Some of the new small monsters.
Every RPG has different stages of character development, or acts;
- Act I the noobs.
- Act II the experienced party.
- Act III the epic characters.
- Act IV the demigods.
After that the experienced party part is still pretty fun, as you try to tweak your characters' skills and equipment, trying to get the most from your team or single character if you're playing a solo game.
Epic characters are only fun if you got them to that point yourself. Being dumped in to a campaign with a pre-written high level character is a pain (There are so many things about the character that just don't fit your "style") and even so I often end up restarting once I get to this point just to see if I can do "better" at making my characters now I understand the game mechanics more fully.
Beyond epic the game gets mighty boring. You've already got a couple of + 5 swords and platemail of demonic regeneration. Your character can defeat any enemy unless they have a special instant kill attack or you get hit with some kind of mind control attack which takes away control of the player, and neither of them are fun. What can you do with roleplaying? You went to the deepest level of hell last weak and killed a greater daemon. Two weeks ago you killed a minor god and stole the key to the underworld. What's left to do? Oh, the inn keeper has some rats in his cellar. Oh dear.
Anyway, what I'm aiming at with my own project is to try to keep gameplay within the first two Acts of player development. When you get to Act III it's time to hang up your sword and move on to a possible future game. Epic characters are not within the scope of this project (though there may be a future expansion to cover them).
That means I have to flesh out the early game a lot more than is usually done. Act I has to go on more than the 20 minutes it usually takes, and it has to be interesting. In so many game systems level 1 or 2 characters are so weak and defenseless it's just a matter of luck who survives or not. Most of even the lowest level monsters have a good chance of killing a level 1 character with one attack.
So I'm working on some special weak monsters for low level encounters.
These monsters are very puny. They can't really do enough damage to kill you unless you're very careless. They have a number of nuisance attacks however, such as mild venom or diseased bites. These will force the player to take steps to avoid them but won't doom the party to death if they can't get away, for example if a mob is guarding the only entrance to the next level.
You could consider these enemies to be level zero. There will be a chance of some tougher enemies spawning alone in the early levels, perhaps guarding some choice items of treasure, but mostly game play will be about trying to avoid these nasty critters until you've had a chance to get a few experience points and grab some basic gear.
Of course, this is all theory, we'll see how it turns out when the game is actually working properly. I took some giant steps towards that point today with a rewrite of some of the core code. Things are already looking a lot tidier and things are in place so that I can proceed with moving some of the functions (such as tile reveal and lighting control) off in to dedicated scripts where they won't be interfering so much with the basic workings of movement and combat.