Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tips for Simplified 4e Monster Creation

Hello all. This post compiles several ideas that I have shared over the last year regarding monster creation for 4e. Using these methods has made designing monsters a far more pleasurable experience for me, so I thought I would combine the basic ideas into a single post in the hope that it helps others.

You only need a few pieces of paper to make monsters for all levels of 4e play. You need the updated DMG monster errata (page 7 of this document).  You need a copy of the updated DCs; you can get this in the Rules Compendium, DM Kit, or free here. You need a list of experience point values broken down for monster type and level, which you can find in the DMG, DM Kit, RC, etc. Finally, you will want to use a few tables and formulas from this blog that are easy to memorize, or can be jotted down on a sheet of paper.

Start with a monster level in mind. Lets just make it simple and say we are making a Level 3 monster. Most 4e DMs can probably put together a monsters defenses and attack bonuses without looking, but if you need to, use the DMG errata. Ignore specialized roles, and go with the basics. AC is level+14 (17); NADs are 12+level (15). Attack bonus vs AC is level+5 (+8), vs NADs is level+3 (+6). Damage expressions are right there on the sheet, but hold off for a second.

Next, we completely ignore characteristic scores and derive the skill and initiative bonuses from the DC list. We look at the moderate and hard DCs of a monster's level; the level 3 moderate and hard DCs are 13 and 21. Subtract 10 from these to get 3 and 11. The monster's trained skill modifier is +11, untrained modifier is +3. Do not add half their level to these. Adjudicate skill use on the fly; for example, if it is a sneaky monster that lives in dark caves, perhaps it is "trained" in Stealth. If the monster is a dexterous, quick type, its initiative mod is +11. If typical, its mod is +3.

Use the 4e Forever unified hit point formula. (Level x 8) +20 is the formula for a Standard monster's hit points. Multiply the total times 2 for Elites and Savages, or times 4 for Solos. Minions of course have one HP. It is super easy to memorize this, and you do not have to fiddle with multiple formulas.

Add the XP total to the monster statistics if you award XP, or if you calculate your encounter difficulty levels from it.

Add Morale and use the Reaction Tables. Trust me, this is going to help a lot of your encounters go from slogs to skirmishes.

The only thing left is the actual power design. We get the updated damage expressions from the same DMG errata page mentioned above. Resist the urge to over-complicate your monsters. Most of the time they will be dead before they can get through some long list of powers. Focus on a single go-to power, possibly one that has multiple-attacks as a single Standard action. If needed, add another ability or two that back up the flavor of the monster, but don't overthink it or overdo it. It is kind of the same thing as designing an entire world before the campaign has even started: unnecessary.

You can likely just make a mental note of any other bits such as Alignment, Languages, Keywords, etc.

And there you have it. Nice and easy 4e monster creation! I will never go back! Once you are comfortable with this, you can make a monster in a matter of seconds. If you liked this post and want to see some ideas on resurrecting your old pre-errata monsters from the MM1, MM2, and other old 4e books, check this out!


  1. This post was awesome! As a 4e DM & OSR fan, I really dig this approach to monster creation!

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