A friend of mine wanted to add to the Monster Monday mayhem! So, today, for the first time, we have a guest post. The following is written by Ian McGarty.
Oh $&*# Run!
The rumble of galloping horses died down as the group slowed to a halt near a large tree standing alone on the flat grasslands. The group seemed perplexed though as some rumbling sound continued. A keen-eyed elf scanned the horizon, a robed wizard looked to the skies, a warrior and priest drew forth their weapons and shields, and a slight dark clothed figure dismounted and pressed a hand to the ground. At that moment, the ground collapsed in under the wizard’s horse and all of the mounts spooked at the scream of pain and terror from the horse being pulled under. A sickening crunch followed as the wizard scrambled out of the hole. The group ran towards the tree. The elf screamed as a 15’ long creature of armor, sinew, and muscle shot from the ground with a single push of its powerful clawed legs. A mouthful of razor sharp teeth claimed the elf who had little time to react. The warrior and cleric rushed forward and slashed and banged their weapons against a thick armored body of the torpedo like creature to no avail. The slight man threw a fusillade of daggers which bounced harmlessly against the creature which continued to crunch chew upon the elf.
Monster. The word evokes imagery of fantastical creatures for all of us who are enamored by fantasy games and role-playing. Its roots come from Middle English and Old French and the word monstre meaning ‘to warn’. RPG’s have changed in focus from tricking, trapping, and avoiding monsters to a grind to assault and slay them all. This has in part been made possible by the changes which have occurred in more ‘rules heavy’ game systems like Pathfinder which has diminished the ferocity and deadly aspects of many monsters. Myself, I prefer the ‘OSR’ monsters that can kill in a single pass, with a single failed saving throw, and must be overcome with more wits than rolls. It seems that these newer systems have lost that original meaning and warning about the monsters.
For example, let’s compare the creature described in the interlude above, the Bulette. In first edition, this creature had a nigh-impenetrable shell, unless you discovered its weak underbelly. The damage dealt by this creature was massive and could kill a player in a single swipe. Paizo’s bulette has lost its teeth and can be killed by a group of 3rd level characters! The danger of monsters has been watered down and this has made players less clever in my opinion. Danger breeds creativity.
So what are the effects of this change? In my opinion, it has caused players to become less creative and more reliant on a simple die roll to determine everything, from what plan they can enact and think of, to the swing of their swords. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Some people crave a game with structure and tactics that have clear, intricate rules to describe any possible outcome. These people want to participate in a game that has a rigid and static order and procedure they can rely on. The resurgence of the OSR type games has also been excited by groups of players that want more than just a die roll to determine what their characters can figure out.