Friday, April 5, 2013

Respecting Ogres - 5AK Combat (Part 2)

Don’t you want YOUR ogre to be tougher?

For me, in designing 5AK (or D&D Mine or whatever you want to call it), the ogre was one of the “baseline” monsters in designing the game. Ogres are a part of the D&D tradition, sure, but they show up so often in fantasy folklore…representing the large, bestial, BULLY of the human psyche. The abuser. The monster that is O-so-human, and yet a hulking fiend of destruction, too. How do you represent that, and do it justice?

In the end I gave ogres HD 4+2 and the equivalent of light (chain) armor.

Now, granted, that may not seem like much difference compared to the usual AC 5, HD 4+1 ogre found in D&D, but rest assured those numbers mean far more to MY game than your run-o-the-mill, B/X equivalent. In fact, it’s closer to the 700 pound bruiser detailed in Alexis’s recent post (no, his point is something very different from mine…I just like it as an illustration of what an ogre should be like).

Assuming a party similar to the one Alexis describes (of course, there are no halflings or burning hands spells in 5AK, and I don’t have a “ranger” in my game for obvious reasons, though we can assume something equivalent to an archer or temple knight), the outcome in 5AK might have been pretty close to the same. My thief’s “bushwhacking” ability only extends to “living, humanoid targets of roughly human size” specifically so that you don’t find ‘em backstabbing giants and jinn, but it’s really up to the individual DM to determine whether or not an ogre is close enough or not. I’d probably rule “not,” but the character would still have a good 75% chance of doing damage (if not higher based on the creature’s position sleeping).

Then, assuming the monster was awakened and combat ensued we could expect the killing to begin. Average HPs for such a group would be, mmm, 22 for the fighter, 17 for the thief, 9 for the mage, 7 for the cleric, 4 for the “ranger.” A HD 4+2 creature in 5AK is bigger, faster, and stronger than just about everyone in the party, and would likely crush the cleric or ranger with a single shot (average 7 damage, hits the cleric 86% of the time or the ranger 92% presuming heavy armor)...though if this was their first fight of the day that might be mitigated by other factors.

Meanwhile, the chance of the PCs actually harming the ogre would be pretty slim with the exception of the fighter. The high level thief would have a 42% chance of damaging it (actually pretty close to the 45% chance a B/X thief of the same level would have against a “normal” ogre) with a 3% chance of killing the creature outright with a lucky attack (the dagger in the eyeball attack). The 5th level hero would actually have a 67% chance to injure the creature (better than a standard B/X fighter unless you're including high ability scores) with a 17% chance of killing it outright (the same chance a hero in Chainmail has of killing such a monster). The other party members would have a lot smaller chance to even scratch the beast (17% for the cleric or ranger, 28% for the wizard assuming he wants to mix it up in melee)…but then fighting monsters IS an activity best left up to heroes. Non-fighters would do better to use the tried and true method found in folklore when dealing with ogres: trickery.

In point of fact, a group of non-fighting PCs venturing into an ogre’s den with the intention of slaying such a creature in hand-to-hand combat deserve to have their heads handed to them. I mean, what are you thinking of? Sure, David was able to slay Goliath with a rock…but he had the power of God on his side (and/or it was a one-in-a-million decide). When your PC doesn’t happen to be the divinely chosen king of the divinely chosen people, then you better be the rough-and-tumble equivalent of Beowulf…otherwise, what are you doing except getting in Beowulf’s way?

To write D&D Mine, I’ve been deconstructing the game of D&D and looking at it piece-by-piece and you can see where there’s stuff that’s been broken. I mean, the reason that so much of D&D game play is treated like “our many different ways to kill a monster” is precisely because the rules are written in that fashion. An ogre should just be a walking sack of hit points waiting for a few low level characters to down him with half a dozen arrows…what kind of adventure is that? It cheapens the whole thing, in my opinion.  At the same time, it’s not enough to simply assign bunches of extra HPs to monsters. Didn’t I just read that WotC’s research shows players enjoy SHORTER combats? No shit, Sherlock…shorter combats mean more time spent adventuring (which might include a lot of things besides rolling dice and tracking damage).

That’s why “hit dice” in my game have been returned to their proper place as the number of “hits” a creature can suffer before going down. For example, a four hit dice ogre can take four human-incapacitating wounds before being brought down (which is what a successful attack roll measures…the ability to apply a man-incapacitating wound to a target). Yes, I realize that’s less than the six wounds needed in Chainmail (so my ogre is still less than the Ogre of Gormely Keep), but quite a handful for your average adventurer to deal with…like an intelligent bear.

And it’s quite a bit stronger than even an AD&D ogre. Oh sure…an average superhero equivalent in 5AK will put one down pretty fast (exactly as fast as a superhero in Chainmail at 9th level, actually), but it’s never for-sure-for-sure. And it’s nothing like AD&D. I remember converting my old AD&D bard to 2nd edition (and for those who don’t know, there’re major differences between the 1E and 2E bards) in order to solo-test the 2E adventure Return to White Plume Mountain, which is practically filled to the brim with ogres dressed in +5 armor (to give them an AC of 0). It was a pretty silly exercise, but in some ways it’s a pretty silly adventure, and the point is the character could still handle the creatures pretty handily. It just necessitating rolling a LOT of dice to get through the war of HP attrition.

ANYway… point is, as I was saying, that THAT type of game is pretty soft. As far as our adventure gaming goes, we have been coddled a bit…the RPG equivalent of everyone getting a juice box and a trophy at the end of the season. As with sports, part of the whole purpose of playing the games is THE PLAY ITSELF, not the accolades that may (or may not) be deserved for the playing. And if you make the fighting the centerpiece…and the fighting too easy…then the game starts to lose its luster, becoming less of an adventure and more of a…well, I don’t really know what you’d call it.

Actually, I guess that wasn’t really my point. My real point is that I like ogres. I need to mix some in to my next 5AK play-test. I wonder if I put them on-board a ship? Ooo-oo…maybe the PCs travel by ship to the Isle of Ogres. Oh, that sounds good!
; )


  1. Really. Shorter combats wanted. So less die rolling and more hallway walking, I suppose. Who is Mearls and crew asking, and with what questions?

    That's about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

    Or could it just be that 4e has the dumbest combat system on the planet?

  2. Aha. A day later and I've learned where Mearls is coming from. He's hopping on the same miscomprehension bandwagon with everyone else: