Monster Building

Player characters will come in all manner of configurations, and thus so must monsters. To ease monster creation, some base stats and data.

Player Character Advancement

The level system is meant to ensure each player character has sufficient primary attack and decent defenses to face combat. Furthermore, it needs to provide a sense of advancement in power.

The current rules for character creation that matter for this analysis at the time it was done was as follows:

  • All player abilities start at 1.
  • A player can distribute 4 points as they choose among the abilities so long as no ability goes above 3.
    • This means the lowest an ability can be is 1, and highest it can be is 3 at level 1.
  • At certain intervals, all player abilities go up. This happens 3 times.
    • This means at max level the lowest an ability can be is 4, while the highest is 6.
  • A player gets a defense bonus from class.
  • A player gets a defense bonus from race.
  • The bonus from class and race stack.
  • The HP calculation is [Class Bonus] + [Vitality].
  • The lowest HP a class gives is 10.
  • The highest HP a class gives is 14.
Lvl Best Atk Best Def Worst Atk Worst Def Best HP Worst HP
1 18 11
8 18 11
10 19 12
12 19 12
18 19 12
20 20 13
24 20 13
30 21 14

Combat Goals

  • A tough character should reach 0 hp in 4 hits (9 hits without healing before KO).
  • A weak character should reach 0 hp in 2 hits (7 hits without healing before KO).
  • An “average” character should reach 0 hp in 3 hits (15 hits without healing before KO).
  • Any character using the best attack against “average” defense should have a 60% hit chance (this means monsters too).
  • A standard combat is considered 5 v 5.
  • Four minions should count as a standard monsters at level 1.
  • An elite should count as 2 standard monsters.
  • A solo should count as 5 standard monsters.

Given all of that, this begs the question of how tough a standard monster should be. We already know minions die in one successful hit, but how many hits should a standard monster take?

Other things we can tweak is if a monster has a condition track at all.

Managing monster complexity

Initial designs using Hitpoints, conditition track, and stamina proved unwieldy. Not only did players have a variety of stats to track, but it the simplifications required to make monsters useable by the GM were chock full of artiface and special casing.

Players have been simplified to a damage threshold, 5 step condition track (eg, 5 steps from KO), and a stamina pool to recover. While the system could work with no changes for monsters, that’s 5 times more state tracking for the GM. So further simplification is needed. If we consider all monsters to have the following ability:

Monster Surge At-Will Monster Utility
A Rush of adrenaline prevents the creature from feeling the worst effects of a hit.
Retaliate Monster Personal

Trigger: You would be moved down on the condition track.

Target: Self

Effect: You immediately spend enough stamina to go to the top of the condition track.

This goes pretty far in reducing the complexity, up to the point where the monster runs out of stamina. The GM must still track the conditions after that. While that may be desirable for certain monsters, such as solo’s and some elites, it seems overkill for standards and minions. Thus, a futher simplification (presented as as a feat):

Monster Resiliency
Prerequisite: Only a monster may take this feat.
Effect: Your condition track is one step; if you go down on the condition track, you are unconcious or dead.

This, combined with the previous power, means a monster is dead as soon as it runs out of stamina. This means the GM only tracks 1 stat for each monster: it’s stamina. Since stamina will be realtively low, this has the advantage of easier math as well. This also opens up easier to manage design space for things like bloodied (half the stamina spent).

However, this does not help with the staggered condition. Allowing monsters to be staggered opens up interesting design possiblities, such as powers dealing more damage to staggered monsters, or powers that only stagger monsters. This also keeps the rules consistent between players and monsters: both must be staggered before damage actually happens. While it is one extra thing to track for a GM, it can be tracked in the same way conditions like stunned or dazed are, keeping the cognitive load at a managable level. However, this opens the questio of how to remove the staggered condition. If it’s the same as players, monsters are never staggered since they go up the condition track automatically when damaged. Thus, the final peice, presented as a second feat:

Monster Stability
Prerequisite: Only a monster may take this feat.
Effect: The ‘staggered’ condition becomes ‘save ends’. The staggered condition is not removed when you go up on the condition track.

Damage, Threshold, Weapons, and Soak

With the move from hitpoints + condition track to threashold + condition track, this alters how damage, weapons, and soak should be balanced. Part of this goes into class and power design, but because it is closely tied to how to battle monsters, it is appropriate to discuss it here.

The primary purpose behind soak and weapons is flavor. Players have a variety of archetypes the like. There are hose that are weapon heavy like the fighter or gunsligher. Others eschew weapons in the traditional sense, such as wizards and monks. One of our goals is to have all classes be equally useful in thier roles, and part of that means ensuring weapon users are neither more power nor less powerful than non-weapon users.

To achive the flavor part is relatively straight forward. Some powers require a weapon and deal that weapon’s damage + . Others deal ability + . The latter power will automatically improve as the character levels, while the former will only improve with the weapon. Having multiple levels of weapons was decided to be undesirable, thus leaving weapons at a fixed value. To solve the scaling problem, powers that use a weapon should deal weapon + ability + . This means weapon powers will deal more damage that non-weapon powers. Thus, soak vs weapon, where soak absorbs the weapon damage nearly equivalently.

The means soak ends up pulling double duty. By allowing soak to have particular types, it not only provides a counter to keep weapons in check, but allows for flavoring monsters; eg the Ancient Red Dragon has soak vs fire, while the Ancient White Dragon has soak vs cold.

Soak conditionally increses a creature’s threshold vs a particular damage type. This means if the soak is too high against a damage type, that damage type is rendered useless. Thus, soak of a given type should only be 1 or 2 more than the usual damage that would be dealt. For weapon powers, this means soak should be within 2 (wither higher or lower) than the weapon’s damage; other soak should only be 1 or 2 so powers that deal damage of that type are still useful.

Using a maxed out ability for a primary attack skill at level 1 as the baseline, we see that the usual non-weapon hit will deal 4 to 5 damage. Most of our weapons deal 2 to 3 damage. Thus, a weak monster should have a threshold of 4 and weapon soak of 2. A mid range monster should have a threshold of 5 and a weapon soak of 2. A tough monster should have either a threshold of 5 and weapon soak of 3 or a threshold of 6 and a weapon soak of 2. The reason for the either or at the end is it is difficult to hit the upper extreme of a given number of successes (though this should be checked with atually math and not the gut feeling used when writing this). Finally, “flavor” soak should only go up to 2.

Monster Attack Table

For the purpose of the attack and defense table, an “average” defense is a a defense that has been boosted by class and is tied to an ability that has 2 points put into at level 1. Hit percent of a monster attack against a moderate player defense should be about 50%, give or take a couple of percent.

The hit % column is against low Def / against mid def / against hi def. The def are explapolated from a level one character. A low defense is a player with 1 in both abilities that contribute to the defense,and no class bonus. A mid defense is a player with at most 2 in the abilities that contribute to the defense, and a class bonus. A high defense is a player that put a 3 in one of the abilities contributing to the defense, and is getting a class bonus.

Levels Lo Dmg Mid Dmg Hi Dmg Attack % hit
1-9 4 6 8 72% / 49% / 37%
10-19 6 8 10 69% / 51% / 40%
20-29 8 10 12 63% / 48% / 39%
30 10 12 14 63% / 50% / 41%

Monster Defense Table

The monster’s defenses are based on a player using a primary attack, and thus always use the “best attack” as the attacking value for balance purposes.

The % hit column is against highest attack / mid attack / lowest attack, as determined above. A “mid attack” is an attack that had a point put into it at level 1, and is tied to an ability that has 2 put into it at level 1. It assumes that every secondary skill point is put into it. These values are here to show about what percentage of the time players should be expected to be able to hit, given the values.

For the purpose of conciseness, the thresholds ignore the options at the high-end.

Stamina can be adjusted up or down depending on monster flavor or how long you want the fight to last. A stamina of 6 is in generally a good number to use.

Levels Defense % hit thresholds (soak)
1-7 58% / 42% / 18% 4(2) / 5(2) / 6(2)
8-9 57% / 41% / 13% 4(2) / 5(2) / 6(2)
10-11 59% / 45% / 21% 5(2) / 6(2) / 7(2)
12-17 58% / 40% / 17% 5(2) / 6(2) / 7(2)
18-19 62% / 45% / 17% 5(2) / 6(2) / 7(2)
20-23 59% / 45% / 19% 6(2) / 7(2) / 8(2)
24-29 63% / 58% / 19% 6(2) / 7(2) / 8(2)
30 59% / 49% / 21% 7(2) / 8(2) / 9(2)

Monster strength

Monsters come in 4 strengths: minion, standard, elite, and solo.


Four minions count as one standard monster. The role of minions to to provide cannon fodder for the players. While they should be threatening, they are not meant to live long enough to see the fruits of thier efforts.

Minions never do variable damage, die as soon as they are staggered, and are never effected by a missed attack.

There are currently 3 proposals on how to build and use minions. Each have advantages and disadvantages.

4e Style

Minions in this style are built just like standard monsters, only even simpler. Each individiual minon has a single token on the battlefield and must be explicitly targeted.


  • No additionl rules memorized beyond the very basics of ‘dies easy’
  • Allows minions to act as battlefield control by thier very presence since they can retaliate


  • Large numbers of minions become unweildy due to number of tokens


For each minion with the same monster name that is alive, add an to all checks.


  • Large numbers of minions are truly frightening


  • Even with a moderate number of minions at low levels will murder the PC’s
  • Minions quickly reach the point of irrelavance, where PC’s can simply ignore them

Minion Zones

Minions are placed into groups. For each group, take the number of minions in that group. That group is represented on the battlefield as a monster of that size. For example, a minion group of 2 is represented as a 2 by 2 monster size. Minion groups of 4 are represented by 4 by 4 monster.

A minion zone takes no speed penalty for squeezing.

Each time a minion dies in a group, reduce it’s size by one.

Players may move freely though a minion group, but this does provoke.

Area attacks can target 1 minion for every square the area overlaps the minion zone.


  • Large numbers of minions are easier to manage
  • Minions still act battlefield control


  • Addtional rules, both for players and the GM


A standard monster is the bread and butter of a monster encounters. A group of monsters that has as many standard monsters of equal level to the player characters is balanced.

When creating a monster, give it at least 1 at will, and 1 encounter. If the at will has significant controller capability, use the low damage column, otherwise us the average damage. If the encounter power has significant controller capability, use the average damage column, otherwise use the high damage column.

A standard monster has a 2 step condition track, normal -> bloodied. It takes not penalty when bloodied. When a standard monster is bloodied, it goes back to full HP.


An elite monster is tougher than a standard monster, but not otherwise notable. An elite monster is equivalent to 2 standard monsters.

  1. Create a standard monster.
  2. Add either a retaliate power, or a recharge to an encounter power.
  3. Double the HP.
  4. Recharge or have another ability that triggers when bloodied.


A solo monster, while often accompanied by a couple standard monsters, is a significant threat to the players on its own; a solo monster is equivalent to 5 standard monsters.

  1. Start by making a standard monster.
  2. Upgrade all defenses.
  3. Multiply the HP by 5.
  4. Add an attack that can be used as a maneuver.
  5. Add 2 retaliate powers.
  6. Add 2 encounter powers.
  7. Add a recharge to 2 encounter powers.
  8. Add a way to go back up the condition track.