Monsters, Do levels and HD balance out?

AD&D MonstersEveryone “House Rules” Tabletop Games

From Monopoly to 5E Dungeons & Dragons House rules happen and power-gamers emerge. It happened to me, and I started to lose control somewhere along the line, until I tried this tweak to my games.

Adding in new classes, abilities, non-weapon proficiencies, bonuses and what not can create an unusual imbalance in AD&D games. An imbalance where monsters that are evenly matched for players get wiped out fast. Power gamers end up pulling away from regular classes in the amount of damage they do, speed of attacks and more. Every battle becomes one or two players and no one else gets an action before the enemy is slain. At face value, this seems good for players, but it can quickly sap the fun out of one of the core components of the game.

Super Heroes

For example, we had a group with two warriors who got lucky on their rolls and both had 18 (xx) strength and good dexterity. We had some 2E house rules in play, and they had specialization and various other bonuses to attacks. These two warriors would clean out a battle in one or two rounds.

I instinctively ratcheted up the level of monsters they would face. While the two warriors were ready for the challenge, the rest of the party was not. I soon found myself throwing encounters that were incredibly deadly for most of the party, and mildly challenging for the two warriors. As a DM I was nearly killing my heroes to challenge two.

I would watch the wizard and thief yawn and drift off to check their phones while the warriors took the battle out in a couple of rounds. I wasn’t sure how to fix this. Also, I didn’t want to pull back our agreed upon house-rules of specialization and a few other 2E cross-over rules we wanted to add.

It all came down to Hit points

After some trial and error, I realized that losing the weaker classes was only happening because they were being left out of ROLL playing. The battle was over too quickly, often before they even got to contribute to the conflict. Players need to roll dice sometimes!

I yanked my monster HD from a d8 to a d10 and things started to happen. Monsters lasted a little longer, without having higher level abilities that would wipe out players instantly.

I realize this was a scenario of my creation. The extra damage and bonuses piled on to a couple lucky stat rolls created my perfect storm to injure my game. As an old school player, I would have been happy with less damage dealt, and monsters with fewer HP. The players didn’t realize that monsters now had a d10, and rarely a d12 HD, but their excitement of dealing out higher damage was the reward.

Lesson Learned

In later games I began to temper my additions to the game like specialization, even DOUBLE specialization, and all the other things that can warp party balance. Along came 5E and I immediately noticed that creature HP and HD were now independent of their DC (Level) rating. I must not have been the only DM to have faced this issue.

So if you are facing the problem of a couple of heroes knocking out the battle before others get to roll, it might be as simple as assuming your monsters have a d10 for Hit Dice.

What are some of the ways you have had to balance out your games on the fly?

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