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Author Topic: [3.5]Being Ra's al Ghul-Oslecamo's guide for DMs to improve their monsters  (Read 24416 times)
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Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« on: March 26, 2011, 05:26:45 PM »


Why am I writing this guide?

I see a LOT of optimization guides for D&D out there to all kind of classes and character concepts. But problem is, they're mostly for the players.

This puts many poor DMs at a corner where they can't properly challenge the party combat wise against those characters in crack, which is bad.

Of course, the DM could just ban/overrule stuff to make the PCs go back to sane levels again, but then the players would probably be annoyed, perhaps even come crying to net boards for help or, worst of all, start throwing net-spawned arguments whitout any actual basis at the DM. which will probably lead to pointless dicussions and hate which is worst.

Besides that, it's also important for the DM to properly challenge the players with new and interesting monsters with new and interesting tactics and abilities.

So I sit down to write this thread where DMs can come seek ideas and inspiration for making their players remember the "dragons" part of D&D, all while staying whitin RAW.

Here's what I plan to do in this guide for now:
1-Monster crunch
1A-Feats and skills
1C-Advancing monsters HD
1D-Adding levels
1E-Items and treasure

2-Customizing monsters to the party.
2A-Evaluating players strenghts and weaknesses.
2B-Making sure your monsters don't hit too hard or too weak.
2C-Right answers to the right party threats.

3-Monster life
3A-How do the monsters and players meet.
3B-Monster groups and organizations
3C-Terrain and traps
3D-Monster tactics and mentality
3F-Solo Bosses


Disclaimer about CR:

I'm perfectly aware that the CR system is really wonky for determining a monster's power level, if there's even such thing. Fact is, a monster's challenge to the party is also heavily based on the tactics it uses, the conditions in which it's fighting, other monster allies it has, the party itself and several other details. And when we start messing with feats and templates and advancing HDs more nasty stuff can happen. But, CR it's all we have to try to measure all of this by RAW.

So, my best advice on the matter is to try to stick to CR but also take some responsability and check out the final numbers yourself to see if what you're gonna throw to the party is too strong or too weack for them, which will be covered later on the guide.

1-Monster crunch

1A-Feats and skills

Monsters really suck at picking their feats. The tarrasque picks toughness. Multiple times. While the party is doing those uber feat chains.

But remember, you can change your monster feats! This alone can greatly improve a monster's power and fun factor for both the DM and the party and is quite simple to do. Here are some sugestions:

Core feats
"Nom nom nom"

Ability focus: boosts an ability's DC by 2. Great for any monster with abilities with DCs. Think twice before puting it on save or die abilities. You don't want to instantly kill batman do you?

Improved iniative-if the monsters all act after the party, well, they're pretty much screwed. Players will normally improve their own iniative, so this feat helps the monsters keep up and at least no be caught flat-footed by the party's rogue.

Combat reflexes:A must for monsters with big reaches and a positive dex score.

Combat expertise:Many monsters have huge attack bonuses but really low AC, specially touch AC. This feat allows them to somehow mitigate that. It also unlocks other usefull feats.

Improved trip: Combos great with combat reflexes to keep PCs in a place.Also remember you can trip flying playing, stoping their movement for the turn.

Improved disarm:You can disarm the oponent from anything he's holding, including that cleric's holy symbol or wizard's spell pouch.

Improved Unarmed Strike: Not so good for players, but actually great for monsters. Why? Because it stacks with natural weapons as you can use any part of your body for it! You still only get one unarmed tough unless you dip monk. Then it's awesome. Note: monk gives you improved unarmed strike for free.

Improved grapple: Since you probably picked Improved unarmed strike, follow it with this for disabling casters untill they become able to spam freedom of movement.

Power attack:A must have for any melee monster, but they normally have it automatically anyway.

Improved sunder:Really evil if you use it in that super-expensive item. Great to keep the party's WBL in check in case they got too much treasure. You can use it to pretty much sunder anything but armor.

But it's best use is definetely to destroy holy symbols/spell component pouches! Remember, eschew materials only bypasses material components, not material focuses which are also provided by the spell component pouch/holy symbol, so taking that feat won't completely protectthe casters from sundering.

Skill focus: It's not that great by itself, but it's good for monsters which really need a good bonus in a certain skill like stealthy monsters for hide or caster monsters for concentration.

Weapon focus:Yeah it also isn't very strong but if you're in a hurry designing your monster(or if you think it's already strong enough) then +1 to attack is always usefull. More than run or toughness at least.

Noncore feats
“We could do that?”-Krork, orc warchief

Darkstalker:If your monster is trying to hide, PICK THIS! Players will come with all kinds of combos to get blindsight and mindsight and whateversight to try to find your monsters and then ambushing them when it should be the other way. Darkstalcker forces the players to always use spot and listen to detect their oponents even with those special abilities, and teaches them not to relay too much on dirty tricks. Lords of madness.

Hidden Talent:
Gives one psionic power and two power points to use it. Can only be taken at 1st level, demands 11 Cha, and there's plenty of great 1st level powers out there. If the monster has feats to spare, it can get another two psionic points with Wild Talent.

Shape shoulmeld+Open least/lesser/greater chakra: Give your monster some incarnum goodiness. Remember, the monster character level will be equal to it's HD. Remeber to also pick Bonus essentia so you can actually channel chakra into those soulmelds. Magic of incarnum. Lots of diferent soulmelds to pick from.

Martial study: Basically a special 1 per battle power. Remember the monster's iniator level will be half the monster's HD. There's plenty to choose from. Tome of batle.

Martial stance:Can really spice up a monster. Remember the monster can always keep it active. Tome of batle.

Bind vestige, Bind vestige improved and Practised Binder:
Get your monster some pact goodiness. You get limited powers, but you get to freack out your players as that shiny valuable fullplate disapears from the monster they just killed. Plenty diferent abilities to choose from. Tome of magic.

Improved flight:Fly speed below good maneuvarability has several limitations.This allows you to greatly improve those monsters mobility by raising the maneuvarebility. Races of the Wild

Swarmfighting:This cute feat allows to create your own custom swarms of small sized creatures and keep them a reliable threat to the players.

Meta-breath feats:Really evil as they don't actually cost anything but the feat itself. They also stack. Try to don't go too overboard with it if you don't want to instantly kill your players. Normally quicken alone is a nasty suprise, allowing that dragon to breath and do something else. Dracomicon.

Mage-slayer: Put this in a monster which good mobility and reach and make sure casters won't be laughing in the frontline anymore. Remember that the player only realizes the monster has mage-slayer when said monster is threatening him. Also make sure the monster is doing some good damage with his aoo, since otherwise the caster will probably still pass the concentration check easily. Complete arcane, ironicaly.

Pierce Magical concealment:Make sure you hit those buff-protected casters with your mage-slayer monster. Complete arcane.

Pierce Magical protection:Codzilla? What codzilla? Combine with the above feats to teach super buffed casters on the frontlines  some humbleness. Complete arcane.

Hold the line: Combine with improved trip to teach those uberchargers a lesson or two. Complete warrior.

Robillar's gambit: Really evil against melees. For a weaker effect try out karmic strike (complete warrior). It's not very clear if they stack. As Ra'sal Ghul, you have the final word, but be prepared for batman to persuade it's allies to turn it against you if you let it stack. PHB II.

Savage species and Libris mortis: Those two books in particular contain a LOT of usefull monster feats. Perhaps I'll go over them someday but not now. If you have the books just pick them up and go to the feat sections to get plenty of goodies to challenge your players.

As you may have noticed, a monster's character level for picking up feats is determined by it's number of HD. This means that, right, a monster with more than 20 HD is considered epic and can pick up epic feats. And there's a lot of monsters out there with more than 20HD while being of nonepic CR. Some may call this broken, but after level 5-6 PCs start to get nasty and you may need to pull the big guns to keep them challenged whitout doing an auto-TPK. Here they are, all from epic level handbook:

Epic feats
IT'S OVER 9000!!!!!

Blinding speed: If you can meet the fat dex recquirement it can be quite usefull, giving you benefits similar to haste.

Damage reduction:At epic level isn't that good, but for a monster of medium level it can be a great help.

Energy resistance: nasty if combined with monsters which have vulnerability to a certain element, or also to allow monsters to shoot nukes over their own teammates whitout fear of hurting each other.

Exceptional deflection: Feat heavy, but definetely worth the look of that wizard's face when his shivering touch/orb of doom bounces off your BBEG.

Infinite deflection:Combine with the above to make your own wuxia-anime monstruosity which deflects everything the party throws at him.

Great(insert ability score here):The most usefull epic feat for the DM, allowing you to either further strenghten the monster natural powers or meet other epic feats high pre-requisites. If you don't know what to pick, pick this.

Perfect multiweapon fighting:I'm sure there's some crazy combo in here waiting to be unleashed.

As a last note on feats, remember, nowhere it says that monsters can't pick up flaws, so if you're short in feats for them feel free to give your monsters one or two flaws. And if you're at it, go ahead and give them a trait.


”Did you know that wood burns better than rocks?”-Mog, goblin weaponsmith

Monsters also aren't very smart at picking their skills, and normally they're in a completely messed up state. My sugestion is to clean it all up, maximize relevant skills and then puting whatever's left on whatever you like, be it knowledge:adventurers or profession: monster.

A monster can have a total of ranks on a skill equal to it's HD+3. It may pay off to remember the epic uses of skills for monsters with lots of HD.

Relevant skills for monsters:

Spot and listen:Your first priority no matter what. Your monster can't be a challenge if it can't find the party. If you are lacking in skill points, then pick listen so you can at least detect in which square the wizard is when either he's invisible or the monster has been blinded by some dirty trick.

Hide and move silently: Unless you're a full plate wielding ogre, it pays off to try to hide. Even large and bigger creatures normally have enough HDs to make hiding a viable strategy.

Balance:Beware of grease. 5 ranks shall be enough.

Jump: That wizard tought it was safe up there? Make him think again. Monsters with high strenght can get some sick jump modifiers.

Tumble:Nice for low levels, becomes weaker as the monsters gain better and better mobility

Bluff:Keep your rolls for this secret or the players will notice it right away. Also don't ask them to roll sense motive, just ask for their modifiers before hand and then roll it yourself. Combine it with sending spell to screw up with their mind.

Escape artist:It helps in a suprisingly big number of situations.

Sense motive:For when you don't want your players to talk their way out.

Skill tricks

"Watch me pull out your head out of this hat."-ogre magi

Like flaws, nobody says monsters can't pick those up. There are some that are really worth looking at. All from Complete scoundrel:

Clarity of vision: Nonmagical See invisibility. Remember, it worcks against ALL kinds of invisibility, including the dreaded superior invisbility spell. Very usefull against optimized arcane casters.

Shrouded dance:
Can be usefull for stealth based monsters, allowing to gain concealment as a move action.

Sliping past:
Ignore penalties for squeezing. Great for big monsters in closed areas.

Twisted charge:
Change direction during a charge. Almost a must have for charging monsters.

Acrobatic backstab:Make the target flatfooted. Usefull for monsters with abilities that depend on the target being flatfooted.


I'm a vampire now. Do I glitter in the sun? AAYYEEEE!!!-random twilight fangirl, after acquring vampirism, last words.

Templates are a quick way of spiffing up a monster, altough they normaly change the CR. Like feats, certain templates may be more usefull to certain monsters than others.

Also, there's two main kinds of templates. Some pretty much just give abilities(bonus). The others take and give abilities, the main example being skeleton and zombie(replace).

Bonus templates

Bone/Corpse creature: From BoVD, makes the creature in a smart skeleton/zombie, meaning the monster keeps all its old abilities and gain undead traits plus some extra bonus. Best part of all, Bone creature is just +0 CR! For extra power, make sure the caster creating those is a dread necromancer with all the corpse crafter feats in the area of a desecrated altar for extra HP, stats, and other goodies.

Evolved undead:Ra's al Ghul's favorite, this cheap template increases an undead's strenghts and then gives a special usefull power. Can be added multiple times. Libris mortis.

Ghost:the classic "can't touch me" spirit. +3 CR, but very powerfull when combined with monsters with special powers, since it boosts your charisma and makes you much harder to hurt. Not so good for melee brutes since you can't use str while ethereal, unless you have a ghost touch weapon.

Flying, SR some SLAs and resistances, and then boosts racial skill points as an extra. Simple and flavourfull, specially good for more brutish monsters lacking on special abilities.

Half-dragon: Players hate it, but Ra's al Ghul cares not for the hapiness of his minions! And for minions this template is, specialy large sized minions. Flight and a breath attack won't win you the day, but will slow down those pesky flying batmans wizards Works specialy well with monstruous vermins, but any large creature with low CR will do great. Also fat strenght bonus+high speed flight to keep bashing batman in melee. Core.

Gets some tentacles, cool SLAs, stat boosts, SR and some other goodies. Get your eldritch horror transformation in a flash!

For all your cyborg needs. Comes in diferent types, with iron being the strongest but also vulnerable to rust. Fat STR bonus is the main advantage, togheter with nat armor and special abilities depending on the type you transformed. Also, golem spell immunity. One decision you need to make is if your minion becomes a construct(gaining contruct immunities but losing con). Monster Manual II.

Mineral Warrior: DR/8 adamantine, good physical stat modifiers, a smite and more important of all, burrowing speed! Doesn't give anyway to see while underground tough. Good for early levels, not so good at higher levels as the DR doesn't scale. Forgoten Realms.

Multi-headed: pretty crazy template, adds extra heads to the base creature! Each head comes with extra HD, it's own attack, superior multi weapon fighting(multiple atacks whitout penalty), extra nat armor and Con. Now here's the trick. The more heads you give to the monster, the higher the CR, but each extra +1CR gives more heads. For example one more head is +1 CR, but give 4 heads and it's just +2 CR. That's 8 extra HD(with BAB, skills and feats included!), 4 more attacks, +16 con and +4 nat armor! And you can go up to +29 heads with +9 CR! That's a whooping 58 extra HD, +9 nat armor, +29 extra attacks, and...Well, just sick. Even stronger than HD advancing. Use few heads to make super monsters, and a lot of heads for memorable batles. Also make sure to find a way to give the monster pounce so it can attack with all heads after moving.

The max nº of heads you can give however is based on the creature's size. Extra heads give extra head based special attacks like breaths, but the CR also increases. If the monster doesn't have breath atacks, you can give the template offers the possibility of giving them one (altought somewhat weak), and even an hydra-like ability to make cut heads regrow!

Monster of legend: Pretty much what it says. Fat bonus to saves, abilitiy scores, one special activated ability (5th level cleric casting is specialy juicy), two special passive abilities (permanent spell turning is awesome) and some other stuff. Just for +2 LA. Great for when you want to quickly make an elite monser or BBEG. MM II.

Phrenic creature:
for the psion lovers, this template gives a bunch of great psi like abilities to challenge batman. Empty mind, force screen and precognition alone are a great defensive buffs against magic. Mind thrust is a powerfull ranfed attack. For the non psion lovers, it's still usefull with some reflavoring, just remember that a creature with psi like abilities is assumed to augment those psi like abilities to the max of his ML. Psionics handbook (3.5 one, beware of the 3.0 one)

Pseudonatural creature:Originating from the plane of b\, this template is specialy usefull for small mooks, because it gives true strike 1/day to make sure they hit a party member before going down whitout increasing their CR, as long as they have 3HD or less. Also, tentacles. Lords of madness.

Shadow creature: very nice to make stealthy monsters, and also to make any monster more durable with just +1 CR. In particular, it bypasses the need for cover to hide. Extra speed bonus is always welcome. Save bonuses, mirror image and fast healing are all good to keep it going once it's discovered. Goes well with anything that isn't fighting in broad daylight. Lords of madness.

SpellWarped Creature: Grants SR and some extra stats, and whenever spells fail to penetrate the monster's SR, they get stronger! It does cost +2 CR tough, and I believe there's easier

Vampire: A lot of bonuses and penalties, this is one is best left to elite monsters and BBEGs due to all of the bookeeping, but can do for some quite good batles if you know what you fully use their abilities. Core. Libris mortis offers some interesting variants.

Vecna blooded: four words: COMPLETE IMUNITY TO DIVINATION! No ifs. No ways to bypass it. F**** scrying, knowledge skills, bardic knowledge, metagame knowledge and whatever other cheap tricks batman calls, he can't see it. These are Ra's al Ghul's most trusted minions. Nobody will see them coming. And even if they see, they can gain a super displacement for 1 minute 1/day. True seeing is a divination spell, so make the Vecna blooded minion an illusionist for extra nastyness. From MM V, and a cheap +1CR. There are other god blooded templates there, but this one clearly stands out.

Coming in all kinds of shapes and sizes, this template actualy adds HDs to the monster. Clearly tailored for brutish monsters, the main advantage is hiding as a normal animal untill Ra's al Ghul orders them to strike at batman. Core

Replace templates

Brood spawn: Resistance if futile. You will all be assimilated. Nice bonuses for combat, usefull SLAs, and a single one escaping from the party means it will eventualy begin a new infestation. From elders of evil.

Living spell:Not your usual template, this turns a spell into a walking monster which keeps repeating it's effects on whoever it touches! Kinda one trick pony, but makes for a great suport dude for your big fat minions. Either benefetical spells to buff them or ofensive spells against the party.

Mob and Unit templates:created by yours truly, those templates allow you to turn lots of small weak creatures into a big nasty monster of doom! If you don't like homebrew, the original one mob template can be found at DMG 2.

Revived fossil:Ra's al Ghul pits on a budget. This one is specialy usefull to creating low CR mooks, as RF gain a fixed extra HP, claw damage and armor bonus dependant on their size, not their HD. Baboons are particulary nasty, but anything with good physical scores will do. Libris mortis.

Skeleton: Classic undead template. Remember they can use weapons! Quick, hard and quick to make as it has no feats or skills. If you want to increase the challenge, claim they were created by someone with corpsecrafter feats and give them the bonuses! As RF, works well with creatures with high ability scores. Core. Libris mortis offers extra special variants.

Zombies:the other classic undead template. One action per turn is a b****, but they at least can fly with wings. Partial charge allows them to move and attack on the same turn. Alone they aren't that dangerous, but they have lots of HP, and their bigger number of HD allows them to hit hard, specialy if the base creature had an attack with good base damage. Combine them with suport monsters who can tie down the party, or use them as walking obstacles! Core. Libris mortis offers extra zombie variants at the end of the monsters section, in particular one that greatly increases the speed and allows for multiple actions(but still just one atack).

Just like monsters, there's plenty of templates out there, and I didn't memorize them all so if you know any cool one that isn't above, feel free to point it out! I'll probably add more onmy own iniative as I remember them.

Extra: If you don't mind homebrew, check out the Improved Monster Classes on my sig, wich further expands several of the templates mentioned here!
« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 01:55:50 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2011, 05:27:01 PM »

1B-Advancing monsters HD
We'll make him bigger, stronger, faster... Less explody-space pirate, trying to rebuild Riddick

This is another fast way of increasing monster power. Monster with extra HD are suposed to represent exceptional individuals. Or Ra's al Ghul mad experiments. Or individuals breed and trained to kill certain overconfident humans. Your call.

Altough it's based on a lot of rules and tables, monster HD advancement boils down to this:
Each extra HD gives +1 to the monster's SR, skills(if it has int), and CL, if it has any.
Each 2 extra HD grant +1 to the monster's good saves and the DC of non SLA abilities.
Each 3 extra HD grants one extra feat and +1 to the monster bad saves.
Each 4 extra HD grants +1 to an ability score of your choice.

BAB increases dependant on the creature type. Undeads for example get +1 for each 2 HD, while outsiders het +1 for every HD.

The CR increase is based on the type of HD you're increasing. Stronger types advance their CR faster, while weaker types advance their CR slower.

Aberration, construct, elemental, fey, giant, humanoid, ooze, plant, undead, vermin +1 per 4 HD added
Animal, magical beast, monstrous humanoid +1 per 3 HD added
Dragon, outsider, +1 per 2 HD

This is actualy an advantage to the weak creature types! An angel gets +1 CR for geting 2HD, and that results in +2 BAB, 9HP, +2 SR(if it had any) +1 to all saves and +2 to it's skills.

Meanwhile, an undead gets +1 CR for gaining +4 HD, but that results in +2 BAB, +2 to will save, +1 to fort and reflex, +4 SR(if it had any) 26 HP +4 to all skills and a feat(if it has int).

This way relatively weak monsters can be greatly improved just by increasing their HD.

Unlike players, monsters can get more than 20 BAB with HD increase, but they can still only make up to 4 iterative attacks with a single weapon.

Adding enough HDs this way can increase a monster's size. Check out the monster's entry. This however increases the monster's CR by +1 on itself, lowers dex and may make it harder to fit in the base tunnels, so sometimes you may wish to skip it.

Extra combo: templates based on HD+HD advancement!
Simply, advance a weak type of creature several HD, then slap a template on it that's based on it's total number of HD. It'll almost always result in a quite powerfull and flavourfull creature for it's CR, even with few optimization of Ra's al Ghul's part. Specialy good to suprise and challenge more optimized parties when your brain is feeling lazy.

1D-Adding levels

My name is Spidew Montoya. You killed my warlord. Prepare to die.

Now making monsters bigger and nastier is all fine and dandy, but sometimes you want to give them abilities that aren't directly related to their bodies. You want bugbear samurais and ogre mages, or just want to let Batman taste his own tricks. That's when Ra sens his minions into hellish training so they can get some levels.

If you know your way around classes, adding them to monsters is quite easy. Just consider that you were multiclassing, and add the class bonuses to the monster stats.

Before actualy adding levels...
I'm elite, you're not!-goblin warblade

...The monster automaticaly gets the elite array of scores! Basicaly you get to add +5, +4, +3, +2, +0, -2 to the monster stats as you wish. Plus, the monster now counts as NPC, and gets extra money to spend in gear(see the next section for advice on how to properly equip monsters)! This alone increases the monster's power, whitout mattering what class you actualy give them! Sweet!

Class association
The cheese!

Now the first matter we need to clear up it's associated class levels and non associated class levels. Basicaly, the books say that normaly class levels add +1 CR on a 1 to 1 basis. However, if you're giving the monster class levels that don't play directly to their strenghts (like giving wizard levels to a troll), then the CR only increases 1 by each 2 class levels, untill the monster has as much non associated class levels as racial HD.

Problem is, how do you know that a class is associated or nonassociated with a certain monster? The troll for example. Giving it wizard levels sounds like a bad idea, at first, but let's look more carefully.

First just 2 wizard levels. It's stats get improved. Let's put the +5 at int so he gets 11 int and can cast 1st level spells. Scribe scroll isn't that usefull, so we'll use the variant wizard that swaps it for a fighter feat. We'll get a bat familiar for a blindsense scout, or trade it for something else. Yes we can do that. The troll gets +17 hp from it's extra two HD, thanks to his fat con, +3 to his will save, that was pretty weak before, +1 BAB, and can cast two or three spells for some utility. Like grease to hold the party's cleric at bay while it closes in. It can also now use scrolls and wands, which he can afford with his NPC wealth.

Not too shabby, right? The troll has CR+1, but it's gained a series of considerable bonuses.

Now let's give it 6 wizard levels. It can now cast 3rd level spells( he gained two stats increase at 8th and 12th level, so let's increase his int to 13), so it can fly, see invisible oponents, become invisible himself plus plenty of other stuff. It also gained a good chunk of HP, two extra fighter feats total, +3 BAB total, +2 to ref and fort and +5 to will, and can now speak with his familiar. Plus trolls stats.

It's total CR is 8. If used properly, he's quite a challenge to the party.

And now a more extreme example, Tiny the stone giant wizard. He begins CR 8 and with 14 HD. Give him 14 wizard levels and now he's CR 15. But he casts as a wizard 14. With stone giant stats. And can pick up epic feats. And his ECL is 28, so he gets a butload of money to spend in equipment!

So, my advice is, consider that all class levels are associated for normal monsters, and nonassociated for elite monsters. Tiny would make a great leader for a stone giant force, but a tribe made only of Tinys will just roll over the party. And once more, notice that nonassociated caps when you have as much class levels as racial HD, thus monsters whitout racial HD count everything as associated.

So, which classes to pick?
My dad was a warrior. And a medic. And a sailor. And...

This section will be divided in two sections: fullcasters, like wizards, clerics and sorcerors, and nonfullcasters, aka everything else. Notice that monsters which have natural spellcasting like dragons and Rakasha can improve that spellcasting by taking levels on the related class. So for example, a rakasha with 3 levels of sorceror would cast as a 10th level sorceror.

Also, if giving caster levels to a monster, seriously consider giving it the practised spellcaster feat to improve it's CL!

Fullcaster classes. Unless the monster has natural spellcasting to improve, giving the monster fullcaster levels is basicaly like giving it some extra special powers.

Cleric: quite good actualy. Improves fort and will, and the two domains will come with special abilites. You can easily get two feats for free (like weapon proefecincy and focus from war and improved iniative from celerity). Cleric also has plenty of good and medium level usefull buffs, like shield of faith.

Enchanting your own natural attacks may be usefull, but the animal companion be too weak and wildshape needs a lot of levels to come online. Either give it to very low level monsters or as nonassociated, or pick cleric.

Not much to see here, besides improving monsters with natural casting on this, but if you want to spam one or two 1st level arcane spell it can be worthwhile.

Wizard: Like I already pointed out, you can swap scribe scroll for a fighter feat, and the will save bonus comes in handy for a lot of monsters.

Nonfullcasters: This is where the true gold lies for quick improving!

Barbarian:RAGE against the batman! Great for any combat monster, extra speed comes in handy also. Lion totem barbarian crom complete champion is a quick simple way of giving your monster pounce.

Bard:Mainly usefull for a suport monster, singing to boost his allies. Unfortenely, multiples don't stack, but you can "cheat" your way trough this by making two bards, one normal, the other with dragonfire inspiration(dragon magic)! Also words of creation(BOED) to double the bonuses, altough technicaly only goody two shows can use this one.

Binder:With the improved biding feat, you can further increase the monster's ability to use vestiges!

Crusader, swordsage and warblade: If you know your way around Tome of Batle, those three classes can all quickly give a bunch of special abilities to any monster in the form of maneuvers. Remember again that the monster can count half its racial HD for Initiator level!

Fighter:Two levels, two feats, and plenty of armor and weapon proficiencies on top. You can also add multiple levels to gain the special fighter alternate abilities like dungeoncrasher and the Complete Champion one where you can sacrifice BAB for extra will save.

Monk: Altough normally disregarded for players, monk dip is awesome for monsters. Like already mentioned Improved Unarmed Strike stacks with natural weapons, as does Flurry of Blows. Then Monk 2 gives out a couple feats most melee monsters would want anyway, and +3 to all saves. And if the monster has a nice Wis, extra AC!

Paladin: Not that shiny, untill you combine it with a monster with high charisma(and there's plenty of them out there), and then it ROCKS! Divine grace boosts your saves to the sky and beyond, and smite evil will hurt something bad. You can trade the mount for charging smite(PHB II), and turn undead can channel divine feats to add charisma to damage (Complete divine).Remember the evil paladin variants if you don't feel like sending goody two shoes against batman.

Ranger:Not that usefull, but could work if you want to make a semi stealthy tracker sniper monster, but even then it takes quite some trouble to work.

Rogue:Sneack attack stacks great with stealthy monsters with lots of attacks. Consider also the ninja class which grants sudden strike(only works against flat footed oponents), but allows you to become invisible by yourself. Is that a plane? Superman? No, it's a ogre ninja!

Monster prestige classes. The following prestige classes were created precisely to be used by monsters.

Beholder mage:casts as a sorceror, learns as a wizard, and can reach 9th level spells with 9 levels of this prc. And only beholders can take it, so screw batman. You lose the ability to use the eyestalks for rays one by one, but instead they can cast spells. As a free action. Multiple times per turn. Train your diabolical laughter if you plan on unleashing this on the party. Sure it would need to be CR 22 to cast 9th level spells, but a beholder mage 7 casting 7 spells per turn from level 1 to 7 is still pretty sick for CR 20. Lords of madness.

Dungeon lord:
If you love building dungeons filled with traps, then this is for you. Gives bonus to all the dungeon lord minions, including the ability to don't be hindered by any of the dungeon traps, scrying everywhere and teleporting anywhere inside it. And then animating a part of it just to make batman go WTF! Dungeonscape.

Fiend of blasphemy:
For demons and devils, this prc focuses on a mastermind who enslaves lots of weak cultists and sends them forth to do their biding. Plus some cleric casting, up to 5th level spells in 5 levels. Besides that the main advantage is allowing cultists to use your SLA as cheap effecient canon fodder. Takes some work to make it worthwile, but very flavourfull.

Fiend of corruption:The typical seductress, this demon/devill specializes in offering false gifts. More fit for heavy roleplay campaigns, as it's abilities work slowly and are based around a lot of talking, but great if you want an NPC to screw with your player's heads. Just remember to cranck up her bluff skill or batman may enslave her for his own purposes.

Alternatively, it also makes a good suport monster, or an evil leader herself, using her corruption abilities to buff her minions.

Fiend of possession:
Become a spirit that enters objects and uses them to do their biding! Includes such goodies as boosting the possessed item or cursing it, animating the object (up to colossal), and eventualy possessing living beings. Virtualy undetectable while possessing the item if played smart, it will surely make Batman question his own sanity.

All three above from fiend folio.

Warshaper: the trouble for this Prc is geting the shapeshifting prerequisite, but if the monster qualifies for it by default, it offers plenty of awesome combat bonus. Excellent choice for advancing any shapesifting monster and keeping up with their theme. Complete warrior.

Plenty of prc for dragons. May do a run down after finishing the rest of the guide.

Lords of madness: besides the beholder mage it's filled with other goodies for aberrations of all kinds.

Savage species: Plenty of monster prcs.

1E-Items and treasure

One ring to rule them all-Sauron

No matter what he says, Batman does relies heavily on equipment, so it's only fair Ra's al Ghul minions turn his tricks against him.
Now some monsters are savage things that really shouldn't use any kind of equipment, but for everything else, they should use anything and everything they can get their hands on.

But alas, altough your budget is unlimited, as an overlord you still don't want to pay too well your minions. It just wouldn't be ethic. So, where can they get equipment in a fair way?

One, their own random treasure. Technicaly speaking, you should roll beforehand the treasure of each of your monsters, and then make the monster equip anything usefull. But who rolls random tables nowadays? Heck, even the adventure modules come with pre made equipment for all monsters. So, we can use the average monster treasure to see how much "budget" each minion has.

Average treasure per CR.

1 300 gp 11 7,500 gp
2 600 gp 12 9,800 gp
3 900 gp 13 13,000 gp
4 1,200 gp 14 17,000 gp
5 1,600 gp 15 22,000 gp
6 2,000 gp 16 28,000 gp
7 2,600 gp 17 36,000 gp
8 3,400 gp 18 47,000 gp
9 4,500 gp 19 61,000 gp
10 5,800 gp 20 80,000 gp

If a monster has class levels, it counts as an NPC, and thus gets even more treasure! Unfortenely, the NPC tables are protected by the scary wizard of the coast, so you'll need to consult the DMG for them. You are expected to spend this money in good equipment. High CL potions and scrolls are a good way of spending said money whitout making batman too rich when(and if) he defeats your NPC.

Or, if you can't be bothered with all the gold math, and don't want to hand out batman too much free money, just give the monster the class levels and claim that he spent all his money on booze.

So, what do we do with it? First of all, keep it simple. You'll have to equip dozens of minions, so better to give each one just two or three strong items, except if they're named minions, in which case you should take your time giving them a lot of trinkets so he lasts more than one round against batman.

Anyway, your minion items can be divided in two main categories. Permanent items give a constant bonus and will fall on the batman's hands if he's victorious. Expendable items have limited uses, so you get more bang for your buck while denying batman of loot.

Permanent items
T-rexes with F14s!-Calvin

Airships: The rules are in the Eberron books. Pimp it up. Give it crew. Make batman fight a batle he won't forget so soon. Granted, it's a lot of bookeeping. Check out the tactics section(soon to come) for more details and sugestions on this.

Bloodspikes: From Magic of Eberron, take them beforehand, and they provide a 1-hour effect which can be expended for a one-shot special effect. Tempo Bloodspikes in particular

Cloaks: of resistance are always usefull, but other nice ones exist too.

Melee weapons:if the monster has hands and good physical scores, weapons normaly provide a better way of hurting batman. Besides enchanting them with nifty effects(or just plain +X/+X), some weapons offer extra options, like the extra reach of the spiked chain.

SPECIAL FOR HANDLESS MINIONS-Lords of madness provides the mouthpick enchantment, which allows a monster to wield a weapon with his mouth. And make iterative attacks. Simply fabulous for all those monsters which have just one big bite atack, like the purple worm.

Ranged weapons:if the monster has hands, ALWAYS give them ranged weapons. Javelins in particular are cheap and provide decent range. Crossbows are brutal with low str creatures (cough kobolds cough), heavy crossbows for long range sniping, composite longbows for a midle ground of damage and range. Daggers and darts are less efecient, but somewhat flavourfull and easily conceivable.

Most monsters walk around naked. This is simply unadmissible! Ra's al Ghul inisists all his servants who have a language to dress in fashion! Nonmagic armor is cheap and will improve AC. Notice heavier armor may hinder skills and even movement so don't go throwing fullplates to everything you throw at the party. In particular since they're worth 1.5 k gold each.

Masterwork tools:
No, not the farming ones. The ones which give +2 competence to a skill for 50GP. If nothing else, give some spot and listen material to your minions so they can see batman coming. Look out for usefull special materials. Riverine from Stormwrak is particularly usefull, giving half it's bonus as deflection!

Stat enanchers:As simple as you get, but pretty effecient.

Siege weaponry: Expensive and static, but deal big damage. Better suited for monster fortresses and defences, or mount them on top of other big monsters. One minion will take several turns to get just one shot, but several minions can work at the same time to make it shoot every round, assuming you have one minion for each fullround action the weapon will need to reload/prepare/aim/fire. Available in the DMG, Stormwrack (has gunpowder stuff!) and Heroes of Batle.

Ring of deflection- to keep those touch attacks at bay.

Boots:Speed, flying, striding, and several other choices, all great for enanching mobility. You just need one pair tough.

Expendable items
I've been saving this for a special ocasion!-Flonne, angel assassin.

Alchemist's fire/acid:since they're touch atacks to hit, they allow low minions to sucessfuly hit the party. Eberron books have some more varieties of those. Feel free to homebrew your own stronger alchemical substances, just share the receipt with batman for fairness. Eberron does have some extra ones.

Potions:Ah, the big expendable item of choice. Anyone can use them, but it takes a standard action, so better to drink them before combat starts. Spending a round during combat to drink a potion is a waste of a minion. Thus potions are best suited for agressive/skillfull monsters which know they'll enter a fight soon, so they drink their potions beforehand. Inner dungeon guards who will hear their companions being killed by batman before actualy spoting them also works well.

Potions can replicate any spell fro level 1 to 3, but CL can go up to infinity and beyond. Formula is 50xspell levelxCL. Here are some of the best sugestions, altough there's plenty of spells out there, so I probably missed several.

Blinding scales:nat armor becomes deflection bonus? Force batman wizard to roll something above 2 to hit your big fat monsters? Yes please. Races of the dragon.

Divine favor:+X to hit and damage based in CL, always good.

Expeditious retreat: to reach batman faster.

Haste:great all around combat buff.

Heroism:should be called villanism.

Fly:So you tought you were safe up there did you...?

Jump:Fly on a budget.

Invisibility:What was that sound again?

Mage armor:+4 armor whitout any pesky encumbrance.

Magic weapon: to enchant ammunition or if the minion doesn't have enough budget for an actual magic weapon. For natural weapons, magic fang.

Protection from alignment:Works better if the party has all similar alignments, but even then, it's a cheap anti mind control tactic.

Shield of faith:moar deflection bonus, altough it doesn't stack with other sources.

Silence:sound? What sound?

Scrolls:You'll need either spellcasting monsters, or give your monsters UMD ranks. Either way, they're the supreme expendable item, allowing your lowest minions to throw all and any spell. I won't bother leaving a list of good spells here since there's just too many. Just search one of the many batman guides out there and make your own combos. Just try to don't go mad with power as batman.

Wands: Cheaper and easier to use than scrolls, but just spells from lv1 to 4. Remember you can buy them partialy, so for example for 75 gp you can get a wand of ray of enfeeblement with 5 charges, easily afordable by any of your minions. Again, search the batman archives for good spell sugestions, or heck, open your own books and pick whatever you find funny! You paid for those spells, so give them an use!

Remember however, don't go overboard with just combat items and stuff your minions with some shiny coins, jewels, and refined art with part of the budget. You wouldn't want batman to think you only want to make his life a living hell, would you?

For extra points, make extra detailed descriptions of random items the players find, then watch as they start throwing every divination trick they have trying to discover an hidden power that isn't there. Or heck, satisfy their wishes and give the item a secret special power that unlocks a sidequest or something.

1F-humanoid NPCs
I may be of edible size and womanly strenght, but I'm a great warrior!-gnome NPC.

Dragons, dinossaurs, demons, fairies and stuff with tentacles is all fun, but sometimes you want to challenge batman with something more human. Or elvish. Or dwarfish.

Unlike most monsters, humanoids lack special abilities, and thus rely mostly on their class and equipment to be a threat. In this section I provide a guide to help you create challenging NPCs from humanoids more easily. This is for expendable minions only however. For more fleshed out NPCs who you want to last more than 1 hour, take your time building them as you would do for a PC.

Basic races overview

Dwarf: tough both physical and against magic, and the charisma penalty rarely hurts. The slow speed however does. Better for heavily armored NPCs.

Elves:Not that popular as a PC race, they make actualy good NPCs focused in ranged combat, or spellcaster NPCs. The low con really doesn't bother you, because they're bound to die. Sun elves are your best bet for wizard NPCs, in particular because they can take faery mystery initiate (races of destiny) to get int to life instead of con.

blah blah they make good illusionists, but the real gold is in the super whisper gnome (races of stone), with 30 base speed, silence, bonus to con AND dex, sick bonuses to hide and move silently for some really nasty sneaky NPCs.

Goblins: Air goblins get a whooping +4 to dex (srd), making them a good choice for any dex based class. Otherwise, kobolds and others are better as your small minion race. If you don't feel like using the cheesy whisper gnomes, goblins are your second best bet for quick sneaky NPCs, as they get bonus on move silently and are small.

Halflings: The trick here is the bonus on thrown weapons, which can make halflings good npcs focused in this style of combat. Strongheart halflings get an extra feat instead of the +1 bonus to all saves, altough both are good for expendable NPCs.

Hengeyokai: From Oriental Adventures, updated to humanoid(shapechanger) in 3.5 for no LA. Have the ability to turn into a specific animal or respective hybrid form. Main advantage are the bird forms which are the fastest and simplest way to get flight into an NPC.

Humans:Extra feat, extra skill points, good for everything nuff said.

Kobolds:The classic minion race, because of their low CR. Notice however it only applies to NPC classes. A kobold fighter 1 is still CR1. Low str is hardly a problem when you're flinging spells or shooting crossbows. If you go by certain splatbooks, they count as dragons and thus you can give them dragon related feats out of the bat for extra nastyness. They were also buffed to have bite+2 claw atacks, which makes them quite nasty if you give them a class with abilities that trigger on each atack, like rogue.

Orcs:Water orcs are strictly better, geting swim speed and +2 Con whitout losing anything. If you're making agressive strenght based NPCs, they're the way to go, otherwise you should probably look somewhere else.

Half-orcs and half-elves are, well, weak, and should only be used for fluff purposes or if you don't want your NPC to be that strong.

Warforged: Last but not least, warforged come with an impressive array of immunities and plenty of special options. Always work well as constructs on a budget, and if properly pimped with PC levels, quite good oponents.

What classes to use?

First, you need to decide NPC or PC classes. NPC classes are better for minions against low-medium level parties, but PC classes give out all kind of nifty abilities.

Second, the average NPC has 10 on all stats before racial modifiers, but the rules also allows you to use 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8 distributed as you choose, which is always nice.

On the other hand, the CR of a creature with only NPC levels is half that the CR of a creature with class levels (1/2 if it hast just 1 NPC level), which allows you to easily deploy big numbers of them.

My advice? NPC classes become pretty much useless at medium-high levels, unless you're throwing hordes of small enemies at the party.

So a quick review of NPC classes before we move on.

NPC classes

Adept:spellcaster NPC. Has a limited spell list, but he automaticaly knows his spells. Works well as an artillery plataform and suport base.

Aristrocat:gets extra money only. Not the best thing to throw at the party.

Comoner: Those are the people ravaged by diseased and famine, whitout any special abilities. They'll probably don't want to atack the party in the first place, but if the party tries to atack a random person who you don't care about, make them a comoner.

Expert:8 chosen class skills gives him some good potential for skill based enemies. Load him up on scrolls and wands. Specialy good for stealth NPCs.

Warrior:The only NPC class with full BAB, and nothing more. For the frontline NPCs trying to hit batman with pointy stuff.

Note: simplifying NPC spells:

You don't need to write down every spell known and prepared. Is the batle really going to last 30 turns? Just fill up half a dozen upper slots with the combat spells you expect the NPC to use.

Multiclassing is good:from my personal experience, giving out a lot of class dips can make good fast combat NPCs, to make up for the lack of natural abilities. Two levels of fighter for two feats, barbarian for rage+fast movement/pounce, a touch of warblade and crusader on top, and presto!

Screw versatility:PCs like to be able to do several things. NPCs can afford to be 1 trick ponies and then die. Focus each NPC resources in just one or two attack forms and enough defenses/utility so that they live enough time to deliver them.

NPC equipment:

Lots of small items: costs are exponential on D&D, so better to have an armor+1, amulet of nat armor +1, ring of deflection +1 than an armor +3. Don't forget stat boosters, and amulet of resistance. Ignore anything that doesn't directly raise your numbers or increases your mobility.

Pre combat buffing:Pretty much essential. If they don't have spellcasters of their own, use some kind of distraction. A fog cloud. One of them sacrificing himself to buy the others time. Then let the NPCs drink their potions and read their scrolls bought with their extra money and they should become considerably stronger.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 12:52:53 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #2 on: March 26, 2011, 05:27:16 PM »

2-Customizing monsters to the party.
"Powerfull people have powerfull enemies".-Gralop, drow general.

2A-Evaluating players strenghts and weaknesses.

"Nothing is ever what it seems".-Vecna disciple

First, make sure you get copies of your players character sheets. Then take note of their:

-Movement speed (and extra movement modes).
-Attack bonus/spell save DCs.

You want the monsters to:

-Be able to drop one player in two-three rounds of attacking the player (more or less if they're minions or solo bosses respectively). This can be acomplished by extreme acuraccy with low damage, extreme damage with low acuraccy or something in between (like 50% chance to hit, one attack per round, deal half the total HP of the player in damage with each blow). I personally prefer high acuraccy with low damage as it's easier to see if you're going overboard or not than a monster missing a lot and suddenly crushing a PC in pulp.

-Being able to resist at least two-three rounds of direct attacks from the whole party (more or less depending if they're solo bosses or minions respectively). This is acomplished by a combination of high HP, saves, DR and other special defensive abilities to make sure the monster can keep going.

-Special abilities that allow save DCs to affect the party around 50% of the time. Except for full-disabling/insta-kill powers, you really don't want to pump those up unless you and your party enjoy TPKs.

-In the same vein, make sure your monsters have some trump cards of their own so they aren't one-shoted too easily. Martial study feat or warblade dip can do wonders here. A simple IRON HEART SURGE for example can remove that blindness/fog/maze the wizard just dropped on the monster. Feral Jump provides swift-action movement to escape entangles and greases.

It's pretty easy to go wrong if you're an unexperienced DM, but you'll eventually get the hang of it with experience. Try to start with weaker monsters, and then scale up untill you get to that "sweet" point where the party struggles but still emerges victorious. If dealing with a new party, start with a "test" battle to gauge their oveall strenght before you start throwing plot-relevant monsters at them. The party doesn't need to know it's a test battle however. It will also let them try out their new toys right away so everybody wins!

Notice I say "two-three" turns, but you may change that number to better fit your campaign style, or if an ecounter is suposed to be just a speed bump or an epic battle.

Now in an ideal world the party would have all those statistics relatively close to each other between party members. Unfortenely due to the high customization possibility of D&D, they're probably be pretty spread up. Wich means that what can hurt a player is harmless to another, and what can hurt the second player would be instant kill for the first.

The diferences will probably get bigger as the party grows up on levels. This is a basic fact of D&D, and altough you can tone it down by making sure the party is working as a group and sharing buffs while banning the most broken stuff, you can't fully remove it. Plus well, the frontline is suposed to have bigger AC than the squisies behind at least. Enphasis on “suposed”. Many times it will be the casters oozing buffs from their ears with the highest AC and saves. But we'll take care of that later.

2B-Dealing with wide gaps between defenses.
"A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link"- Korfur, Maug blacksmith.

Well the most basic way is to make an average of the party's AC and saves, and then make your monsters aim to that average. People with less defenses get hit more often, people with more defenses get hit less often, and hopefully the people with less defenses will get better defenses. And then you ramp up your monster's attack potential!

You can also kinda "solve" the gaps and have your monsters use debuffs on the heaviest buffed members of the party. Specially at medium-high levels, make sure team monster always has some dispelling trick on their hand. Negative levels are a little evil, but specially destructive against casters as it makes them lose their highest spells. At least untill they start geting death ward. Apply dispelling then.

Another solution is to have team monster have backup attacks that fully ignore all those higher numbers. Something like a ray of Dizzyness is a 3rd level single-target no-save slow that only demands a ranged touch attack. And hey, it does make sense they'll apply those tricks on the oponents they can't hit with their normal ones right?

Note: here's where it really helps to don't go wild on save-or-lose abilities. If you drop something like a medusa, it's very possible half the party droping dead instantly and the other shrugging it off the whole battle because there's a 10-point gap between their Fort saves or something like that.

2C-Dealing with wide gaps between attacks:

There's always hidden silver weapons near werewolf nests.

On a similar note, sometimes certain players have much stronger ofensive capacity than others, so a monster that could whitstand  against player 1 for five turns will drop in 1 if faced against player 2.

Now here's a little easier to solve. You just have to optimize the monster defenses against the strongest players while leaving gaps against the weakest ones. So there's two melees, one able to easy bypass DR and the other not?  Use monsters with little or no DR then. Half the party flies and the other doesn't? Make sure monsters can fly or have powerfull ranged attacks, but keep them near the ground. Party member using and abusing touch attacks? Crank up that touch AC with Scintilating scales and Crumbling Dodge.

Droping plot items of power that help the weakest party members also helps here. Also make sure they can only be used by said party members and have no sell price. It's actually a pretty common trope in media and everything! How many people didn't became heroes just because they had a powerfull artifact dropped in their lap?

Of course, advising the players to help each others in optimization terms also helps here.

2D-Dealing with powerfull party magic.
I'm too tired to recite the spell words...-Patchoulli, anemic wizard.

Now one of the things that makes casters fearsome it's that they can break the rules and screw the monsters whitout caring about their AC and saves. They're relatively rare at low levels, but quickly get stronger and stronger as the party levels up, and can easily overshaddow everything else if you're not prepared. A good DM must know how to deal with those

Basic anti-magic defenses:
"What do you mean he broke that wall of force by flexing his muscles?"-Eretreb, white ethergaunt

There's a lot of magic threats, so there's no single perfect anti-magic defense. A good combination of defenses however can make party casters sweat to actually win the battle.

Spell Resistance:Yes, a lot of spells bypass it. Luckily a lot of good spells do allow it, and casters will try to use them. Remember that monster Spell Resistance rises with HD when you advance it. Like AC, try to resist the temptation of rising it too high.

High Saves: Yes, a lot of spells  bypass it. Luckily a lot of good spells do allow it, and casters will try to use them. Make sure to cover up the monster's weakest save first. Back them up with ways to re-roll saves, feats and items. Spells that allow neither SR or saves are quite rare, and we'll deal with them on a moment. Like AC, try to resist the temptation of rising it too high.

High mobility: No matter how strong a monster is, if it's slow, then it's easy prey for a clever caster that can eventually just kite it. Make sure your monster moves fast, and can move in diferent ways like flying and burrowing. Haste and expeditious retreat really help here.

Teleportation: Sometimes you get stuck inside something made of force or a fog or a wall. Teleportation is your good friend here. Many monsters have it naturally. Wizard dip for abrupt jaunt or some scrolls of the weaker teleport versions also work.

High touch AC: Several of the ways of casters bypassing SR and saves involves hiting monster's touch AC, wich is normally pitifully low. Always pimp up your monster's touch AC. Buff dex, Crumbulous Dodge, Scintilating scales, a combination of those, but just do it.

Iron Heart Surge: Deserves a clause of it's own. Remove any nasty effect, no ifs or buts. Available trough warblade dip or a couple of feats. Monster needs to be able to take a standard action to use it tough.

Holy Immunity buff trinity: Death Ward, Freedom of Movement, Mindblank. Those three spells make you immune to pretty much every nasty effect out there. Now you don't need to put all those three buffs in every monster you use, but make sure they have at least one or more at medium-high levels. They're quite expensive in item form and can't be easily obtained with templates that I know off,  so look up for monsters that can use them as SLAs, or add buff bots to the monster team.

Anti-Miss chances: Sometimes the caster just stacks up mirror image, displacement and whatnot and goes to town. True Strike, Pierce Magic Concealment, True Seeing and senses that don't rely on sight/hearing are your friends here.

Extra senses: Casters also have a bad habit of trying to turn themselves indetectable. Make sure your monsters at mid-high levels have good spot and some combination of See Invisibility, True Seeing, tremor/blindsense. Scent works too. Mindsight and lifesight are a little evil, but if the party is using them, throw them back at them. Do notice that Mindsight is blocked by anti-mind-affecting effects due to the Lords of Madness comment that mind flayers hate undead because mindsight doesn't work on them.

Not every one of your monsters needs to have a bunch of those, but make sure at least one of them has, so he can point the party to the others.

Dispelling: Sometimes the casters just stack up a trillion buffs on them. So it's dispelling time! Expect the party casters  to take serious anti-dispelling tricks to keep their buffs going, in particular increasing their own CL beyond normal, ring of arcane might, spellblades and rings of counterspelling, so you'll probably need counter-counter tricks to actually dispel something.

Now the first rule to make a good dispeller is have a good CL of your own. Geting the inquisition domain (either trough a feat or cleric dip) gives you a juicy +4 to dispells. An Incarnum feat lets you further buff dispels with essentia if the monster has feats to burn. There's other ways to further buff this, look at caster guides out there and enjoy turning their tricks against their own!

Certain monsters can dispel-punch, aka throw a dispel on a melee attack. Wich is awesome as it bypasses rings of counterspell and spellblades. Look for them. Pimp them. Love them. Paint them with diferent templates so they fill the campaign's theme.

If you're using psionics-magic transparency, psionic dispel is quite powerfull as it can auto-buff itself easily.

Pierce Magic Concealment doesn't care about CL and automatically dispells, altough it only affects spells that increase AC. Still takes down a lot of nasty caster stuff however.

Countering Utility Spells:
"No, we can't teleport into Mount Doom. Stop sugesting it."-Gandalf, wandering wizard.

D&D offers a wide array of mighty spells that allow the party to bypass combats all togheter if you're not carefull. Here's some advice that all your important monsters should follow so the party can't just try to win the campaign from the safety of their room.

Speak with Dead: The deceased body needs to be physically able to speak. Every assassin in the land thus makes sure to smash their victim's jaw to bits so they can't talk.

On a similar note, at higher levels, bodies are fully destroyed, burned and thrown into a river to prevent easy coming back from the dead.

Scrying: Read the scrying rules carefully. The party can only atempt it 1/day per caster able to use it. They need somekind of connection to the thing they're scrying, so if they don't know who the BBEG is, they can't scry at all (hint: only reveal the BBEG at the party when you're ready for them to fight it). Mindblank also fully blocks it.

Ask-and-answer-Divinations: Now here it gets fun. You're the one that actually gives out the answer, so feel free to shower the party with riddles, self-contradictory statements and overall mess up with their mind or have the spell just say it doesn't know. Of course, do allow for the divinations to work here and there if you feel like it's a fair situation, like just asking the area where the BBEG base is instead of asking where the BBEG's personal room is.

Teleportation: First, read carefully the teleportation spell. It says right there that areas of high power are teleport-proof. Who decides what is a location of high power? The DM does. So you can flat out state that a location is teleport-proof whitout need of any houserule.

Of course, sometimes you feel like a location doesn't really count as high power, or you may want to allow the players to disable the anti-teleportation. Forbiddance is a pretty nice spell in this situation.

For something cheaper/lower level, antcipate teleportation is a 3rd level spell that warns you when somebody tries to dimensional travel near you and gives a round to prepare for it. Its bigger brother, Greater Antcipate Teleportation, delays for 3 rounds and gives some extra intel, meaning suddenly the monsters are the ones doing the ambush.

Extra Dimensional Spaces: Monsters can't get in. But Party still needs to get out. So nothing stops the monsters from just preparing an ambush. Party still gets some quiet rest, and probably deserves it.
Disclaimer: players probably will get annoyed if you deny them utility magic at every turn, so do try to keep it for special stronger monsters. Not everybody in the campaign world should be smart enough or have the resources for all those measures. But that dragon protecting his hoard? Mess up with him at your own risk.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 06:02:42 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2011, 05:27:32 PM »

3-Monster Life
"I regret nothing!"-random monster, last words

Well, now that you've got your monsters all ready, you need to learn how to use them! Like batman, a properly played monster will be much more menancing than mr.charge mindlessly. Altough some monster will charge mindlessly now and then, but they'll make part of a bigger plan.

“Zerg Rush kekeke!”-Meepo, kobold commander, when ordering a hundred of his brethern to charge.

Minions are not just oponents lower level than the players. They're oponents much lower level than the players, but wich can still cause damage if used properly. How much lower level? Well if you look at the CR rules, you'll see that a group of four monsters that are four levels lower than then players each is a CR-apropriate ecounter. But doesn't feel much like a swarm. If you want to outnumber the party 2-to-1, you need monsters six levels lower than the party. And that's assuming they don't have some kind of higher level leader, in wich case you'll need to throw even lower level monsters if you want to keep it CR-apropriate! The problem here it's that due to D&D's exponential power growth, monsters much lower level than the party will have considerable work hurting them.

On the other hand, you'll notice the exp-tables don't give the players anything if they kill something 8 levels or lower than themselves. This means that if you can make monsters 8 level lower that can still somehow hinder the party, it's all fair game throwing them in arbitarly big groups. Just be prepared to watch the party tear trough them like paper tough.

Thus minions need to play dirty to get something done before they go down. Their DCs and attacks will be too low by default to really pose a threat to the party.Even with the Natural 1s and 20s rule, medium-high level players usually have extra tricks like miss chances, barriers, DR and others that negate those. Because of this minions should focus on tricks that bypass as much defenses as possible, even if they do little.

Minions can be used either by themselves or suporting bigger monsters. But in either case their types are basically the same.

Minion Types.
“An army of squirrels is still an army!”-Druid Obrin.

For the best effects, you should mix diferent types of minions.
Pair of hands: the easiest type to build, a minion can be usefull simply because it can do basic stuff. Opening/closing doors, activating traps, pushing rocks/obstacles, starting fires, ect, ect. Of course this works better if the monsters are fighting in a terrain they set up beforehand.

Brick: a brick minion focuses on optimizing it's defenses as much as possible, and then just stands on the party's way, blocking squares, granting cover to those behind him, ect, ect. If you can give them a reliable attack that may somehow hurt the party, that much the better, but better to make sure first the brick can keep up with the party's movement.

Artillery: this minions pick a a big bad weapon, like an heavy crossbow, wand or siege engine, and fires at the party from a safe distance. The trick is either geting max damage output from each minion so that the few attacks that hit do hurt, area/touch attacks so that they actually hit, or a combination of those. Also can be down with thrown alchemical weapons and warlock eldritch blast.

Extra: heroes of battle provides the nice volley rules, that allows up to ten minions to focus fire on a single square, dealing area  damage, reflex save for half. So even if the player makes the save, they still take some damage.

Bard: Bardic music is probably the best PC ability for large groups of minions. Get masterwork drums to affect a wider range and bigger bonus. Get dragonfire inspiration to turn the +1 damage into +1d6 elemental damage. Combine with the above volley option for a true artillery plataform.

Disruptor: those are minions with special abilities (normally spells or SLAs) that can slow down the party whitout necessarily dealing damage. Silence for example can be cast in a point in space to stop vocal spellcasting all around (hint:most spells do have vocal components). Use it as an readied action for extra effect so the caster can't just move out from the area. Web can provide total cover and even if they make the reflex save they're still greatly slowed down.
Most disrupters are casters of some sort, but noncaster examples include a dragonshaman with entangling exhalation, dudes with tanglefoot bags, warblades with Iron Heart Surge and the like.

Buffers: those are minions with special abilities (normally spells or SLAs) that help its teammates. Group buffs like haste can make a big diference, or they may also provide single target buffs to non-minion allies. Bosses in particular enjoy buffers. A bard is tecnically a buffer, but bardic music allows for so much tricks it deserved a type of it's own.

Noncaster buffers include marshalls and crusaders with group aura stacking. At higher levels, a crusader 9 can use white raven tactics to allow a bigger monster to act again, making it a quite dangerous minion.

3B- Solo Bosses.
"Finally I'm an overlord! Overlord! OVERLORD!"-Graharl, recently ascended demon prince.

On the extreme oposite of minions, there's the mighty solo boss, a monster that makes the whole party struggle by itself. Now notice by the CR rules, an apropriate ecounter is a monster of the party's level, so you'll have an hard time making an epic solo boss of apropriate CR whitout some heavy cheese or under-CRd monsters. No good sirs and madams, a true solo boss should be more CR two-four levels higher than the level of the party. Mind you, you can also make "minor" solo bosses with nonassociated levels, like Tiny the stone giant wizard already mentioned. He can't cast any spell of bigger level than the party's wizard, but he has a lot of extra HP, stats, saves, feats and gear.

Now let's geting something straight. Number of actions  disadvantage doesn't make solo bosses fail. Not hiting hard enough and not having good defenses makes solo bosses fail. . Yes, the solo boss will have a lot less actions that the party members. However, if properly built, the solo boss won't care, because most party's attacks will be bouncing out from him, while its own attacks will send the party running for total cover.

So with this out of the way, bosses should be built taking most if not all optimization advice given so far. Pimp their defenses, pimp their attacks, pimp their utilities and pimp their equipment. A solo boss can only rely on himself, so he can't really afford to have lacking weak points, or the party will easily roll over him. Don't worry too much about making it too tough. Players have a natural talent to finding ways to hurt the toughest monsters.

Certain monsters are actually worthy solo bosses by themselves, mainly most dragons. High speed, defenses, spellcasting and SLAs, SR breath weapons, lots of HP and natural attacks, that's excellent solo boss material right there. Choose his spells carefully, give him some meta breath feats, a couple of trinkets, and a dragon is more than able to challenge the whole party by himself.

Another solo-boss example is the beholder, able to shoot multiple rays per turn while flying, thus providing a wide array of threats, altough he's somewhat lacking on the speed and defense deparment. Also recent splatbook material like ray deflection really makes it shine less than it used to be. But with the proper optimization to cover for this weaknesses, he can still be a good solo boss for more advanced parties.

So in a nutshell, the art of making memorable solo bosses is seeking to boost both the weak and strong points of the base monster. It's an excellent oportunity to use those obscure Prc that grant bizzarre powers that are kinda situational or useless on the hands of a player, but perfect for your monster in that specific situation.

Another interesting note here it's that monk is a suprisingly good dip for melee brute bosses. Why? Because it gives flurry of blows, wich stacks with natural weapons for greatly increasing melee damage output. Combine it with monsters that are able to inflict some kind of nasty status with their melee attacks for striking terror in the party!

Now properly optimizing bosses isn't exactly easy work, but on the other hand, bosses are the perfect moment for you to exercise Rule 0!

Bending the Rules for Bosses
“Screw the Rules, I have Plot!”-Kabya Septo, elvish tyrant.

Bosses don't necessariy need to play by everybody else's rules.

Gestalt-They're official rules and everything! Put two classes togheter and go to town instead of spending hours mixing stuff to try to keep your spellcasting high while geting that other cool trick.
And nobody says you can't use them on monsters. Pick the best of two monsters of equal CR and combine them in a single solo boss! If they're diferent CR, add PC levels to the weakest one untill they fit. Remember that the rules sugest a gestalt creature is roughly +2 CR.

If actually already using gestalt, well, combine three or four classes into one!

Combined Monster- This is a method I developed where you have one massive monster wich is actually composed of independent part, each one based on a monster. The party must hack first at the exterior parts before being able to properly hack at the main body.
Choose one monster to be the main body.
-Choose other body for legs (determines monster movement speed)
-Then choose as many more as you want for limbs.

 Each part has it's own HP/saves/ other defenses, equal to the monster's original ones. The main body however gets to add half the combined AC bonus, DR, energy resistances and saves bonus from all it's "limbs" and legs to it's own, and benefits from all immunities they have as well. The legs receive the immunities but only 1/4 the AC bonus, DR, resistances and save bonus from "limbs". While any limb remains, the main body and legs aren't automatically hit by natural 20s and don't fail saves on a nat 1.

At the start of battle the main body and legs are pretty much invulnerable. As limbs are destroyed, the main body and legs lose defenses, becoming more and more vulnerable. Destroying the legs imobilizes the monster. Destroying the main body kills it.

Each body part has it's own iniative and fights just like the "base monster" you created it from, but it must remain attached to the main body at all times. Except with the legs. When they move, all the other parts move with it.

A limb's reach it's equal to it's own reach plus the main body and legs reach.

Effects that affect a limited number of creatures can only affect the same number of body parts, not the whole monster.

Spammer-With this simple method, you simply allow a monster to use its secondary abilities as free action 1/round (not swift action so it doesn't conflict with any other ability that demands using a swift action). You may even allow it to use some of those on the party's turn to counter their actions. Specially effecient with those monsters with loads of SLAs.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2011, 03:56:50 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2011, 05:27:48 PM »

3C-How do the monsters and players meet.

"Big one I,
One big eye.
One-eye see
Two-eye die"
—Traditional cyclops chant

Unlike most games out there, monsters don't just pop out of nowhere. Well, some do, like outsiders with teleport but you get the point. Here's the main ways of satisfying batman's killing urges while keeping your world flavourful!

Random ecounters

Wild life, raiders, local angry habitants, forces of nature, and the ocasional wandering titan of DOOM, they're everywhere, and they're bound to cross batman's path now and then out of pure chance. They're the reason why batman is needed, because people need to be desesperate to get out of their towns in a world where colossal centipedes lurk aroud the corner.

The classic way, but can really slow down the campaign. You need to make random tables, and then you get a lot of fights not related to the plot. I've spent entire sessions of nothing but random ecounters as the party struggled to go from point A to point B.

So keep in mind the following guidelines when using random ecounters.

0-Keep the tables simple. Rolling for chance and then for a hundred diferent monster combinations is horrible. Restrict yourself to 3-6 diferent kinds of monsters tops, all able to properly challenge the party. Keep the possible number of monsters in each ecounter also stable.
1-Keep the chances low. Something around 10-20% is best in the open, but consider increasing it up to 50% in an place of heavy enemy concentration, like a fortress, or a kython hatchery.
2-Make beforehand a max number of possible random ecounters. For example, inside a dungeon, there's a chance every minute a random number of rats apears and atacks the party. But the total number of rats in the dungeon is limited. Keep count on how many are slaughtered, and when the party has killed them all, no more rats. But if the party is lucky, they may not meet all the rats at all.
3-Give the party a way to "disable" the random ecounters in the area. The monsters aren't spawning out of thin air. If it's wildlife, they may destroy their nest, if they're humanoids, they may "persuade" their leader to keep quiet for some years. It may just be needed to block a gate/passage. If it isn't part of the main plot, make this side quest simple and of medium dificulty. You won't need to roll random ecounters anymore, and Batman will enjoy retelling the tale of how he stoped the local infestation problem.
4-Not all random ecounters are hostile. Merchants with special items, possible allies, scared peasants, or neutral entities may also pop up, making your world much more interesting. Better if you have a more roleplaying focused group, not so good if your group shoots first and asks questions later.
5(optional)-For extra fun, create special super-random ecounters. They have a really low chance of hapening (never more than 5%, normaly only a natural 100), but they can happen pretty much anywhere, and will put the party against a specialy tough enemy. Give them the chance to run if they wish, but hint that defeating your super monster may result in great rewards, like making the characters remember the legend of Barkay the wandering titan filled with fat loot.

Extra: Free Online Ecounter generators!

Some nice people around the web took the work of writing programs to quickly present a random bunch of CR-apropriate monsters for the party to face. You're still advised to tweak some feats and stats here and there, but they're still wonderfull tools when you're feeling lazy and the party is itching for combat.

Donjon gives us one ecounter generator that calculates exp, gives you the monster stats right away and lets you pick from diferent terrain types but only has core monsters.

Random monster advancer include a monster ecounter generator that includes some splatbook material and agives you some control over alignments, number of creatures and templates. Also gives stats right away!

Sulerin offers a tool wich lets you pick monsters from a wide array of splatbooks, control type, number and aligment, can exclude templates and unique creatures automatically, but doesn't give you the monster stats automatically. It does give you the book source and page of the book however. Use Ctrl to pick multiple creature types/alignment/books/climates at once.

Once he'd worked out which end of the spear was sharp, he was promoted to guard duty.

The game is called dungeons and dragons after all. And a dungeon is only as hard as the monsters defending it. Or fortress, or dark forest, or mansion. Altough there may be random ecounters inside it, there will also be static/patroling guards, or lurkers in ambush waiting for a meal.

These are the simplest kind of monster meeting. It is in one place, and when the party enters that place they engage with either pointy sticks or words, depending on the monster and the party's mood.

They come in two main flavors:
Guards-Guards won't go to great lenghts to hide themselves. They stand at a place and make sure nobody crosses. Thus, guards should optimize their defensive and detection capacities. They also need to hit hard, either with magic or more physical means. Mobility is expendable, as long as they can hurt enemies at range somehow. They always come in multiples backing each other up, and never sit too near of each other because they're perfectly aware the D&D world is filled with dangerous area effects. And also because batman can and will take the time to prepare before engaging them, making himself much more dangerous. Random ecounter tables combine well with guards for the chance of reinforcments apearing once the alarm is raised.

Smart guards will normaly take their free time making the terrain around them more defensable. Barricades to provide cover, hard terrain to slow atackers, traps, etc, etc. See the terrain and traps section (coming soon) for more detailed sugestions.

If nothing else, the guards dying screams will warn their allies to the presence of the party.

-Ambushers hide in a place batman will have to cross, and then jump out to try to get some bits either with magic or more physical means. Optimized hide skill+darkstalker+natural cover/invisibility/etherealness are their main tools. They also need to hit hard (but not too hard. You don't want to kill batman too quickly do you?). Of course, give the party a chance of actualy detecting the ambush if they're extra carefull.

Guards and ambushers work well togheter, with the guards playing as bait, and then the ambushers jumping out of cover to corner the party. In this kind of situation, it works well for the ambushers to have someway to slow down the party instead of hiting hard, so the guards can reach them and gank them togheter.

Either way, remember again that defenders rarely don't get time for last-minute buffs, so they'll usually compensate for it by seting up the terrain around them in a favourable way, making sure it suits their special abilities.


I trust no orc that refuses a fight-Gork, orc warlord.

Sometimes, its the monsters coming after the party, wich probably is defending some important place or pissed off the wrong group. Since they're the ones taking the iniative, they can take their sweet time buffing up, but on the other hand won't benefit from terrain defense.Like defenders, attackers come in two main varieties.

Assassin- Rely on stealth and trickery to get near the party, then start stabbing/nuking. They're basically like ambushers, but will probably need better stealth powers to get near the party instead of the party going near them.

Vanguard-Those are the dudes that charge at you head on the open and then smash you in the face. Brutes are basically like guards, except they need really good mobility to quickly close up with the party besides powerfull defenses, otherwise they have a really big risk of being shot to death while advancing.

Assassins and Vanguard work well togheter with the vanguard providing a big target to catch the party's focus while the assassins get in position and start stabbing.

Either way, remember again that attackers get to drink last-minute potions and other buffs like crazy, but need some way to track down the party and geting to them fast.

Mobile Elites.
“We tecnically ran away from every engagement, but we also killed half of them whitout taking a single casuality”-Lord Gramster

The cream of the crop, those monsters are capable of switching from defense to attack as needed. Normally have some teleportation SLA, are casters, can turn ethereal to disapear trough the ground or have high speed movement

They focus on wearing down the party, harassing them with long-range attacks, keeping a safe distance and overall making their life hell. If outgunned, they try to retreat to attack again when the party is busy with some other trouble. Dragons are an excellent example of this, with their high speed and breath weapons they can strafing run the party forever, forcing them to find a creative counter against an enemy that refuses to face them head on.

And don't forget, monsters that run away are monsters that don't drop loot!

3D-Monster groups and organizations
“We are legion!”-unknown demon.

Now a lot of monsters may act alone, but even more will belong to some kind of organization. Cults, cities, races, tribes, armies, overlords, they all get monsters togheter and give them a sense of unity. They scratch each other backs and share intelegence and resources. This implies several things for monsters that belong to some kind of organization:

-They have someone to back them up in terms of hideouts.
-There's someone out there to avenge their deaths.
-They're working for some higher purpose.
-It's an excellent way of providing quests for the party.

Quick organization generation method:
-Pick up a theme. Like necromancers or demons or lychantropes.
-Pick up some monsters directly tied to the theme.
-Pick up some monsters undirectly tied to the theme as backup to fill holes, like mercenary casters and traitor spies. A organization must be self-sufficient.
-Decide numbers of the organization. How many of each do they have?
-Make some important NPCs for the organization, at least one top leader.
-Decide if the organization is independent or they work for some higher power (if yes, decide who)
-Decide plot points of the group. Are they just killing for the lulz? Trying to release some dark deity?
-Decide what other organizations they hate/like/don't care.
-Decide area of the campaign world where they have their main base of activities, and some secondary locations where they have forces deployed.
-Choose how many are there in each area.
-Decide a cool catchy name to get the party's atention.

Notice that an “organization” should be relatively small (between a couple dozen to a couple hundred dudes tops). Now bigger groups may exist, but there's not much use to stat them up since the probability of the party fully wiping them out are nill, and they basically have unlimited resources compared to the party.

If you want such bigger groups, organizations should be subfactions of the bigger group. So if the party is participating on a war against an evil country, you could represent it with three organizations like the vast “Iron Warriors” that faces the party head on, the sneakish “Viper Fangs” that go after the party after they inflict too much damage to the Iron Warriors, and the small “Black Guard” that includes the evil tyrant and his elite bodyguards/advisors. The party first face the Iron Warriors, eventually atracts the Viper Fangs atention, and eventually topples the evil country by wiping out the Black Guard. The evil country tecnically has much more resources, but they were busy taking care of other stuff, and will colapse once their leadership is gone.

Demons are endless, but a demonic assault would be composed of a relatively limited group of demons who manage to organize themselves in order to orderly go trough the portal and work togheter.

You can also state that the organization has virtually limitless mooks, aka members who aren't a threat to the party even in large numbers and thus can be easily fitted on the background whitout actually being able to hinder them. Killing the organization top members makes the mooks scatter and flee in terror (or desactivate in the case of robots/artificial abominations for some variety).

In the end, each organization should be at most composed of around half a dozen diferent types of creatures (excluding unique NPCs) for simplicity's sake. You can add some extra variety by tweaking feats and equipment between members of the same type.

Having several organization helps spice up the campaign world, and also will make victory much sweeter for the party when they slay Evil Overlord Laharl and end his reign of terror than killing some random dude with a sword.

3C-Terrain and traps
“Life is a maze. This is one of its dead ends.”-Archivist Norrius, before finishing the invaders of his tower.

Now the monsters and party aren't fighting in a featurless enviroment. A good terrain is an important part of a good combat.

First rule, put stuff in the battlefield. Doesn't matter much what stuff, as long as there's stuff for players to interact. Trees, crates, columns, statues, choke points, pools, open pits, murder holes, all things that will make the players and monsters move around to try to get a better positioning.

Now a problem here it's that as players get higher level, they get more and more ways to simply ignore terrain. In particular because of flight, and eventually etherealness.

So that's the time for geting creative. Floating rocks, strong winds, lava,  giant trees that stretch to the skies, great characters deserve great battlefields!

Like already mentioned, monsters should seek to be in terrains that favour them. Small kobolds? Lots of small craped passages. Ogres? Better have some large passages so they don't get stuck. Slow mummies/zombies? Twisting maze full of corners where they can suddenly show up in front of the party. Ranged monsters? Difficult terrain to slow down party melees and cover to hide behind. Also be sure to be prepared when the party starts to try things to blow up the battlefield.

“It's a... Ok, this joke is overused”- Codmore, Mind Flayer Admiral

Traps are a staple of D&D. It's not only the monsters that are out to kill you. It's the terrain itself that it's out to kill you! And they also come in a wide variety of flavours. First make sure to check out the SRD section about them.

A trap has four main statistics:
-Activation trigger.
-Effect (wich may or may not include attack rolls and saves).
-Search/disable DC.
-Reset conditions.

Basically, you need to know the condition that triggers the trap, the effect that it produces, how the party can stop it from blowing up on their faces, and if the trap can then reset itself to catch them by suprise when they pass by it again.

Now the main problem with traps it's that they're usually one-shot and immobile. So they may put some hurt on the party, but if nobody dies, then they can just spend some minutes patching up and go on with their lives. The traps has no back up tricks, can't retreat or pursue, so a single trap isn't really much of a challenge.

Thus traps should be combined with other traps and/or monsters. A trap could for example block the way the party came in the room where the monster is waiting, or the trap could lead them to the monster (like hidden pits). On the other hand, monsters can push party members into traps, or feign retreat and lead the party into traps (wich they know how to avoid or are plain immune to them). Even something as simple as softening up or dividing the party can give a big advantage to team monster.

But keep things fair. Traps have a CR of their own, and if used in conjuction with other traps and/or monsters, you should count for it when hading out exp and treasure.

The two main kinds of traps are mechanical and magic ones. They're both expensive as hell, but luckily you don't need to worry about it at all!

listed only go to CR10, but  the DMG provides some guidelines to creating your own traps from scratch, and tecnically allow you to create higher level ones. Altough at that point high level characters will probably have plenty of ways to avoiding them. They can still be relevant when backed up by magic stuff that blocks teleportation and other usual magic escape tricks.

Magic traps are basically spells that auto-launch themselves whitout need of a caster of monster. Their DCs will be pitifully low (just 10+spell level+minimum stat modifier needed to cast the spell), but on the other hand, the CR of a trap launching a high level spell is much lower than the CR of a spellcaster strong enough to cast that spell. A wail of the bashee trap for example is for example just CR 10, and an Earthquake trap just CR 8.  This allows you to threaten the party with big flashy effects much sooner than they would normally expect it and be fair about it!

Plus Magic traps can create multiple spell effects at once. The DMG provides the example of locking a player in a forcecage with a summoned monster, but feel free to create your own mini-combos. Personally I like any kind of movement impairing effect+area damage, but feel free to use/offer your own sugestions.

Special terrain features
“The land itself will fight with us”- Broz, orc druid.

This ones are quasi-magic terrain properties behind simple cover and static obstacles. They may even directly hurt the party, but unlike traps, they're (usually) in plain sight and don't need any specific trigger to activate. They're literally part of the scenergy. Their stats are scattered among the books, but can provide a quite nice touch for battlefields. For extra punch make sure the monsters are  ready to take full advantage of them. Notice however the party can also turn most of them to their advantage with some improvisation and imagination. Here's the ones that caught my eye, feel free to sugest others you found:

Anti-teleportation zones: like already mentioned zones of great power block teleport. Basically irrelevant at low levels, quite the game changer at higher levels.

Permanent spells: Permancy allows you to stick a wide variety of spells on an area forever. Altough it only works with some spells, it still offers a wide variety.

Planar traits: From Manual of the Planes, altough normally present on other planes, they can “spill” on other places trough portals and whatnot. They can empower, maximize, block or disrupt sertain kinds of spells depending on alignment and magic schools. A large selection of them available, many times will benefit some kind of magic while hindering another. Or boost everything up or down. Or make stuff fly. Lots to choose from.

Stronghold builder's guide: This book could be said to be dedicated mostly to this aspect. Includes LOTS of nice stuff including how to use exotic materials, mobile fortresses, traps and plenty of other nice stuff. If you have it, definetely check it out. Below are two sections that I specially like.

Wall Augmentations: from Stronghold builder's guide, those allow you to add special effects to walls, like granting SR/cover to those nearby, or hurting those nearby with blades/fire/poison or blocking special ways of travel.

Wondrous Architecture: Also from Stronghold builder's guide, these are basically a collection of large wondrous items that can't be equiped but can be put in an area. Of course, nobody says you can't fit them in a closed chariot/floating plataform and have it transported around. Those that stand out more are
-Brazier of Bright bursts, low DC, but area blindness activated by word and also raises the alarm is pretty nice.
-Cabinet of stasis is a no-save no-anything you-lose effect, as long as team monster finds a way to make a player enter it. And it tecnically isn't a trap so the rogue can't even search for it. Very evil. Very nice.
-Chamber of climbing grants spider climb to everybody inside. Cheap way of increasing minion mobility.
-Chamber of the Earthbound supresses most magical flying. Get back on the ground and fight like a man batman!
-Chamber of guidance is dirt cheap and grants a +1 bonus on a single roll for those who know the command word.
-Chamber of Hidden Character supresses alignment detections, more usefull for team monster than you may think.
-Chamber of seeing ends invisibility effects. Stop sneaking around Batman!
-Chamber of sloth causes slow on those who enter. Keep team monster out and lure the party in somehow.
-Chamber of speed gives haste to those inside. Keep the party out and keep the monsters in shooting ranged attacks.
-Chamber of the unliving is basically a permanencied Antilife Shell.
-Cloudgathering orb messes the weather around the area.
-Desecrated Shrine is a large area Desecrate.
-Engraved Circle of Protection(Alignment) is a permanent Magic Circle of Protection.
-Guardian Statue is a nice way to rise the alarm.
-Hall of Bable messes up the ability to speak, wich can be devastating against batman.
-Hall of (insert spell name here) come in diferent styles replicating diferent spells.
-Hole of Hiding is a permanent Rope trick, pretty usefull for hiding ambushers.
-Hurricane's eye creates a permanent Hurricane around an area. Available in weaker wind forms.
-Inscriptions of concealment hides non-living stuff from all divinations. And also vision.  A must have for powerfull undead organizations.
-Inscriptions of Falsehood blocks scrying and normal vision, but allows a Will save for the second.
-Inscription of Privacy just blocks scrying, but it's considerably cheaper.
-Platform of Jaunting is basically a mini-teleport pad. The greater version has unlimited range.
-Platform of Healing uses Heal on anyone steping on it. Perfect for hit and runs.
-Plataform of telekinesis. Remember those floating rooms I mentioned? Here they are. Fit them with cover and siege engines for improvised airships.
-Prison of (insert element here): rooms whose walls, ceiling and floor are covered in dangerous magic stuff. The prismatic version allows for the creator to go trough safely. For the others, find a way to give your monsters immunity so they can safely pass.
-Secure chamber grants mindblank to all those inside. No Batman you can't mindrape the king or his advisors on his own throne room.
-Sigils of anti-magic is your basic dead magic zone, replicating an AMF inside.
-Sigils of Supression duplicate the always usefull Globe of Invulnerability, wich stops new spells of 4th level of lower from having effect but doesn't supresses ones already in existence. Also available in lesser version.
-Touchstone of Faith gives a deflection bonus to one creature standing over it.
-Tree of Jaunting looks like a normal tree, but replicates Tree Stride on any who enter it. Available in greater version.

Tainted locations: From Heroes of Horror, some places are so evil they slowly corrupt you by themselves by giving you taint, wich then inflicts all kind of penalties. Better suited for darker campaigns If you're using them however, make sure to ban tained scholar Prc, wich is very very easily abused.

Dread Effects: Also from Heroes of Horror, a bunch of dark evil area effects. Bloodgrass hinders healing, bloodstones increase the critical threat range of everybody in the area, and charnel bog disrupts good and healing spellcasting, make characters wake up fatigued from rest and can also inflict diseases trough the air. Finally Night Stone simply deals negative energy damage around it (hint:undeads are healed by negative energy damage).

Haunted Locations: Continuing the trend from Heroes of Horror, undeads can attach themselves to a location for a variety of nasty effects, including keeping to come back if destroyed, making stuff move by itself, illusions and some others.

Frostburn: This supplement gives out rules on a series of cold-related hazards, from simply extreme cold weather dealing cold damage, to chances of thin ice breaking, hypothermia, thawning, flash floods and several other hazards expected in cold enviroments. Sleet, slow blindness, plenty of effects to challenge the party. Aurora polaris in particular deals a whooping 20d6 electrecity damage to everybody in the area! If your campaign is in a cold region, definetely check this out! Even if it's not in a cold region, heck, you can get some other reason  to mess up with the weather in a region to use this rules.

Dire Weather:
Also from Frostburn. As the party levels up and starts to be easily able to ignore the mundane weather problems, throw them this ones!
-Acid sleet and Razor sleet deal bigger damage.
-Bloodsnow deals Con damage.
-Death Hail deals Str and Con damage
-Howl of the North are even nastier winds
-Negation Flurry dispels stuff.
-Rust Flurry destroys equipment.
And several of them can leave patches of magic snow that replicate those effects even after the dire weather calmed down.

Magical Terrain: More nice stuff from Frostburn,
-Ebony Ice boosts undeads.
-Faery Frost dazes people.
- Lighting Pillars shoot lighting bolts to anybody nearby.
 -Snow Geysers randomly explode dealing damage to those nearby.
-Also fields of bloodsnow, negation flurry and Rust Flurry.

Supernatural Manifestation: yet more stuff From Frostburn, Coldfire is a liquid that doesn't give a damn about gravity, meaning you can totally make walls of it, or all kind of nasty traps. It deals coldfire damage that can't be healed in cold regions. Also snowflake lichen looks like snow and deals cold and Dex damage depending on how close the party is.

Frostburn terrain: This book enviroment section ends up with diferent kinds of terrain, but what really stands out here are skybergs. Floating icebergs. Just think of the possibilities!

Sandstorm: The counterpart from Frostburn, Sandstorm focuses on hot enviroments. Heatstrokes, hot enviroments, dehydration, all the kind of stuff you expect when you go into a desert, volcano or plane of fire. If your campaign is going ttrough this kind of terrain, you want to check out this book.

Sandstorm Waste Hazards:
Like Frostburn, the mundane hazards of Sandstorm are easily countered by medium-high level players, so time to throw the bigger guns!
-Black sand sucks light creating darkness and deals negative energy damage.
-A Devil Dune is a mountain of sand that moves on it's own to cover up people and is pretty hard to stop.
-Flamestorm is literally a rain of fire.
-Flaywinds deal damage, and can be combined with Black sand for even more lethal effects.
-Furnace wind deals fire damage togheter with wind effects, and furnace zones simply deal fire damage whitout save.
-Leech salt makes creature get dehydrated that much faster (altough easily countered by a flask of endless water).
-Mirror sand makes people blinded just by trying to make spot/search checks.
-Moondust suffocates people unless they have a specific counter.
-Plains of glass are harder to travel by, and release showers of shards when nearby explosions happen.
-Red sea is liquid salt that deal the nasty dessication damage to both creatures and metal equipment.
-Slipsand is a quicksand in steroids.
-Slumber sand makes people asleep just by going over it.
-Wailing Waste makes creature on the area go insane.

Stormwrack: The third book of the “enviroment” series, Stormwrack focuses on water campaigns. Honestly I have little experience with this one as I mostly do adventures on dry land, but if you like this kind of stuff, definetely check it out as it has plenty of cool water-related stuff! Also gunpowder siege weapons as already mentioned.

3E-Monster tactics and mentality
I see their bravery. I see their determination. I see their power. I see our victory-M'Ksur, Mind Flayer

So now you have monsters, organizations and terrain, only thing left it's how to best use them. And by “best”, I don't necessarily mean “carefully calculate battle odds and mercilessly crush the enemy”. That's what batman does, but honestly it would be kinda boring if your monsters always acted that way. Sure stuff like Mind Flayers and Dragons and Devils will just try to be as nasty as possible, but you need to leave space for bersek orcs and ramapaging giant beasts and whatnot. You should not only challenge the party, you must do so in creative and fun ways (disclaimer: fun for both sides). You make the party struggle, but they eventually win, everybody gets happy.

Team Monster

“Stone! Fire! Ice! Storm! Cloud! Hill! By your powers combined I am Captain Giant!”

Now as already mentioned it's best to send multiple monsters than a single one. This way they can support each other with their variety of powers. The whole is stronger than the sum of the parts and all that teamwork talk. Here's the “formations” that work best:

Tag Team-Simple and a good start with new DMs, a couple of monsters with oposite themes support each other, like a big brute covering for a caster, or a fast skirmisher being pimped by a slow support monster. Extra points if you make the smaller one ride the other.

Monster Party-same number of monsters as the party, with the monsters filling the iconic roles of tank, offensive caster, support caster, and skirmisher/glass cannon.

Minion Lord-big monster surrounded by minions, wich the “Lord” focuses on buffing while hiding behind them and striking at the party's weak points.

Champion- the same as above, but instead of a Lord buffing the minions, you have a big tough monster charging ahead and the minions supporting it from behind while striking at the party's weak points.

Horde-lots of diferent minions by themselves, supporting each other as needed.

Company-complex, but pretty fun if done right, you have one “boss” monster, then two powerfull “lieutenants”, two-four “supports” and then a dozen or so of lowly minions, all supporting each other with a wide variety of powers. The best choice for “final” bosses.


“Screw all of this, they don't pay me enough for this kind of thing. Bye!”- Herebet, human mercenary.

 Now one of the problems of using team monster it's that you many times reach a point where the party has killed/nullified most of team monster, and the remaining members have no hope of winning. The combat tecnically isn't over, but finishing off the final members is now just a triviality. In this situation most monsters should either atempt to run away for their own dear lifes or surrender. It adds flavour, it speeds things up, will give a sense of satisfaction to the party, and monsters who retreat sucessfully take their treasure with them, wich gives the party some incentive for not slacking off when there's just a few oponents standing.

If the party uses intimidate/diplomacy/bluff well or is really curbstomping Team Monster, you may make some of them turn coat to the party's side!

On the other hand, good retreat tactics are essential for any recurring villain. Extra points if the monster is a Fiend of possession mind controling other people. When they destroy it's body, it simply escapes and gets a new one, then next time it meets the party it presents itself, then lets them wondering how exactly did it come back.

Extra: Assassination Battles!

Something I do now and then is throw an over-CRd ecounter at the party, but there's a catch. There's a clear leader on Team Monster, and if said leader goes down, the rest of the ecounter breaks and runs for it/surrender. Of course don't say so directly to the party, but give strong hints, like the other monsters being mind-controled, or rumors of how the tyrant keeps his troops togheter just by constant intimidation.

Monster Reaction to the party
“Why are we fighting to the death again?”-Brirk, Halfling warlock.

D&D isn't suposed to just be a bunch of dudes hacking at each other. Even if just a paper railroad plot, there must be some story and sense to why monsters are attacking the party. Are they hungry? Do they want the party's shineys? For the evulz?

Extra-Monster target selection-One hard thing sometimes as a DM is decide wich monsters attacks who. Sometimes there's only one tactical viable answer, but several times the monster can strike at diferent party members, but aren't suposed to know wich one is most vulnerable to their attack. In this case, let dice decide wich party members get attacked. Simple and fair.

The final touch, don't forget to add some fluff points to the party's oponents. Describe how spiky their armors are, how they have blood dripping from their weapons, heads on the point of skulls, demonic heraldies, giant tusks/claws/horns, scars. Then make them provoke the party during combat (or just roar and release battlecries), but not revealing their secret plans (unless they're lies of part of a bigger evil scheme of course). Here's some ideas on basic monster mentalities :

Mindless-”Destroy! Destroy!”- The most simple, the monster simply attacks the target untill it goes away or one of them stops moving.

Berseker-”WWWAAARRRGGHHH”-This monsters also charge ahead right on, but randomly changes targets depending on its whims. Works better if it can inflict some non-stackable nasty effect.

-”Everybody has to earn a living”-This monster works for somebody else for the right price, but its own life is priceless, so it fights cautiously, but only retreats if things look really bad.

Honorable-”I challenge you!”-This monster seeks a worthy oponent, so it attacks the toughest-looking party member. That doesn't necessarily means he will refuse help from teammates or resort to dirty tricks, but it means it doesn't retreat whitout making sure its allies wich can still move can also retreat, or that at least he did some lasting damage to the party.

Coward-”Don't blame me, blame the society that made me like this”-This monster hides behind other monsters, innocents, takes hostages and overall plays as dirty as possible. It strikes the weakest-looking party members, and doesn't hesitate in running at soon as things start geting sour.

Schemer-”Just as planned”-This monster plans ahead. If it retreats, it is only to come back later with a new nastier tactic. It seeks to order/manipulate its teammates around, may feign surrender, and will usually lure the party to traps, or even actually get them to do its own dirty work. Like leading them to kill the good guardian protecting super evil relic from the schemer.

Fanatic-”For the goddess!”-This monster has great faith on one of the other monster, or perhaps some idol/feature on the battlezone. It will blindly follow its orders, and do its best to protect and support it. It only seeks to retreat when the object of it's fanatism has either been destroyed, altough may also just break down and surrender.

Brainwashed-”It wasn't me!” -This monster isn't exactly fighting of his own will. Lies, magic charms or unfortonate circumstances may have made it turn against the party. If they notice this and set things straight, they remove an oponent from battle and may even get an ally.

Oportunist-”I'm here just for the money”-this monster is fighting just for self profit. Unlike a mercenary, it doesn't have a reputation to worry about, so retreats as soon as things get sour.  If the party makes them a good counter offer may change sides during battle.

-”We have reserves”-This monster has minions, and doesn't hesitate to use them to cover up himself, including set of traps and area spells at their expense . May have actual abilities depedant on sacrificing others. And heck, you may actually give it unlimited reserves for the evulz! Retreats when out of minions, but it's assured to come back with more.

Of course, feel free to mix diferent monster mentalities!
« Last Edit: June 02, 2011, 06:15:03 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2011, 05:28:03 PM »

Improved Monsters by CR

CR 1/4
Kobold Scout
Kobold, 1st-Level Expert
Size/Type: Small Humanoid (Reptilian)
Hit Dice: 1d6-2 (1 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 16 (+1 size, +2 Dex, +1 natural, +2 Leather), touch 13, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple:    +0/-6
Attack: Heavy Crossbow +3 ranged (1d8/19-20x2), or Heavy Crossbow +4 ranged (1d8+1/19-20x2) if target is whitin 30 feet.
Full Attack: Heavy Crossbow +3 ranged (1d8/19-20x2), or Heavy Crossbow +4 ranged (1d8+1/19-20x2) if target is whitin 30 feet.
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Entangling Ectoplasm +3 ranged touch (Entangled for 5 rounds, +4 to hit if enemy is whitin 30 feet)
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity
Saves:    Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +1
Abilities:    Str 5, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 11
Skills:    Concentration +3, Craft (trapmaking) +6, Hide +9, Listen +4, Move Silently +5, Profession (miner) +2, Search +2, Spot +4
Feats: Hidden Talent (Entangling Ectoplasm), Wild Talent, Point Blank Shot
Flaws: Noncombatative, Frail
Traits: Quick


Kobolds Scouts have better stealth and perception abilities than their brethern, detecting the enemy while remaining undetected themselves. In combat, they trap their oponents with special nets (reflufled Entangling ectoplasm) to help their allies and switch to firing their heavy crossbows if all enemies are entangled or they can't throw nets anymore.

Light Sensitivity (Ex):Kobolds are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.

This kobold has 4 PP and can use the Entangling Ectoplasm power at manifester level 1.

Skills:Kobolds have a +2 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking), Profession (miner), and Search checks.

Original stats: 9, 13, 12, 10, 8, 11

Entangling is a quite nice debuff at low levels. The kobold scout doesn't do much by itself, but combined with other kobolds it can help them greatly

Kobold Skirmisher
Kobold, 1st-Level Warrior
Size/Type: Small Humanoid (Reptilian)
Hit Dice: 1d8-1 (3 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares)
Armor Class: 16 (+1 size, +2 Dex, +1 natural, +2 Leather), touch 13, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple:    +1/-5
Attack: Light Crossbow +4 ranged (1d6/19-20x2), or Light Crossbow +5 ranged (1d6+1 /19-20x2) if target is whitin 30 feet or tangle
Full Attack: Light Crossbow +2/+2 ranged (1d6/19-20x2),  or Light Crossbow +3/+3 ranged (1d6+1 /19-20x2) if target is whitin 30 feet.
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: —
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity
Saves:    Fort +2, Ref +2, Will +0
Abilities:    Str 5, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 6
Skills:    Craft (trapmaking) +2, Hide +5, Listen +2, Move Silently +3, Profession (miner) +2, Search +2
Feats: Rapid Reload, Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot
Flaws: Noncombatative, Pathetic Charisma
Traits: Quick


Kobolds Skirmishers lay in ambush before unleashing his bolts into the enemy. They use their superior speed and fast reload to retreat into hard terrain to protect themselves from charges while they pepper the enemy with projectiles. If caught in melee, they 5-step out of their oponnent's reach and rapid fire two bolts to take advantage of point blank shot.

Light Sensitivity (Ex):Kobolds are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.

Kobolds have a +2 racial bonus on Craft (trapmaking), Profession (miner), and Search checks.

Original stats: 9, 13, 12, 11, 10, 8

A basic ranged minion, able to fire light crossbow bolts at high speed. You can swap rapid shot for weapon focus(heavy crossbow) and light for heavy crossbows for less shots and mobility but  extra power and acuraccy.

CR 1/2
Dwarf Guard
Dwarf, 1st-Level Warrior
Size/Type: Medium Humanoid
Hit Dice: 1d8+4 (4 hp)
Initiative: -6
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 21 (+0 size, +0 Dex, +9 Full Plate +1, +2 Heavy Wooden Shield), touch 10, flat-footed 21
Base Attack/Grapple:    +1/+2
Attack: Dwarven Waraxe +2 Melee (1d10+1/x3) or Javelin +1 Ranged(1d8+1)
Full Attack: Dwarven Waraxe +2 Melee (1d10+1/x3) or Javelin +1 Ranged(1d8+1)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:-
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft, Dwarf traits, Binding, DR 2/Piercing.
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +0, Will -1
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 11, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 6
Skills:Appraise +2, Craft (blacksmithing) +2, Craft (stonemasonry) +2, Listen +2, Spot +2
Feats: Bind Vestige, Practiced Binder, Improved Binder
Flaws: Unreactive, Pathetic Charisma
Traits: Quick


Dwarf Guards don the armors passed down for centuries from their ancestors (reflufled Bind Vestige). They let the enemy make the first move as they stoically watch, then charge away with their axes when they meet the enemy or hold their positions in key choke points. They change to javelins if they can't get close enough to the enemy.

Dwarf Traits (Ex):
Dwarves can move at their base speed even when wearing medium or heavy armor or when carrying a medium or heavy load.

Stonecunning: This ability grants a dwarf a +2 racial bonus on Search checks to notice unusual stonework, such as sliding walls, stonework traps, new construction (even when built to match the old), unsafe stone surfaces, shaky stone ceilings, and the like. Something that isn’t stone but that is disguised as stone also counts as unusual stonework. A dwarf who merely comes within 10 feet of unusual stonework can make a Search check as if he were actively searching, and a dwarf can use the Search skill to find stonework traps as a rogue can. A dwarf can also intuit depth, sensing his approximate depth underground as naturally as a human can sense which way is up. Dwarves have a sixth sense about stonework, an innate ability that they get plenty of opportunity to practice and hone in their underground homes.

Weapon Familiarity: Dwarves treat dwarven waraxes and dwarven urgroshes as martial weapons, rather than exotic weapons.

Stability: Dwarves are exceptionally stable on their feet. A dwarf has a +4 bonus on ability checks made to resist being bull rushed or tripped when standing on the ground (but not when climbing, flying, riding, or otherwise not standing firmly on the ground).
+2 racial bonus on saving throws against poison. *Not reflected in the saving throw numbers given here.
+2 racial bonus on saving throws against spells and spell-like effects. *Not reflected in the saving throw numbers given here.
+1 racial bonus on attack rolls against orcs (including half-orcs) and goblinoids (including goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears).
+4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against creatures of the giant type (such as ogres, trolls, and hill giants).
+2 racial bonus on Appraise checks that are related to stone or metal items.
+2 racial bonus on Craft checks that are related to stone or metal.

Call Armor:As a fullround action the dwarf guard can call a suit of +1 fullplate over his body, and dismiss it as another fullround action.

Savnok's Armor:The +1 Fullplate from the dwarf guard also grants him DR 2/piercing

Improved Practised Binder: The Dwarf guard can bind vestiges as a 5th level Binder with some limitations. This stat block assumes he's already binding Savnok and already takes in acount its limitation. Consult tome of magic for other details.
Original stats: 12, 11, 13, 10, 9, 8

With 21 AC and the bonus against spells and poisons, the dwarf guard is quite durable, and can dish out some pain in return. Quick trait makes sure it doesn't get kited too easily and also takes full advantage of the dwarf not being encumbred by heavy armor. Notice that since his fullplate +1 is a result of the binding ability, it will be gone when the party defeats him. I guess. Otherwise binders would be machines of infinite money right at 1st level. Tongue

Orc Raider
Water Orc, 1st-Level Warrior
Size/Type: Medium Humanoid
Hit Dice: 1d8 (4 hp)
Initiative: +1
Speed: 40 ft. (8 squares), Swim 40 ft
Armor Class: 16 (+0 size, +1 Dex, +3 Studded Leather, +2 Wooden Shield), touch 10, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple:    +1/+4
Attack: Longsword +5 Melee (1d8+3/19-20x2) or Javelin +1 Ranged(1d8+3)
Full Attack: Longsword +5 Melee (1d8+3/19-20x2) or Javelin +1 Ranged(1d8+3)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:-
Special Qualities:Aura of Despair, Darkvision 60 ft, Light Sensitivity, Water Race
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will -5
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 13, Con 13, Int 8, Wis 7, Cha 4
Feats: Bind Vestige, Improved Binding, Weapon Focus(longsword)
Flaws: Weak Will, Pathetic Charisma
Traits: Quick

Orc raiders quickly charge into melee where they strike powerful longsword blows. Such is their brutality that those who get too close feel their will to fight back abandon them.

Aura of Despair(refluffled Aura of Sadness):Those who get to close to the orc raider are overhelmed by its bloodthirst and killing intent. Creatures adjacent to the orc raider get -2 to attacks, saves and skill checks while they remain adjacent. This is a mind-affecting ability, and the orc raider can start or end it at will as a standard action. Orc raiders thus fight in disorganized ranks, never close to each other.

Light Sensitivity (Ex): Water Orcs are dazzled in bright sunlight or within the radius of a daylight spell.

Water Race: All members of water races share the following traits.

    +1 racial bonus on attack rolls against creatures of the fire subtype, including extraplanar creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire.
    -2 penalty on all saving throws against spells, spell-like abilities, and supernatural abilities with the fire subtype or used by creatures of the fire subtype, including extraplanar creatures from the Elemental Plane of Fire.
    Natural Swimmers: Members of water races have a swim speed equal to their base land speed. (If the creature already has a swim speed, it improves by 10 feet.) A water creature can move through water at its swim speed without making Swim checks. It has a +8 racial bonus on any Swim check to perform some special action or avoid a hazard. A water creature can always choose to take 10 on a Swim check, even if distracted or endangered. It can use the run action while swimming, provided it swims in a straight line.

Improved Practised Binder: The orc raider can bind vestiges as a 5th level Binder with some limitations. This stat block assumes he's already binding Focalor and already takes in acount its limitation. Consult tome of magic for other details.

Original stats: 12, 11, 13, 10, 9, 8

Original stats: 12, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8

The main advantage of the orc is his great strenght that makes it a melee powerhouse, but all the remaining penalties mean it can't really do anything else. Quick helps geting into melee better. Aura of Sadness is a nice area debuff and gives a justification for the orcs to fight in disorganized ranks, but you can make the orc bind other vestiges as well. Savnok for example would result in an heavily armored but slow orc.

Against higher level players, ditch change longswords for greatswords (the weapon focus too) to dish out more damage. You can also do it at low levels if your group likes riskier games, as the orc can easily drop a new PC with one lucky blow from a greatsword.

CR 4

CR 11

« Last Edit: September 16, 2011, 01:49:46 PM by oslecamo » Logged

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2011, 05:28:18 PM »

Reserved 6

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2011, 05:28:32 PM »

Reserved 7

Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2011, 05:28:50 PM »

Reserved 8. Hopefull shall be enough.

That monkey with the orange ass cheeks
Posts: 288

« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2011, 08:54:34 PM »

I'd like to either request, or add on to this, one feature that I wish these boards had.  A resource for Dungeon Masters to easily find pre-improved monsters to throw at their player characters with minimal effort.  I hope this post (or a previous post) can collect all of the examples we build with some formatting which allows easy finding (maybe based on CR).

Here is a guy I threw at my PC's in an Eberron game:
He replaced the Grimlock Chieftain in the adventure "The Three Faces of Evil" Room 20.

Grimlock Crusader of the Keeper    CR 4
male grimlock monstrous humanoid 2/crusader 3
CE medium monstrous humanoid (grimlock)
Init +2; Senses blindsight 40 ft.; Listen +3, Spot -2
Languages: Common, Grimlock

AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 18
HP 44 (2d8+3d10+15)
Fort +7, Ref +5, Will +2; zealous surge

Speed 30 Feet (6 squares)
Melee +1 Scythe +11 (2d4+8/x4)
Base Atk +5; Grp +10
Atk Options furious counterstrike, steely resolve 5, death devotion
Combat Gear Potion of Cure Light Wounds (CL 1)

Maneuvers and Stances Readied (IL 4th):
Maneuvers: Crusader's Strike, Charging Minotaur, Foehammer, Leading the Attack, Vanguard Strike      
Stance: Martial Spirit, Leading the Charge

Abilities: Str 20, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 6, Cha 9
Feats: Death DevotionComplete Champion, Chosen FoeDrow of the Underdark   
Skills: Listen +3, Climb +6, Hide +2*, Intimidate +4, Balance +2, Jump +6 (ACP Applied)
Possessions +1 Scythe, Scale Mail, Potion of Cure Light Wounds

Death Devotion: Once per day, as a swift action, he can cause one of his melee weapons to radiate negative energy for 1 minute. When you make a successful attack with this weapon, the target must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 11) or gain a negative level. He cannot bestow more than 1 negative level per person.
Blindsight (Ex): Grimlocks can sense all foes within 40 feet as a sighted creature would. Beyond that range, they treat all targets as having total concealment. Grimlocks are susceptible to sound- and scent-based attacks, however, and are affected normally by loud noises and sonic spells (such as ghost sound or silence) and overpowering odors (such as stinking cloud or incense-heavy air). Negating a grimlock’s sense of smell or hearing reduces this ability to normal Blind-Fight (as the feat). If both these senses are negated, a grimlock is effectively blinded.

Tactics: The chieftain is a simple, brutal warrior and a bully at heart.  He seeks out the weakest-looking character and charges him in melee, ignoring other targets and even taking attacks of opportunity to pursue his chosen victim. 
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 09:56:38 PM by Jopustopin » Logged

That monkey with the orange ass cheeks
Posts: 295

Viking Skald

« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2011, 03:21:11 AM »

I really, really like this idea and hope it floruishes. I will try and contribute stuff I'm working on, as well as insights on this topic.

For now though, I have a minor nitpick, as I'm a little obsessive/compulsive. Could you please go through the original posts and replace all instances of [wich] with [which].  Smile

Backseat moderator (voice) -_-
Man in Gorilla Suit
Posts: 2346


« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2011, 12:40:27 PM »

I approve of this handbook. One thing I'm planning to do for NPCs in my upcoming campaign; generally, whenever I have a horde of mooks, I'll stat up two alternate versions and intermix them. So, for instance, it's entirely possible that the party will be fighting a bunch of werewolves; rather than using the same stats for all of them, I've got two separate werewolves (one a Mongrelfolk Fighter and the other an Orc Barbarian). Whenever I think there's a chance for the PCs to run into them in a given session, I'll roll 2d6; numbering the ability scores 1 to 6, I'll add +2 to the roll of the first d6 and -2 to the second (they could cancel, of course) on a given werewolf, just to vary their stats a little and keep the PCs from being able to figure out precisely how many hit points a werewolf has, its AC, etc. It's more pregame work and a lot of extra bookkeeping in-game, but I'm hoping it pays off.

EDIT: I'm guessing the latter thing won't actually be noticeable, but I want to give it a shot. If it comes to nothing after a couple sessions, I'll drop it and mention that here, I suppose.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2011, 01:51:41 PM by Bauglir » Logged

So you end up stuck in an endless loop, unable to act, forever.

In retrospect, much like Keanu Reeves.
Grape ape
Posts: 1827

Wearing this outfit in the name of SCIENCE!

« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2011, 03:59:11 PM »

Oslecamo, I recommend you add these templates as well:

-Mineral Warrior (FR: Underdark): CR +1 template that adds +2 Str, +4 Con, -2 Int/Wis/Cha, DR 8/adamantine, a con-based smite and other goodies. Gives that brute some more oomph.

-Spellwarped (MM3): nice bonuses for all-around, plus SR, and something to do when the spells fail to overcome the monster's SR. This could be better, if the SoS spells applied SR...

-Bone/Corpse creature (BoVD): equivalent to Skeleton/zombie, except the monster keep his Int. Nice for some skills/spellcasting on the undead.

That monkey with the orange ass cheeks
Posts: 295

Viking Skald

« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2011, 08:02:21 PM »

Here is a sample elite opponent/BBEG that I just made for the campaign I'm going to be running. It is an example of nonassociated classes in action, and manipulation of feats/wealth/etc.

Note: I don't have the reference for one of the feats; it's from a dragon magazine and allows claw damage to be tacked onto unarmed strikes. Also, it doesn't matter too much where the monk level falls in the progression.
Talgarth the Grim CR 11
Magic-Blooded Gargoyle Vampire Sorcerer 8/Monk 1
LE Medium Undead (Augmented Monstrous Humanoid)
Init +10; Senses Darkvision 60ft, Listen +18, Spot +18
Languages Common, Elven

AC 37 touch 23 flat-footed 31; Dodge
     (+7 monk, +4 armor*, +6 dexterity, +10 natural)
*Mage Armor already cast
hp 84 (13HD); DR 10/magic and silver Fast Healing 5
Immune Undead Immunities
Resist Acid, Cold 10;
Fort +5, Ref +16, Will +12
Weakness Sun, Wooden Stakes, Holy Symbols

Speed 40ft (8 squares); fly speed 60ft (average)
Melee Unarmed Strike +14 (1d8+1d4+1d6 acid+12) or
Melee Unarmed Strike +12/+12 (1d8+1d4+1d6 acid+13) and Claw +10/+10 (1d4+1d6 acid+7) and Bite +10 (1d6+6) and Gore +10 (1d6+6) and Slam +10 (1d6+6)
Space 5ft.; Reach 5ft.
Base Atk +8; Grp +14
Atk options Blood Drain, Energy Drain w/Life Drain, Stunning Fist 4/day (DC16 Fort), Ascetic Monk (Sac spell, +spell lv atk+dmg on attacks for 1 round)
Special Actions Children of the Night, Dominate, Create Spawn, Alternate Form, Gaseous Cloud
Sorcerer Spells (CL 12th, DC 16+spell level) 6/7*/8/6/4
4th-Evard’s Black Tentacles
3rd-Fireball, Major Image
2nd- Invisibility, Fog Cloud, Scorching Ray
1st- Mage Armor (*already cast once), Silent Image, Blood Wind, Disguise Self, Magic Missile
0- Detect Magic, Read Magic, Dancing Lights, Ghost Sound, Open/Close, Prestidigitation, Caltrops, Mage Hand

Abilities: Str 23, Dex 22, Con -, Int 10, Wis 10, Cha 22
SQ Freeze, Damage Reduction, Fast Healing, Spider Climb, Turn Resistance
Feats Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Life Drain, Practiced Spellcaster, Ascetic Mage, Claw-Fist Style, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist
Skills Bluff +13, Spot +18, Listen +18, Hide +15, Move Silently +15, Search +8, Sense Motive +8, Spellcraft +8, Concentration +13
Possessions Fanged Ring, Headband of Conscious Effort, Cloak of Elemental Protection w/ Charisma +2, Amulet of Natural Attacks (claws, +1 acidic), 2 scrolls of teleport

Freeze (Ex) A gargoyle can hold itself so still it appears to be a statue. An observer must succeed on a DC 20 Spot check to notice the gargoyle is really alive.
Blood Drain (Ex) A vampire can suck blood from a living victim with its fangs by making a successful grapple check. If it pins the foe, it drains blood, dealing 1d4 points of Constitution drain each round the pin is maintained. On each such suc-cessful attack, the vampire gains 5 temporary hit points.
Children of the Night (Su) Vampires command the lesser creatures of the world and once per day can call forth 1d6+1 rat swarms, 1d4+1 bat swarms, or a pack of 3d6 wolves as a standard action. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might summon other creatures of similar power.) These creatures arrive in 2d6 rounds and serve the vampire for up to 1 hour.

Dominate (Su) A vampire can crush an opponent’s will just by looking onto his or her eyes. This is similar to a gaze attack, except that the vampire must use a standard action, and those merely looking at it are not affected. Anyone the vampire targets must succeed on a Will save or fall instantly under the vampire’s influence as though by a dominate person spell (caster level 12th). The ability has a range of 30 feet.

Create Spawn (Su) A humanoid or monstrous humanoid slain by a vampire’s energy drain rises as a vampire spawn 1d4 days after burial.
If the vampire instead drains the victim’s Constitution to 0 or lower, the victim returns as a spawn if it had 4 or less HD and as a vampire if it had 5 or more HD. In either case, the new vampire or spawn is under the command of the vampire that created it and remains enslaved until its master’s destruction. At any given time a vampire may have enslaved spawn total-ing no more than twice its own Hit Dice; any spawn it creates that would exceed this limit are created as free-willed vam-pires or vampire spawn. A vampire that is enslaved may create and enslave spawn of its own, so a master vampire can control a number of lesser vampires in this fashion. A vampire may voluntarily free an enslaved spawn in order to enslave a new spawn, but once freed, a vampire or vampire spawn cannot be enslaved again.
Energy Drain (Su)Living creatures hit by a vampire’s slam attack (or any other natural weapon the vampire might possess) gain two negative levels. For each negative level bestowed, the vampire gains 5 temporary hit points. A vampire can use its energy drain ability once per round.

Alternate Form (Su) A vampire can assume the shape of a bat, dire bat, wolf, or dire wolf as a standard action. While in its alternate form, the vampire loses its natural slam attack and dominate ability, but it gains the natural weapons and extraordinary special attacks of its new form. It can remain in that form until it assumes another or until the next sunrise. (If the base creature is not terrestrial, this power might allow other forms.)

Damage Reduction (Su) A vampire has damage reduction 10/silver and magic. A vampire’s natural weapons are treated as magic weapons for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.
Fast Healing (Ex)A vampire heals 5 points of damage each round so long as it has at least 1 hit point. If reduced to 0 hit points in combat, it automatically assumes gaseous form and attempts to escape. It must reach its coffin home within 2 hours or be utterly destroyed. (It can travel up to nine miles in 2 hours.) Any additional damage dealt to a vampire forced into gaseous form has no effect. Once at rest in its coffin, a vampire is helpless. It regains 1 hit point after 1 hour, then is no longer helpless and resumes healing at the rate of 5 hit points per round.

Gaseous Form (Su) As a standard action, a vampire can assume gaseous form at will as the spell (caster level 5th), but it can remain gaseous indefinitely and has a fly speed of 20 feet with perfect maneuverability.

Spider Climb (Ex) A vampire can climb sheer surfaces as though with a spider climb spell.

Turn Resistance (Ex) A vampire has +4 turn resistance.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2011, 08:17:28 PM by Talore » Logged

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Organ Grinder
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« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2011, 04:30:19 AM »

Note: I don't have the reference for one of the feats; it's from a dragon magazine and allows claw damage to be tacked onto unarmed strikes.
Could be interesting to take advantage of nonassociated class levels to get good bonuses from Eldritch Claws. A, say, warforged titan warlock 12/swordsage 1 is CR15, gets 9th-level Tiger Claw maneuvers and can equip a battlefist.

Feats Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Life Drain, Practiced Spellcaster, Ascetic Mage, Claw-Fist Style, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist
There are... better feats than, say, Alertness.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2011, 04:38:45 AM by Prime32 » Logged

My work
The tier system in a nutshell:
Tier 6: A cartographer.
Tier 5: An expert cartographer or a decent marksman.
Tier 4: An expert marksman.
Tier 3: An expert marksman, cartographer and chef who can tie strong knots and is trained in hostage negotiation or a marksman so good he can shoot down every bullet fired by a minigun while armed with a rusted single-shot pistol that veers to the left.
Tier 2: Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything, or the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.
Tier 1: Someone with teleportation, mind control, time manipulation, intangibility, the ability to turn into an exact duplicate of anything and the ability to see into the future with perfect accuracy.
Organ Grinder
Posts: 4039

« Reply #15 on: March 28, 2011, 06:48:03 AM »

Note that Darkstalker does not negate Mindsight, as you've implied.  It only deals with Blindsight, Blindsense, Scent, and Tremorsense.


Organ Grinder
Posts: 3494

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« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2011, 12:38:14 PM »

Feats Alertness, Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Multiattack, Life Drain, Practiced Spellcaster, Ascetic Mage, Claw-Fist Style, Improved Unarmed Strike, Stunning Fist
There are... better feats than, say, Alertness.
Vampire tempate gives Alertness as a bonus feat.  He didn't select it.

I am constantly amazed by how many DM's ban Tomb of Battle.  The book doesn't even exist!

By yes, she means no.
That explains so much about my life.
Why would you even do this? It hurts my eyes and looks like you ate your keyboard before suffering an attack of explosive diarrhea.

If using Genesis to hide your phylactry, set it at -300 degrees farenheit.  See how do-gooders fare with a liquid atmosphere.
Barbary Macaque at the Rock of Gibraltar
Posts: 133

« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2011, 01:53:08 PM »

Great topic!

So here's a little brain storming from encounters i have made:
Spell stiched spells (i used them on a Mummy):
Level 1 (4/day) CL 8
Chill of the Grave
Faerie Fire (

Level 2 (4/day)
Desecrate +1 profane bonus to hit + 1dam + 1 HP pr HD (+2 if alter)
Veil if shadow

Level 3 (2/day)
Greater mage armor
Undeath Touch

Level 4 (2/day)
Sirinus Grace
Divine power(+6 str, +8 temp HP +4 BAb) (+7 to hit +3 dam) 1 round/level

Look at what the monster do and then make it better at it.
Lot's of attacks but not so much dam? - add sneak and flanking partners
2 lvls of Swordsage for assasins stance is great. (also Distrating ember is nice for make sneaks)

Cheap items that as a swift action gives a 1-2/day ability/boost (take a quick look at the tablet in the end of the MIC) is a nice way to make monsters a little better without giving the players to much gold.
Here is a few: Brute Grauntles, potions of barkskin, potion of shield of faith, Torc of displacement, Chronocharm of the horizonwalker, masterwork weapons.Anklet of translocation (a most for any spellcaster - once you have seen your spellcaster being grappled by the BSF your never gonna make a caster without it)

And for later when the monsters have more gold - +2 item, +1 armor +1 shield, the cheap stuff that gives more bang for the buck than a +2 weapon

And dips. Well there was a dips handbook somewhere have a look at it.
For high wisdom monsters there the feat serenity from dra com.for better paladin, monk 1
For high lvl dex -swordsage
for high lvl cha Hexblade 2, paladin2, battledance 1 (dra. com)
For a str build - a psy warrior dip (if enough wisdom) for expantion can change things.

Spells -
spellcasters taken straight from the book don't have a great spell selection. Change them! And if they now buff the rest of the encounter all for the better.

Flaws - if you allow the players to have them, why shouldn't your monsters?

Cleric 1 dip is good for domain powers.

« Last Edit: March 28, 2011, 01:54:48 PM by Bigtuna » Logged
Grape ape
Posts: 1940

« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2011, 03:49:55 PM »

2nd chapter up on the third post!

I'd like to either request, or add on to this, one feature that I wish these boards had.  A resource for Dungeon Masters to easily find pre-improved monsters to throw at their player characters with minimal effort.  

Yes, I intended to do that as the last part of the guide after I cover up monster tactics, dungeon design, minion design/tactics and solo boss design/tactics.

If other people want to sugest monsters, I'll make an index and link all the sugested monsters, listing them by CR.

Anyone wanting to contribute optimized monsters to this thread please put them on a post of their own, so it makes for easier linking.

Oh well grammar was never my strong point so feel free to nitpick at it. Corrected as you sugested.

Monster variety is indeed important and will be covered up in more detail later in the guide.


Hong Kong
Posts: 1344

« Reply #19 on: March 29, 2011, 09:13:32 AM »

Outstanding work!!  Thumb

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