Dungeon World, Actual Play and Q&A Aug 24, 2017 21:52:47 GMT -5
Post by gaptooth on Aug 24, 2017 21:52:47 GMT -5
It's understandable to look at the dragon stats in Dungeon World and say "16 Hit Points?! What were they thinking?"
In order to have a meaningful conversation about how much of a pounding monsters can take, we've got to include how hard it is to hit them as well as how many hits it takes to defeat them. A hundred "whiffs" before killing the enemy in 1 blow is the same as 100 HP, if the players had hit every time for 1 damage.
In The Hobbit, Smaug was killed by a single arrow—did he have 1 Hit Point or a hundred?
D&D models "hard to hit" with Armor Class. In 4th edition's Monster Vault, the closest thing to Smaug is the Elder Red Dragon, a level 22 monster with 832 HP and 38 AC. A level 1 Fighter dealing d10 damage could kill it in 151 rounds of combat if they rolled a natural 20 every round—which would be phenomenally against the odds, especially since 1 hit from the dragon would kill the Fighter. I have no idea how many hits it would take a level 22 Fighter to defeat an Elder Red, but you'd need an attack bonus higher than +28 to hit it more than half the time.
For the level 1 Fighter, an Elder Red Dragon might as well have 13,590 HP, because that's how many attack rolls a level 1 Fighter would probably have to make to kill it. Easy, just surround it with a legion of soldiers! Piece of cake.
Now, that's an extreme example. OD&D had Ancient Red Dragons pegged at a much lower level of difficulty.
I don't have the LBBs handy, but I do have their interpretations in Delving Deeper and Swords & Wizardry Complete.
In Delving Deeper, the Ancient Red Dragon can have anywhere from 16–96 HP, with an "average" specimen having 56 HP. 56! Combine that with its 0 AC (in the days of descending AC), that would give a level 1 Fighting-Man chance to kill it in 16 combat rounds, if they rolled a streak of 19s and 20s and average damage. Ranked at 16 Hit Dice, the dragon would fall in an average of 16 hits. To get those 16 hits would involve a lot of frantic action and excitement, and I doubt anyone would complain that the dragon fell over too quickly.
Swords & Wizardry ranks the Ancient Red Dragon with fewer Hit Dice but more Hit Points. At 9–11 HD, they would get an average of 72HP–88HP, with an AC of 2 .
Now classic T&T never had a canonical Ancient Red Dragon, but the stats given in Monsters! Monsters! make it look like T&T anticipated the massive hyperinflation of Hit Points. Then again, T&T's combat system is entirely different so hit point totals aren't directly comparable. But for the record, M!M!'s dragon would have a Constitution of 150–900, with an average of 525 in the middle. Sounds like a lot, right?
The dragon's "Armor Class" is abstracted away in it's combat dice—it would defend itself with 25 dice plus whatever Adds it had, or 10 dice + Adds if it couldn't use its breath weapon for some reason.
Given that info, it would seem like M!M! has the tougher dragon when compared to OD&D.
But in the footnote, there's a reference to Smaug: Every dragon has a weak spot. If you hit it there, it will die! Whittling down the monster's 525 hit points is for the suckers who just walk up to it with pikes and swords and have no idea what they are doing. For the shrewd warrior who gathers intelligence, plans wisely, distracts the monster, tricks the dragon into exposing its weakness, and aims his blow with luck and skill, Ken St. Andre's dragon has 1 Hit Point.
Now imagine if that was the only way to kill a dragon: No amount of hitting it in its adamantium scales would ever do damage! You have to find a soft bit—like it's eye, or under the joint of its wing, or inside it's mouth—then get into position, and strike true! All without getting blasted to a cinder, slashed to ribbons, crushed under a giant claw, or freezing in panic.
Suddenly, facing a dragon with 16 Hit Points becomes death-defying challenge. Or even a death wish.
Because that's what it is.
That said, adding more Hit Points to the monsters is another easy hack to the game. There's nothing wrong with revising the monster questionnaire so that it gives boss monsters triple-digit HP totals.
But for me, I'd have to fundamentally change the way I play the monsters to accommodate, making them much stupider and slower and generally more boring. Playing a dragon with 96 HP, you would have to let each player deal damage every time they talk, regardless of their strategy or tactics, to give them even the tiniest chance of surviving.
In my first Dungeon World session, I did let them deal damage basically every time they talked, because I didn't understand how the game works. Yes, they killed my "boss" enemy right way, and hardly suffered a scratch. But I soon got the hang of it.
Or, if they knew the dragon wasn't going to pull any punches, giving the dragon 96 HP might encourage them to spend months of time in the game raising an an actual legion; months planning their siege; gathering a poison to sedate it momentarily, preparing a ritual to enchant the cords to bind it, gathering catapults and canons, etc. It could be pretty epic.