Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tangent: Burnt Offerings Bestiary

Burnt Offerings, as with all Pathfinder adventures, contains a number of new monsters to challenge a party of adventurers. Regardless of whether or not the monster appears in the actual adventure, I will be updating all Bestiary entries to 4th Edition.

Burnt Offerings contains the Goblin Dog, Goblin Snake, Giant Gecko, Sinspawn, Attic Whisperer and the Sandpoint Devil. As monsters are used in the updated adventure they will be posted here, with the remaining entries published when the adventure concludes.

Goblin Dog:

Goblin Snake:

Giant Gecko:

Sinspawn Ripper:

Sinspawn Wrathlord:

Attic Whisperer:

The Sandpoint Devil:


Zilvar said...

Why are the damages so high?

The goblin dog's bite at 1d10+ damage seems high, when the equivalent beastie (Level 2 Grey Wolf) only bites for d6+2.

A Dire Wolf (L5) is d8. A displacer beast (L9) is d10.

And the itch looks WAY too high. 6-24 damage for an ability that didn't actually do that much damage originally.

Likewise with the sinspawn. Equivalent creatures seem to be hitting for d6, d8 on average. It's not until level 5+ that you start running into numbers of d10 damages.

Just my opinion, but you either need to raise the levels of those creatures, a lot, or you need to tone down the attacks.

Scott said...

I understand your confusion over the damage levels. The guidelines for creating new monsters are outlined in the Dungeon Master's Guide (pages 184-185). The Damage By Level chart at the top of page 185 describes the appropriate damage expressions for monsters of each level. I'll quote page 184 for you:

"Use the Damage by Level table to set damage for the monster’s attacks. Most at-will attacks should use the medium normal damage shown on the table."

For monsters of levels 1-3, the medium normal damage expression is 1d10 + 3, modified if the monster has an exceptionally high or low ability score, of course.

You need to be aware of a couple of things in order to understand why damage expressions work the way they do. Let's use the gray wolf as an example.

As a level 2 creature, the gray wolf should be dealing around 1d10 + 3 damage on a successful at-will attack (or an average of 8.5 points of damage). Its basic melee attack deals 1d6 + 2 points of damage (or an average of 5.5 points of damage). However, it knocks targets prone when it has combat advantage, and deals an extra 1d6 points of damage against prone targets (bringing average damage to 9 points). This is slightly higher than the suggested damage expression for an at-will, and is balanced by the fact that the target must be prone (which is only a minor qualifier, since the gray wolf has the ability to knock a target prone relatively easily). This, coupled with the fact that gray wolves are normal monsters and thus typically will appear in groups (meaning when a target is knocked prone, all gray wolves in the encounter have the ability to deal the extra damage), is key to determining how the balance works for creating level-appropriate monsters.

Likewise, the goblin dog's aggravated itch ability is in-line with the medium limited damage expression for a level 1 monster. The difference between 1d6 and 1d8 and 1d10 is only an average of 1 point of damage each step. It's important to stop and consider how the monster actually plays rather than simply taking a quick glance at it and deciding that the numbers simply look too high.

I did notice a mistake I had made in calculating its attack bonus for aggravated itch, though. I had forgotten to drop the attack bonus by 2 because it targets a defense other than AC. I'll be posting the altered stat block shortly.

Scott said...

As another example, take a look at the Fire Beetle, a level 1 brute. It deals 3d6 damage in a close blast 3. This is 10.5 average damage to each creature the attack hits, and the ability is on a recharge timer which means it is slightly more useful than an encounter power and should therefore have slightly less damage. The appropriate damage expression for a level 1 creature with a limited AoE is 3d6 + 3 damage. As you can see, the damage has been reduced slightly (from 13.5 to 10.5) because of the attack's increased frequency of use.

As a side note, I ran a pair of the goblin dogs against my level 1 party yesterday and they fared just fine, even with the mistaken bonus +2 to attack on the aggravated itch ability.

Zilvar said...

It's very easy to look at charts like that and assume that everything is fine, but balance has always been more difficult than that.

I'm not saying you're wrong (other than the dander...there's no justfication for the dander even doing any damage based on the original monsters). I'm saying that the monsters, as you presented them, appear to be out of line with existing and published material. What you presented closely matches creatures 7 levels higher. I feel that's a valid point of concern.

Scott said...

Again, it very clearly does not. I appreciate you trying to offer constructive criticism, but in this case the rules, examples from the Monster Manual, and actual play experience all support the monsters as designed. The damage expressions are appropriate according to the DMG charts. Monsters of equivalent level in the Monster Manual deal damage equal to the ones I designed. The two encounters in the Catacombs of Wrath my players dealt with yesterday included multiple sinspawn (including one encounter of nothing but five sinspawn). Only four PCs were involved in the fight, and not one of them even dropped to unconscious.

Balance, in this case, is not more difficult than that. Player characters of any given level are designed to be able to deal with certain levels of damage output. The creatures here meet that level of damage for PCs of 1st-3rd level.

Also, the dander aura does not deal damage. Their encounter power does, but the damage is from the attack and the dander aura effects are simply a side benefit.

Daniel said...

Hey Scott,

How did you create your statblocks? Do you have a word template or program? Thanks!

Scott said...

The stat blocks are made in Word (OpenOffice, in my case). It's just a set of text boxes (one for the left part of the stat block header, one for the right part of the stat block header, and one for the body of the stat block) set above a series of colored rectangles. I then take a screenshot of the stat block, crop it in Paint and save it as an image file. Kind of a tedious process using really rudimentary tools, but it gets the job done.

Daniel said...

Hey Scott,

I found this monster creator program that creates gorgeous statblocks for you. I'm using it for my statblocks, and it's great. Dunno if it would be easier than Word or not.

Scott said...

I've seen that program floating around before, but was never able to get it working (it crashes on start-up). If the image on the website is any indication, though, the statblocks would end up being a little fatter than I'd like. What I'm actually planning on is waiting for WotC's monster builder program to go live as part of their online tools suite. If that turns out to be a worthwhile program I'll probably end up going back through and converting all of the previously-posted statblocks to that format. For now, I'm fine with my current solution.

Scott said...

I've added The Sandpoint Devil to the bestiary. It's a very slightly modified version of the Adult Brown Dragon found in the Draconomicon. It was a good fit; solo lurker at the top of the heroic tier with a breath weapon and fear effect.

Scott said...

The Burnt Offerings Bestiary is now completely converted, barring minor changes to certain monsters if needed. Enjoy!