The Dire Rust Monster

In the comments on my Rust Monsters: Not For the Wuss of Heart post, several people claimed that they disliked Rust Monsters because they didn’t represent any real challenge: once you knew the trick of dealing with them, it was just a tedious process of beating them to death with non-metal weapons.  I think that betrays a lack of imagination on where and when they might meet Rust Monsters, but for them I have created:

Dire Rust Monster
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 5*
Move: 120′ (40′)
Attacks: 2 Claws/1 Club Tail/1 pair antenna
Damage: 1-8/1-8/1-8/special
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter: 3
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 400

Looking more like an ankylosaur with antenna than an armadillo, the Dire Rust Monster share with its lesser cousin a voracious appetite for metal.

The special antenna attack is the same as a Rust Monster: non-magical metal armor or weapons crumble to dust; magical metal armor or weapons lose a plus (10% per plus chance of resisting the effect), once it loses all its pluses the next hit crumbles it.  A successful hit on the monster with any type of weapon means the body was hit, and there is no ill-effect on the weapon.

Now it’s just as challenging as an Owl Bear (since it’s statted like an Owl Bear, except for its AC, a lower Morale and a different special ability, and a whopping XP bonus) and those who were bored by the original Rust Monster should be all eager to go up against it, right?

Rust Monsters: Not for the Wuss of Heart

    • Some people are really pissed that Wizards of the Coast cut the Rust Monster from the new 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. This creature was one of the original, classic creepy creatures from the old school pre-AD&D days.

While we’re on the subject of Fear in RPGs, the Rust Monster represents a particularly pure instance of Challenge Fear.  The only threat that the Rust Monster represents is to your character’s efficacy.  An encounter with a Rust Monster challenges you to avoid or defeat it without risking your precious equipment, or to face subsequent encounters at less than full strength.

Players who think that isn’t fun are wusses.  Or, to put it slightly less pejoratively, are either seeking the illusion of challenge without the actual possibility of significant set-backs or shouldn’t be playing a challenge-based game.  Players who are interested in interacting with the world will roll with the punches: if that’s what the setting says happens, that’s what happens.  Players who are interested in creating an exciting story might actually seek those situations out: if John McClane has to run through broken glass in his bare feet, putting him at a disadvantage for the rest of the story-line, that’s great, it ups the tension.  Players who are genuinely interested in challenge might curse their luck, or their lack of foresight, but those are the breaks that make the game worth playing.  But players who complain that it’ll leave them at less than their recommended wealth-and-equipment amounts for characters of their level, throwing off the challenge ratings for level-appropriate encounters until the GM throws in enough loot to restore the balance….  well, I can’t help feeling that they’re playing not just the wrong system, but the wrong kind of system.

There are plenty of systems out there that are explicitly built around the notion that the PCs will triumph and kick ass, and play is about giving them the mechanics to describe how they kick ass in really cool and awesome ways (Feng Shui and Exalted come to mind, or in a different vein something like Amber).  Taking a system that in its essence is about all kinds of ways that PCs can fail (poisoned, turned to stone, level-drained, killed, polymorphed, etc.) and putting foam padding on all the dangerous bits is…lame.  Go too far in that direction and even sword wounds will just seal themselves right up after a few moments… oh, wait, that’s 4e Healing Surges.

Really, I can understand and enjoy styles of gaming where the only setbacks are player imposed or player veto-able.  But if players want that, they shouldn’t fool themselves about what they’re doing.  If losing your +2 Flaming Broadsword is going to ruin the campaign for you, getting rid of the Rust Monster isn’t nearly enough–the GM’ll have to get rid of thieves, Dispell Magic, really any kind of situation where you could be knocked unconscious and stripped of your possessions… You’d all be much better off with a system where having that flaming broadsword is part of your character schtick, with explicit script immunity.