated buffeting, tail attacks and allowing the dragon to use its claw to snatch and constrict opponents.  Using my hit point rules virtually quadruples the dragon's hit points (though I use the old method of computing to determine a dragon's breath weapon).  Now this.  A fast moving dragon, six or seven thousand pounds in weight, could really raise havoc if the old saw of attempting to kill it with many, many bodies was attempted.  I see the remarkable potential for mass slaughters.  Which is how, I feel, it ought to be.


  1. I think it's another very good idea in your use of mass - proximity damage. I like this for massive creatures and 'presence' attacks.

  2. I like this alot and I'm one of those in line to possibly get screwed by it. It would definitely make me think alot more about avoiding large animals.

    I may use that idea for my large monsters.

    I'm going to keep an eye out for those magazine articles. They sound interesting.

  3. I think something that they really got right in 3.x D&D were the dragons. Monte Cook has stated in blog posts that he felt that the game's namesake should be truly fearsome and be the baddest monster on the block. I think he nailed it. Dragons, even the young ones, are terrifying in 3.x.

  4. I just realized this is paralleled in 3.x's reach/opportunity attack for large creatures:

    sufficiently large creatures get "attack(s) of opportunity" or a free attack with all relevant modifiers against a foe that closes to a sufficient point.

    Just describing it in generalized terms is exhausting.
    Much more elegant Alex!


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