Narrative Control – Episode 27 – Stealing Monster Ideas from 4th Edition

This week on Narrative Control Paul Strack, Mike Parker, and I talk about monsters in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and what we’ve learned from the designers of the game.

Host: Sean Nittner

Guest Hosts: Mike Parker and Paul Strack

Length: 27:04

Show Notes:

[00:30] Intro to the show. A sit down with Paul Strack and Mike Parker to talk about how 4E got monsters right.
[00:49] A RPG Podcast Survey:
[01:14] Intro to the guys… some portion of Good Omens (
[01:35] Planning the next Good Omens Convention – July 18th.
[02:13] 4th Edition does Minions really well. Seen in other games: Feng Shui, 7th Sea but usually they never pose a threat.
[03:15] Not the way mooks are depicted in fiction, which is to heighten the tension of the story.
[03:50] Mike’s use of Minions to shake up a fight and change expectations.
[04:30] The difference is that in other games, everything about a minion is scaled down so not only are they easy to take out, but they also don’t pose a threat. 4th Edition breaks that, lowering their damage and hit points but keeping their defenses and attacks on par with the players.
[05:33] Usually they have some powers up their sleeve as well.
[06:00] Minions can really help the “big bad” giving him advantages… correction though that the 4th edition folks will catch, grab immobilizes and doesn’t grant combat advantage, but you get the point.
[06:41] Comparing to more recent incarnations of minions. A Spirit of the Century minion.
[08:02] Mike’s adaptation of Minion in his Hunter game.
[08:48] Can this scale up with supernatural powers? How do minions fit into the horror genre?
[10:17] How to put it in other games? One hit kills but they have teeth.
[10:39] What about groups of minions? Can they be treated as a unit and still be a threat.
[11:44] Making minions complimentary to the Big Bad’s plans.
[12:27] Prevents the “everyone clobber one guy” phenomenon.
[13:35] The Solo monster. The idea that you would treat a single big boss differently.
[14:26] In most games the big bad is scaled up in all aspects making him more dangerous but also more frustrating to fight.
[15:47] What makes solo bosses work in Dungeons and Dragons and how to we port that into another game?
[16:10] They formalize how they break the rules. If you are big you get extra tricks.
[16:54] How about in a very narrative game? Take PTA for example. Give the big bad a bigger buffer that you would usually have.
[18:10] The Spirit of the Century chase mechanics. A very back and forth system that rolls several conflicts into one.
[18:55] Giving the main villain some form of plot immunity.
[19:42] What about a stake setting game? Should we negotiate stakes to protect antagonists?
[21:49] Polaris and the formalized player negotiation, how to scale the escalation of consequences.
[22:40] We get the same things for Solo bosses as we do for minions. Scale them up on in certain places.
[23:30] Monsters are treated statistically different. In other games we see this break down as powerful villains become incredibly complex to create and to play.
[25:00] Save a lot of time for both the GM and the players
[25:46] The rule of three. The bag guy needs 3-4 abilities because that is all the time he’s going to live.
[26:00] This is a very gamist attitude. If you can give up on simulation it will be rewarding.

Direct Download: NC_Episode_027.mp3

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