On Monster Weakness

Recently over on Gothridge Manor, Tim asked "Why don't monsters get a strength bonus to damage!?"


Ok, let's pretend for just one moment that we don't have actual proof of the effects that stating out every monster has on actual game play. Let's assume that we haven't seen how much longer and more complicated things get when you have to figure out all the little bonuses and track a ton of stuff for something that's only going to be alive for a few minutes. Try to forget all the endless hours of prep that were necessary to prepare for a 3.x adventure.

Let's just answer the question, why don't monsters have a strength bonus.

So this argument is from realism, right? The players are swinging a sword and Harthgar Snigglepants the dwarf does a minimum of 3 damage, so how come a monster can end up only doing one? It doesn't make sense. It isn't realistic.

Well, that's not the intent.

Generally without strength, monsters are designed with more attacks and larger damage ranges than players. Olden times, you would see an entry that would say 2-8 or by weapon type (as gnoll), or perhaps you might find another entry saying 1-12 damage (as mummy). What are these creatures attacking you with? A slam? Their claws?

You know how much you do with your fists? One point of damage.

The second and more important point, is that these are monsters fighting the heroes. In mighty tales the monster often makes a vicious attack and due to the fortitude, luck, skill, and majesty of the heroes only does a light scratch.

The damage isn't supposed to be some realistic physics model of damage, it's supposed to abstractly represent the tales of heroism from youth.

So stop worrying about trying to get monsters to work realistically and start having more fun.


  1. The time it takes to stat a monster is mere milliseconds if stats are simple enough?

    Is the monster "strong"? +1, REALLY strong? +2, INSANELY STRONG , +3. replace strong with weak for penalties.

    The same thing for any stat, when it is needed. Use common sense. An ogre? Probably really strong. A goblin? "weak" a Kobold, "really weak".

    A cat? "Insanely Dexterous" (literally, cat like reflexes). A dwarf might be "uncharismatic" while an Orc might be "REALLY uncharismatic".

    1. Sure, in OD&D. Don't forget, you have to account for that strength in skills, combat maneuvers, damage, attacks, and a variety of other buildy factors in games like pathfinder.

      The point is, it's necessary for monsters to be able to just scratch the heroes.

  2. I think it should be the other way.

    Big monsters should never "just scratch" the heroes, but should squish them into paste if they hit. They should also rarely hit (unless it is something truly terrifying, like a dragon)

    I use size modifiers rather than linear strength though. Also saves on HP accounting.

    1. I like monster damage the way it is for the same reason I like the hit point system to begin with: as the PC gets more worn out, the chance of sudden death from a high damage roll increases. It builds tension. If every blow was a certain kill but rarely hits, the tension wouldn't increase.

  3. In Classic D&D, though, there ARE a few monsters with listed Strength bonuses to damage. Kobolds do "weapon -1" because they're small and weak. Ogres do "weapon +2" because they're big and strong.

    And all those monsters with a couple of bonus hit points get to attack as a creature of the next higher hit die type, so Hobgoblins (HD 1+1) attack as a 2HD creature, giving them effectively a Strength bonus to hit (but not damage).

    But not every monster needs that. Most monsters can just use their listed range of damage and it works out fine.

  4. I would say I have fun doing both. One does not exclude the other. I know what you are saying and general I just run them as is. I am not one to get fussy about stuff. If I do add damage its real easy, similar to what Zzarchov mentioned. If it gets complicated I don't use it. But doesn't hurt to question the conventions once in a while.

    Dig the picture.

  5. Special monsters get special treatment. No need to stat-up mooks or fodder, but if there's a 'special,' then you give them any bonus you want. You do make a valid point about the 3.5-and-onwards systems having a lot of follow-on stuff to deal with when you mess with attributes, but that could all be streamlined or dropped for monsters according to the situation. Ramping-up monsters doesn't need to mean making them into 27-page NPCs...unless you want that sort of thing. You could handle the boosted stats by creating a simple add-on table that gives monsters a random boost and leave it at that. That'd save you from a lot of re-statting...and you could avoid the whole extra-details stuff by making the boost a special quality that is limited in duration or a possibly magical fluke of some sort.

  6. old gamma world and rq gave stats for all monsters but im back to old dnd because i only need 2 monster stats - HD AC less paperwork for me - frighteningly i remember monster manuals details way too well

  7. In my OD&D games, monsters tend to do 1d6 points of damage, really big monsters do 2d6, freaking huge ones do 3d6.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...