Does anyone have any experience with combat against an intangible monster?

Does anyone have any experience with combat against an intangible monster?

Does anyone have any experience with combat against an intangible monster? Do you limit effective combat to magic users? I’m not quite sure how to proceed, as a newbie GM. Any advice would be much appreciated!

I’m thinking of monsters such as ghosts or spirits of the air.

7 thoughts on “Does anyone have any experience with combat against an intangible monster?”

  1. This is a good opportunity to collaborate with your players.

    Can the intangible monster strike against the PCs? If so, how can the PCs turn that back against the intangible monster? Perhaps a Spout Lore can reveal some information, or a Discern Realities can lead to a clue to strike back, or protect yourself.

    Can you get leverage on the intangible creature? Then Parley might be an option, too!

    The cool thing about “playing to find out what happens” is that the GM doesn’t have to show up to the table with any of the puzzles and conundrums solved. Turn it over to the players to start working at a situation, and support their play. They might come up with a solution that you’d have never thought of, and you get the fun of being surprised!

    When they trigger Moves, follow the Move as prescribed, and when they look to you to see what happens, or hand you a golden opportunity, make your own Moves as well.

  2. Definitely be prepared to explore the nature of the monster together with your players. It’s like any other puzzle you don’t have a solution to: let them ask questions and answer them honestly (even if you’re making it up on the spot).

    Whatever they try, rule in their favour when possible. If something seems implausible, ask them why they think it would work. If it still seems implausible to you, add a requirement or condition. (Do you know the ‘workspace move’, from AW’s Savvyhead? It’s like this. “Sure, that will work… but only if you can get the thing contained … but only if you close your eyes first … but only if you can get it tired out first… etc.”)

  3. If you want hard and fast rules my house rules they are these: magic weapons and magic cause normal damage, silver half(undead), iron half(fey). Running water and salt act as a barrier to some undead.Astral oil and some spells can allow normal weapons to damage intangible undead for limited time. Players rendered intangible by magic may generally damage intangible monsters. All rules subject to GMs fiat, no refunds allowed. Happy hunting!

  4. I love intangible/incorporeal foes! I agree with pretty much everything that Andrew Fish and Paul Taliesin said.

    For a specific example: in one of the first DW games I ran, the PCs were exploring a tomb that was guarded by the dutiful ghost of its last attendant, who bricked himself into an alcove and laid himself down in his own tomb.

    I knew there was a ghost, and where the tomb was, but I hadn’t made any decisions about what can or can’t harm ghosts. I knew that normal weapons would go right through them, but not much else.

    When the ghost showed up, I narrated the air around them getting super cold and their torches flickering out, and the ghost howling in the darkness!

    The fighter (to my surprise) just put his shield up and charged forward into the darkness! Which might have been stupid, except according to my map, that had him running straight into the bricked up wall that hid the ghost’s tomb! So he plowed through that wall and found himself next to some corpse.

    The artificer got a light going, enough to show what the fighter had found. The ghost then manifested in front of the fighter. The fighter’s ax cut through it with no effect, but it shoved its ghostly hand into the fighter’s chest. The fighter started to ice over and go deathly cold. Oh noes!

    The artificer then thought “hey, it seems to be cold-based, and I’ve got an ice ray gun… maybe that would work!” I decided to myself that it wouldn’t harm the ghost, but it would knock it around like spraying someone with a firehose. Alas, the artificer biffed his “Field Test” roll, and the ice gun shorted out and started freezing up the walls and floor and the artificer’s arm.

    The ranger was then like “what do I know about fighting ghosts?” Spout Lore! He got a 7-9, interesting but up to them to be useful. “Ghosts are almost always tethered to this world by something physical. A lot of lore talks about finding that and destroying it if you want to lay a ghost to rest.”

    The ranger shouts something like “burn it’s corpse!” The artificer (having just extricated himself from his runaway ice machine) starts digging through his adventuring gear for something flammable. I think we decided that the artificer’s glow-sticks were based on some highly volatile fluid, so he cracked one of those open and poured it on the corpse. The fighter tried to fend off the ghost but mostly was just getting drained to near-death. The ranger defied danger to get the fire lit. And PHOOSH the corpse goes up and the ghost goes up in spiritual flames with it and the fighter collapses in a breathless heap.

    Later, they encountered another ghost (this one much worse… the ghost of the Big Bad that the tomb was partially built to contain). While the fighter and ranger doused this ghost’s corpse and struggled to get it lit (in the dark), the artificer (trapped in another room with the ghost) successfully firehosed the ghost with his his icy ray. It worked, but it only bought him time. The artificer used that time to Spout Lore about some protective symbols that ward off the ghost, then Defied Danger with INT to quickly draw them on the floor. The ghost charged the artificer and was repelled by the wards. It then reverted to telekinetically flinging tomb-goods at the artificer, who then had to dodge them without leaving his warded circle or smudging the wards.

    Meanwhile, the ranger managed to fumble his tinderbox in the dark, feel around in his pack for a spare, and get the corpse lit up… just as the artificer smudged his protective wards and was about to get ganked by the ghost.

    So instead of the fighter and ranger bringing pain on their enemies, the whole party had to use their heads, keep their cool, Spout Lore and Discern Realities and Defy Danger to defeat the foe without going after their hit points.

  5. I’ve run such a monster and had one thrown at me, and all I can add to the good advice already presented is that “limit effective combat to magic users” leads to a deeply frustrating and unsatisfying experience for martial characters. You do have the “show them a downside to their class [and so on]” move, but there’s a spectrum between making them work for it and flatly saying that one or more of your players don’t get to participate in a scene. You need to be a fan of the characters too, after all.

    Require cleverness if you like (that’s always fun, and preferably require cleverness from everyone), but don’t lock characters out entirely; be open to letting The Fighter, whose entire MO is “fight the dang monsters,” fight the dang monster.

Comments are closed.