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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Question [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

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    When you GM, do you make set stats for your enemies? Do you instead prefer to use an "Effort Meter," or have the party fight until you feel they've been challenged enough?

    This also assumes there are set stats for a creature.

    Me
    I prefer set stats. As a PC and GM, I want my actions to be grounded in reality, not just stopping when the group has seemingly 'had enough.' Also, if the party mind controls the creature, or summons or calls a creature like it, I need to know its stats. Finally, if the group is quite lucky or clever, I want this success to have a definite impact.
    Last edited by Endarire; 2011-01-25 at 10:36 PM.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I set the stats for my monsters beforehand, but sometimes I forget just how powerful my players can be. Just last session I had to double the strength of a boss monster so that the Master of Shrouds wouldn't drop it's strength to zero in two rounds. Instead it took him three rounds.

    I have also been know to crank up hitpoints when I don't want a monster to die so fast. Recently I've gotten better at this and do it beforehand though.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I'm 100% in the set stats side. Sure, sometimes the party gets lucky (almost killing a cleric who had like six levels on the party, for instance), but thats party of the game.

    That being said, I'm not afraid to give abilities to monsters. I had a monster recently who had a Snatch ability. He could use it on the move and make an opposed grapple check to grab things from players hands that were less then a certain weight. First round, he stole the party light source right out of the mages hand. Second round? He stole the party rogue. Yes, the entire character (he was Tiny sized and weighed 5 lbs. Tough part was the touch attack to grapple). Fun times.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    If you go with this "effort meter" sort of setup, you're pretty much entirely removing player agency from the game. If there's no player agency, then the event is arbitrary. I don't know about you, but arbitrary events in a game bore me.

    If the rules for conflict in the game you're referencing are so poor that the DM even feels the need to consider scrapping it for this sort of thing, then maybe you should play a different system which has better mechanics.

    Really, in a well made system, fudging the rules at all should be entirely unnecessary.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I generally use converted/shorthand stats rather than full statblocks and such.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Xefas View Post
    If you go with this "effort meter" sort of setup, you're pretty much entirely removing player agency from the game. If there's no player agency, then the event is arbitrary. I don't know about you, but arbitrary events in a game bore me.
    This.

    If I was to go by the "effort meter", as you call it (catch name, btw), I'd know in advance the party will be battered, bloodied, and then the foe will drop. Knowing what will happen in advance is not my type of game.

    Also, if the party ever figures out that's the way you play (and they will eventually), they can pretty much attack anything and everything they want, with no risk other than, oh, losing 80% of their hit points.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I think the vast majority GMs, like myself, prefer concrete statistics to a nebulous effort threshold. The latter probably doesn't appeal to many players' or GMs' sensibilities. It just feels too arbitrary & pointless.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I default to stats but if the encounter doesn't seem to be going as planned (either too hard or easy) then I don't have any problem altering them. A boss that was wiping the floor with the party might not have his super one-use power anyways, or if the PCs are effortlessly smashing him to bits, the one-use spell might be usable multiple times. For example. I might also just alter HP, or damage levels if the situation warrants it.

    But I do stick to statblocks most of the time.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I use a really short stat block and will adjust that if really necessary.

    Then again I use max hit dice for all opponents. Just to keep them around a little bit longer. Damn players, always trying to do something cool.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    i've been known to roll up my BBEG or main recurring villain for a campaign at the same time my players are (de)generating their characters.

    i'll use the same methods and houserules for said BBEG as the players are using. the BBEG will then basically level up in-step with the PCs (sometimes with a +1 or maybe +2 level advantage, depending on the campaign).

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    My NPCs are usually mostly improvised stat-wise, so I do a bit of both. I usually stat out the defenses (HP, AC, saves) at the beginning of combat based on how long I want the combat to last and wing the offenses (so in that sense it is set stats, but by no means RAW). In other words, the ways in which the monsters fight back is not limited to "swing sword," but varies based on the amount of challenge I want to provide and the scenario. I like this system because I find it gives the players a target they can bring down of their own agency and they are rewarded for extraordinary luck, but leaves me the ability to pull the right spell or ability to make combat dynamic and adequately challenging regardless of how fast those hitpoints vanish.

    As a DM, I don't ever prepare spells for my NPCs, I just decide on a flavor of the caster (i.e. class, school(s), subschool(s), etc.) and pull spells, or even effects that are not RAW, that have the most unique effect for the current combat situation. My NPCs always have the spell that makes combat just that much more challenging (usually CC). I'm more interested in making things epic and interesting than by the book. I've never really had a problem with overpowering the PCs (unintentionally), even without the checks and balances of limited spell selection. Just takes get used to gauging it.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    The effort meter is a horrible, horrible idea. Statistics are needed, though what they are on can vary. If one is playing a game where a room full of goblins is a room full of goblins, all of which have Attack X, Defense Y, and Hit points Z, great. If another has the entire room be described as Task Difficulty A, Task Quantity B, also great. The important part is that there is some sort of quantitative description, with variable results. The entire room could even be Difficulty A, nothing more, as long as there was still a success result and a failure result.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    When D&D was originally designed, hit points were an "effort meter". Attacks did 1d6 damage. Giving an enemy X hit points was basically saying "This guy should last about X/3.5 rounds." The original purpose of hit points was to require combats to last a minimum number of rounds before the bad guy was defeated (or the good guys had to retreat to avoid getting killed). The idea of the "effort meter" has been around since the beginning, but now that there are so many ways to boost damage to extraordinary levels, people are finding that HP aren't the "effort meter" they used to be.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I'm curious: where did you get the concept of an effot meter from? I've never come across it.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I use set stats, but have been occasionally guilty of adding or subtracting HP from the enemy because the fight is turning out to be harder/easier than I wanted/expected it to be.

    It isn't as obvious as having enemies run away or have reinforcements show up. I generally won't give more than the maximum hp for their HD in this way though (or less than minimum, but that rarely comes up).
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I tend to stat things up about 5 minutes before initiative is rolled, using a very heuristic method that changes over the course of the campaign. Basically, I use stats but they only become fixed once combat begins. I've found it unrealistic to try to predict the trajectory of PC power before you get to know the players and their characters, so the Lv20 BBEG I planned at game one might become trivial before the party even meets him if they optimize strongly, or might never be within their reach even by the end of the storyline. So instead, the BBEG is 'roughly a 12 round encounter that has a small risk of a TPK and a large risk of one or two characers dying for the party at the appropriate time', whatever that may be. If they meet him early and attack, his stats then will likely be different than when they finally take him out.

    Theme is fixed but I tend to give my monsters and villains a sort of 'dynamic sorcery' centered on their theme (which is also something I extend to the player characters), so their abilities tend to dynamically respond to what the party does rather than being solidly delineated beforehand.

    Even then I'll adjust if I seriously underestimated the party capabilities to the point where it utterly trivializes the encounter - e.g. someone brings in a new character and I don't know how strong it is yet, someone suddenly gets a keystone ability in their build and has a mini-ascension - but I try to avoid that if possible.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Stats, but most of them are in my head. Calculating a monsters BAB, Saves, HP, etc. in my head typically takes me 2 seconds, about the same amount of time it'd take to look in a book.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    For games that are very much about the combat, with rigid sort of rules about what kind of foes can oppose what kind of characters (D&D Challenge Ratings, for example), I go with the rules as much as I can. Sometimes I'll take away some monster/antagonist HP or such, since I like to keep combat short and sweet and move on to other things.

    For other games, Effort Metres are awesome. Especially if I'm new to the game and don't quite know what the NPCs are quite capable of. Shadowrun, Dark Heresy, World of Darkness and so forth, where there are no strict levels to gauge a character's overall potency.
    There it's quite useful to throw weak enemies at the party, see that they wipe the floor with those mooks and then scale things up until you have an image of how these skills and traits actually function in combat and what kinds of edges a character can have.

    edit: I'm not actually sure if Effort Metre is an actual term defined in some obscure RPG dictionary, but I'm using it here in the sense of "I'll keep throwing reinforcements/adding resilience to foes until I and the players feel that the combat has been a, well, combat instead of cleanup duty."
    Last edited by Comet; 2011-01-26 at 08:24 AM.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Combat is never the focus of my game so I rarely stat out any but the most important characters. Generally I just write a brief description of who they are and what they want.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Aspenor View Post
    Calculating a monsters BAB, Saves, HP, etc. in my head typically takes me 2 seconds, about the same amount of time it'd take to look in a book.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Xuc Xac View Post
    When D&D was originally designed, hit points were an "effort meter". Attacks did 1d6 damage. Giving an enemy X hit points was basically saying "This guy should last about X/3.5 rounds." The original purpose of hit points was to require combats to last a minimum number of rounds before the bad guy was defeated (or the good guys had to retreat to avoid getting killed). The idea of the "effort meter" has been around since the beginning, but now that there are so many ways to boost damage to extraordinary levels, people are finding that HP aren't the "effort meter" they used to be.
    In this case, "effort meter" is being used to mean something other than the definition given in the OP. The OP defines "effort meter" as a qualitatively defined ambiguous state in which the GM feels the PCs have exerted sufficient effort to have a satisfactory combat scene.

    Allow me the indulgence of positing an example effort meter. Say there is a threat level (basically DC), and a threat resilience (kind of like HP, though called TR). A room of goblins might be DC 12, TR 22. Now, allow people to make skill checks with combat skills, with however much over the DC they are being an accumulation of points, once this exceeds the TR, the threat is removed.

    This mechanic could be used elsewhere. Climbing a tall cliff could be DC 15, TR 38, with any climbing skills allowed. Maneuvering a boat through a canyon would allow boat skills, with a DC being how treacherous the canyon is and the TR a measure of how long. Basically, it is all an effort meter, by your definition.

    By the OP's definition, things change. The room of goblins becomes DC 12, TR Until I feel like we're done here. The cliff becomes DC 15, TR Until I feel like we're done here. So on and so forth.
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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    My games are not a string of level-appropriate encounters. The players will have many a fight go their way easily and (if they aren't careful in planning to avoid danger) quite a few that threaten TPK if they don't back down, alongside the well-balanced fights. Having that sort of verisimilitude makes real challenges more rewarding. So no effort-meter for me.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Set stats. The "effort meter" results in a less realistic game, and I dislike when GMs do it. It results in actual actions in combats being pretty meaningless, and once players figure it out...things like tactics and planning get shorted as attempt to figure out the minimum level of effort to get by.

    It's especially terrible when the effort meter is pretty static. Yup, we fight a few rounds, take some hp loss, down them, chug a potion and repeat. Boooring.

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    Last edited by Tyndmyr; 2011-01-26 at 11:00 AM.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I really try not to use the 'effort meter' if at all possible. It definitely lends itself to making the game unrealistic and can be just plain harsh on the players for little reason.

    That said, if I didn't account for something related to balance for the Big Bad, you can bet your ass I won't have it just die in a couple of hits. That is, of course, unless the party devised some way to do massive damage to it in some way other than just smacking it around. The game's supposed to be fun for everyone, and a lot of people derive fun from the cinematic feel of the combat. It's just not satisfying if that guy you've been chasing down all this time dies like a pathetic bitch. He needs to be better than that.

    So, if the party just does more damage than I had expected, then the boss might suddenly gain a HD or 2, just to get that last round out. Of course, I really try not to do this.

    It's your job as the GM to take care of all these balance factors before the game.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I generally use shorthand stats. If I want my players to put some effort in, I ramp up the tactics and reinforcements, not the enemy ability.

    I do this because I have been the victim of a DM that churns out a character he didn't want to die that was our mortal enemy(Dracolich). But he underestimated his players. After I got two critical hits on him(this was 2nd edition with some house rules), the enemy exploded, killing everyone.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    OP I actually do something in between. I have a rough idea of stats in my head. But they have range. Like 100-150 hps. If it seems too easy then I up it to 150 for instance. I always know my players AC so the to hit stays the same, but I don't bother doing BAB and stats to figure it out. Just enough to hit them about 65% of the time. Unless of course someone plays a true tank and has really high hps. So in other words I go by average AC of party converted to 65% or so to hit, of monster.

    Its much quicker this way. I can do things on the fly. I can add in monsters in reserve. It makes for a fun story.

    edit: because if they really wanted to they could make all encounters easy mode. And that'd get boring.

    PS so in other words, even if I max my monster at 150 hps like the above example, and they get lucky or do something unexpected to make it an easy win then I give them the easy win.

    PPS I never send my players against something they can't win against. Even an early encounter of the BBEG (if their rolls are lucky).
    Last edited by randomhero00; 2011-01-26 at 01:52 PM.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I tend to set up the very basic stats from the beginning, and come up with everything else on the stop when it becomes relevant. I do it mostly out of laziness - why write down the NPC's exact Fortitude saving throw if it will never become relevant in the actual fight? It helps that I'm mostly playing games where improvising like that is incredibly easy.

    I've never met anyone who used this so-called "effort meter". At most some people tweak the enemy stats mid-fight, which you might have to do sometimes to make sure the enemy is challenging enough.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    I prefer using stats, but then again it isn't often that the PCs face the BBEG or even his minions, so it really doesn't matter how badly they smash or get smashed by the regular monsters. I tend to make either crazy monsters or situations that make the fights crazy to figure out... but that's the kind of DM I am. My players never complain, in fact they enjoy it! It's always more fun when something they don't expect comes at them. I used to use the Effort Meter approach back when I didn't know enough monster stats by heart. It never worked out well. It tended to make the same player finish off all the monsters, making the rest of the group angry.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    Depends on the game, really. In Wushu, for example, the 'effort meter' is the default mechanic, really.

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    Default Re: [Any] GMs: Set Enemy Stats or an "Effort Meter?"

    In part, I got the "effort meter" from one of my DMs. We fought something in D&D 3.5 that should have died in one round by its stats, but he adjusted the stats on the fly to ensure it would take longer.

    His traps also are based on expected PC ability instead of set stats. In short, roll 12 or more to find/disarm a trap.

    I've heard of other GMs doing the same.
    Last edited by Endarire; 2011-01-27 at 06:14 PM.
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