If you took a look at the big table I made for monsters (static attack, defense, and damage), you’ll notice that the damage is pretty high. Even for misses, the damage is pretty high, and there’s good reason for this.

When you run the monsters as static entities, they have no special powers or tactics, they mostly just run up to and attack the nearest character. If they have a reach weapon, like a pike, or ranged weapon like a bow or crossbow, who do they prefer when it comes to targets? How do you make it fair?

MMO games (Massively Multiplayer Online) that involve players working together generally have some kind of “aggro” or “hate” mechanics to help assign attack preference. Aggro, which is shorthand for, … I don’t know, “the target of my aggression,” … usually has to be mitigated by using special powers and tactics to draw attacks toward the melee “tank” characters.

But when you’re talking about relatively small encounters in confined quarters, and we’re talking about a tabletop game for that matter, it makes little to no sense to micromanage enemy creatures beyond “attack the nearest player target.” Why give them more strategy than that? It turns combat into a bookkeeping nightmare.

So, the solution is to not make it more complicated. Rather than creating a complex and difficult-to-parse monster target-selection strategy, you leave the monsters attacking whichever player character is closest. The monsters do more damage, rather than relying on tactics the players won’t want to employ against themselves.

The players are then left to deal with damage mitigation, rather than trying to figure out which monsters should attack whom, and how much damage ought to be dealt, and whether the monster uses its Super Big-Bang attack against the squishy wizard. Now, the next question is: why so much damage?

I’ll admit, I made some mistakes in my original, handmade chart (handmade in this case referring to written with a pen on a piece of paper) and it turns out the monster damage in my playtests thus far has been far less than it should have been. You know, all along. It’s just a tad bit embarrassing, but at least I get it now.

Adventuring by yourself is a perilous process. Period. And the player characters should be in danger each and every time they enter a new combat situation. When you typical ranger or rogue has something like twenty-two to twenty-four hit points, and the monsters deal nine damage on a hit, or seven damage on a miss, the characters go down in three to four attacks, hit or miss.

Movement and placement are important. Timing is important. Strategy is important. Will you conserve what healing powers you have at your disposal, and press on with only your second wind and potions? Or will you instead play it safe, healing after every encounter and retreating when you run out of reliable powers?

Go farther and risk it all, or play it safe and live longer?