13th Sage: On Monster Attacks

I’ve been busy with monster design and development, pushing to have Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 headed to layout in the next couple weeks.

I’ve got monster design on the brain. So today’s column is about monster design, but it’s not exactly about current monster design.

Back when we were finishing the core 13th Age rulebook, Jonathan and I had a design argument that he won so conclusively I forgot it ever happened. Just now I was looking through an old monster design file, searching for notes on an idea that’s relevant to the new book, and I found the decisive text I’d clipped out of Jonathan’s email. The italicized stuff that follows is from Jonathan, in 2012. He was right, and we avoided making pretend differences:

There’s no reason to lower a monster’s attack value just because it’s attacking PD or MD, and if you do it just muddies the waters.

Player 1: “Oh no! It’s attacking my PD, and my PD is low!”

Player 2: “It’s OK. The designers nerfed PD attacks so that they’re not scary. Your PD looks lower than your AC, but because PD-attacks all carry a penalty, it’s no big deal.”

Or here again, if I see AC 21 and PD 16 on my character sheet, I want it to mean that attacks against my PD are effectively +5. Why else build in a 5 points difference between the values if you don’t really mean it?

If you feel you must add a -2 penalty to all MP/PD attacks, instead just add +2 to all PD and MD values. Same effect, but now when the player sees AC 21 and PC 18, the 3-point difference is a real difference, not a pretend one.


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