Standing On the Shoulders of Giants... you can stab them in the face!

Back in May, I wrote a post on how we we're going to change how attacks from really big monsters are resolved.

Basically, instead of making an attack roll the target suffers damage automatically, but they can attempt a saving throw to halve it, and possibly avoid other effects such as knockback, stunning, armor/shield damage, etc.

This will make the rogue's Evasion talent more useful, as they can avoid attacks and effects entirely by making a successful save. We're also thinking of giving the ranger talents that build on their Hunter class feature.

So, for example, a ranger with Giant Hunter can take a talent that also lets them completely avoid their attacks on a successful save. Would also be an obvious racial talent for dwarves, and I could see other classes like the fighter getting something similar (Combat Reflexes?).

Note that this will only be applicable when the monster is attacking Medium and smaller creatures (ie, the standard PC size). Against Large and larger monsters the attack will be resolved normally.

But wait, there's more!

In 3rd Edition some monsters (oddly no giants or dragons that I saw, at least in the first Monster Manual) had a trample special attack, which let them move up to twice their speed and deal damage to everything in their path that was smaller than them, with a saving throw halving the damage. Sure, it uses up the monster's entire turn, but it might be more beneficial than a standard attack routine depending on how many PCs are in its way.

5th Edition gives some monster's a special attack called trampling charge: they need to move at least 20 feet, but the attack can only hit one creature. If the attack hits, then the target has to make a save to avoid getting knocked on their ass and stomped a bit. Seems kind of lame, but then each monster with the attack can only make one attack per turn normally anyway, so if you could do it, at least this way they might get an extra hit in on their turn.

But I still like the 3rd Edition implementation more, but not as much as the idea of a big-ass monster being able to just casually stroll through a party's ranks, crushing anyone unlucky enough not to get out of their way. So we're going to take it a, heh, step further, and make it so that Huge monsters can just move through the space of Medium and smaller creatures. No action or check necessary, and everyone in their way has to make a saving throw or take damage.

The upside is that if the monster is just moving you only take damage on a failed save. It's only if they're using their Standard Action to move and deliberately try to crush you, that you still take half damage on a successful save (unless you're a rogue with Evasion or something similar). The downside is that the damage would get increased since they're actually trying to hit you.

The last (for now), more iffy thing will actually be of benefit to the players. Assuming people like it and it makes the final cut.

Having played most of the God of War games, Shadows of the Colossus, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, to a lesser extent Dragon’s Dogma, and probably other games that I'm forgetting, I've also been thinking about a set of rules for Dungeons & Delvers, but usable with similar games, for PCs that want to climb on a really big monster and stab it.

The design goal is to make a set of rules that are easy to remember, intuitive enough that if you can't remember you can make a ruling that is close enough anyway (or tweak the rules to taste if you don't like them, but still want to let the PCs do something similar), and are useful enough that PCs will bother trying to do it.

Here's what I got:

You can climb onto a monster's leg by succeeding on an Athletics check (DC 10 + the monster's Strength or Dexterity, whichever is higher).

The check is because the monster probably isn't just standing there, letting you do whatever you want. It's moving, kicking, slapping, whatever it can to try and keep you away. If it's unconscious or unable to move, that's a different story.

At the GM's discretion, you can instead begin your ascent by grabbing on the monster's tail (if it has one), or readying an action to leap onto its arm after it tries to attack you. If the monster is knocked prone, you might be able to grab onto a different area, too.

Flight and jumping might allow you to attempt to grab onto other zones, though you still need to make an Athletics check to grab on.

Once there, you can either attack it or move to an adjacent zone. Moving to an adjacent zone takes up all of your movement and requires another Athletics check. You can move and attack, or move two zones, though you need to make an Athletics check each time you move.

Sure, you could take the time to make the movement more specific, measure out dimensions of limbs, torsos, tails, and so on, and say that it takes x amount of feet, but monster proportions can vary and most players will have a Speed in the 25-40 foot range.

Half of that is 10-20 feet (since you move at half Speed when climbing), which would normally be far more than enough to get to an adjacent zone, but again the monster isn't just standing around letting you do whatever you want. This is also why it requires another skill check.

Note that this is for a Huge monster: for a Gargantuan monster I'd say that it takes twice as much movement to move zones, and for a Colossal monster it takes four times as much movement.

Of course this all assumes that the monster can move, is aware of you, and is actively trying to stop you.

For an easy visual aid I could create charts for monsters like giants and dragons, since they'll be the most common creature you'd do this to, so I did. At least for the dragon:

If it looks like something you'd see in Monster Hunter World, that's because I've been playing a bunch of Monster Hunter World. Note that if this rule makes it into Red Book we'll provide similar charts for other common monster types that PCs could be expected to climb on.

If you have a climb Speed, you can move twice as fast, though you still have to make an Athletics check for each zone you move to.

This is just for simplicity's sake: creatures with climb Speeds generally move twice as fast as those without. This will give bear totem barbarians, spiderclimbing wizards and warlocks, monks, and nekobito-whatevers a nice edge.

If you fail the Athletics check by 5 or more points, you fall. Otherwise you're stay where you are. If the GM determines it's plausible, when falling you can make a Reflex save to grab onto another part of the monster.

I've fallen off of colossi in Shadows of the Colossus and landed on other parts, so I figure maybe there's a chance a PC can grab onto something else. Entirely up to the GM.

Attacking a specific part forces the monster to make Fortitude saves to avoid penalties, or just provides flat bonuses.

We'll get to specifics in a bit. This is the main reason why a PC would bother trying this in the first place.

On its turn a monster can try to shake you off, crush you by smashing part of its body against a surface, or attacking you. 

Generally the monster is going to attack you if it can, as this will let it both harm you and potentially knock you off. If the GM rules you're in a hard to reach spot, it can still try to attack you, albeit at a penalty. If it can't reach you, it'll try smashing into something to crush you and maybe dislodge you, If there just isn't anything around, it'll try shaking you off.

If you're struck by an attack, you need to make a Fortitude save equal to 10 + the attack bonus of whatever it used to hit you. Was going to base it off of damage but then basically it means that if you get hit you're just going to fall no matter what.

The monster can use its full suite of attacks as normal, unless the attack specifies that they can't all be directed at the same creature (like a chimera). If it can easily reach you, it gains a +2 bonus to its attacks since you're climbing and can't easily move about to avoid it.

If it tries to crush you against another surface, you suffer an automatic 2d10 + the monster's Strength bludgeoning damage. The flat damage is because it's more about the monster's bulk than anything else. You can attempt a Fortitude save, DC 10 + the monster's attack bonus to halve the damage and avoid falling.

Shaking inflicts 1d10 + the monster's Strength damage to everyone grabbing into the monster. A successful Fortitude save (DC 10 + the monster's Strength) halves the damage and prevents you from falling.

With all that out of the way, let's move on to attacking the monster.

When you attack a specific location (whatever zone you're in), you're at no penalty with a light weapon, -1 with a one-handed weapon, and -2 with a two-handed weapon. I'd even downgrade the damage die of a two-handed weapon, because you aren't properly using it and probably can't bring the full force to bear.

Ranged weapons and attacks can be used, but only against the zone you're climbing on and if the GM determines that it's possible. For example, no shortbows or longbows unless you have a way to remain attached and/or use it without using your arms (such as by magic or something like that).

If you hit, the target makes a Fortitude save (DC 10 + the attack bonus of whatever attack you used against it). If you're using a spell, then it's 10 + the spell's attack bonus or just the saving throw DC if it requires one. Note that some things might not apply, such as a spell that requires a Will save and inflicts psychic damage.

Bottom line is, if the GM determines that the attack or effect could damage a specific part of the body, and the monster fails its save, then it suffers a penalty or condition associated with that body part. The following list is a guideline:
  • Leg/Hindlimb: Slowed and -2 penalty to all checks and saves that depend on movement. Also the saving throw DC and damage of its trample attack. If both legs/hindlimbs are affected then the monster instead suffers a -5 penalty to all checks and saves that depend on movement, and the target is effectively prone: it can only move if it can crawl or fly.
  • Arm/Forelimb: On the first failed save, the monster suffers a -2 penalty to the saving throw DC of its attacks, damage rolls, and checks that depend on that limb. On the second failed save the penalty is increased to -5. On a third failed save the limb can no longer be used.
  • Body: No saves. Instead you score a critical hit on a natural 19 or 20, and your attacks inflict an additional die of damage (if the weapon uses multiple dice, such as a longsword, just add one die of whatever type it uses)..
  • Head: Every hit inflicts double damage, and on a failed saving throw the monster is dazed until the end of its next turn. If it's already dazed then it is instead stunned on a failed save. If you score a critical hit then you inflict triple maximum damage.
  • Tail: As an arm/forelimb. If the tail is used to swim, then also as a leg/hindlimb.
  • Wings: The first failed save reduces the flying Speed by half, while the second means that the target can no longer fly. If the wings are used for attacks, it also suffers penalties as if it were a forelimb or arm.
Some monsters might be more resilient or even immune to these sorts of attacks. The penalties last as long as the GM thinks they should. I'd say normally they recover when the monster heals, but they could linger for quite some time (days or even weeks), or until the monster receives magical healing.

So what do you think? Simple enough? Worth the trouble? Suggestions? Okay, but with a tweak you can make it better? Know of another set of rules that does it better?

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

If you want more adventures, we just released Escape From the Flesh Catacombs: a bunch of 0-level characters need to escape from the catacomb-lair of a gorgon that was slain, causing everything she's petrified to revert to flesh and rise as undead.

Our latest Dungeon World class, The Apothecary, is now available.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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