Friday, September 28, 2007

Math isn't that hard!

I've mentioned in previous posts how I enjoy the calculations that go into a monster's stat block, and have had fun reverse-engineering the monsters to fit them into racial and class progressions. That's why I'm a bit disappointed that Greg Bilsland has said that "the construction of monsters still appears to be a science, but is no longer an exact science."

I guess I just don't see the argument for this. If you're advancing a monster, through some size advancement, template or class levels, why wouldn't you apply them with a rule-based system? If class levels and templates aren't going to be provided in a way that allows us to apply them in a calculable way, then how will they be provided, just as concepts? And if they are calculable, is the process just too difficult?

Bilsland says

The math and science are so finite that often repairing stat blocks becomes not a case of creating a flawless, pristine creature, but rather, a creature with a minimal amount of mistakes... [w]hen you’re dealing with a combination of advancement, templates, class levels, and monstrous races in a limited amount of time, some mistakes are bound to slip by...

Fair enough, but aren't we getting digital tools with D&D Insider? Is this not a perfect fit for a digital tool, both for the designers at Wizards as well as the players? I had hoped that tools like xmld20 and HeroForge were no longer going to be needed, not because I don't enjoy working on them, but because the promise of online D&D applications seemed to confirm that this game does have that mathematic component which could be eased for players and DMs alike. This addresses his concern about the "inane attention to detail" that he has mistakenly assumed isn't fun for some of us. And there's no reason that a DM can't fudge numbers whenever he wants to, if it is becoming tedious -- that has always been within the rubric of the DM -- but I don't know why this means there can't be a formulaic way at all.

Of course, as with most current 4th edition discussion, we're working with only snippets of information, so I have no idea how the monsters, the classes and the templates are going to be implemented. But I, for one, am likely to take these advanced creatures, reverse engineer them as Bilsland is doing now, and will come up with errata for what I will probably see as an incorrect stat block.

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