Friday, April 18, 2008

I can count to 11 if I use my tail...

While looking at the latest few excerpts from the upcoming Monster Manual, and got thinking about a previous post I made regarding monster creation.

It has been mentioned that the creation of monster stats was going to become less algorithmic than it was in 3rd edition, which doesn't sit well with me. But looking at the sample monsters, it looks like it might not be so bad. Let's consider the succubus (sorry for you who aren't math nerds).

It's a level 9 "immortal humanoid". There are certain stats that we will always assume are calculated, such as Initiative; we're told that ability bonuses are still calculated as

ability bonus = (ability score-10)/2

but that all ability bonus calculations also add in level/2, so the succubus's Dexterity bonus is ((18-10)/2 + 9/2) = (4 + 4.5) = 8. And there's the Initiative +8, so it looks like it's calculated the same way as 3e. The same goes with Perception: no ranks listed below, so just the will bonus, also +8.

Hitpoints. This is what made me wonder if these were still being calculated. The succubus has 90hp, so that would be 10hp per level. But would the monsters progress like the player classes seem to, where on the first level, they get X plus their Constitution score, and on the other levels, they get Y plus their Constitution bonus? Or is it something simpler? Some playing with a spreadsheet can get me a few possibilities, but we'll have to try the same formula with other monsters to get an idea on which might be correct.

Armor class is 23 on the succubus. 10 is the base AC, so where's the rest from? According to, we get our ability modifier (we'll assume with the half-level bonus), for 8 from our Dexterity, for a total of 18. Is there some natural armor in there? Do devils, or shapechangers, or immortal humanoids get a racial/type bonus to AC -- insight, infernal, etc.? Hrm.

The Fortitude save is base-10 plus 4 for the ability (either Str or Con, according to, and another 3 from ... somewhere. Reflex has base-10 plus 8 for ability, and another 3 from ... somewhere. Will has base-10 plus 10 for ability (higher of Charisma or Wisdom), and another 3 from ... somewhere. That "3 from somewhere" is nice and consistent; is it a racial bonus? A "type" bonus? A made-up bonus? Does this same bonus contribute 3 of the 5 points to AC that we don't know about (still leaving 2 other unaccounted, maybe natural armor, points)?

The to-hit calculations are interesting. The two melee attacks, Corrupting Touch and Charming Kiss, look like what would have been previously known as "touch attacks", though they don't seem to use the term. Before, that would mean that the target's AC would have to be modified, but perhaps the touch aspect is somehow being incorporated into the to-hit, instead? That doesn't really make sense, as the attacker would be getting that bonus against ACs based either on full armor or full Dexterity equally.

The succubus gets +14 on the two melee attacks. It's not clear whether we should use Strength or Dexterity for this -- there's no mention of a Weapon Finesse-like feat (if such a thing exists anymore), so either +4 or +8 is being contributed from the ability bonus (plus half-level bonus). Where does the other +10/+6 come from? Could this all be from weapon proficiency?

The ranged Dominate attack has +12. Something tells me that this isn't based on Dexterity, considering it's a mind-affecting ability, and that it attacks Will, so it's either going to be the succubus's Wisdom or Charisma bonus, +8 or +10. Where's the other +4/+2 coming from? It doesn't seem to be the same bonus as the unknown melee one. Different levels of proficiency?

Skills: Bluff = 10 for Charisma + 5 for, according to, "trained" skills. Diplomacy = 10 for Charisma + 5 trained, and Insight = 8 for Wisdom + 5 trained. Assuming I'm right that those are the succubus's trained skills, then it seems she gets no skill points. Was that mentioned somewhere - that monsters get no skill points? I remember they're not getting any feats... poor guys.

And finally, the ability scores themselves. In 3e, monsters had a starting array of three 10s and three 11s, modified by levels and class and such. If we assume the same starting array, then the succubus has +8 Dex, +8 Wis, +4 Int and +10 Cha. Some as racial gains, some as level gains? According to the chart at, there's racial bonuses at level one, and increases at 4 and 8. This is really arbitrary for now, but we can say that the succubus race gets +8 Dex, +8 Wis, +4 Int and +8 Cha as racial bonuses (wow!), and that the extra +2 Cha is from levelling up.

Okay, so we're about 50/50 on explaining the numbers so far. Let's look at the next monster on that page, the War Devil.

Initiative - check, it matches the Dexterity bonus. Perception - check, matches Wisdom.

Hit points. 255 doesn't divide into 22 very nicely, which means the number is either arbitrary (either to the war devil specifically, or to 22nd level monsters generally), or there's a bonus somewhere. Since the war devil is also an immortal humanoid, like the succubus, then we might assume that they have the same hit die. But no matter how I've tried to slice it, I can't come up with a formula that gives the same results for both the succubus and the war devil, discounting bonus hit points from somewhere. This might be a problem of having too few datasets, so let's leave it for now, and see if the rest of the war devil makes sense.

AC: 10-base, 17 from Dexterity... we're short by 8. Fortitude: 10-base, 18 from Constitution, or 19 from Strength - we're short by 6 or 5. Reflex is short by 5 if Dex is used, as is Will. A similar pattern to what we saw on the succubus. So where are these extra numbers coming from? They seem too low to be level-based, if they're only 5 over 22 levels for the war devil. Racial? Class based? I still suspect natural armor being the discrepancy between the AC missing bonus and the one for the saves.

To-hits on the war devil are in a similar position: the two melee attacks have the same bonus, which gives some promise to a formula in there somewhere, but how do we get to +26 from the +19 of Strength? +7 from weapon proficiency?

Skills: Intimidate +20. Looks good for +15 from Charisma and a +5 trained bonus.

And finally the ability scores. Assuming, again, a 10/10/10/11/11/11 array, we've immediately got a problem: the war devil doesn't have three even/three odd stats. Working backwards, the 22nd level war devil should have received 6 ability score increases (4,8,11,14,17,20), so we can reduce two of the extra odd ability scores down to even ones, and use the other four elsewhere. We're just guessing anyway, so let's say our bonuses are Strength +17 (14 + 3), Dexterity +13 (12 + 1), Wisdom +8, Constitution +14 (12 + 2), Intelligence +4, and Charisma +8. Why these numbers? Because even back in 3e, and as above on the succubus, bonuses tended to be in multiples of +4. The only exception is the Strength.

Okay, so some things make sense, but others are still unknown. I've made a lot of assumptions, and also used a lot of the stuff on (which I should really read all the way through, since they're more diligent than I am). Perhaps the standard array isn't so standard anymore. Perhaps monsters don't gain ability points at all. And yes, though I refuse to accept it, perhaps monsters are not generated in the way I want them to be. This won't stop me from trying to shoehorn them into a formula, though, and if that requires changing some monsters' stats, so be it! But damn it, if I want a Savage Species book for 4e, I'm damned well going to make one.

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