Comparing Monster Complexity in Three Systems

Why are characters in many recent gaming systems much more complex than older (and OSR) systems? I wonder if it is because the threats they face are more complex. Now, this may be a chicken-and-egg situation.

Did the monsters become more complex so that the characters were forced to become more complex to compensate, or did the characters become more complex and then the monsters became more complex?

Regardless of the actual answer (if there is one), one thing is certain: monsters in D&D and D&D-type games have generally become more complex. This can make it tricky for a GM to create custom monsters for their campaign.

Why? I suspect that each edition or revision of the game wants to “up the ante” and make the monsters harder, better, faster, stronger, etc. “You haven’t fought a dragon until you’ve fought X edition dragon! It can do A, b, AND C!!!”

Now nothing is stopping you from simply creating your own monsters from scratch and arbitrarily giving it stats. In fact, I believe that is how you are supposed to create monsters in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

1hfrms

I kid.

But for the purposes of this post, I am looking at monsters that are “legal” and created with the rules as written. So let’s examine monster compexity in Swords & Wizardry, Pathfinder, and Fifth Edition by creating the same monster in each system.

We are going to create a monster called a Goober. Here is a beautifully rendered picture of one:

the-goober-in-all-of-its-glory

What does the Goober do? It is a human-sized humanoid that wears leather armor that spits out a noxious gas that knocks a non-Goober unconscious if it fails a saving throw after being punched. So let’s make the Goober! Thanks to the magic of online SRDs, you can see the rules I am using, even if you don’t own all the books.

Swords & Wizardry
Swords & Wizardry SRD for monster creation

Let’s see here…all monsters have Hit Dice (HD) and they roll a D8 for hp rolls, no matter what kind of critter it is. For the purposes of the Goober, I am going to give it 3 HD. The HD automatically gives me the to-hit information and the saving throw. For figuring out the challenge level, I can use the HD plus the special ability {which, because it knocks people unconscious, would fall under the “Paralysis, swallows whole, immobilizes enemies (web, etc)” section, this would add +1 challenge level}. If I wanted to make a King Goober, I could simply add some HD and re-adjust the math accordingly. Here is our completed Goober:

The Goober
Hit Dice: 3 (so between 3 and 24 hp)
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Attacks: Fist (1d6 + noxious gas)
Saving Throw: 14
Special: Noxious gas
Move: 9
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 4/120

The Goober is an evil little dude that runs around in dungeons and tries to knock out everyone else so he can rifle through their pockets for loose change. Whenever the Goober hits a character in melee, his noxious gas will knock the character unconscious for 1D6 rounds, unless the character succeeds on a saving throw.

Pretty simple and quick. In fact, lets readjust the stats and make a King Goober with 6 HD and wearing chain mail instead of leather.

The King Goober
Hit Dice: 6 (so between 6 and 48 hp)
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Attacks: Fist (1d6 + noxious gas)
Saving Throw: 11
Special: Noxious gas
Move: 9
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 7/600

The King Goober is the king of evil little dudes that run around in dungeons and tries to knock out everyone else so they can rifle through their pockets for loose change. Whenever the King Goober hits a character in melee, his noxious gas will knock the character unconscious for 1D6 rounds, unless the character succeeds on a saving throw.

Pathfinder
Pathfinder SRD for monster creation

I goofed. This is a lot of information. Ok, let’s see here…each monster type has different Hit Dice. Humanoids have D8 Hit Dice, so that is the same. But I know get to choose a saving throw that it is good at and skills. I could give the Goober a class instead of humanoid Hit Dice, but I am going to try and keep this simple. And I have determine the stats (STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, & CHA) of the Goober. What have I done? I regret everything I have ever done.

Goober               CR 4
XP 600
CE Medium humanoid (goober)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception -2
Defense
AC 15, touch 13, flat-footed 12 (+2 armor, +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 16 (3d8+3)
Fort +4, Ref +3, Will -1
Offense
Speed 30 ft.
Melee fist +2 (1d4/19–20 + Noxious Gas DC 14)
STATISTICS
Str 10, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 4
Base Atk +2; CMB +2; CMD 12
feats Ability Focus, Dodge
Skills Climb +3
Languages Goober
Ecology
Environment Underground dungeons
Organization solitary
Treasure NPC gear (leather armor, a torch, other treasure)
Special Abilities
Noxious Gas (Su) When a Goober hits a character, the character must succeed at DC 14 Fort save or fail unconscious for 1D6 rounds.

The Goober is an evil little dude that runs around in dungeons and tries to knock out everyone else so he can rifle through their pockets for loose change. Whenever the Goober hits a character in melee, his noxious gas will knock the character unconscious for 1D6 rounds, unless the character succeeds on a DC 14 Fort saving throw.

That was a bit rough. Not simple, not quick. Expecting a King Goober? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. No.

Fifth Edition
Fifth Edition SRD for monster creation

A little less complex, but still not as easy as Swords & Wizardry. Hit Dice are based on size on critter now, not type. Also, if I understand the monster creation rules correctly, the HD does not directly tie in to how challenging it is for determining the challenge rating. Let’s make us a Goober.

Goober
Medium humanoid (goober), chaotic evil
Armor Class 14 (leather armor)
Hit Points 16 (3d8+3)
Speed 30ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 14 (+2) CON 13 (+1) INT 8 (-1) WIS 7 (- 2) CHA 4 (-3)
Skills Climb +2
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8
Languages Goober
Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)

Noxious Gas When the Goober hits a character, the character must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution save or fall unconscious for 1D6 rounds.

ACTIONS
Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage plus Noxious Gas (DC 13 Constitution saving throw or fall unconscious for 1D6 rounds)

Ok…let’s try a King Goober.

King Goober
Medium humanoid (goober), chaotic evil
Armor Class 16 (chain mail)
Hit Points 30 (6d8+3)
Speed 30ft.
STR 10 (+0) DEX 14 (+2) CON 13 (+1) INT 8 (-1) WIS 7 (- 2) CHA 4 (-3)
Skills Climb +3
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 8
Languages Goober
Challenge 1/4 (50 XP)

Noxious Gas When the King Goober hits a character, the character must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution save or fall unconscious for 1D6 rounds.

ACTIONS
Fist. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage plus Noxious Gas (DC 15 Constitution saving throw or fall unconscious for 1D6 rounds)

What Have I Learned?

After building a monster form scratch in all 3 systems, Swords & Wizardry was the simplest to create in and Pathfinder was the most difficult and time-consuming. Fifth Edition was surprisingly easy. It was much closer to Swords & Wizardry than Pathfinder. Also, in Fifth Edition, the monster creation rules seemed to suggest creating the concept and assigning values almost as you wish, compared to Pathfinder, which seemed to be more about following the correct formula and not “cheating” by arbitrarily deciding certain aspects of the monster.

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