Alternatives To Monster Math

I see a lot of people talking about slashing monster hit points in half, or giving them half their level to damage, and so on and so forth in order to fix the “combat length problems” of D&D 4th Edition. That is to their benefit, and they indeed have gotten the results they wanted from them. But me, I don’t really like slashing anything in half or adding half to anything and so on, because while these changes seem simple, to me they look rather drastic.

The title is misleading in that my alternative monster maths are not going to come from me, but rather from elsewhere in D&D 4th Edition. I’m talking about dealing damage and having hit points like a player does. In my article about using NPCs as enemies I did a comparison of monster’s HPs to NPC (using Player Stats) HPs. Let’s take a look:

I was curious to see how the hit points of NPCs and normal monsters matched up. So I calculated the following, using 10 con characters and levels 1, 11 and 21, standard monsters and standard PCs of four pretty basic classes:

Level 1

Fighter: 25 hp
Cleric: 22 hp
Wizard: 20 hp
Rogue: 22 hp

Soldier/Skirmisher/Controller: 26 hp
Brute: 30 hp
Artillery/Lurker: 22 hp

Level 11

Fighter: 87 hp
Cleric: 72 hp
Wizard: 60 hp
Rogue: 72 hp

Soldier/Skirmisher/Controller: 106 hp
Brute: 130 hp
Artillery/Lurker: 82 hp

Level 21

Fighter: 145
Cleric: 122
Wizard: 100
Rogue: 122

Soldier/Skirmisher/Controller: 186 hp
Brute: 230 hp
Artillery/Lurker: 142 hp

At low levels, the difference is almost negligible. With the same constitution score, a Brute is only 5 HP above a Fighter, and Artillery/Lurkers are exactly the same HP as the average leader or striker. The Wizard remains consistently weaker and weaker in HP against any of the monsters. But the gap continues to widen, until by epic tier you have brutes with almost 100 hp above Fighters, and even the LURKER AND ARTILLERY are closing in on the Fighter in HP. Monster stats also tend to grow either faster or at the same level as PC stats do, so your constitution will at best match and at worse be lower than that of a monster.

So instead of slashing hit points in half and clustering more and more disposable critters in the same encounter (I’ve never been a fan of that approach) what I would do is give them PC-equivalent hit points and use the same math as always: 1 normal monster to 1 normal PC. The Fighter would be High HP, the Rogue Medium HP and the Wizard be Low HP depending on what you want your monster to have. DMG page 143 has Quick Hit Point generation formulas for PC HP that can help you out.

Elite and Solo HP would be generated as normal by multiplying those base amounts of “PC HP.”

Looking at the damages is different, because you have a lot of versatility in choosing the damages for your monster. Different monsters have different damage outputs because damage is wildly variable (you get a huge table to choose it from) as opposed to HP, which is a pretty straight formula. So it is difficult to really give advice on what to do about your monster’s damages. You could either try looking at PC powers of that level for what to do, or use the medium and high damage expressions on the table if you want it to be more dangerous. As before, your role models are the Fighter, Rogue and Wizard.

As I said before, a houserule I like is having encounter powers do 1/2 damage on a miss to keep the “I did nothing with my turn” factor at a minimum but also not full out give players awesome rewards for missing.

Coupled with using these somewhat more even numbers of HP, it keeps fights from getting too long, BUT still within the scope that D&D 4e is designed for. I’m not sure the same could be said of having 10 1/2 HP monsters with +1/2 level to damage fighting 5 standard PCs. I haven’t tried that and I don’t think I will, and if you’re like me, you may find this more conservative alternative to your liking.

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Categories: D&D 4e, NPCs, RPG | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Alternatives To Monster Math

  1. Telicis

    Agreed; I really think the whole +50%/cut in half thing seems a little drastic and frankly I’ve yet to see a 4e combat that drags enough to annoy me unless it’s Party Level+3 or higher.

    This looks like a much more reasonable alternative that I’ll definitely be taking before the +50%/-50% if I think a change is needed.

  2. Pingback: Wyatt And Friend’s 4e Houserules « The Spirits of Eden

  3. Mike Kenyon

    I definitely agree with you, Telicis. When I want a hard encounter, it’s level + 2. I’ll throw in some interesting terrain that can damage both sides. Solos are always +/– 1 level. If I want a harder combat, he’ll have minions who simply Aid Another, offering him a near-guaranteed hit. And that avoids the grind considerably.

    There are other techniques DMs don’t use enough. Monsters do surrender, or flee. If only artillery are left, and they’re engaged in melee, they become minions: one hit kill.

    Wyatt, I really like the ideas you’ve posted here. I’m running a play-by-post game that goes through one combat round a day. This will speed things up considerably.

  4. I’ve never subscribed to the “enemies fight to the death” school of gaming, and 4e is no different. Undead notwithstanding, it’s pretty easy to tell when a fight is over, and the bad guys flee, surrender or panic. I have been reducing enemy hp’s by a shade (20%), but I think I’m going to stop that and just focus on building encounters with better combat options, traps and environment.

  5. @ murph – remember how intimidate works differently now. My players have made occasional use of it to end encounters early. The bloodied monsters surrender, and the minions and non-bloodied generally try to escape as quickly as posssible :)

    @Wyatt – Excellent work, my friend! I can now see (much more clearly) how the additional “per tier” damage dice and effects come into play in whittling those hp down.

  6. hm, I like this idea. I’ve been cutting mines down by a third which has been simple enough math to do on the fly, half was just too much, and a quarter too little.

    The only problem I could see with this is having to the math takes longer to do then cutting the hp by a third for the bloodied total, then doubling the bloodied result for the full total.

    Then again it wouldn’t be hard to come up with a chart with the math already done ahead of time with levels as the rows and low/med/high as the columns.

    I think I’ll give this one a shot and see how it works out. You’re onto something for sure.

  7. @Telicis: I’ve yet to see a 4e combat do the same either, but I HAVE seen some which take over half a session of my game. The difference is that different people have different thresholds of how long a fight they can stand. Me, I really like those long knockdown-drag-out combats. But I also have limited game time so I would like to do more with it, hence my search for solutions too.

    @Mike: Thank you. Yes, for difficulty, using higher level monsters is usually the easiest way to go.

    @Wickedmurph: Any of those combat options and terrain ideas you wanna share? :)

    @Donny: Thanks!

    @Kaeos: Yes, the math takes longer. It’s a more complicated answer than just cutting a chunk off, but it’s more tailored to my specific style. I don’t like slashing things like hit points and damage by percentages.

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