Friday, March 25, 2011

Converting to Tunnels & Trolls - Part 2 - Monster Rating

As I continue to tackle the issue of MR and monster toughness, the one thing that continues to trip me up is the lack of consistency within the published T&T rules system, at least in my mind. I may be alone in this. Some conversation about this can be found here.

A few things that are crossing me up are:

1. The Adjustable MR theory

I understand that basic premise of MR within the T&T rules; for any monster that you want to use, add up the number of dice your party of delvers is rolling and base the monster rating off of this. If you have a party that is rolling 20 Dice with their weapons, make your Troll a 192 MR Troll that would be rolling 20 Dice +96 adds because this would represent a fair fight or challenge. But - should a troll ever be a 200 MR monster? Is a troll a base 100 MR monster, but a well trained Troll could be a bit higher MR, or 200MR?. The 'adjustable' MR system makes some sense, but it is overly simplistic, especially when considering that based on these rules, the number of combat adds is equal to half the MR for the monster.

To me, an orc is an orc, an ogre should be an ogre, and a giant ant should be a giant ant. A minimum for a monster should or needs to be consistent, or at least it will be in my game. Which brings me to my second point...

2. Lack of consistent description of size

How big is a troll? How big is a giant? How big is a Giant Ant? It is a common, oh so common, trait in T&T rules to leave things very vague, I am assuming by design.

Amphisbaena, MR 98
A 'large, two-headed serpent...': that is it. 30 feet long, 40 feet long? How large is large? It has a monster rating of 98, so it must be pretty freaking large, right? But wait - it gets better. "If captured, tamed, and subsequently worn by a pregnant woman, a live amphibaena guarantees healthy children, most likely twins".


A 98 MR monster can be worn around the neck of a (what I am assuming) a normal sized woman for a healthy child? So that brings this wonderous snake back down to a size between what, 5 and 10 feet?

There is no consistent description of size whatsover in this book (Monsters and Magic Book, Special Edition) that came with the 7.5 boxed set. Below is a list of the first 10 or so monsters (non-human) in the book along with the closest thing to describing size in the text:

Amphisbaena (MR 98) - "large"
Barghest (MR 196) - "monstrous"
Cerberus (MR 145) - "three-headed watchdog"
Chimera (MR 147) - "fearsome mixture of lion, goat, and serpent"
Cyclops (MR 245) - "giants"
Dire Bat (MR 95) - "these giant bats often have wingspan of 5 feet or more"
Dire Lion (MR 148) - "massive creatures nearly 9 feet tall at the shoulder"
Dire Wolf (MR 95) - "massive"
Dragonling (MR 25) - "humanoid...diminutive"
Goblinkin (MR 294) - no description
Harpy (MR 245) - "lower body of predatory bird with head and chest of a terrible woman"

From this short list - I have 2 monsters I definitely know how big they are. From the rest I know that I don't want to mess with a Goblinkin because "they are evolved and warlike unlike their hunchbacked cousins" (and then some obviously with a MR 294) - I just don't know how big they are?

My point - is there a point? I know that 'Massive' means 9 feet tall at the shoulder, and giant means a 5 foot wingspan - but that is about it...


  1. Jerry, a troll should be a MR 10 monster to a MR 100,000 monster. You need to get over the numerical "range" of encounters.

  2. I guess my main point is - what makes a troll different from an orc, different from a giant, different from a pink elephant if they all have a 100MR, which gives them 11d6 +50 in a combat?

  3. A troll standing next to an ork will always be obviously different. The T&T GM can express these differences as he wants.

    let me try this approach. In D&D is the goblin god weaker than the ork god (Grrmash or some such?) or even the elf god.? In T&T, high fantasy is the goal, not wargame balance. PCs start out a varied values, but given enough play time outside of the appearance these differences can be overcome. Overcoming stereotypical fantasy archetypes that only really arose around 1950 in fantasy literature, and when Gygax keyed into the nerd mindset in the late 60s.

  4. Okay! Just thought of the appropriate angle.

    What is a empirical standard for "massive" in real life? Are jumbo-jets and humming birds rated on the same scale when people speak of their size using adjectives not numbers?

  5. If I am trying to hack a jumbo jet to pieces wiht a sword, it will take a hell of a lot longer to do so, while it will be easier to hit due to its size...the humming bird would be harder to hit because of its size, but should take less hits to kill since it is the size of my fist as opposed to a city block.

  6. But if your sword does so many points of damage. And you can probably usually hack through a hummingbird without a thought. Then you see a hummingbird that would take two full-hearted swings to cleave through; what would be a single adjective for which you'd describe it to others?

    And at the same time, you check your broadsword to get on a jumbo jet to fly to Volcano Island. You get onto a plane that has 300 other adventurers all in rows of 10, and flanks of 30. On the way home, you get onto another jumbo jet, and this one has 300 ppl aboard but with a swimming pool and weight-lifting spa in the middle of a booths and an amphitheater aranged around them. Which one of these planes are you going to consider "massive?"

  7. What if I did not know what a Jumbo Jet was - it would not would still need to describe to me its size in relation to something that I can relate to.

  8. As a competent GM, I, myself, can play to the RPGer that pretends to live in a cave. But,

    "What if I did not know what a Jumbo Jet was - it would not matter..."

    But as a reader of a source book to a role-playing game, I'd hope you knew what a "Jumbo Jet," otherwise whenever we met in person I'd have to start making 'air quotes" every time I didn't say "Bigger than what you'd expect" to describe just that situation.

  9. You just like yelling at me I think...

  10. I am actually not yelling at you.

  11. I understand where you are coming from and get the point you are making...

    I guess where I am going with this now is again - if a 100 MR monster is the same no matter what you call it, other than different things for SPITE damage, what sets them apart?

    You can call it whatever you want, and I understand and as the GM, you can create the mood and describe how your troll, or orc, or pink elephant looks and how big it is using whatever adjective you is still a monster with 11d6 +50 stats.

  12. Our conversation from a few months ago on the Peryton Forums - good stuff...

  13. I guess my main point is - what makes a troll different from an orc, different from a giant, different from a pink elephant if they all have a 100MR, which gives them 11d6 +50 in a combat?

    Well, just try tripping one by getting down on all fours behind it while your friend the Wizard tries to startle it by targeting a barrel of rum with a Take That You Fiend. The SR will be quite different for the first two, and the third will probably just trample you. What happens will depend on all of their creature features that are not captured by a Monster Rating.

    T&T is one(ish) level more abstract in combat than D&D when the combat dice fall... but just as concrete when characters try to interact in any other way with NPCs and creatures.

    Because it is abstract/concrete in this particular way, GMs & players need to be on the same imaginative page, even if there isn't a same paper page of a monster manual for them to be on.

  14. Yup - and I guess that is what brings me full circle...separating from the 'written in stone' monsters of AD&D and adapting to a more free-flowing and 'on a whim' type of thing...just trying to get my head to get it.