Saturday, April 16, 2016

Finishing up Assumptions: Monster Durability

Just filling in the gaps on what we’ve learned so far. We’ve looked at how often the PCs are assumed to hit the monsters (a little over half the time), and how much they can take from the monsters, so the question is how many hits are the monsters built to take?

Monster HP varies by role, but is a little more predictable than PC HP. At level 1, the range for normal monsters (not elites, solos, or minions) goes from 27 to 36. Going by Page 42, the average damage a PC is doing at 1st level is 8.5, so this means 4-5 normal hits will down a monster.

This makes it seem like the PCs are at a disadvantage. They have fewer HP and aren’t doing quite as much proportional damage, and what’s more, many At-Will powers do slightly less than Page 42’s suggested average because they’re also pushing enemies around, inflicting status effects, etc. But of course, those things are important to helping turn the tide in their favor, as are Encounter Powers which do significantly more damage (perhaps twice on average in Heroic tier, counting as an extra “hit”.) Dailies do even more on average, but you can’t count on those coming into play in every fight. 

Teamwork and tactics are probably the biggest help. Leaders give allies buffs and extra attacks, defenders position themselves to get extra hits or do more damage to marked enemies whenever they defy their mark, strikers get extra damage on specific targets and impose crippling status effects on individual targets, and controllers also impose status effects and help clear away mobs.

Monsters have access to some of this, but not all. They typically have a basic attack and a few attacks which inflict status conditions or otherwise help them out as a group, but even complex monster stat blocks don’t have as many options as a PC of the same level. They have fewer effects which help their allies (which makes thematic sense- they’re the bad guys!), and very few can mark. This is getting into the art of monster design which is something I’ll engage with later, but overall the PCs have more opportunities to throw the enemy off their game and to give themselves an advantage. This matters more than the flat numbers.

So what was intended to be a simple “let’s check the math” post ends up revealing a few things. It’s kind of difficult to divorce the math of 4e from its tactical complexity, because doing so removes much of the advantage that characters have. Which isn’t to say the game couldn’t be simpler- as elegant as 4e is there’s definitely still cruft- but anyone seeking to make a simpler 4e has to take care to preserve the PCs’ abilities to have an impact on the battlefield besides reducing HP (or else notably change the monster math). The average damage presented on page 42 is really more of a baseline (it’s what’s suggested for improvised actions, trap damage, etc.) and not a limit like the level benchmarks of Mutants & Masterminds. 

I’m by no means an expert on this system, so if I’ve overlooked anything feel free to remind me. 


  1. I'm liking this. Want to give you encouragement.

    1. Me too; I'm debating starting a blog for my own game-stuff, if for no other reason than to get exposure to a wider audience.

      I'll keep reading as long as you keep posting, and I'll for sure add any nuggets of 4e knowledge that I can.