Design Diary 18

"Rawr! I'm an EPIC monster!"

After hanging out on Upper Krust's forum for a bit, I got the urge to do some epic game design. The only thing I had left to do was the monsters, so I said "Why not?" I had planned to wait until I had v6 of his CR ratings doc to convert them, but I figured it would take a bit of work to convert (and rebalance) them, so I'd save myself some time.

A few years back, when I frequented the epic-level forum on the Wizards boards, I did a 3.5 conversion of the epic monsters. Unfortunately, my grasp of mechanics wasn't as good as it is now, so that had almost as many mistakes as the ELH. Still, it saved me a good bit of time - (most of) the missing entries were filled in (I missed a few Skills and Feats entries for creatures that didn't have any), Base Attack/Grapple entries were there, etc.

One thing I have to say, though - while the monsters were probably the best part of the ELH, that's not saying much. There are some really uninspired ones, too - colossi (bigger, badder golems); gibbering orb (bigger, badder gibbering mouthers… that fly!), primal elementals (bigger, badder elementals), behemoths (bigger, badder, dire creatures), legendary animals (bigger, badder animals… what, behemoths weren't enough?), hunefers (bigger, badder… you get the idea). The majority of the monsters seemed to follow the theme of the rest of the ELH - everything's EPIC! It's bigger, it's badder, it's better! *sigh*

Hidden in among all this drivel, however, are some really cool and interesting monsters - the abominations, for instance; it was nice to see the demilich and winterwight back, too; the uvuudaum is just plain weird, but in a good way (it reminds me of something from Silent Hill); the vermiurge was pretty cool, but I changed it to an abomination also to fit its description and abilities.

Another problem I had with the monsters was that there were no real guidelines - they were mostly really big, had huge amounts of Hit Dice and ridiculously high stats, and did piles of damage. V5 of the CR Ratings doc has guidelines for HD by size - each 2 feet of height or length = 1 HD (and he has additional rules for creatures whose length and/or width equals the height, like beholders). There were two problems - first, many of the creatures in the ELH have no sizes listed. Second, while his guidelines are pretty good as guidelines go, they're too restrictive. Sure, they're guidelines, not hard and fast rules, but I prefer a little built-in flexibility - I know there's a HD range, but I don't know the actual extent of it. For example, strictly speaking, a human (6 feet tall) should have 3 Hit Dice.

So, I sat down and came up with some monster creation guidelines of my own. I'll post them soon, along with a discussion, but suffice to say that they made my job a LOT easier, and helped me hammer the epic monsters into something approaching "balance". Now, I can go back over the MM monsters and apply these rules there to rebalance some of the more egregious offenders (angels and demons, e.g.).

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