User:Tarkisflux/Rants/Revised Creature Scaling

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Relative Creature Scaling[edit]

I'm kind of over absolute creature scaling. The difference between fine and diminutive is the same as the difference between small and medium, but the attack/ac bonus difference is 4 times as large. If you're a fine creature attacking another fine creature with an appropriately sized weapon, you're lucky to kill them in a few ages because weapon scaling has dropped the damage on your weapon to 1(ish). Large creatures have the opposite problem. The piles of damage that get assigned to them so that they remain relevant while still being "mundane" make it such that they also need a large pile of hit dice to take a hit from one of their companions, effectively setting level 1 for big things to several hit dice (with all of the attendant hd based bonuses to rolls and skills). All of that together makes it really hard to have a low CR big creature encounter, and that's kind of sad because of the short shelf life on those types of encounters. The numbers are weird and lead to weird things.

I think I can get around this nonsense with relative creature scaling.

  • Premise the zeroth: Creatures get a penalty / bonus to hit equal to the steps between them and their attackers.

The static chart is nice, and a useful reference, but medium isn't the only creature size players use, and so making that the non-moving base point isn't helpful. Since we're putting this all on the attacker, and only when they differ in size, we only need at attack adjustment, not a countering ac adjustment.

  • Premise the first: Creatures of any size should be able to have 1 hit die so they can be low CR encounters, even if they're never actually used that way.
  • Premise the second: Creatures of any size fighting with the size equivalent of a shortsword should die in about as long as medium creatures would.

These two premises lead to a really straightforward conclusion: As long as you and your target are the same size, an appropriately sized shortsword should deal 1d6 damage. You can go ahead and substitute any medium weapon in the chart at this point, because the actual weapon named and the damage it does is entirely interchangeable. So I'm going to go ahead and say that there are size appropriate weapons for every weapon in the chart at this point, and when you fight someone your size, you deal the listed damage regardless of what size you actually are.

  • Premise the third:Smaller objects deal less relative damage.
  • Premise the fourth: Bigger objects deal more relative damage; their gains should be similar to smaller objects' losses in terms of percent change.

This is trivially true within a size category, where greataxes deal more damage than daggers. Since a "shortword" in the hands of a giant is a lot bigger than a "shortsword" in the hands of a dwarf, it will need to deal more damage to dwarfs and other smaller creatures as well. But making someone look up damage when they hit different sized targets is a pile of ass. So we're not going to do it. Size differences average out to a few points of damage though, and in a nod to playability we'll just go with static values instead of alternate dice. The easy, and conveniently also functional, way to do that is to just take the attack size adjustments and give the same value (times -1) as a bonus on damage. And then double it for being bigger so the percent changes are similar. So an Ogre (large) with a shortsword fighting a dwarf deals 1d6+4 damage and has a -2 to hit. The dwarf fighting back, if also wielding a shortsword, would deal 1d6-2 damage and have a +2 to hit.

Since bigger flaming swords have more fire to deal fire damage with, we'll apply that bonus on those types of bonus damage dice. For Similar reasons, the small penalties will apply per die as well. We'll go ahead and double these numbers again for wielding a two-handed weapon (as much to balance it with two-weapon fighting as any game logic reasons). What we won't do is apply this bonus to any precision based damage dice, like death attack or sneak attack. Those attack forms don't benefit from using different sized weapons, larger or smaller, and adding bonuses to them sends all the wrong messages to people who get them. Since I'm not even sure how you could get a lucky or skillful shot on a particularly vital area when your weapon is similar in size to your target, we'll probably disallow creatures significantly larger than their targets from getting precision based bonuses against them at all.

This is basically adding in size based damage reduction / increases, and that means you don't need to do bizarre things for different sized creatures hit points or strength. Want a rat to die in a hit? You don't need to give it a hit point or con penalty, any medium creature that hits it has a +8 damage. And you don't need to give it a crappy bite base damage, it already has a -4 damage against medium creatures. Want bigger creatures to live longer? They already hit harder, but they also take less damage from normal character attacks because the medium characters have a damage penalty against them. So size based attribute bonuses are entirely unnecessary. How strong or hardy you are is a function of your size and your stats, not just the one. Comparing physical stats only makes sense within a size category, which is basically how things are now for strength (because of carrying cap changes) it's just not very clear.

It's important to note that this also means you won't have normal size bonuses to attack and AC in stat blocks, since the AC values are static (with other people getting bonuses or penalties against it) and the creatures getting bonuses or penalties to their attack based on their targets. Which is an additional layer of complexity at game time. I'm not sure how obnoxious it would wind up in play though...

Making Different Sizes "Feel" Different[edit]

Note: I added the stuff for this before I put this rant up. It was a silly thing, and I generally recommend against it. Bad author.

The above works to make the bonuses extensible and eliminates some of the things that push big things towards high CRs, but doesn't do much to change the feel of fights against larger creatures. Fighting smaller creatures can be weird because they don't have sufficient reach to hit you, and have to invade your space. But you don't get the same experience against hugenormous things, and there's no good reason for this that I can think of.

  • Premise the fifth: This is a fantasy game where the answer can actually be "because magic" sometimes, but some aspects of combat should be more realistic than others. Things that don't make sense in the world lead to frustration at the table, because they get in the way of player expectation.

The current setup allows you to walk up to a giant's space and whack at its toes and still kill it. Seriously, the toes. A 6' tall character with a weapon equally long (all of the ones that aren't reach weapons) could maybe reach the knees of a colossal creature if he was standing right next to one. That doesn't happen unless you're in the square with it, so instead you attack the thing closest to your square until it falls over and dies, it's almost foot and a half tall toe. I find this immensely dissatisfying. Damage to a leg is all well and good for disabling or hampering a foe, but leg wounds don't actually kill people in real life (bleeding and infection not withstanding). Why they kill extra big creatures in DnD is beyond me.

Part of this is also tied to large creature square sizes, which we're about to get to, because they're weird.

  • Premise the sixth: Consistency matters. A lot. Extensible consistency is fantastic. These things help players extrapolate and make sense of things in the game world.

If you start at fine and work your way up, every size category is twice as large as the one before it, and space sizes are twice as large as the one before them (except for small and medium creatures). And in game logic, this makes a fair amount of sense and looks to be fairly extensible to any size ever, be it vastly bigger or smaller than anything even listed on the table. But that process stops at large, for reasons that probably had to do with not overdoing reach or not having large creatures occupy squares simultaneously or generally trying to be simple (and failing). If you look at their heights and space sizes, you'll notice that the ratio is off. Bigger creatures stand in proportionally smaller spaces, and that means that their actual position on the map is more fixed than it is for a medium or smaller creature.

If your goal was to keep people from entering the squares of others, this is a fairly good way to do it actually. If people don't take up much more actual space than their space on the map, then you can make good arguments for being able to hit them from an adjacent square regardless of your reach because your they're not likely to be in a part of it that you can't reach. But the game tries to have it both ways, by allowing you to stay in your square and fight big things while forcing small things to enter your square to hit you. It's a division that serves no compelling purpose. While either is an acceptable solution, doing both breaks consistency and is out. Sicne decreasing everyone's spaces so that no one enters anyone else's squares means moving away from the 5' square model and also promotes toe smashing of the sort described earlier because you never have to engage them more closely than the edge of their square, we're not going to do that. We're going with making you enter the spaces of things that are much larger than you are instead, and just allow space to be double occupied when sufficient size differentials come into play. And that means they bigger creatures can have the same size to space ratio as the smaller creatures, which will boost current space sizes and reach for big things.

And yes, that means we can fix the small size spacing by not forcing medium and small creatures to have the same numbers. So every category below medium is getting a spacing decrease. Halflings, goblins, kobolds, and whatever else can now crowd 12 people around a single member of the big folk instead of 8. And they can have small spaced hallways that they can move without penalty in while the big folk are all constrained. Merry christmas.

Even forcing people to engage closer than the edge of someone's space doesn't fix the toe problem though, because even within the space that's all that's within reach. But allowing people to get into their space opens up the possibility of a fix. The only real solution to that problem is to require that you attack something more vital than his toe to actually kill him, like his torso or head (or whatever for some of the really out there creatures). And since you're already in his space, we'll just make you reach one of those areas to deal real lethal damage to him, through jumping, flying, reach weapons (in some cases), or even climbing. And once you're up there we can make special exceptions for the damage adjustments, because you're striking in a more focused way than you would in a regular fight. You're also grappling it, or are damn close to, and that means that you're inside the reach of any weapon that can't be used in a grapple.

This isn't to say that attacking his lower leg or other extremities should be pointless, it should just have a different effect than killing the poor bastard. It would be completely in genre to attack the legs of a giant until they took enough damage that they gave out, and made movement or even standing difficult. You could probably even hurt a creature's ability to stand sufficiently that you didn't have to climb it to reach it's vital areas to deal damage to it. So we'll do that, and allow characters to deal damage to limbs that temporarily make them inoperable, thus making the creature they're attached to easier to kill.

And then we wrap it all up with a few bonuses for being extra large that are also in genre, like the ability to grab and throw people, sweep attacks, and trampling, just to round things out a bit. Then we have really big creatures that you have to approach differently because they hit hard and can knock you over the next hill, that you have to close very closely with and then climb to deal real damage to. And we also have really small creatures that you can knock around and smash in a hit or two but who close inside your reach and make life difficult for you. And you get to play both sides at different times, in combats that feel different from the normal trading blows that marks similar size combat.

Anyway, let's put this all together and see where things wind up.

Actual Proposal[edit]

Here's what the above translates into:

Table: Creature Size and Scale
Height or
Weight2 Space3 Natural Reach3 Carrying Capacity Mulitplier
Tall Long Biped Quadruped4
Fine 6 in. or less 1/8 lb. or less 4 in. 4 in. 2 in. ×1/16 ×2/16
Diminutive 6 in.–1 ft. 1/8 lb.–1 lb. 8 in. 8 in. 4 in. ×1/8 ×3/16
Tiny 1 ft.–2 ft. 1 lb.–8 lb. 1-1/4 ft. 1-1/4 ft. 8 in. ×1/4 ×3/8
Small 2 ft.–4 ft. 8 lb.–60 lb. 2-1/2 ft. 2-1/2 ft. 1-1/4 ft. ×1/2 ×3/4
Medium 4 ft.–8 ft. 60 lb.–500 lb. 5 ft. 5 ft. 2-1/2 ft. ×1 ×1-1/2
Large 8 ft.–16 ft. 500 lb.–2 tons 10 ft. 10 ft. 5 ft. ×2 ×3
Huge 16 ft.–32 ft. 2 tons–16 tons 20 ft. 20 ft. 10 ft. ×4 ×6
Gargantuan 32 ft.–64 ft. 16 tons–125 tons 40 ft. 40 ft. 20 ft. ×8 ×12
Colossal 64 ft. or more 125 tons or more 80 ft. 80 ft. 40 ft. ×16 ×24
  1. Biped's height, quadruped's body length (nose to base of tail)
  2. Assumes that the creature is roughly as dense as a regular animal. A creature made of stone will weigh considerably more. A gaseous creature will weigh much less.
  3. These values are typical for creatures of the indicated size. Some exceptions exist.
  4. This column includes creatures with 4 or more load bearing appendages.

Table: Scaling Combat Bonuses

Attacker Is Attack Modifier Damage Modifier1, 2 Special Attack
Special Conditions
Five sizes smaller +16 -16 4 -64 You must enter the creature's space to attack it. Damage dealt to creature is applied to a limb that you can reach and not their normal hit point total (which may make the limb useless), unless you can reach the creature's vital areas.5
Four sizes smaller +8 -8 4 -32 You must enter the creature's space to attack it. Damage dealt to creature is applied to a limb that you can reach and not their normal hit point total (which may make the limb useless), unless you can reach the creature's vital areas.5
Three sizes smaller +4 -4 4 -16 You must enter the creature's space to attack it. Damage dealt to creature is applied to a limb that you can reach and not their normal hit point total (which may make the limb useless), unless you can reach the creature's vital areas.5
Two sizes smaller +2 -2 -8 You must enter the creature's space to attack it.
One size smaller +1 -1 -4
Same size
- - -
One size larger -1 +1d6 (+2) +4
Two sizes larger -2 +2d6 (+4) +8
Three sizes larger -4 6 +4d6 (+8) +16 You are considered to have Improved Grab against your target. You can throw most targets as if they had a range increment equal to your space size.
Four sizes larger -8 6 +8d6 (+16) +32 Attacks with melee weapons are resolved as touch attacks. You are considered to have Improved Grab and Trample against your target. You can throw most targets as if they had a range increment equal to double your space size.
Five sizes larger -16 6 +16d6 (+32) +64 Attacks with melee or ranged weapons are resolved as touch attacks. You are considered to have Improved Grab, Trample, and Swallow Whole against your target. You can throw most targets as if they had a range increment equal to four times your space size.
  1. Damage modifier is applied once for the weapon, and then once more for each bonus die rolled that does not come from precision damage. A bonus die from the flaming property thus qualifies, while sneak attack does not.
  2. Two-handed weapons add the damage bonus listed in parenthesis in addition to the base damage. One-handed weapons wielded with two hands do not receive this benefit.
  3. This modifier applies to the bull rush, grapple, overrun, and trip special attacks.
  4. Unlike normal damage rolls, the minimum damage for these rolls is 0.
  5. If you deal damage to the vital area of a much larger creature with a melee attack (because you climbed, flew, swam, or otherwise reached the vital area) you are considered two sizes larger for the purposes of your attack.
  6. Unlike normal attack rolls, a roll of 20 is not an automatic hit.