Creating Creatures

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The Creature Compendium offers you tons of monsters that you can use to terrorize your heroes. Sometimes, though, you will want a specific monster or a variation on a monster that isn’t quite covered by anything in the Creature Compendium. When this is the case, you can use the guidelines in this chapter to design your own unique monsters.

Reskinning

Reskinning is the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. Reskinning is the practice of using the mechanics of one monster or spell, but describing it to your players as though an entirely different creature is fighting them. This is an easy way to save yourself some time when prepping a combat. If your party is attacked by dashing highwaymen, you might use the Knight stat block instead of the Bandit stat block, as the stats for Knight better reflect your vision of what a highwayman should be.

Tweaking

You can also make small modifications to a monster’s stat block to help reskin a little more effectively. Maybe you want an NPC that knows the Fireball spell to do toxic damage instead of fire, or you want to use a Large creature’s stat block as though it were a Medium creature.

For example, a loud, brawny pirate that gets into bar fights and has a terrifying reputation might simply use the stats of a Grash. Decrease his Size to Medium, and increase his INT and CHA to 0 or 1 (adjusting LOG and WILL accordingly). Then describe his climb speed as his skill around rigging, and describe his beak and claw attacks as cutlasses and daggers instead. The Grash’s screech ability might instead be a fearsome bellow that strikes fear into the hearts of all who hear it. By making a couple very small mechanical changes, you have turned a Grash into a pirate.

When reskinning and tweaking a monster, you may overlook a few mechanics that arise in the middle of a combat. If a hero tries to disarm the pirate in the example by knocking their cutlass away, this technically would not be possible because the Grash’s claws and beak are natural weapons. Logically, though, one should be able to disarm a pirate of their cutlass. It’s fine to make such rulings in the spur of the moment as it makes sense for the story and situation.

Customizing NPCs

NPCs are some of the easiest creatures to customize. Because NPCs are humanoid, they might undergo some of the same training that your heroes do. Think about the process of creating a hero: you pick a lineage, assign attributes, choose BOP, and gain a talent. You can use any or all of these steps to customize an NPC. For example, you might make a captain of the guard by taking the Guard stat block, giving them the plains elf lineage, making them a born warrior with the guard profession, and giving them one or two talents in the warrior class. This will make that particular guard a bit stronger than your average guard and will impact their fighting style, which can make the NPC seem like an entirely unique creature even if at its base level it is just a modified Guard.

You can also easily change an NPC’s equipment or even give them magic items, but be careful when you do so. If the NPC gets into a lethal confrontation with the heroes, then the heroes will undoubtedly take any magic items that the NPC possessed, so only give the NPC a magic item if you are ready for your heroes to use it.

Customizing Monsters

Customizing a monster can be a little bit more involved than customizing an NPC. Here are a handful of tools you can use when changing an existing monster to better suit your needs.

Monster Archetypes

Once you have picked a monster stat block to modify, consider what kind of archetype might best describe that monster. Archetypes are not strictly mechanical but can help you think about how creatures are represented and how you might modify them. Is the monster you’re modifying a low-health, high damage assassin? Maybe it summons minions to fight on its behalf.

Having identified what archetype the monster fits, you can remove the features that define it as that archetype and give it new features or different HP and defenses based on a new archetype that better fits your vision. Changing a summoner to a beefcake, for example, would entail removing its ability to summon minions and dramatically increasing its HP. You might give a couple of its defenses a small boost as well, and give it the Exploit advanced maneuver so that it can control the battlefield a little more effectively.

Monster Traits

Many monsters have specific traits that denote certain abilities. Monster traits are listed below, and if you want an easy way to customize a monster, simply swap out the traits that the stat block already has for new options. Changing a Hydra Slime’s Immutable trait to Ethereal dramatically changes the way that the monster feels and functions in a fight.

Monster Trait Description
Ethereal Can pass through walls and other barriers and surfaces freely.
Immovable Cannot be teleported or moved against its will.
Immutable Cannot have its physical form changed, such as with Cloven Step.
Invisible Creature is Unseen.
Iron Will Cannot gain the Frightened or Shaken conditions.
Regen X At the start of each of its turns, the creature regains HP equal to its Regen number.
Steel Mind Cannot gain the Charmed or Enthralled conditions.
Unerring Mind Cannot be tricked by illusions, disguise magic or magical effects, and sees the true form of any shapechanger or polymorphed creature.
Vigilant Does not suffer any penalties to its AWR while Unconscious.

Mythic

Mythic monsters are incredibly challenging to fight. A Mythic monster has the Iron Will and Steel Mind traits. A Mythic monster also is more difficult to kill: if it gains the Helpless condition, it is not reduced to 0 HP when it takes damage. Instead, all damage that it takes is considered critical.

Finally, Mythic monsters do not roll Initiative, but instead act after every 2 characters in Initiative order, making them much more capable of devastating a battlefield.

Monster Tags

Another way to quickly create a custom monster is by mixing and matching monster tags. The monster tags are as follows:

Mundane: Beast, Humanoid, Monstrosity, Plant

Planar: Avadri, Celestial, Eldritch, Elemental, Fae, Fiend

Magical: Arcane, Divine, Occult, Primal, Psionic

Modifying: Abominable, Constructed, Giant, Swarm, Shapechanger, and Undead

By giving a monster a different tag, it will interact with some of your heroes’ abilities differently (such as the cleric’s Sense Planar ability). You can also look at other monsters in the Creature Compendium that do have that tag and apply their features to your monster.

For example, if you want to make a biotechnical avadri steed, you might take the stats of a Warhorse to start. Change its tag from Beast to Avadri. Then, look at some similar creatures that have the avadri tag, like the Trench Abomination. Maybe you want to give your Warhorse a similar Rapid Mutation table or the Electric Skin feature.

MythCraft Monster Math (MCMM)

MythCraft Monster Math (MCMM) is the formula that the designers used when creating official monsters for the game. You can use the tables below when creating a monster from scratch, or when checking your redesigned monster against the balance of the monsters in the Creature Compendium. A monster’s typical HP, attributes, simulated AP (see Monster Actions on p. ##), and approximate damage per round (DPR) are listed by ML.

Note that these are only benchmarks, not hard and fast rules. Remember a creature’s archetype: a monster that functions as an assassin will have lower max HP and higher DPR than the average for its ML.

ML

ML, or Monster Level, represents how powerful a monster is. You use this to calculate the balance of a combat encounter (see Chapter 5).

Total Stats

A monster’s total stats is the sum of their STR, DEX, END, AWR, INT, and CHA. For example, a creature with ML 3 might have 2 STR, 0 DEX, 0 END, 3 AWR, 0 INT, and 2 CHA. Like heroes, creatures can have up to a -3 in a stat, and this is especially common among beasts, who typically have -2 or -3 INT.

Max Stat

A monster’s max stat is the cap on how high a single stat can be. A creature with ML 3 typically would not have more than a +3 in a single stat, while a creature of ML 16 might have as high as a +6. Monsters of specific archetypes might break this rule, but this is uncommon.

HP

A monster’s HP is the recommended maximum HP that a creature of a certain ML would have. This is easy to scale up or down based on how long you want a monster to live. Minions should have very low maximum HP, while beefcakes might have more HP than their corresponding ML recommends.

AP Simulated

AP Simulated is the number of Action Points that the monster is assumed to have. MCs do not track AP for monsters, as it would be very time consuming to attempt this for multiple NPCs and would cause no shortage of headaches. Instead, use the AP Sim’d column to convert AP into Monster Actions (below).

Armor

This is the recommended value of a creature’s AR based on their ML. Tough creatures or humanoids wearing heavy armor might have a higher AR, but this should usually come with some kind of tradeoff, such as a lower number of total stats, reduced speed, or a lower DPR.

Attack Bonus

A monster’s recommended attack bonus will correspond to their max stat. A monster that mainly fights with DEX will have the highest possible DEX that it can at that ML, for example.

DPR

DPR, or Damage Per Round, is the amount of damage a monster could do if it attacked as many times as it could on its turn and hit each time, dealing average damage. A soldier of ML 0.5 might have a STR of 2, dealing an average of 5 (1d6+2) damage with its shortsword and being able to attack only once per round. A highly trained soldier of ML 6 might have a STR of 3 and have the ability to attack twice on each of their turns, dealing 6 (1d6+3) damage with each hit. Assassins will obviously deal more damage, and beefcakes, controllers, and summoners will usually deal a little less.

ML Total Stats Max Stat HP AP Simulated Armor Attack Bonus DPR Equivalent CR
0.5 4 2 10 2 11 2 5 1/8
1 5 2 15 2 11 2 5 1/2
2 6 3 20 3 11 3 8 1
3 7 3 28 3 12 3 8 2
4 8 3 35 3 12 3 8 2
5 9 3 43 4 12 3 12 3
6 10 3 50 4 12 3 12 3
7 11 4 58 5 13 4 16 4
8 12 4 65 5 13 4 16 4
9 13 4 73 6 13 4 21 5
10 14 4 80 6 13 4 21 5
11 15 5 88 7 14 5 26 6
12 16 5 95 7 14 5 26 6
13 17 5 110 8 14 5 32 7
14 18 5 125 8 14 5 32 7
15 19 5 140 8 15 5 32 8
16 20 6 155 9 15 6 38 8
17 21 6 170 9 15 6 38 9
18 22 6 185 10 15 6 45 9
19 23 6 200 10 16 6 45 10
20 24 6 215 10 16 6 45 10
21 25 6 230 11 16 6 50 11
22 26 7 245 11 16 7 52 11
23 27 7 260 12 17 7 60 12
24 28 7 275 12 17 7 60 12
25 29 7 290 12 17 7 60 13
26 30 7 305 12 17 7 60 13
27 31 7 320 12 18 7 60 14
28 32 7 335 12 18 7 60 14
29 33 8 350 12 18 8 66 15
30 34 8 365 12 18 8 66 15
31 35 8 385 14 19 8 66 16
32 36 8 405 14 19 8 66 16
33 37 8 425 14 19 8 66 17
34 38 8 445 14 19 8 66 17
35 39 9 465 14 20 9 72 18
36 40 9 485 14 20 9 72 18
37 41 9 505 14 20 9 72 19
38 42 9 525 14 20 9 72 19
39 43 9 545 14 20 9 72 20
40 44 9 565 14 20 9 72 20
41 45 10 585 16 20 10 78 21
42 46 10 605 16 20 10 78 21
43 47 10 625 16 20 10 78 22
44 48 10 645 16 20 10 78 22
45 49 10 670 16 20 10 78 23
46 50 10 695 16 20 10 78 23
47 51 11 720 16 20 11 84 24
48 52 11 745 16 20 11 84 24
49 53 11 770 16 20 11 84 25
50 54 11 795 16 20 11 84 25
51 55 11 820 18 20 11 84 26
52 56 11 845 18 20 11 84 26
53 57 12 870 18 20 12 90 27
54 58 12 895 18 20 12 90 27
55 59 12 925 18 21 12 90 28
56 60 12 955 18 21 12 90 28
57 61 12 985 18 21 12 90 29
58 62 12 1015 18 21 12 90 29
59 63 12 1045 18 21 12 102 30
60 64 12 1075 18 21 12 102 30

Monster Actions

Monster actions allow monsters to simulate using AP. Monsters of higher ML will have more monster actions and/or their monster actions will be capable of doing more. You can use the table below as a guiding principle when figuring out how many AP a monster action should simulate costing.

Type of Action AP Damage
Move 1 -
Light Ability 2-3 1d6
Medium Ability 4-6 2d6
Strong Ability 8-10 4d6
Powerful Ability 12+ 10d6

Using this formula, you can extrapolate out to 18 AP, although monsters that simulate this many AP are exceedingly rare.

Of course, some abilities will deal damage and others will have entirely different effects. This is simply a frame of reference that you can use as a quick litmus test to ensure that your monster’s abilities are reasonably balanced. You can use the table below to determine how many types of actions a monster should be able to take based on the number of AP simulated.

On the table below, moving is also considered a light ability, so if a monster can use a light action or ability, they could choose to spend it moving.

Finally, note that some monsters might have enough simulated AP for a strong or powerful ability, but this does not mean that they have to possess such an ability. Many AP might simply let the monster use light abilities much more rapidly. It all depends on the feeling you want to evoke when your heroes fight the monster. A nimble halfling rogue might have many light actions, while a heavyset trollkin berzerker might have only a couple actions that pack a stronger punch.

AP Simulated Light Ability Medium Ability Strong Ability Powerful Ability
2 The monster can move OR take 1 light action/ability. - - -
3 The monster can move AND take 1 light action/ability. - - -
4 The monster can take 2 light actions/abilities or take the same action twice. - - -
5 AND take 2 light actions/abilities or take the same action twice OR take 1 medium action/ability. - -
6 The monster can take 3 light actions/abilities or take the same action three times. OR the monster can move and take 1 medium action/ability - -
7 The monster can take 3 light actions/abilities or take the same action three times. OR the monster can take 2 medium actions/abilities or take the same action twice. - -
8 The monster can take 4 light actions/abilities or take the same action four times. OR the monster can take 2 medium actions/abilities or take the same action twice. OR the monster can take 1 strong action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 2 light actions/abilities or take the same action twice AND take 1 medium action/ability. -
9 The monster can take 4 light actions/abilities or take the same action four times. OR the monster can move and take 2 medium actions/abilities or take the same action twice. OR the monster can take 1 strong action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 2 light actions/abilities or take the same action twice. AND take 1 medium action/ability. -
10 The monster can take 5 light actions/abilities or take the same action five times. OR the monster can move and take 2 medium actions/abilities or take the same action twice. OR the monster can move and take 1 strong action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 3 light actions/abilities or take the same action three times. AND take 1 medium action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 1 light action/ability. AND take 2 medium actions/abilities. -
11 The monster can move and take 5 light actions/abilities or take the same action five times. OR the monster can move and take 2 medium actions/abilities or take the same action twice. OR the monster can move and take 1 strong action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 3 light actions/abilities or take the same action three times AND take 1 medium action/ability. -
OR the monster can take 1 light action/ability AND take 2 medium actions/abilities. -
12 The monster can take 6 light actions/abilities or take the same action six times. OR the monster can take 3 medium actions/abilities or take the same action three times. OR the monster can take 1 powerful action/ability.
OR the monster can take 4 light actions/abilities or take the same action four times AND take 1 medium action/ability.
OR the monster can take 2 light actions/abilities or take the same action twice AND take 2 medium actions/abilities.
OR the monster can take 1 light action/ability AND take 1 strong action/ability.