Friday, May 17, 2013

Ambitions Big And Clumsy

Yesterday, I failed to answer a question that Arduin had asked ... "You have, on the old wiki, a collection of Behavior Codes of which I'm rather fond. Obviously these suffer as much as would be expected of a semi-random table, but I just wanted to know if it was an idea you had abandoned, or if they still saw some measure of play at your table ..."  The codes he refers to can be read here.

No, the idea is not dead.  I was struggling with the idea of at least expanding the number of possible 'motivations' from rolled encounters based on each creature's intelligence.  Non-intelligent creatures would be limited to one direct action.  In the case of something like a grey ooze, this would be a 'steady approach' ... in effect, a head-on attack, as the creature would be too stupid to attack any other way.  Skeletons and zombies would do the same, but were restricted to the areas they defended; large spiders would attack prey that had disturbed their nets; ankhkegs would emerge from their buried state to snatch prey and run ... and so on.

Creatures with an intelligence of 1 (animal intelligence) would be given a second possible response.  A bighorn sheep would probably be "non-aggressive," except at certain times of the year when they would be in "rut" and therefore very dangerous.  An encountered leviathan might either try directly to destroy a ship it found on the ocean surface, or it might merely circle the ship and hamper navigation, only to then disappear again - unless those aboard ship were willing to attempt to kill it.

My desire was to restrict these creatures to these limited forms of action due to their intelligence.  They could not take other action, because they simply were not mentally capable of the free will necessary to do otherwise.  Greater NPC choice was a mark of higher intelligence.  In effect, I was trying to codify a creature's behavior in order to limit my power as a DM, forcing me to adhere to the context of the creature's ability, and not my personal inclinations at a given moment.  By establishing a set framework for monsters of a given intelligence, this would in turn offer consistency to the world to which the players could adapt.  Knowing that a stag was dangerous to approach in the month of November, the party ranger could say to his or her fellows, "Stags are always dangerous in November," without my needing to confirm the fact.

The number of actions was based, as many elements of my world are, upon the Fibonacci series, minus 1.  Thus, (1, 2, 4, 7, 12, 20 and so on).  What this would mean was that the number of actions increased exponentially as intelligence scaled upwards, so that creatures with a 2 intelligence would be capable of performing four actions; a creature with 3 intelligence, seven actions, etcetera.

I had begun to work my way up through creatures with semi-intelligence, using the logic that most carnivores would have an intelligence of 2, primates an intelligence of 3, and monsters from the books with a semi-intelligence (that did not exist in reality) would have an intelligence of 4.  I then intended to begin working on creatures of low intelligence and so forth.  Part of what would make it possible was that most of the higher intelligence creatures would still do many of the things lower intelligence creatures would do ... so that I wasn't creating 20 new things for an intelligence of '5' from scratch.

This did begin to collapse under its own weight, but not for the reasons the reader might think.  The actual problem was keeping track of all the possible results for all the possible monsters, once the number of results began to mount up ... along with all the other details for the monsters I was attempting to keep.  Speaking only in clerical terms, I decided to step back in order to revision how the material would be managed, once it expanded further - then lost interest and never went back.

It's worth doing, I'm sure.  And if I really work at it, I'm sure I can get the necessary comprehensive data base together.  I understand that Microsoft's Access is supposed to be good for this sort of thing, but frankly I tried it, watched videos on it, and my brain simply isn't built to understand it without a real life teacher.  In the meantime, I may try this summer to beat the idea into some sort of shape.

Thank you, Arduin, for reminding me of a task that needs doing.  Sometimes our ambitions get the better of us ... that's no reason not to keep trying.


Imon Fyre said...

You have piqued my curiosity. What part of Access stymied you? Was it the retrieval of the data entered?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Admitting my ignorance about a particular thing isn't enough? I must parse it out, too?

Arduin said...

The fibonacci bit was new. I had merely assumed you'd listed a handful out, but in hindsight, that's a clever way to make intelligence mean something for "monsters".

Hell, with finagling, it wouldn't be bad for humanoids either.

I only mentioned it because your post arrived just as I was transposing the data into my own personal monster manual for Scandinavia.

Sometimes, I guess, the stars align.

Imon Fyre said...

Only if it behooves you to.

Database interaction is a daily part of my job, so I was hoping I would be able to share with you, just as you share with us.

Eric said...

So basically you'll have two lists: one with monsters and a set of attack codes for each monster, and a second one with all the attack codes and both a brief and a detailed description for each code. Then you need something to look up all the codes for a particular monster, pull the corresponding detailed descriptions, and stick them all together for reference. Do I have the problem specified correctly here?