So you’ve decided you want to take a go at writing monster cards? This can be a stressful endeavor. Too much in one direction, and you’ve killed all the people you intended to entertain. Too much in the other direction and the fight was largely a joke.
Here are a few simple rules.
Follow the 1 damage for 10 body rule
Generally a really easy want to create monster cards is with the 1/10 rule. For every one damage your monster swings, it should have 10 body (or armor if you’re willing to rep out npcs in heavy armor). This seems to be a great easy rule to follow. Your baddies can last long enough to hit a wall with a line of players and still get some damage in. The scale on these monsters body gets ahead of pcs body pretty quickly but, generally your npc ratio isn’t 1:1. So that extra body helps keep them entertaining players.
Don’t over do per day skills
Generally players get to reset their skills once per weekend in Alliance. Your npcs get to reset their skills on each pop. Be weary about putting out npcs with a ton of things like slays, or spells because your players who engage them don’t get their skills back. These things tend to work well sprinkled in. You have a group of streamlined fighters, and one caster. This works much better than a group of Templars. Save these times per day skills for larger encounters, or talking enemies.
Use defenses sparingly and with intent
Casters only run on per day skills. That means every time a defense against a caster is called, such as a phase, it’s something the caster won’t get back. When the caster is out of skills that’s that. Talking enemies are a great case for skills. But casters aren’t the only ones who struggle. Both Rogues, Fighters, and Scouts have a very limited amount of per day skills. Although they have unlimited damage to swing, generally it’s a boring life. So it’s particularly demoralizing when everything has defenses for their slays (or other blade skills). Even if it makes sense that your army of Orcs would all be well trained enough to have parries, I err on the side of fun rather then realism.
Carrier Damage is the great equalizer
Generally speaking, carrier damage affects all players equally. Characters have the same amount of armor at all levels because it’s really more of a physical requirement. This isn’t true for casters and arcane, and sometimes people by wear extra armor and rep more. But, generally speaking a 40th level fighter will have the same amount of armor as a 15th level fighter. So using carriers allows you to have a monster take out any player in the same amount of hits.
Fighting 200 enemies is better than 10 super tough enemies, and harder
Players like to feel like the heroes (or villains). Given 2 encounters that take the same amount of resources, the encounter with weaker enemies and more of them is the harder one. Players are always on the ball at the start of the battle. Having to have a sustained fight of 20 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, or so on is tough. Players start to make mistakes. Players start to get tired. You can easily present the same amount of challenge with more smaller enemies, then you can with a singular group of larger ones. If players fail the encounter, they are also generally more accepting. Since the cards of these enemies were low, they often blame themselves instead of jumping to a stating issue. If they win, they have stories of cutting down swathes of enemies.
Know which players have Protection Auras and be aware of how they can ruin your encounter.
Protection Auras are pretty much the bane of stating a simultaneous high and low level encounter. Nothing else in the game invalidates so much of an npcs powers in one go. Players can very easily ruin encounters with protection auras. Often with out even considering or understanding what they are doing. If you’ve got a lot of these in your game be aware of you’re you are structuring encounters and consider how you can break up the high level and low level players in a way that means there won’t be much bleed over. This often means splitting the group, or engaging in clear flank battles.
Using tactics as your npc can change the fight
Another balance option to consider is the intelligence level of the npcs involved. Enemies who swing 4’s and just run into a group of pcs isn’t as big of a threat as a wall of shield fighters swinging 4’s protecting the weaker npcs from the player’s wrath. If you want to do this, it’s good to discuss tactics ahead of time, and appoint a leader to call out orders. (It’s also cool when players see that leader and kill him to sew chaos in the ranks)
Include uncommon roles in your npcs
The most common combat npc roles are fighters and battle caster. A dedicated healer who only heals and buffs fellow npcs is a huge game changer. Dedicated Archers behind other npcs so quickly changes the scope of battle as well. People often under estimate packet archery but, given good aim it can be simply devastating. These different roles make your encounters more unique. They give players different objectives to be succesful. Instead of just killing every npc first, they need to figure out how to take out the healer. Or shut down the archer. These roles certainly aren’t an every encounter type of thing. But, you can use them to supplement smaller cards to greatly increase the difficulty of an encounter.