I mentioned adding monsters to Combat Challenges in my previous post, “Magic and Monsters, Part 2,” and I’m going to get right to it. I had this idea this morning while I was walking to the train station on my way to work. I’ve been puzzling over it ’cause I like monsters, and ’cause I want them to mean something.

Several weeks ago, I used a version of the Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons Skill Challenge to represent combat. The basic idea was to pretty much throw out powers and equipment in favor of playing the game using skills instead. I’m going to continue this idea, and bring some new ideas into the fold. Like, uh, monsters, for example.

Now, when I originally created the Challenge, the basic idea was, “Hey, the complexity of the Challenge should be equal to the number of monsters!” Now that I look at it, I’m thinking, “No, that isn’t difficult enough. How can I make it more difficult? Like, actually kind of dangerous, enough to make players think twice, or even avoid combat?”

In all fairness, I enjoy combat now and again. Sometimes, I even enjoy a grind. But seriously, that can’t be all there is to a game, unless the combat is really, really good. And when I say good, that means there still needs to be interesting terrain, alternate win conditions, and stuff happening, like a wedding or something.

Dungeon magazine ran a series (by Mike Mearls, I think) about Skill Challenges. If I remember correctly, one of the things suggested was running several simultaneous Challenges with lower complexity rather than one big Challenge of higher complexity. While I was thinking about monsters in Arkham Horror, a light went on in my head.

Monsters in Arkham Horror have a toughness rating that ranges from one to five. (Some spawn creatures technically have zero toughness, but you don’t fight them.) The Combat Challenge itself should have a complexity of two, and the monsters encountered should constitute a Challenge with complexity equal to toughness.

Of course, Arkham Horror monsters actually range from one to three toughness, with a couple of Nyarlathotep’s masks (The Beast, and the God of the Bloody Tongue) at four toughness, and The Dunwich Horror weighing in at a massive five toughness. There’s no immediate worry for those massive four- and five-complexity monsters.

If we’re talking The Catan Horror, you engage only one monster at a time, whether they’re a Cultist, a Zombie, or a Colour Out of Space. You attempt one Combat Challenge, and you add a secondary Combat Challenge with the following condition: three failures means the monster isn’t defeated and you have to start over.

Obviously, you still get experience for completing the primary Challenge for engaging the monster in combat as long as you score at least four successes, and if you complete the whole Challenge, you get pretty decent experience for winning the skirmish. But if you don’t beat the monster, it sticks around to wreak havoc.

Hypothetically speaking, you could leave the monster on the board to keep getting experience from engaging it and leaving it alive, but I’m working out a way to make it cost you in healing surges, so you have to take an Extended Rest. It also costs you a weekly action each time you engage a monster in combat, so keep that in mind.

Next, we’re going to talk a bit about Magic: the Gathering.