Several weeks ago I promised a post about the monsters of Ismia and I’m here to deliver. In the last GDD I discussed resource collection and management as a central part of questing in the world of Ismia, but what is a quest without its fair dose of beasties. Many quests and locations in the game require the player to attempt a combat. The main combat mechanic has remained fairly unchanged since the game’s inception. Every monster has a level and most have bonuses or penalties based on who or where they are fighting. Characters also have levels and bonuses based on their training and equipment. Both character and monster roll some dice, add the results to their modified levels and the higher result wins.
The system worked, but after the first play test it was apparent that it needed some serious tweaking. When a player drew a level appropriate monster from the monster deck combat was exciting and suspenseful, but it was much more common to draw a monster that was either impossible to defeat or impossible to lose against. We tried a few solutions such as monster hordes where if you drew too low-level a monster you would have to fight two or three of them, but the new rules were clunky and didn’t solve all the problems. Finally we came to the realization that it wasn’t the rules of combat that were flawed but the organization of the monsters. I separated all the monsters by level into three stacks and decided that characters from level 1 to 3 would draw from the low-level “Tier 1” stack, levels 4-6 draw from “Tier 2” and the highest level characters, levels 7-10, draw from the vicious “Tier 3” deck.
I also decided that rolling one die just wasn’t enough. The more dice you roll at once, the more predictable the results become (7 being the most common result on 2d6). More dice also increased the range of defeat-able monsters at any particular level. In the current iteration of the rules, players always roll 2d6 before modification by powers and cards, while monsters roll 1d6 per tier.
The upshot has been much more exciting combats with more predictable results. Most monsters are surmountable but not without a good deal of sweat, and combats that are so easy you don’t bother rolling are a thing of the past (or at least a thing of the previous tier). Most importantly, combat has gone from being something you had to but didn’t really want to do to the most exciting aspect of the game, as it should be.
P.S. Thank you to the many anonymous artists in google images who unknowingly provided placeholder artwork for my prototype. I am working on illustrating the game but haven’t had time for all the monsters.