On the Unharmable Monster

Today, contradictions that aren't contradictions at all.

A lot of traffic on the older posts had led to some comments. One, from LS, (who's blog is here) asks about monsters who can only be damaged by magical weapons:
"In other posts you've railed against 4e for having encounters which our completely out of reach of low level players (due to high ac/hp/whatever) yet here is an example of the same effect (players unable to kill a monster until higher levels) with a different cause (no magic weapons appropriate).

I imagine that for you there is no contradiction here. I would like to hear why, if you are so inclined." -LS
Sure. In the earlier post, I posited two gameplay advantages and reasons why immunity to natural weapons was a benefit. The first was that it enabled creatures to act as roadblocks in a megadungeon environment. The second was that it encouraged player creativity.

The reason that this is not a contradiction is a simple error in equivalence. Simply removing one tool from the players bag of tricks (using weapons to deplete hit points) is not equivalent to an unbeatable encounter.

Due to the way scaling of AC's, Hit points, Damage and other things work in 3e/4e, there is a narrow range of encounters that are appropriate for the party's level. However, in a game like 1e, a monster immune to normal weapons (i.e. a gargoyle) does not have a substantively more powerful AC, hit points, or damage values - most are very pedestrian. It simply removes one tool from the players bag of tricks.

This type of ability encourages player creativity, instead of putting up an unbreakable wall.

I am told that there is a 'skill check' system in 4e that allows players to describe their plan and turn it into a skill challenge in order to allow players to conquer unbeatable encounters. Though the skill system is less 'buildy' in 4e, I'm still not a fan of 'skill challenge' systems in general. Ignoring the basic issues with 4e skill challenges, I still much prefer to discuss the issue in general with the players, rather then relying on a set pre-selected categories or numbers. The 4e system is closer to discussion and consensus then the 'build specific' requirements of Pathfinder - however I prefer to run a game without worrying about DC's or trying to find ways to make skills relevant without invalidating build choices.


  1. That's a very satisfactory answer to my question, thank you.

    And thanks also for the link to my humble blog! I appreciate that.

  2. Great post, one that needed to be made by someone. Players should never forget that if their swords won't harm a monster it fan still be trapped, lured to it's death over a cliff or pit ledge, buried in an avalanche and so on. Also, many old school encounters are better avoided than met head on science most XP comes from the treasure being guarded not the guardian (and definitely not from some random wandering monster.)

  3. Once killed myself 4 dragons in a single session without casting a spell or swinging a sword. The DM wasn't thrilled but let my bombastic unlikely (and silly) attempts at dragon destruction prevail.


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