Friday, July 20, 2012

Cat Stats

I hate working on monsters.

This is because there never seems to be any payback.  Encounter tables don't work.  Descriptions take time and never seem to apply when the actual game is on.   No matter how much detail I pour into them, the total result is always null.  I'm forced, in the end, to make shit up as the campaign is happening ... and so why bother working on monsters ahead of time?

The experience system, however, was a terrific leap forward, as was the mass rule.  However, while I did start working on biology tables, I got bored with the size of the task, and it has sat ignored for almost two years.

One thing I wanted to force myself to do this summer was address some of the monster issues.  Specifically, monster movement and monster damage.

A look at the biology tables linked above will show the weight of the creatures as well as the size.  Weight is something that seems to have been largely ignored with regards to monsters.  I calculate weight by comparing geometrically the monster's length with that of its non-giant cousin, or estimated weight based on flesh density vs. total volume (for things like black puddings).

Thus, it was possible to put together a table like this:

This includes all felines of 2 intelligence, so it does not include anything like a rakshasa and such.  There may be some that argue the intelligence should be higher, but that's not really important here.

What I want to concentrate on is the SIZE of the creature, compared with its hit dice.  All of these are from the monster manual (M) and the fiend folio (F), with the exception of the cheetah and ordinary bobcat (lynx).  Those are my own addition.

The hp/HD column is in reference to my mass hit points rule, linked above.  You don't need to consider it important, but I'm adding it here because, well, I'm interested in the information it gives.  I like it that the average hit points of a creature is, in my world, relative to its size - and that this is achieved by not giving the creature more hit dice (and therefore a better to hit table).

(sorry for all of you not interested in AD&D.  None of this data will be of use to you.  Better go find some boring forum to read)

Note that some of the dimensions given here are those of the source material, and some of them are from elsewhere.  I've tried to be consistent with the books whenever the books provided information - which often they don't.

Consider, then, the movement of these cats and their attack types:

I've left off the cheetah and the ordinary bobcat for the table, as I want to concentrate on the numbers from the monster manual and fiend folio.  None of these numbers has anything to do with reality.  You won't find anything in wikipedia about a lion moving at 120 yards per round.  That is strictly a D&D thing (and refers to how in outdoor movement, inches = yards). 

There are two trends.  The larger creatures do more damage, and the larger creatures tend to move slower.  I think we can ascribe the high movement of the kamadan to fiend folio bullshit - that book tends to be all over the map with regards to consistency.  I'm not clear on why a leopard doesn't rake, nor why a displacer beast does not attack with jaws or claws.  They have both depicted in the manual.

Let's check that movement rate thing against reality, however.  According to Jim Wilson, BSc Degree in Zoology, we get these numbers:

Cheetah - 70 mph

Cougar (puma) - 45 mph
Lion - 40 mph
Tiger - 40 mph
Leopard - 35 mph
Snow Leopard - 35 mph
Jaguar - 25 mph

So it does seem the puma is moving pretty fast; the jaguar, however, is depicted completely inaccurately, and is much, much slower than the lion despite being only a 40% of the lion's weight.  Both the tiger and the lion are massive compared to other cats ... but this doesn't seem to affect their speed.

Incidentally, 40 mph = 1,173 yards per minute ... but we all knew ol' Gygaxling had his head up his ass.  However, before someone tells me about straight line running vs. manueverability, I was at a barrel racing competition last Thursday and found myself wondering about the movement of horses.  Typical distance for barrel racing is a total of 390 feet travelled accomplished in 18 seconds, with three 270-degree turns involved.  Think about that.  No matter how you cut it, your horse in D&D isn't moving fast enough, and it isn't being allowed to turn as much as it could.

Still, let's put the movement down - I am not at all certain how to solve that.  Obviously everything is moving slower than it should, and size should have little or nothing to do with it.  It's a question of body mechanics, NOT mass.

Have a look at this table:

For my  money, this seems more than a bit off.  The sea lion is nearly half a ton in weight, but it's bite (2d6) has an average damage of only 2.5 hp higher than the jaguar, which is only 18% of the sea lion's weight. 

Pound for pound, the leopard is the most dangerous cat in the game - it has the highest claw damage per pound of weight and the highest bite damage.  The reason is obvious.  For whatever purpose, the game makers decided that monsters would only be allowed to cause just this much damage and no more.  Thus, the bite of a lion (440 lb.) is only 22% greater than that of a jaguar (168 lbs.) ... despite being 250% bigger.  You can argue that the lion doesn't quite get all its teeth around you when it bites, but if it did, you ought to be taking more than 1d10.

3-18+1 (average 11.5) would be more like the damage a lion's bite ought to cause.

I can see some argument for gauging back the damage due to increased clumsiness and comparatively smaller targets for bigger mouths - but a comparative of 250% in size to 22% increase in damage is plain ridiculous.  The lion is being deliberately undermined as a deadly, dangerous beast worthy of respect.  This, I think, undermines the game as a whole.

Particularly when you consider a zombie's claw does 1d8 damage - as much as a jaguar's jaws!

Something is very wrong.  The solution is plainly to increase damage across the board and everywhere.  For a lot of games this would be a serious problem.

For my game and my experience system, however ... this is a bloody marvelous idea.


Giordanisti said...

I've been pissed for a long time about the lack of respect given to "mundane" animals in D&D. It's hard to imagine the man who could defeat a pair of wolves in combat using only a sword, much less a lion or bear. Yet according to the rules as written, a 2nd or 3rd level fighter ought to be able to manage this feat without too much trouble at all. I fully support giving terrifying animals their due.

Tedankhamen said...

Trying to see or impose real world order on the beautifully broken chaos that is an rpg, especially D&D, is either apophenia or a vain attempt to derive the fractals of another mind (i.e. that of Gygax). I think the idea of 'D&D Mine' is not only a modding of gameworld or fiddly bits, but also integral ways in which the gameworld functions. If it doesn't function as your mind expects it to, you're bound to be disappointed, and so 'fixing' elements such as animal damage is almost de rigeur to have a satisfactory experience. Damage, encumberance, and all other real world sensations are keenly felt and thus more often modified.

Alexis said...

That's a fairly common argument, Tedankhamen. For the record, however, I'm really only providing evidence that the Gygaxian logic here is bullshit.

I'm calling for a different logic, one based on facts. I'm not "modding" the gameworld - I'm proposing that we should stop allowing Gygax to do so.

I'm proposing that we should base damage to some degree on size, but also on type of attack - so that ALL creatures that use some part of their body as a club (like the displacer's tentacles) cause similar damage based upon the method + mass of the creature.

I see NO reason why this wouldn't work, except for a fair proportion of D&D players who would be horrified to discover a normally weak creature can now stomp them into oblivion.