DAMAGE! Hitting Where It Hurts

I was thinking the day about Lamentations of the Flame Princess and James Raggi’s advice on monsters. Make them nasty, make them scary and make the unique. What really defines an encounter with a monster in the minds of the players? What that monster does to their characters and that boils down to how does it damage them.
Let’s face it, tentacle horror number 32 that is just a tentacle monster that’s really orc stats with four extra attacks ain’t all that cool. It’s just there. The monsters need to do something to the characters besides draining them of HP.
The most obvious is Hit Points. But is just battering away at Hit Points enough. No. How does it take to heal them? Longer? Maybe never. Maybe there’s a magic pool in the next room that is the only thing in the world that can heal those wounds? Maybe magic makes the wounds worse. “That monster was tough but the the cleric killed my character when he cast Cure Light Wounds.”
Ability Score damage is the next common thing. Permanent drain is frightening. Temporary drain is annoying. Permanent switching around of scores can be entertaining. Throw the extra twist of switching around ability scores between characters, becomes very interesting. Let them figure how to get the scores back in the right body.
XP Drain. This one is kind of a cheap shot in my opinion. I’ll confess that in my younger AD&D days that if I thought the party was getting a little too powerful I’d send a pack of vampires after them. Now I know that there’s some debate on whether it’s good or bad. Maybe just throw in some extra interesting side effects of that drain. Hair changing color. Maybe you’re character is an albino. Or something else. Just keep it freaky. And when something like this happens to characters give them out but one that is going to carry a high price.
Hitting them in the wallet. This is the good old Rust Monster tactic. I think more than one DM has been lynched when a paladin’s Holy Avenger gets turned into a pile of red dust. But the idea can be solid. Just tweak the hell out the effect. It’s now cursed armor. It’s good against every but one thing. Or some other twist. Just don’t leave it alone.
Screwing with their lives. This is the most interesting. The monster does something to the character that alters that character’s fate. The monster maybe dead and the dungeon looted but the characters who survived have something hanging over their heads. A curse. A new nemesis. Perhaps something even more villainous.
The threat of death adds a thrill to the game. As GM, I learned quickly that it’s really damned easy to pull off a TPK. Crap sometimes the players just aim themselves at self destruction. But what’s fun and challenging is to beat the PC’s within an inch of their lives and have them enjoy it the entire time.

2 thoughts on “DAMAGE! Hitting Where It Hurts”

  1. I’ve been thinking about making combat a bit more exciting myself. I like the simplicity of hit points – especially in a game like CP2020 – but want to do more than just shout out numbers. So I’ve been adding in a few extra ways to describe the damage that aren’t just “bullet hits you, bullet hurts’, by taking advantage of the scenery. Take a look and let me know what you think.

    http://shortymonster.co.uk/?p=630

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