When you put together the antagonist groups of NPCs/monsters for a fight, how do you match them to the strength of…

When you put together the antagonist groups of NPCs/monsters for a fight, how do you match them to the strength of…

When you put together the antagonist groups of NPCs/monsters for a fight, how do you match them to the strength of the players? Combat seem either to easy or to hard in my group.

In the DW-rulebook they are either very weak with 3 HP, probably “cannon fodder”, medium or the strongest monsters have as much HP as the PCs, although they have better armor and some imunities, including fictional positioning. How do you do it?

14 thoughts on “When you put together the antagonist groups of NPCs/monsters for a fight, how do you match them to the strength of…”

  1. Too hard and too easy are both fun. You can really lean on your partial successes and failures to adjust the difficulty level and ratchet up tension.

  2. I think your missing the fictional ramifications here. The 3hp monsters maybe cannon fodder on their own but their problem comes in their numbers, there is probably at least 12 maybe even 20 you have to deal with.

    The medium monsters are organized so they can be tricksy, use their guipe against the players or form up into a team.

  3. The PCs can always run away, and somewhere a threat clock advances. They don’t have to “clear the dungeon.” That’s a valid fictional outcome.

    And you can tune difficulty by your choice of hard moves, and your fictional positioning. I’d refer you to BitD on this one; it has some good passages on how to change moves and outcomes based on fictional difficulty, not mechanical.

  4. So whenever I hear things like this, I’m pretty sure it means you’re treating combat as a i-hit-you-then-you-hit-me sort of thing. Whittle away HP until one side or the other drops.

    BUT! You have GM moves. Whenever someone rolls a 6-, you make a move. It doesn’t have to be “the goblin hits you for 3 damage” – it can be “the six goblins jump on you and pin you to the ground – what do you do?”. And when they enemy gets “an attack” it doesn’t have to be “i hit you for damage”.

    Here’s an example combat:

    Barbarian and Fighter enter the old mining tunnels, and are soon ambushed by a group of 6 goblins – they’re surrounded.

    Barbarian: I CHARGE AND ATTACK. Oh, I rolled a 4.

    GM: You charge forward towards the edge of the torch light as the goblins step aside, and you find yourself tumbling head first into an old mining cart. The wheels squeak in protest as you begin to roll slowly deeper into the darkness. Fighter, what are you doing while this happens?

    Fighter: Shit. She can save herself. I swing my sword around in wide arcs at waist high, trying to cut through a bunch at once. Cool, I hit with an 8. 6 damage.

    GM: Your sword cuts through three of the goblins clean, they drop on the spot, but the last one wraps his arms around your sword like a weight. The remaining goblins quickly grab on to their fallen comrade and rip your sword from your grasp.

    Fighter: Shit, I dive in to the pile and grab it.

    GM: If you do this, you’re probably gonna get hurt. Still doing it? (Fighter’s player nods). Cool, gimme a Defy Danger… Dex, I imagine, if you’re trying to dodge and weave though their blows?

    Fighter: No, I charge in like a bull and try to shove them out of the way

    GM: Nice, ok let’s say Defy Danger with Str.

    Fighter: 12! Eat it gobbos! I swing my…

    GM: Hold on a sec. Barbarian, how’s that cart ride? The light from the fighter’s torch is pretty distant now. You’re not sure how far you rolled on these tracks.

    Barbarian: Ugh, I jump off. Have my eyes adjusted? Is it dangerous around me, or can I just run back and charge the goblins from the back?

    GM: Hmm it’s dark, so running could be problematic. You can return slowly and safely, but if you run you’ll have to Defy Danger.

    Barbarian: Eh, my Dex sucks… hmm what else can I do? I want to kick around and find rocks, and just start pelting the goblins from afar. Even if I can’t kill any, I can distract them, right?

    GM: Nice, how about this – there’s only a few left, Fighter’s got his sword back and can probably kill the rest in one fell swoop. Let’s make your rock throwing an Aid and then…

    Barbarian: No problem, boss. Got a 10. I yell “Hey, heads up greenies!” hoping Fighter hears me,

    Fighter: Of course I do. You loud outlanders can be heard for miles. I use his distraction to swipe with my recovered sword…. shit, rolled a 9… 4 damage

    GM: But her Aid roll gives you a +1, for a 10. The remaining three drop to the practiced felling swing of your greatsword.

    Fighter & Barbarian: Nice. We high five and head further into the tunnels…

  5. J Stein BitD ? (as a new to DW MC/GM, I’m very interested in this question as well). My $0.02 though, as others have said, is to adjust on the fly, mostly with the 7-9 results. A soft move for “horde” monsters can be that even more of them show up. Exactly how many more is where you can make your difficulty adjustments. “Intelligent” or “Organized” mobs may make a strategic retreat to more favorable terrain (remember those blanks in the map…). To ease up the difficulty (for this encounter), you can do things like advancing a threat timer (revealing a grim portent) instead of dealing damage on a 6-.

  6. Aaron Griffin id love to see this reposted… everywhere, including RPG.net

    I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen recently that basically boil down to people using DW rolls to do swing by swing, DnD-style HP whittling. Half my feed.

  7. Ok, thanks. I think understand. For example, threaten them with fictional positioning (and Defy Danger) before/while they one-hit the monster and/or use interesting (hard) consequences following their success.

  8. Lars Lo not precisely. You always want to use your GM moves, and take a look at them all the time. Maybe the failure is to put them in a spot (like a rolling mining cart), or the attack from the enemy is to take away their stuff (like their sword).

    You want to constantly say the consequences and ask, and you’re free to make up any consequences here as long as you follow your principles – “Sure, you can take a swing at the goblins, but some are going to get some hits in… you’ll take harm in addition to the result of your roll. You up for that?”

  9. My group had an amazing combat encounter last night – the first time combat in DW clicked for me (as the GM, and I am guessing for the players as well). It was a druid, a paladin, a thief and an immolator against a single troll, and it was super awesome. The troll has a medium amount of HP, a huge club to swing (this was really awesome – first I separated the characters, then swung the club in a large arc at them all), throws things or people, and can regenerate health. I even forgot about the health regen and it went great anyway. I feel like I’ve just been lobbing enemies that are too weak at the players, to where they don’t get the chance to really use fictional positioning because they don’t live long enough. The troll though – super fun. I recommend it, just drop it in anywhere, wait for an opportunity to throw a character, and you have a ton of fun just ready to go.

    Sorry to ramble, I am just very excited from last nights game 😀

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