Posted by : David Guyll June 11, 2012

My preference in creating monsters is often close to what Mearls describes here; I start out with flavor material and then design mechanics that serve what I envision the monster doing. Rarely I think of a neat mechanic and work backwards to create something to serve that, though I guess it could make sense for things like constructs, angels, and creatures of a conceptual origin. I believe that a lot of people operate this way, thinking of things and then modeling mechanics around them, and I have no problem with that.


What I do have a problem with is the final result, and not because it kind of reminds me of 2nd Edition.
To be fair, I do not dislike everything about 2nd Edition.
A lot of people are complaining that the hook horror is a sign that we are going to go back to "boring" monsters. That is, many of the things we saw in 3rd Edition, where goblins, orcs, gnolls, and so on simply walked up to you and tried to hit you with a weapon. Aside from Size and damage rolls, mechanically the creatures were basically the same. 4th Edition changed this by adding a kind of racial schtick to help differentiate them: goblins would scramble out of the way if you missed them, orcs would get in one last swing, and gnolls did more damage when they ganged up on you.

Largely the hook horror deals damage and is really hard to hide from. If you are hit then you get impaled, which lets it deal a lot of automatic damage against you (like, 20 on average). Now, you can spend your turn to escape, but since the hook horror's only real thing to do is hit you it could create an endless circle where it just hooks you, so you try to escape, but if you do it just hooks you again, and so on and so forth. I recall that there were many complaints about "stun-locking" in 4th Edition, where a character or monster could use some power or combination to just continuously reduce or negate a creature's turn.

Here are some proposed changes:

  • The designers should at least take one step back towards 4th Edition's action economy, and allow characters to spend only their move action to try and escape. This way they can spend both actions to try and escape twice, or better model the description of someone desperately attacking the hook horror as they try to break free.
  • I also think that the impale action should only work on a character that is bloodied. This would better fit the way hit points are being modeled, where the hook horror initially grazes or scratches a character up, until it finally sticks them on its hooks and begins to chow down. This goes back to the scaling save-or-die effects that we had heard about awhile backI would also change twist and bite to deal a smaller amount of damage (say, Strength modifier) and give the hook horror advantage with its bite attack. 
  • Move things that will likely be commonly referred to, such as echolocation into a glossary. I am all for putting things in a stat block, but what "blindsight" does should be in one place, while its range should be in the monster's stat block. No need to needlessly repeat verbiage.
  • Finally I liked the hook horror's fling attack. Throwing characters into crevices and stalagmites can be fun depending which side of the screen you are on.

Otherwise I was happy to read that they are going with two types of blocks, including non-combat abilities for a "complete" writeup, using the 4th Edition system as a baseline, both for making monsters--which I hope is still going to use that theme system they mentioned--and encounters, and random encounter tables. Normally I would say no to tables, but given the whole flat-math bit (and my playtest party being able to feasibly take out the ogre at level 1) I feel a lot more comfortable with it.

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