Design Diary 13

"Rawr! I'm a monster!"

I've been working on the monsters for about a month now, stealing time where I can. I'm currently bogged down in the dragons section, but I've got enough for another entry (dragons will take their own entry).

I've enacted quite a few changes, mostly those that carried over from the base framework:

No more immunities. Well, limited immunities. Undead are still immune to mind-affecting spells and effects; oozes are still immune to sneak attacks (but not crits - see below), and blind creatures are still immune to sight-based spells. Creatures with an elemental subtype, however, are NOT immune to a type of energy. In fact, very few creatures are immune to any type of energy (or poison, or disease).

The line of though here is that immunities are supposed to be special - if every Tom, Dick, and Harry has them, they're not very special. Not only that, but immunities tend to run rampant at epic levels, which makes it even harder for the PCs (or the monsters, when the PCs have them) to catch a break. Instead, I've instituted a system for energy resistance - normal creatures can have up to 5 + 1/2 HD; subtypes (cold, fire, etc.) have 10 + 1/2 HD; elementals have 15 + 1/2 HD. This way, it would still be nearly impossible to harm a really big fire elemental with, say, a meteor swarm, but it <i>could</i> be done.

Similarly, as I mentioned above, immunity to crits and sneaks is gone. Creatures with immunity now get resistance - crits are reduced by 1, 2, or 3 steps (from x3 to x1 or x2, frex) and sneaks are reduced by 1/4, 1/3, or 1/2. Oozes and elementals, since they have no discernable anatomy, are still immune to sneak attacks, but they have greater resistance (reduce by 3) to crits, since all a crit is, is a hit that does extra damage.

Natural armor follows a formula. It's a small thing that most folks besides designers won't really notice, but I felt it worth mentioning. with a set system for figuring ACs, monsters become much easier to make and require less guesswork and eyeballing. Most monsters' ACs are also dropped by a couple points, but that can only be a good thing, IMO.

Skills and feats have been overhauled. And oh my god, I love the new system! It is SO much easier to hash out monster skills now - take the base number (no more multiplying the first level by 4!), add the Int modifier, and you're set - that's the number of skills you get. The max ranks is equal to HD, so it's easy to pick 4 or 6 or 8 skills, give them all the same number, and add +3 (for class skills) and the stat mods. Most monsters end up with the same numbers as before, and many get a boost. Best of all, many lose extraneous skills that they didn't need becuase they had too many skill points (outsiders, I'm looking at you).

As an aside, a few monster types got their skill points changed: Monstrous humanoid is now 4 + Int, and outsiders are 6 + Int (they had too many to start with, and the consolidation of the list required a reduction in their skill points).

Regarding feats: When I was doing dinosaurs and dire creatures (animals with Int 1-2), I realized that they were getting way too many feats. A couple of the dinosaurs had Toughness x3 or x4 just to fill slots, which is absurd (and impossible with the new Toughness feat - you can only take it once). I posited a new rule - monsters with Int 1-2 only get 1 feat per 6 HD, but someone suggested a better alternative - a monster can have a number of feats equal to its Int score. You can still apply bonus feats as necessary, but that's the base number. This also makes monsters a lot easier to create - no more agonizing for half an hour and looking through the book to assign a bunch of useless feats simply to fill in a bunch of slots.

CRs are improved and more accurate. This is the big one. Actually, when Upper Krust releases his last 3.5 book, Godsend, it will have v6 of his challenge ratings system in it, which goes to a straight ECL-based system - no more CRs. This should make it incredibly easy to do monsters with class levels and make everything even more accurate than before.

Outsider subtpyes have been consolidated. After working on angels, archons, demons, and devils, I got tired of having to deal with umpteen different subtypes, especially when they all had different immunities and resistances. I finally said "Screw that" and combined all the good-aligned outsiders into the Celestial subtype, and all the evil-aligned ones into the Fiendish subtype. I gave them some resistances and abilities common to most/all their types (so celestials get resistance to cold and electricity, +4 to saves vs. petrification/poison, and tongues; fiends get resistance to acid/fire, +4 on saves vs. poison, summon fiend, greater teleport [as an innate ability - see below], and telepathy).

SLAs have been overhauled. I've always thought it was goofy that a 6-HD creature could cast 8th-level spells. As with all things, UK's Challenge Ratings doc dealt with this too. A monster's caster level for SLAs is equal to its HD, and they have a prescribed limit on SLAs. In most cases, this resulted in little or no change - a few lost their highest-level abilities, and a couple (succubus, e.g.) simply got a small boost in HD to give them the ability to cast their SLAs. A couple I left alone simply because the SLAs were only 1-2 levels out of reach and didn't want to bother changing HD. Angels lost a good bit of power, but they were overpowered to start with.

Darkvision is a supernatural ability. A rather minor point, and one not really worth mentioning, but I thought I'd toss it out anyway. As you may have noticed by now, no core race has darkvision. This was deliberate, as I decided long ago to make it a supernatural ability - you can have it from a spell, a magic item, or if you're a supernatural creature (aberration, dragon, elemental, magical beast, outsider, or undead). This is because darkvision enables you to see in magical darkness (and yes, I fixed darkness so that it's actually dark, not "shadowy illumination".

Other than that, it's just a bunch of minor changes here and there. Stay tuned next week for the dragons entry.

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