Most animals may not need stats, but that doesn’t mean they may not have a few gameplay-related statistics. Small critters are like living traps: if you fail a check, something bad happens. A small poisonous spider you failed to spot may bite and inject you with a bone-splitting poison (yeah, I don’t know much about poisons,) a swarm of rats may eat your rations while you sleep, or a cat may be startled by your skulking attempts, alerting the whole castle. These may not be your standard encounters, but they add a little variety or, even, realism. Whatever annoyance you can imagine, most of these problems can be presented as ability, proficiency, or skill checks.
This will the first post in a series where I will address a gaming topic that has intrigued me for a long time, the suspicion that one of the games many people love (Dungeons & Dragons) has been seriously misinterpreted even by some of its most ardent followers. In other words, that you have been playing or -at the very least- interpreting it wrong. If nothing else, that at least there is another, and better, way to play it. As the title says, it’s a probability, not a necessity.
Some of you reading this may be grognards with a lot of practical experience with this stuff, and because I know some of you are also very interested in the literary side of D&D (and, as you will see, this is as much about books as about games,) your opinion and criticism would be greatly appreciated. You may consider many of this stuff “obvious,” but from what I have seen and read, I suspect it’s not for the majority of people.
In D&D, many animals, even tiny animals like rats, have stats. That means they have statistics for Armor Category, base attack (or THAC0), STR, DEX, etc. They even give you experience points in case you go on a cat or cow-killing rampage.
It’s a fundamental element in most RPGs: Strength modifies hit chance and damage. From time to time, a few heretics claim that the main attribute for close combat should be speed, dexterity, or something like that, but the answer to these people is always the same:
“You are as ignorant as you are [probably] ugly. For a trained warrior, speed is strength, and strength is speed. The damage any object may cause is basically speed x mass, so the bigger and stronger you are, the faster you will hit, and the more brutal you will be.”
The idea that, somehow, a nimble fighter would beat a 240lb man probably comes from the same crazy hole that gave us Waif-fu and similar nonsense.