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IMPROVING MONSTERS

Each of the monster entries describes a typical creature of its kind. However, there are several methods by which extraordinary or unique monsters can be created using a typical creature as the foundation: by adding character classes, increasing a monster’s Hit Dice, or by adding a template to a monster. These methods are not mutually exclusive—it’s possible for a monster with a template to be improved by both increasing its Hit Dice and adding character class levels.

Class Levels: Intelligent creatures that are reasonably humanoid in shape most commonly advance by adding class levels. Creatures that fall into this category have an entry of “By character class” in their Advancement line. When a monster adds a class level, that level usually represents an increase in experience and learned skills and capabilities.

Increased Hit Dice: Intelligent creatures that are not humanoid in shape, and nonintelligent monsters, can advance by increasing their Hit Dice. Creatures with increased Hit Dice are usually superior specimens of their race, bigger and more powerful than their run-of-the-mill fellows.

Templates: Both intelligent and nonintelligent creatures with an unusual heritage or an inflicted change in their essential nature may be modified with a template. Templates usually result in tougher monsters with capabilities that differ from those of their common kin.

Each of these three methods for improving monsters is discussed in more detail below.

ABILITY SCORE ARRAYS

Monsters are assumed to have completely average (or standard) ability scores—a 10 or an 11 in each ability, as modified by their racial bonuses. However, improved monsters are individuals and often have better than normal ability scores, and usually make use of either the elite array or the nonelite array of ability scores. Monsters who improve by adding a template, and monsters who improve by increasing their Hit Dice, may use any of the three arrays (standard, nonelite, or elite). Any monster unique enough to be improved could easily be considered elite.

Elite Array: The elite array is 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8. While the monster has one weakness compared to a typical member of its race, it is significantly better overall. The elite array is most appropriate for monsters who add levels in a player character class.

Nonelite Array: The nonelite array is 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8. The nonelite array does not necessarily make a monster better than normal, but it does customize the monster as an individual with strengths and weaknesses compared to a typical member of its race. The nonelite array is most appropriate for monsters who add class levels in a NPC class.

Ability Score Improvement: Treat monster Hit Dice the same as character level for determining ability score increases. This only applies to Hit Dice increases, monsters do not gain ability score increases for levels they “already reached” with their racial Hit Dice, since these adjustments are included in their basic ability scores.

MONSTERS AND CLASS LEVELS

If a creature acquires a character class, it follows the rules for multiclass characters.

The creature’s Hit Dice equal the number of class levels it has plus its racial Hit Dice. A creature’s “monster class” is always a favored class, and the creature never takes XP penalties for having it. Additional Hit Dice gained from taking levels in a character class never affect a creature’s size.

Humanoids and Class Levels: Creatures with 1 or less HD replace their monster levels with their character levels. The monster loses the attack bonus, saving throw bonuses, skills, and feats granted by its 1 monster HD and gains the attack bonus, save bonuses, skills, feats, and other class abilities of a 1st-level character of the appropriate class.

Level Adjustment and Effective Character Level: To determine the effective character level (ECL) of a monster character, add its level adjustment to its racial Hit Dice and character class levels. The monster is considered to have experience points equal to the minimum needed to be a character of its ECL.

If you choose to equip a monster with gear, use its ECL as its character level for purposes of determining how much equipment it can purchase. Generally, only monsters with an Advancement entry of “By character class” receive NPC gear; other creatures adding character levels should be treated as monsters of the appropriate CR and assigned treasure, not equipment.

Feat Acquisition and Ability Score Increases: A monster’s total Hit Dice, not its ECL, govern its acquisition of feats and ability score increases.

INCREASING HIT DICE

As its Hit Dice increase, a creature’s attack bonuses and saving throw modifiers might improve. It gains more feats and skills, depending on its type, as shown on Table: Creature Improvement by Type.

Note that if a creature acquires a character class, it improves according to its class, not its type.

Table: Creature Improvement by Type

 
Hit Die
Attack Bonus
Good Saving Throws
Skill Points*

Aberration

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Will

2 + Int mod per HD

Animal

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Fort, Ref (and sometimes Will)

2 + Int mod per HD

Construct

d10

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

2 + Int mod per HD**

Dragon

d12

HD (as fighter)

Fort, Ref, Will

6 + Int mod per HD

Elemental

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Ref (Air, Fire), or Fort (Earth, Water)

2 + Int mod per HD

Fey

d6

HD x1/2 (as wizard)

Ref, Will

6 + Int mod per HD

Giant

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Fort

2 + Int mod per HD

Humanoid

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Varies (any one)

2 + Int mod per HD

Magical beast

d10

HD (as fighter)

Fort, Ref

2 + Int mod per HD

Monstrous humanoid

d8

HD (as fighter)

Ref, Will

2 + Int mod per HD

Ooze

d10

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

2 + Int mod per HD**

Outsider

d8

HD (as fighter)

Fort, Ref, Will

8 + Int mod per HD

Plant

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Fort

2 + Int mod per HD**

Undead

d12

HD x1/2 (as wizard)

Will

4 + Int mod per HD**

Vermin

d8

HD x3/4 (as cleric)

Fort

2 + Int mod per HD**

All types have a number of feats equal to 1 + 1 per 3 Hit Dice.

* As long as a creature has an Intelligence of at least 1, it gains a minimum of 1 skill point per Hit Die.

** Creatures with an Intelligence score of “—” gain no skill points or feats.

SIZE INCREASES

A creature may become larger when its Hit Dice are increased (the new size is noted parenthetically in the monster’s Advancement entry).

A size increase affects any special ability the creature has that is affected by size. Increased size also affects a creature’s ability scores, AC, attack bonuses, and damage values as indicated on the tables below.  

Table: Changes to Statistics by Size

Old Size*

New Size

Str

Dex

Con

Natural Armor

AC/ Attack

Fine

Diminutive

Same

–2

Same

Same

–4

Diminutive

Tiny

+2

–2

Same

Same

–2

Tiny

Small

+4

–2

Same

Same

–1

Small

Medium

+4

–2

+2

Same

–1

Medium

Large

+8

–2

+4

+2

–1

Large

Huge

+8

–2

+4

+3

–1

Huge

Gargantuan

+8

Same

+4

+4

–2

Gargantuan

Colossal

+8

Same

+4

+5

–4

*Repeat the adjustment if the creature moves up more than one size.

Table: Increased Damage By Size

Old Damage (Each)*

New Damage

1d2

1d3

1d3

1d4

1d4

1d6

1d6

1d8

1d8

2d6

1d10

2d8

2d6

3d6

2d8

3d8

* Repeat the adjustment if the creature moves up more than one size category.