Episode 2024.7 Published on 5 July 2024

New Monster Design, Villain Power, Codex, and Playtest Details | June Roundup

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Velkommen! I'm Jon de Nor and this is Goblin Points.

June has been a month of character content, and monster design. With the core system in place, ancestries and classes are being worked on. The team has also focused on how monsters should work, and how to make them fun and easy to run. Lastly, we've got some new details about the virtual tabletop. Let's dive in!


Up until recently the main focus of the design team has been on the player side of the RPG. Making character creation, figuring out character progression, and making fighting monsters fun. Now however, the focus has shifted to the director side of the game. The things being worked on is making monsters fun to run, assisting the director in making interesting encounters, and figuring out if there's a better way to run encounters.

In practice this means we're seeing a lot of content starting to emerge on the player side. Ancestries, classes and character options are being previewed left, right and center. While on the director side, it's the crunch and experimentation of new designs that get closer and closer to a working solution.

Let's look at what they've been working on, on the director side. First up is encounter design.

Minion Squads and Captains

In last month's roundup I mentioned they were trying out phases. Phases happened on the director's turns, and instructed that monsters in certain categories should go in a certain order. This was to assist the director in running tactical combats. The problem was that it was poorly received by the testers. It felt limiting and as taking away agency from the director.

After some experimentation with other solution, the design team has come up with a solution that makes it more fun to run monsters, makes it easier to run larger amounts of monsters, and makes it easier for the director to run combats tactically. This new design relies on squads of minions and their captains.

A minion squad consists of a group of minions that have a shared stamina pool which loses stamina when any of the minions takes damage. When one "minion's worth" of stamina is lost from the pool, one minion dies. That means a lot of damage to one minion, could do enough damage to kill the minion, and another minion, but how do you reconcile the other minion not being within range of the attack that killed first? Through cinematic narrative! James described an attack that lobbed the head off one skeleton minion, the hero catching the head mid-air and throwing it at another skeleton, crushing that skeleton too.

Minions have simplified stat blocks and are quick to run because when they attack, the director only makes a single roll, which is then used for every attack the minions make. That means a single roll can translate to five, or six, or more attacks. This makes it faster to run a lot of monsters, without taking away the fun of running a lot of monsters.

To prevent a single hero being overwhelmed and killed by an entire squad in a single turn, each minion in a squad has to attack a different enemy. If a minion doesn't have an enemy of their own to attack, they assist one of their squad mates, and boost their attack a little.

Having a squad attack a single hero, doing massive damage felt really good to the director. The massive damage made the minions feel dangerous and a serious threat, but it felt really bad for players. A single squad's attacks could almost take out a hero by itself. Spreading the damage out makes it feel better for both director and players.

A squad can also have a captain. This is a stronger monster with a more complex stat block. The captain operates independently from their squad, but is tied to their squad in two ways.

The first is that they take their turn at the same time as their squad. That means with two power rolls, the director is able to run a couple of handfuls of monsters, without it being a drag.

The second is that the captain grants extra abilities to the minions in their squad. For example, a Goblin assassin captain grants their squad the ability to hide at the end of their turn, as a free action. This ability is always available to the captain, but the squad lose the ability if their captain is killed.

This system of squads and captains is very flexible. There's no restriction to use a goblin captain with a goblin squad. The goblin squad could just as well be lead by a demon, with the demon granting their extra ability to the goblins. Or the goblin squad could operate on their own with no captain, or a captain could be in an encounter without a squad.

This design makes squads a common feature in combat. While it's easy to think of minions as skeleton or goblins, higher level minions can include orcs, lizardfolk or shades. There will be squads that are appropriate to every level of play in the monster book. James mentioned there might be space for 450 monsters in the Monsters book, where about 120 of them are squads.

Encounter Values

When designing an encounter, it's important to find the right balance of monsters. This has been tried solved in different ways, and the MCDM RPG's attempt at this is currently encounter values. Each hero is assigned an encounter value of 15. Add up the encounter values of all the heroes, and you have a budget for an encounter.

Each minion and captain is also assigned an encounter value. You add monsters to the encounter to fill up the budget. It looks like the intention is that each monster has an appropriate hero level, which means that two monsters may have the same encounter value, but be of different strength based on which hero level they're appropriate for.

A goblin might have an encounter value of three, meaning there should be five goblins for every hero. Orcs may have the same encounter value of three, but at a different appropriate level. Goblins may be appropriate at level one, but orcs at level two. That means orcs are more powerful than goblins, even though they have the same encounter value. Compared to a hero though, they are about as powerful as a goblin, at the appropriate level: there should be five orcs for every hero.

Dynamic Terrain Objects

I mention encounter values because monsters aren't the only thing that the encounter value budget can be spent on. While encounter events are out (openers, reversals and closers), and no longer part of encounter design, it doesn't mean that all the ideas from that design has been thrown out.

The design team have been experimenting with something they call dynamic terrain objects. These are parts of the encounter area which are dynamic and can be activated during the encounter. A simple example of something like this could be a hidden spike trap in the middle of a battlefield.

A more evocative example could be a boulder that is released and plows it's way through the battlefield squishing everything in it's way. Or it could be a statue that emanates an aura in an area around it. Any monster within that area gets 3 stamina back at the start of their turn.

Dynamic terrain objects are there to spice up encounters, and make combats about more than just defeating the monsters.

Villain Power

Now that monsters are more fun to run, the team bumped up against another problem: the monsters being too weak at the tail end of combats. Over the duration of a combat, the heroes accrue heroic resources and become more powerful. In an adventure, when the heroes also have victory points, granting them even more power, this problems becomes even worse.

The heroes' power is on a rising curve. The monsters' power should follow that curve closely. They should be almost as powerful as the heroes, but not quite. The heroes are expected to win, after all. But the two curves should be really close, such that if the heroes makes poor tactical decisions or don't plan well enough, the two curves cross and the monsters get the upper hand. Currently the monsters' power curve is a flat line, getting further and further away from the heroes' power curve, the further into combat they get.

To combat this discrepancy, the team has reintroduced an old concept that was originally tried over a year ago: a heroic resource, of sorts, for the director. Back then, Matt called it Goblin Points, hey that's the name of the show, but the current design calls it villain power.

The director gains villain power at the start of every round. Currently, this is a set number based on how many heroes there are in the combat. In addition, the director also gains villain power through some of the abilities or traits of monsters. When a monster acts in a way that's characteristic of that monster, the director gains villain power.

A few examples of when monsters act in character is when goblins flank their enemies, when demons make a hero winded, dying, or dead, or when humans are damaged by magic or psionic attacks. Humans are naturally resistant to supernatural powers in Orden.

The director spends villain power to activate monster abilities or terrain objects. Spend villain power to use the dragon's breath attack, or spend villain power to make the orc's attack push the enemy five squares instead of three! The shock of ice affects everyone in a three by three cube? Spend villain power to make it four by four cube. Or spend villain power to make that boulder plow through the line of heroes!

Villain power is most likely that last thing that needs to be finished for the game's rules to be done. Once that's locked in, the work will transition to exclusively creating content for the RPG.


Speaking of creating content. That work is already under way and the focus has been on ancestries lately. The RPG will include both familiar ancestries found in popular fantasy literature, but also a few new ones that are unique to the RPG. The goal is to both give players something familiar, but also spark their interest and imagination with something novel they haven't seen before.

James shared which ancestries are expected to be included in the Heroes book: Wode-Elf, High-Elf, Dwarf, Human, Polder ( the MCDM halfling), Orc, Revenant (an undead person), Devils (sophisticated creatures from the nine cities of hell, the MCDM Tiefling), Dragon people (which might be called Wyrmwights), Memonek (non-organic people from Axium), Hakaan (the lesser giants), and Time Raiders (travelers of the Timescape, with crystal eyes, and four arms).

Each ancestry gets a short write-up that introduces the ancestry. These introductions aren't some dry, documentary-style explanation of the ancestry, as if told from an encyclopedia. The introductions are in-universe stories where a person of the ancestry is featured. The Devil's ancestry tells the tale of how one Devil got stranded in Orden. The Human ancestry is reflected upon by a centuries old Elven professor of Humans. Each ancestry will have their own unique introduction.

In addition each ancestry has some mechanical effects. These are not characteristic score increases, but rather other abilities or features that doesn't make the hero stronger, but more versatile. Each ancestry has some feature that makes them stand out from the others.

Designing a Class

Matt wrote a Patreon post on how work is going with class design. Now that they've spent a lot of time researching how everything should work in terms of mechanics, they can finally get started on making some classes for the game.

They've started work on five classes so far. Each of the classes have at least three subclasses, and the team has designed the first three levels of each class. That way they know that each class has archetypes it can represent, through it's subclasses, and that progression is working.

The five classes they've worked on so far are Tactician, Conduit, Shadow, Fury, and Elementalist.

To make sure every class feels like it has a home, the team made a grid of different specialization or niches each class could fill. The specializations were things like movement, damage, buffing or control. They then graded every class at how good they should be at the different specializations.

This guides design and make sure that class abilities have the right effect in combat, and they know when a subclass " breaks out" of the trope of the main class. The Tactician for example is good at commanding the battlefield and making sure enemies stay focused on the Tactician. Still, they may have a subclass that specializes in healing, even though that's technically the Conduit's purview.

They also mapped out how much a class should progress for each level. How many new abilities become available at each level, when do the numbers of existing abilities increase? Most of this work was already done by James in the fall, but the game has changed a bit since then, so the main job was to figure out the necessary adjustments to fit the changes in the RPG since then.

The Tactician

The post also detailed a lot of the work that was done on the Tactician. The post shows off design notes that were made during the design meeting, and a great big list of abilities that could potentially be included in the class. These are brainstorming ideas meant as inspiration for the designer for the class. I won't list the whole list here, but one of my favorites is an ability that could show up at a later level for the Tactician. They first get the ability to never roll a tier one result, and then at a later level, they also can't roll tier two results! The Tactician still needs to roll in case of crits, and the still somewhat hypothetical tier four result for supernatural weapons. It's definitely going to make the Tactician bad-ass.

The Tactician is also a weapon master, and is expected to be brimming with weapons. That means they get to pick two kits, instead of one. They get the bonuses from both kits, and if both kits give a bonus to the same stat, the Tactician gets the better one.

So far they've outlined three subclasses for the Tactician:

  • The first is the Vanguard, which leads an army from the front. They're out there, soaking damage and taking charge.
  • The second is the Mastermind, which leads from the back. They read the battlefield and command other for superior tactics. The Mastermind also fills the role as the archer archetype.
  • And lastly there's the Insurgent, which utilizes any trick necessary to win. They are sneaky operatives that leads stealth commandos, undermining the enemy.


Geoff wrote his first post on Patreon explaining some things regarding the VTT, and the first thing we need to cover is the name. Internally the VTT is called Codex, which sound a lot better than the MCDM RPG VTT, so I'm going to use Codex when referring to it instead.

The Patreon post details some of the goals for Codex and what customers of MCDM can expect. Customers won't have to pay twice for the same content. If you buy a product form MCDM, it will be available in Codex for no extra charge. And while Codex will not be free to use, MCDM wants to make it possible for directors to invite their players into their games, without the players having to pay for access.

They also want Codex to make it easy to prepare for sessions, both through built-in creation tools, and through something like a marketplace where other directors share their creations. They also wish the marketplace to support paid creations.

To quote Geoff in the post: "We want to make the simple stuff easy and the complex stuff possible."

As I mentioned in the previous roundup episode, calling Codex a VTT is a bit misleading. It's way more than just a digital battle map. Some of the things they want, but are not guaranteed to include, are character management, encounter building, document sharing aka handouts, chat system with support for language comprehension, map creation and modding.

When speaking of platform support, they want to support Windows, Mac and Linux, and distribute Codex through Steam. While it's an extra hurdle to have everyone who's going to play download Steam first, Steam also makes sure to handle a lot of stuff for the developers. Not only downloads, but also friends lists, invites, groups, forums, reviews and a lot more.

We've also had a couple of previews drop this past month. In the Patreon post there's a video showing someone using Codex to build the Delian Tomb map, populating it with walls, doors, secret doors, interiors and enemies, and then running the tomb. All done within Codex.

Separately, the developers of Codex showed off support for multi-floor maps. All the floors are layered on top of each other, and when panning, the different floors moved independently of each other, creating a very impressive parallax effect. The video also showed support for targeting creatures on different floors, and seamlessly moving between floors. Specifically in the video, they showed a hero falling from one floor, to the one below.

Playtest Packets

People are eagerly awaiting the new playtest packets: the patreon playtest packet for everyone that subscribes to the MCDM Patreon, and the backer playtest packet for everyone that backed the crowdfunder campaign back in December.

It looks like the Patreon packet will be first out of the gate. The packet is a bit delayed because of the work that needs to be finished on the director side, which I've already covered in length. The goal is still to have the packet out before the end of summer. That might mean July, and it might not.

The packet will include character creation, some ancestries, three levels for five classes, which are Fury, Conduit, Shadow, Elementalist, and Tactician. There will also be some subclasses included for the classes, but not all of them. There will also be monsters using the new design, and villain power.

The packet will also include the new action economy where move has been separated out from maneuvers. That means a creature can move in addition to taking an action and doing a maneuver on their turn.

It looks like the adventure included in the packet will be the first part of the Fall of Blackbottom adventure MCDM intends to use for Gen Con. The adventure is set during Ajax' attack on the city of Blackbottom, witnessed during the first episode of the Chain of Acheron.

The backer packet will be much like the Patreon packet, but will most likely release a bit later, once the design team has had a bit of feedback from the Patreon packet. The backer packet will be a bit more polished and probably not include as many rules as the Patreon packet.

It also looks like the game could be "feature complete" by the time the backer packet releases. Matt mentioned that Villain Power is the last thing that needs to be locked in before all the rules are in place. The license and graphic materials could also be ready in time for the packet release, which means that third party creators can start creating content for the RPG!

A Tale From Testing

Djordi, one of the designer on the team, told an anecdote from one of the internal tests. I thought it highlighted how the MCDM RPG really tries to make combats more fun. A boring combat can't be short enough, and a fun combat can't be long enough.

The Tactician uses their ability to let an any ally use opportunity attack against an enemy that moves, even if the ally is not standing next to the enemy. The Tactician orders the Elementalist to attack the moving enemy. The Tactician has already marked the enemy, enabling the Elementalist to use a more powerful signature attack, instead of the weaker opportunity attack. The Elementalist uses Fire Lance, doing both damage and pushing the enemy. The Conduit notices that the Elementalist almost rolled a tier three result, and uses their triggered action to boost the Elementalist's power roll from tier two to tier three. The Fire Lance pushes the enemy even further, and the Elementalist is able to add an extra boost to the push, moving the enemy even further still! On top of all that, with the power roll result now being a tier three result, the Tactician gets extra focus too.

This game sounds like a ton of fun!

Mot's Miscellaneous

At the end of the RPG related news I'm introducing a new section called Mot's Miscellaneous.

Mot sounds.

Thank you Mot. These are small pieces of info that don't really fit in anywhere else. Here we go!

With maneuvers not being used to move anymore, the teams has added more maneuvers. In addition, classes now grant a maneuver that's exclusive for that class.

Caster kits are getting reworked. While weapon kits were working fine, the caster kits felt a bit weird. Caster kits now get a maneuver which often comes in the form of a "little spell". That's in addition to the signature action that all kits grant.

The Conduit currently designs their own subclass. There's a few different domains to choose from. The Conduit picks two of them and combines them for their own custom subclass.

Also, the Conduit has been changed to use only one heroic resource. Wrath and Virtue is out in favor of Piety. While Wrath and Virtue was interesting, it created more bookkeeping at the table, and was difficult to balance.

Wealth is tied to level, the higher level the hero is, the more they can afford. Wealth can also be increased by titles.

James really hopes there will be space in the Monsters book to include proper rules for creating your own monsters. He says there's no point in hiding the way MCDM makes monsters.

When a side in combat has surprise, they automatically win the initiative, which means they get to decide who goes first. The surprised creatures get the surprised condition which prohibits them from using triggered actions, and attacks against them have an edge. The surprise condition ends at the end of the round.

The RPG will have it's own flavor of undead: creatures that are cobbled together of leftover human parts, the War Dogs. An army of constructed creatures, serving Ajax' will. There'll likely be War Dogs appropriate for every level.

Matt explained that they've produced a lot of stuff for the RPG which they haven't shown off to the patrons. He expects they will be able to share a lot more of that stuff in the times ahead. It might be art or full write-ups of ancestries. They will most likely be near done material.

Demons will be a common enemy in the RPG. The Monsters book will include Demons appropriate for every level of play.

Conditions now specify when they end: they either end at end of turn, or by making another resistance roll. Heroes can also deal end of encounter conditions, which lasts until the end of the encounter. Regular monsters can't remove those, but boss monsters can.

Kits limit which special weapons a hero can use. If the hero finds a magical longsword, they need to use a kit which can wield a longsword.

While dying, taking actions and triggered actions forces the hero to roll 1d6 and lose that much stamina.

Heroes get more stamina as they level up, but monsters also do more damage. Heroes do also get more ways to mitigate damage as the level up.

Monsters can be vulnerable to certain kinds of damage. When they are, they'll lose a bit more stamina every time they are hit with that kind of damage.

Flee, Mortals! included rules for reskinning monsters, e.g. making a Goblin with Human stats, but still retain the feel of a Goblin. The team expects it will be easier to reskin monsters in the RPG than in Flee, Mortals!

And finally. The Discord has been salivating over 20-sided d10s. These are d20, but they are numbered one through ten twice, and are coveted for being better to roll than d10s. In a response to a community member saying they'd buy 20-sided d10s with MCDM branding, the general manager of MCDM replied "We are working on something".

And that's it for RPG news!

Success for the RPG

Next, something post-RPG related. Matt talked a bit about what constitutes as a success for the RPG. He and the team thinks success is the RPG finding an audience. A group of players who come back to the game again and again to play more; who buys more content for the game and continues to play it for years and years. MCDM won't be able to continue making things for the RPG if there isn't a solid player base investing in the game.

Matt also thinks that MCDM is too big to only work on the RPG post-launch, and they have already internal ideas of what the next thing for MCDM might be. While some people in the company is working on RPG stuff, other will be working on other games and products.

From the Community

And now it's time to share some of the stuff the fantastic MCDM community has created and shared in the last month. Let's jump in!

Psion Pawn

Nirift has created a Talent minion. The Psion Pawn belongs to a choir that specialises in a certain school of thought and gains access to different bonuses and abilities based on it.

Big Book of Encounters

NageIfar has created the Big Book of Encounters. It's a collection of encounters that can be adapted to almost any campaign. The scenarios include monster positioning guide, tactic tips and end conditions

Oath of the Scale

BeepCrank has converted the Dragon Shaman from D&D 3.5e to a Paladin subclass in D&D 5e. The Oath of the Scale Paladin aims to honor and emulate the mighty dragons.

Wealth Rules

Max_Falcon_(EST) has created wealth rules for D&D 5e. Instead of tracking individual gold pieces, the party has a wealth level that indicates how much purchasing power they have.

Oath of Vigilance Paladin Subclass

Aramil has created the Oath of Vigilance Paladin subclass for D&D 5e. The goal of Oath of Vigilance Paladins is to seek out lies and deception. They seek out thieves and lying politicians to protect the innocent.

MCDM RPG Monster Design

The Dice Society has released a new episode of their podcast. This episode's main topic is the work done on monster design in the RPG. Give it a listen.

Zenith Phoenix

Spartior has created the Zenith Phoenix, a CR 30 monster. The Zenith Phoenix is solar celestial that was saved by their phoenix companion.

From Around the Web

As usual there's a separate section in the links section with links to MCDM being mentioned or covered outside of our trusty community.


If know of anything that should be included next time, send me an e-mail on [email protected].

Links to everything, including this script can be found on goblinpoints.com.

Until next time. Snakkes.



From the Community

From Around the Web