Sunday, October 2, 2016

Stealth of Monsters in DQ

In DragonQuest the term monsters means any entities that an adventuring party might encounter or come into conflict with which aren't from a player-character race or species.  This description does include a variety of sentient entities such as the Fairy Folk.
A number of monsters are described within the rules as being stealthy with it typically noted as being X times that of an average human. So what is the stealth of an average human?

According to [83.1], "Also, when compared to non-adventuring members of their respective races, adventurers have, on the average, 50% higher numerical totals in all characteristics." From 5. Characteristic Generation, we know that the range of values for a characteristic is normally between 5 and 25 which gives us an average of 15. From that we can determine that the average human characteristic, such as Agility, is 10.  [Whether or not average humans having characteristics of 10 makes any sense is a topic for a different post.]

Using the formula provided by [83.3] for determining stealth, ([3 x Agility] + [5 x Rank] ), and assuming average humans have no Rank in stealth, this would give the average human a stealth of 30%. However this contradicts information found in the Monsters section of book 3 under the entries for [66.1] Apes and Prehumans and [66.2] Felines.
[66.1] Apes and Prehumans
"They have three times the stealth of an average human (30) and ..."

[66.2] Felines
"All felines will possess four times the stealth of the average human (40)."
There are two ways to read those statements.  The first is that the value given in parenthesis is the stealth for an average human.  As the value given under Apes and Prehumans is 30 that appears correct until you see the value of 40 given under Felines.  So the second way to read these lines is that the numbers in parenthesis are the stealth value for the monsters.  This jives with the three times and four times of the descriptions.  Sadly these values suggest that an average human has a stealth of 10 which is only one times Agility and not the [3 x Agility] base value from [83.3]. Further these naturally stealthy creatures would have pretty poor values for stealth as the values are then reduced by the greatest Perception value of those who might be able to detect them per [83.3].
Maybe the value of 40 given is a typo (in all three editions).  So calculating the stealth for a Baboon per [83.3] we get (3 x 20) or 60.  That's not three times 30 nor is it three times 10.  It's certainly better than 30 but is still not very impressive.
There are a few more entries in the list of Monsters that also note their stealth.
[70.2] Fairy Folk
"They have 3 to 4 times the stealth of an average human and will, as a result, seldom be seen unless they wish to speak with a party."
"They will have twice the stealth of humans.
"They are also 3 times as stealthy as humans, ..."
No real help there as stealth is once again expressed as a multiple of average human stealth.
So does it really make sense to express the stealth of a monster as some number times that of the average human?  If I say that one fighter is three times as good as another in the context of DQ I think most of us would assume three times the Rank and not the total Strike Chance of which Rank is only a part of the calculation.  With that assumption a Rank 6 fighter would be three times as good as a Rank 2 fighter.  But maybe that isn't a good set of skills to compare.  How about Horsemanship?   The formula for Horsemanship is [(WP + mAG)/2 + (8 x Rank)] per [83.2].  The Rank multiplier of 8 means Rank plays a significant factor in how good one is in Horsemanship.  Stealth's Rank multiplier of only 5 means Rank plays a lesser part but is still significant at higher Ranks.

If not expressed as a multiple of average human stealth then what?  One idea is to assign those Monsters noted for being stealthy a Rank in Stealth, probably in the 1 to 4 range, and use that 2 to 4 times value to determine a Stealth Bonus (20% to 40%) much like that given for Elves and Halflings.  Then change the formula to be like this:
Stealth = ([3 x Agility] + [Stealth Bonus] + [5 x Rank] )
The bonus would need to be in the 20% to 40% range to have any noticeable affect.  Looking at the average Baboon again the stealth would become ([3 x 20] + 30% + [5% x Rank]) giving a range of 90% to 110% which is pretty stealthy and actually starts at 3 times the average human.  Those monsters with high agility such as Felines would be nearly undetectable but this is to be expected.
In my own campaigns in the past I've always calculated the stealth for individual Monsters per [83.3] and then given them Ranks and/or bonuses depending on the type of creature.
What have you done?


  1. This may be a broader topic. I was asked the question once at RPI whether players are exceptional compared to the greater populace. My answer was something alongthe lines of I dont think so or not appreciably so. Yes, that means I saying that I'm not overly fond of 83.1.

    For example, English yeomen were required to practice with the Long Bow which requires a PS of 16 and MD of 15. I guess one could argue that one of the things a farmer does is invest in PS, EN, and FT without realizing they are doing so. But I dont see that many years of hard work will have much to do with MD.

    Strictly applying 83.1 means that even a weapon such as spears are outside the capacity of an average adult to properly wield.

    In another example, I was working on our adventure and I noted that the average MD of an Orc is 14. The MD requirement of the scimitar is 15. I resolved this by detailing a new weapon I have called the Orcish scimitar. What I have in mind is more of slightly curved falchion which I think would be more appropriate for an orcish smith to fashion as compared to what most of us consider to be a scimitar.

    1. Definitely part of a broader topic. I've got another article in the works that addresses exactly what you just brought up.

  2. Way too much of the rpg texts written are aimed at wish fulfillment for kids, as the obsession with advancement and xp show. Also, this fixation with being a special snowflake is symptomatic. Just ignoring 83.1 solves a lot of problems.

  3. I really like your way of calculating Stealth! It manages to sort out all the problems with the rules as written, and gives a result that feels real, which I think is a keystone for a game like DQ.

    1. I agree. DQs grittier, more - and I hate to use the term - realistic feel is part of its strength. I've pretty much ignored 83.1 since the beginning. One of those niggling little inconsistencies. The MMORPG players fixation on end-game builds and min-maxing their "toons" has definitely bled over into the tabletop RPG gaming world.

  4. This is very helpful for calculating stealth.

    Rather than average (non adventurers) vs exceptional (for PC) I tend to view the difference as lack of imagination and impetus. A competitive or olympic archer might be able to pull a bow and hit a target better than most, but that wouldn't translate into hunting acumen, necessarily. Same with a farmhand/lackey, although throwing a 100lb sack of grain over their shoulder or wrassling a steer to the ground is a daily task, grappling an ogre would still likely kill them or greatly intimidate them. Or a body builder vs a navy seal, outwardly they may look very similar, but translating into tactical instinct would show a wide margin. Gritty game realism may call for some good ol' disbeliefs being suspensioned too.

    1. I agree that the difference between the average joe and an adventurer is more one of motivation and training than being just generally less physically capable. I've always felt that 83.1 just didn't make any sense even after a conversation with Chris Klug back when DQ 2nd ed came out.

      Then there is the formula for Stealth which makes Agility the dominant factor.