Thursday, September 2, 2010

On heroes determining monster CR.

Our intrepid heroes are in a dungeon, when they enounter a giant alien blob from the Outer Planes, something they've never seen before. The player clicks to examine the blob and discovers "Ahah! It's only a moderate threat!"

Tell me again how the heroes knew a giant blob from another plane was only a moderate threat? The accuracy of the CR information is a situation where there can be a lot of work can done. Getting the CR info could include some familiarity/skill checking.

Our heroes are probably able to make a fair gauge of the threat of creatures that are similar to them, but probably less so for alien blobs. So one aspect of the difficulty of getting accurate CR information should be the similarity of the monster to the player racial type, outsiders are going to be difficult to determine if the party is human/elven etc, humanoid monsters our heroes would likely have less difficulty with, and plain old humans the heroes should be pretty accurate on for this aspect.

Skills can play an aspect here as well. Spot, survival would be pretty obvious. Maybe spellcraft for more exotic creatures where it might be relevant (nishruu, monsters that can be summoned). Craft alchemy ("Hmmm, that smells like a terrible acid!"). A lot of skills could grant insight into different types of creatures.

I could see a system where the player can get multiple levels of information about a monster's CR when they click examine the monster.
None: the creature is too strange for the hero to make a determination.
Some: "dangerous/non dangerous". The hero is able to make a determination, but it may not be that accurate.
Normal: As it works now ingame.


  1. The reason CR exists--other than for a DM who needs an encounter now--is to simplify meta-gaming.

    Let's say you play D&D for the first time--you probably know that things like dragons will be dangerous from previous literature/film, but that squishy floating eye-orb? After it destroys you in a second, you now have 'learned the game', so to speak, so CR is less important than just knowing the enemy in that encounter.

  2. Our squishy floating eye orbs or dragons may come in baby, junior, adult, and ancient, with no obvious to the player difference except possibly size. So not all eye orbs/dragons are equally dangerous. A smart character might know via lore that dragons scales tend to darken as they age, so that bright red dragon is likely less a threat than that dark, almost black, red one.

    I've just tossed this out as a way to mix things up. Not even all demons are dangerous, though humanoid demons tend to be. But just how dangerous? They're all going to be dangerous to a level 5 party, but reach level 20 and the same party should be mopping the floor with many types.

    NWN2 lacks models for many high CR monsters. As a result we need to scale up the normal critters. Yuan-ti are CR 7 or so for example, but we find CR 15-16 yuan-ti near the end of SoZ. How does a level 12 party tell the difference between a CR7 yuan-ti and a CR 16 one? Can they?

    It's a proposal for a way to up player excitement. It hopefully makes players be more cautious with unusual monsters and to emphasize that yeah, this is an unusual encounter, because they aren't sure exactly how much of a threat this monster poses.

  3. Hi Kamal,

    I gave this some thought when I was setting up the encounter code for overland map (where you get the CR of the creature above the wandering creature). In the end I concluded (similar to CW in the earlier response) that the CR is not so much of a "giveaway" but a gut feeling of whether to waste the time fighting, dying and reloading a game. ;) Call it the "adventurers gut feeling about the enemy" if you like. Regardless of origin, the PC just has a feeling about it - and may or may not be right or wrong. For instance, say the PC met a rat that just so happened to have fallen into some magic substance that gives it +3 damage reduction. Now, a normal rat should be a low challenge (low CR), but this potion bathed rat would be a bit harder (medium CR). On initial circumstances, why should the PC suspect anything different (apart from noticing the CR difference)? The answer must be that this potion bathed rat had some clues about its makeup that (perhaps) we have not taken the time to describe. Perhaps it looks bigger and tougher from having survived so many other fights? Maybe its fur looks different - more rigid compared to softer fur of its fellows? One could even argue that this is exactly the kind of clues the player picks up *because* they examined the creature rather than just make assumptions. The CR result they learn is their reward for examing the creature in the first place. Their examination sais, "Ooer, I don't like the look of this rat!"

    That's my take anyway. ;)


  4. The CR system is a mess in NWN2 and I have never been happy with it.

    The toolset CR should be a partialy autogenerated number based on class, level, stats, feats, equipment, etc. Due to custom AI and scripted abilities some flexibility is needed. That CR number should be used by the game and not accesible to the player.

    Another number or system should be avaliable to the player much as you described. If I'm a fighter and I have invested a bunch in lore and int then I should know a bit more then the fighter the shorted their wis & int for other abilities and has a zero or negative lore score.

    Plus creatures should be able to hide their challange rating. This is a common adaptation for some preditors. Try to look like something small or non-threatening then when you least expect it you get devoured.

  5. Shaughn, that's pretty much what I was thinking of. There could be a variable on a creature that determines how difficult it is to determine the CR.

    The community is experienced enough that people might like this detail.

  6. Hi Kamal,

    I have been searching to find out how I hid the CR from a creature examine. (I disabled it for an individual creature examine, but left it available for overland map travel. Actually, I rewrote the CR value for the overland map, so its different from the original anyway, and you can even disable this completely as well and replace it with your own code if you wish.) If I find it, I will make another post, but I know you *can* disable the CR being displayed in a creatures examine window. It came in one of the patches if I recall correctly and was a simple switch set somewhere. I thought it was in an ini file, but simply cannot find it. Hopefully, I will write again soon ..


  7. Hi Kamal,

    Found it .... Second one in this list from nwn2player.ini in the local documents.

    [Server Options]

    Disable log in heal=0
    2DA Cache Size=10
    Scripts Print To Log=0
    Scripts Print To Screen=0

    This does mean you would have to ask players to disable it themselves of course. Alternatively, there may be a way to disable it via altering the GUI, but I would stick to this easier path if possible.


  8. Hi Kamal,

    I decided to reword my own overland map scripts to avoid using CR figures in monster descriptions (like SoZ does) and use descriptive text only now. i.e A creature that is 5 or more CR higher than the PCs will now describe as "impossible" or something like that rather than give the CR rating.

    And as I have the CR hidden on examine already, then no encounter will reveal a CR to the player (if they do as I ask and change the value in their ini file).

    If you wanted to take this further with skill checks, etc to reveal more about the creature, then I imagine it should be possible to script, but is not something I would do personally.


  9. You've already put more work into it than I would. :-)

  10. The reason allowing you to see them in a computer game is useful is because most computer games have the same monsters having vastly different abilites for no appearent reason. When an ordinary orc with an axe can be an easy encounter for a level 1 character or a difficult encounter for a level 15 character not displaying CR will result in annoyed players