Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wednesday Werk: The End?

I've skipped around a little, but I've been doing Wednesday Werk entries more-or-less in order, skipping creatures only found in Mutant Future.  So, when I looked for the entry for this week, I found Gore-Worms.

I'd been debating how to end the weekly feature for a while, and since that's where I started, and I have recently become stupidly busy (I haven't posted in a week? Madness!), it seems like a good stopping point for the moment.  I may revisit Wednesday Werk at some future point, but we're stopping the feature for now.

So, What Did We Learn?

I was inspired to do this by garrisonjames in the comments on my Gore-Worms post, and there's a lot of creative stuff over at Hereticwerks.  I encourage you to continue checking it out for your own games.

When I started Wednesday Werk, I was neck-deep in my D&D 4e game, but I was still running a couple of modules for my group.  I had not yet gotten into modifying and creating creatures with any frequency.

Creating creatures for 4e is pretty simple, but can be incredibly time-consuming.  All-in-all, it falls somewhere between 3e and earlier editions; 4e creatures lack the detail of 3e entries, but are way more detailed than 2e and earlier creatures.

In the end, it all comes down to game balance.  Creatures in 4e are a collection of formulas with a certain narrative hook — it looks like an elf, or it hunts like an intellect devourer, or whatever.  On the one hand, scanning other monsters of similar level and sticking to the formulas ensures a creature that is "fair" by the rules (if game balance is a concern, of course).  On the other hand, determining number of hit dice, AC, and any special attacks is way more simple.

This process is rather time-consuming.  The best way to go about it is to reference the monster math (which scales with level and "creature role" — is it a meaty sack of hit points which dishes out damage, or does it strike from the shadows every couple of rounds or so?), and then compare other creatures of the chosen level.  Again, this is to ensure "game balance" — 4e adventurers are assumed a certain level of competence, and tend to encounter challenges they can survive.

At the beginning of Wednesday Werk, this could take a couple of hours.  Now, it only takes me about an hour to crank out a creature, including brainstorming, research, and writing its write-up.

Additionally, I found the things that make 4e monsters unique are not the same as the things that make early edition monsters unique and memorable.  Many of Hereticwerks' creatures are planar travelers with spells or spell-like abilities.  In 4e, these creatures have a tendency to be fairly similar, with only the "fluff" differentiating them from one another.  Unique, memorable creatures in 4e are typically molded by strange tactics and odd powers; the story surrounding a creature helps differentiate it to the players, but makes it feel similar in play.  In early edition games, monsters have few statistics, so the fluff is absolutely necessary to differentiate them.  In 4e, powers and tactics serve to differentiate monsters.

(As an aside, the 4e DM has a role in differentiating monsters — there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a monster and using it with a different description to make a "new" monster; describing those orcs as barbarians will change the encounter for the players, although it will still probably feel familiar to the DM.)

Basically, 4e is fun, and making monsters for 4e is fun, but the simpler approach of earlier editions is easier when planning and playing.

If you want to see everything, here's the backlog of Wednesday Werk posts:

0. Gore-Worms

1. Gronk Sword, Octoscholar, Synchronocitor

2. Gronk

3. Petrocloptrian, Flytaur, Queen Lobster

4. Bruthem, Glimp-Shell, Xulg

5. Irving the Impressionable Shoggoth

6. Acephali, Almas

7. Candle Head, Grikflit

8. Zaldrim, Scarletscales

9. Walmakash, Urglun

10. Triloo, Rattong

11. Quindra, Hallimox

12. Phorain

13. Ordrang

14. Pseudoblepas, Nerglid

15. Molg

16. Lurm

17. Koponu

18. Drilg

19. Jaladari

20. Illigom

21. Mind-Slime

22. Plodder-Shell

23. Quintapoidal Fungi

24. Necropixies

25. Hagtessa

26. Ractur

27. Sanguinovore

28. Withering Mist

29. Rulak

30. Fantomist

31. Vilg

32. Grobbly-Bonk

33. Miasmagaster

34. Flutter Worm

35. Monoptrian

36. Yirgao

37. Elajess

38. Blatherer

39. Crannit

40. Crudiv

41. Xilmpa


  1. What a list! I had no idea it was this many. I think you've done players of fourth a big favour, and everyone following the series for a first look or reminder of some very interesting creatures. The thoughts on creation itself are interesting too, and timely - they could be very useful to a 4eSR... Thanks very much for putting all that work in.

  2. You have done an incredible job on this series and we want to thank you for taking the time and making all that effort to convert these creatures over to the newer edition. You make some interesting points above, based upon your experience of re-working things from the older model to the newer model of 'how it ought to work.'

    We did feature a lot of planar travelers in the first batch, mostly because they first debuted as part of the Zalchis project. It is interesting how 4E handles these sorts of creatures, based upon your observations. We're used to the creature's plane of origin having a direct impact on things. Hmmm. We need to go back and expand on a few of these entries as some of our underlying assumptions just do not apply. Thanks for pointing this out! You've given us a lot to think about and to reconsider moving forwards, and that is great. Much appreciated.

    We'll go back and integrate a link to your treatment of these creatures at each of the old posts.

    We're in the process of revisiting a lot of the older monster entries and are at work on a series of posts that take things a bit farther, as we did in the 'What to do with a Bruthem' post, or in the What Valja Want post, we'll be revisiting some of these old monsters with an eye towards filling-in the gaps and breaking free of the constraints imposed by trying to make them fit into a particular rule-set...especially since they were not originally designed using any particular RPG. There is a lot of stuff that gets lost or dropped or de-emphasized because of the requirements of one or another rule-set and we're looking to get past that, especially as we are working on our Red Bestiary.

    We'd very much like to have you do a guest blogger post sometime, if you're interested. We really enjoyed this series.

    Thanks again for all your hard work!


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