Creating and Improving Monsters

Monster creation is a fairly simple process - usually, it's nothing more than plugging a series of numbers into a template, adding a few random abilities, then coming with a name and a reason for its existence. This section covers the most common abilities found among monsters. In order to illustrate how the system works in practice, I've chosen one of the monsters on this site, the wealthwight.

Size and Type: Every monster must have a size and a type. These is the first things you should choose, as they affect base attack bonus, Hit Dice, ability scores, skill points (if any), saves, and advancement. A creature's size can also qualify it for certain monster feats like Awesome Blow.

The wealthwight is a being who is so greedy and bound to its wealth in life that it can't bear to parted with it in death. It is a Medium creature.

Subtype: Most monsters don't have subtypes; generally only those associated with an element, (monstrous) humanoids, and outsiders have them. Subtypes affect things like resistances and vulnerabilities (for elemental subtypes) and DR, if any (alignments subtypes).

Most undead don't have subtypes, and neither does the wealthwight.

Hit Dice: The number of Hit Dice a creature has is based on its creature's type and size, as noted on the table below. Table 7, the Quick Reference Chart, has Hit Dice by type.

Table 1: Hit Dice by Size and Type
Hit Dice By Type
Size Height/Length Weight Natural1 Semi-natural2 Supernatural3 Unnatural4
Fine 1/4 ft. 1/64 - 1/8 lb. 1 hp 1 hp - 1/4 1 hp - 1/4 1 hp - 1/2
Diminutive 1/2 ft. 1/8 - 1 lb. 1/8-1/4 1/4 - 1/2 1/4 - 1/2 1/4 - 1
Tiny 1 ft. 1 - 8 lbs. 1/4 - 1/2 1/2 - 1 1/2 - 1.5 1/2 - 2
Small 2-4 ft. 8 - 60 lbs. 1/2 - 2 1 - 2 1 - 6 1 - 9
Medium 4-8 ft. 60 - 500 lbs. 1 - 4 2 - 8 2 - 12 2 - 16
Large 8-16 ft. 500 - 4000 lbs. 2 - 8 4 - 16 4 - 24 5 - 32
Huge 16-32 ft. 2 - 16 T 4 - 16 8 - 32 8 - 48 8 - 72
Gargantuan 32-64 ft. 16 - 128 T 6 - 24 12 - 48 12 - 72 16 - 96
Colossal 64-128 ft. 128 - 1000 T 12 - 48 24 - 96 24 - 144 36 - 192
Titanic 128-256 ft. 1 - 8 KT 24 - 96 48 - 192 48 - 288 72 - 384

1 Natural: Any creature that could be found on Earth - Animals, Humanoids, and Vermin.

2 Semi-Natural: Any creature that is slightly fantastic, but still has a normal physiology - Giants, Magical Beasts, Monstrous Humanoids, Oozes, and Plants.

3 Supernatural: Any creature that is completely fantastic and would never exist without the presence of magic - Aberrations, Fey, and Outsiders.

4 Unnatural: Creatures that are not living and cannot exist without magic - Constructs, Elementals, and Undead. Abominations also fall into this category, though most of them are living beings and abomination is not a creature type; this is a special case where the creature's subtype supercedes its type. Since they are not usually created by normal means (i.e., procreation), they are technically "unnatural" beings.

A wealthwight, being a Medium undead, can have 2-16 HD. The normal wight has 4, but we want something a little tougher - they're fairly unique, so let's give it 6. Undead have d12s for Hit Dice.

Ability Scores: While a creature's abilities are listed much lower in the statblock, this should be the next step, as its abilities affect its hit points, AC, attack and damage modifiers, saves, and skills and feats (if any).

Monsters' ability scores run off a point-buy system. Each monster type has a different total, which is modified by the individual creature's Hit Dice (see below). Note: You can fudge the total a bit here - it doesn't have to equal the total exactly; a few points in either direction is fine, but you shouldn't exceed more than 3 higher or lower. If you have more or fewer total points and can't justify altering the creature's stats any higher or lower, try adjusting the Hit Dice instead.

Table 1: Ability Points By Monster Type

Type Total Points/HD
Aberration 72 x2
Animal 63 x1
Dinosaurs/dire animals 63 x1.5
Construct Special1
Construct, Int. 60 x1.5
Elemental 63 x1.75
Fey 72 x3
Giant 72 x1.5
Magical beast 63 x2
Mon. humanoid 63 x1.5
Ooze 242 x1.5
Ooze, Int. 60 x1.5
Outsider 72 x2
Plant 52 x2.5
Plant, Int. 63 x2.5
Undead 60 x1.5
Undead, Incorporeal 48 x2
Vermin 52 x1
Vermin, Int. 63 x1

1 Most constructs (animated objects and golems) have very few variable ability scores; Strength and Dex are variable (though Dex is generally 9-11); Con and Int are -; Wis is 10, and Cha is 1.

2 Normal oozes have only two variable scores - Strength and Con. Dex and Cha are always 1, Int is always -, and Wis is always 10.

Type: The monster's type.

Total: The total number of points the creature starts with, which can be split up over its ability scores any way you see fit.

Points/HD: Multiply the creature's Hit Dice by this number to get the creature's extra ability points.

Table 2 shows standard Strength, Dex, and Con scores by size.

Table 2: Creature Ability Scores By Size
Size Str Dex Con
Fine 1 16-27 1-8
Diminutive 1-3 14-25 2-11
Tiny 2-7 12-23 4-13
Small 4-13 10-21 6-15
Medium 6-19 8-19 6-19
Large 14-27 6-17 10-23
Huge 22-35 4-15 14-27
Gargantuan 30-43 4-13 18-31
Colossal 38-51 2-11 22-35
Titanic 46-59 2-9 26-39

Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma are not related to a creature's size, so you'll have to assign them based on the creature itself.

Intelligence represents how smart a creature is, as well as its reasoning ability. It affects how many skills points and feats it gets (see Skills and Feats, below). Animals always have Intelligence 1 or 2 (anything smarter is an aberration or magical beast); constructs, oozes, and vermin are generally mindless. Magical beasts generally have Int scores of 3-10. The more powerful some creatures (aberrations, dragons, humanoids, monstrous humanoids, outsiders, and undead) get, the smarter they become; creatures with supernatural or spell-like abilities are always smarter than average.

Wisdom represents a creature's Perception, ability to learn, and its strength of will. Unlike Intelligence, most animals and mindless creatures have Wisdom scores of around 10. As above, the more powerful some creatures get, they higher their Wisdom scores; creatures with divine spellcasting ability (angels, e.g.) always have higher Wisdom than Intelligence.

Charisma represents a creature's sense of self and force of personality. Mindless creatures always have Charisma 1. As with Intelligence and Wisdom, the more powerful some creatures are, the higher their Charisma. Creatures with spell-like abilities, and all intelligent undead, always have higher Charisma than Intelligence or Wisdom.

The wealthwight is an undead with 6 Hit Dice, so it has 60 + (6 * 1.5) = 69 points. After some consideration, we'll give it the following scores: Str 16, Dex 13, Con -, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 15.

Speed: Generally speaking, a creature's speed depends on its size. A creature will usually have the average speed for its size (see below), unless it is notably faster or slower than normal (quadrupedal monsters are generally 50% faster, while most plants, oozes, and other creatures without legs are 50% or more slower). A creature's flight speed is usually twice its base land speed; burrow and climb speeds, if any, are generally half the land speed, and swim speed is generally equal to land speed. A creature whose primary (or only) mode of movement is flying or swimming has a fly or swim speed double the average for its size.

Table 3: Movement Speeds By Size
Size Biped Quadruped Flight1
Fine 5 ft. 10 ft. 10 ft.
Diminutive 10 ft. 15 ft. 20 ft.
Tiny 15 ft. 20 ft. 30 ft.
Small 20 ft. 30 ft. 40 ft.
Medium 30 ft. 40 ft. 60 ft.
Large 40 ft. 60 ft. 80 ft.
Huge 50 ft. 80 ft. 100 ft.
Gargantuan 60 ft. 120 ft. 120 ft.
Colossal 70 ft. 160 ft. 140 ft.
Titanic 80 ft. 240 ft. 160 ft.

1 Creatures with flight speed always have a maneuverability rating; see Monsters for more details.

A wealthwight is Medium, so its base move is 30 feet. It's not notably fast and doesn't have any special movement modes, so we'll go with that.

Armor Class: A creature's Armor Class, like a character's, can be modified by many factors, the most common of which are size, Dexterity, natural armor, dodge (from the [[[feats:feats A to L#dodge | Dodge feat) and deflection. Some (mostly humanoids and monstrous humanoids) wear armor; more powerful monsters can have an insight bonus, though this is very rare.

Dex and dodge bonuses work the same for monsters as they do for PCs; a deflection bonus is assigned only to fey, incorporeal undead, and outsiders, and said bonus equals the creature's Charisma bonus (minimum +1). A creature's insight bonus is equal to its Wisdom bonus (a creature with a negative Wis modifier cannot have an insight bonus). Size and natural armor bonuses are covered below.

Table 4: Natural Armor Modifiers

Body Type Example AC Bonus
Normal Skin Hill giant, humanoid 0 + 1/8 HD
Tough skin/fur/bone Dire bear, skeleton 1-2 + 1/4 HD
Tough hide Alligator, dinosaur 2-3 + 1/3 HD
Scaly skin/exoskeleton Lizardfolk, scorpion 3-4 + 1/2 HD
Carapace/plated Gorgon, tarrasque 5-8 + 2/3 HD
Construct* Golem Size2 + 3/4 HD

1 Except animated objects.

2 See Table 5: Size Modifiers to AC.

Table 5: Size Modifiers to AC

Size Size
Natural armor
Fine +8 -7
Diminutive +4 -5
Tiny +2 -3
Small +1 -1
Medium +0 +0
Large -1 +3
Huge -2 +5
Gargantuan -4 +8
Colossal -8 +13
Titanic -16 +18

1 A negative natural armor modifier is applied only if the creature actually has a natural armor bonus (from especially tough hide, e.g.). Its natural armor bonus cannot be reduced to below 0.

A wealthwight has tough, mummified skin, so it's classed as "tough skin". It gains a natural armor bonus of 1-2 + 1/4 HD, or 1-2 + 1.25; since it only has a Dex bonus of +1 and no other AC bonuses, we'll give it +3.

Base Attack Bonus: A monster's base attack bonus is based on its type; see Table 7, below. Its grapple modifier is its base attack bonus plus its size modifier (see AC, above) plus its Strength modifier, if any.

Attack: A creature can have one or more attack forms, each dealing a different amount of damage. Damage is generally based on size. Anything listed in this entry is the creature's primary attack form - the one it most commonly uses, which is also used if it can make only one attack in a round. Refer to Table 6 to assign damage dice by attack form and size.

Table 6: Base Damage by Size
Size Bite/Constrict/Gore/
Swallow Whole
Crush Stomp Sweep/Wing Buffet
Fine 1 1 (on crit) 1d3 1d2
Diminutive 1d2 1 1d4 1d3 1 (on crit)
Tiny 1d3 1d2 1d6 1d4 1
Small 1d4 1d3 1d8 1d6 1d2
Medium 1d6 1d4 2d6 1d8 1d3
Large 1d8 1d6 2d8 2d6 1d4
Huge 2d6 1d8 4d6 2d8 1d6
Gargantuan 2d8 2d6 4d8 4d6 1d8
Colossal 4d6 2d8 8d6 4d8 2d6
Titanic 4d8 4d6 8d8 6d6 2d8

A wealthwight attacks with its clawed hands, inflicting 1d6 points of damage per hit.

Special Abilities and Qualities: Special abilities and qualities are perhaps the hardest part of monster creation, and the most defining part of a monster. A list of special attacks and abilities can be found here.

Generally speaking, 3-4 abilities total for a monster is enough - a DM tends to lose track of more than that, and the average monster seldom gets to use more than that in an encounter. Special abilities should fit the monster's theme - a giant wouldn't have a breath weapon, for instance, but it would have the ability to throw rocks.

The following abilities bear extra discussion:

Ability damage/drain, energy drain: Only a few creatures can drain ability points or energy; the former covers some aberrations, outsiders, and undead, and the latter covers creatures that use negative energy only (mostly undead). The average number of points or Hit Dice that a creature can drain should not exceed 1/2 its HD, and a creature should have at least 4 HD to get this ability.

Damage Reduction: DR x/magic should be applied only to some aberrations and magical beasts, outsiders, and intelligent undead (but not incorporeal undead). DR x/cold iron applies to fey; DR x/alignment applies to most outsiders (the more powerful ones can also have silver or cold iron, depending on their alignment). DR x/silver applies to lycanthropes, and can be applied to some undead as well. DR x/adamantine always applies to constructs. DR x/bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing is applied on a case-by-case basis; most skeleton beings have x/bludgeoning, while those with especially thick hides (treants or zombies, e.g.) have x/slashing. Very few creatures have DR x/-; they are generally resistant to all weapon types due to their extremely tough skin.

A creature's DR value (the number before the slash) should be equal to its HD divided by 6, rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5, +5. That is, creatures with HD 1-6 should have DR 5/x; 7-12, DR 10/x; 13-18, DR 15/x; etc.

Fast healing and regeneration: A creature can have one or the other, but not both. Creatures without Con scores (constructs and undead) cannot regenerate, but they can have fast healing. A creature's fast healing or regeneration score should not exceed 1/2 its HD.

Poison: The strength of a creature's poison is not dependent on its HD, though more powerful creatures should generally have deadlier poisons.

Spell-Like Abilities: Only inherently magical creatures should have SLAs - some aberrations, dragons, fey, some humanoids and monstrous humanoids, and more powerful outsiders and undead. Caster level is equal to 2/3 the creature's HD (for humanoids caster level is equal to class level; for monstrous humanoids, it's twice the racial HD). A creature cannot cast a spell if its caster level is not high enough; it gains a number of SLAs equal to its caster level, and the highest level one is usable 1/day only.

Spell Resistance: In general, the only creatures with SR should be some aberrations (those with supernatural or spell-like abilities), dragons, more powerful fey, most outsiders, and some undead. A creature's SR should be equal to its HD + 10, divided by 6, then rounded to the nearest multiple of 2. For example, a 35-HD creature should have Full SR ((35 + 10)/6 = 7.5, rounded to 8. Full SR is +8.

A wealthwight has a tough hide and is bound to its treasure, so we'll give it DR 5/bludgeoning and treasurebound (it knows where all of its loot is at any given time and can track it down). It also gains strength from its treasure, so we'll give it fast healing 1. Wealthwights tend to punish those who steal from it; it has improved grab (usable if a claw attack hits), whereupon it attempts to strangle its victim (treat this as a modified rend, since it's using both hands).

Saves: See Table 7, below, for saves by creature type.

Skills and Feats: Table 7 shows how many skill points a creature of a given type gets. The easiest method of applying skill points is:

  1. Find the base number (2 + Int, 4 + Int, or 6 + Int); this is the number of skills the creature has.
  2. Apply a number equal to its HD + 3 to each skill.
  3. Add ability modifiers.

Very few creatures need more skills than are shown above; if it absolutely has to have more, you can calculate the total number of skill points and split them up over the skills evenly or as you see fit, or you can increase its Int score.

A creature cannot have more feats than its Int score. It can, however, have any number of bonus feats (though you shouldn't apply more than 2-3 bonus feats).

Most undead have Intimidate, Perception, Search, Sense Motive, and/or Stealth; we'll give the wealthwight Intimidate (it can scare thieves into dropping its treasure), Perception, and Search (for finding its loot). Since it gets 2 + Int skills, and its Int modifier is +1, that gives it 3 skills, so we'll have to split up the skill points.

As far as feats, we'll give it Power Attack (it's strong), Cleave, and Toughness.

Environment: Choose an appropriate climate and/or land type.

Wealthwights can be found in any climate or terrain.

Organization: This really depends on the creature. Is it a loner? Does it travel in family groups or have underlings/followers/spawn? Is it a social creature that lives in a tribe or with others of its kind?

Wealthwight are loners that don't trust anyone, though they will probably have a golem guardian or two).

Treasure: A creature's treasure is also dependent on the creature itself. Creatures of low or no intelligence very rarely gather treasure, though they might have a few trinkets here and there from past victims (or things that caught their eye); most intelligent/powerful creatures will have greater treasures.

Wealthwights are known for their hoards - the more loot they can acquire, the better. They have double standard wealth.

Alignment: A creature's alignment is generally dependent on its concept. Mindless creatures, and those of low (1-2) intelligence, are always neutral; outsiders are always aligned according to their native plane; chromatic dragons are always evil, and metallic ones are always good. Fey are never lawful (but can be good or evil). Intelligent undead are always evil, except in very rare cases.

Wealthwights, being intelligent undead and exceptionally greedy, are neutral evil - they care only for themselves and their wealth.

Advancement: In general, a creature can advance up to three times its original HD total. Undead can only reach double their HD. Use the size/HD guidelines in Table 1 to assign proper advancement.

A wealthwight has an advancement of 7-12 HD (Medium).

The table below provides a quick reference for Hit Dice, attack bonus, saves, and skill points by creature type.

Table 7: Monster Stats By Type
Type Hit Die Attack Bonus Good Save(s) 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) None 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) None 2 + Int mod per HD
Outsider d8 HD (as fighter) Fort, Ref, Will 6 + 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**

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. Additional Hit Dice gained from taking levels in a character class never affect a creature's size.

Ability Score Improvement: Monsters with class levels gain an additional ability point every 4 levels as normal. Monsters without class levels do not gain these points - they are already included in the total.

Humanoids and Class Levels: Creatures with 1 or fewer HD replace their monster levels with character levels. It 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.

Effective Character Level: To determine the effective character level (ECL) of a monster character, simply add its existing ECL to its 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 ECL and assigned treasure, not equipment.

Feat Acquisition: A monster's total Hit Dice, not its ECL, govern its acquisition of 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 above.


Certain creatures are created by adding a template to an existing creature. A templated creature can represent a freak of nature, the individual creation of a single experimenter, or the first generation of offspring from parents of different species.

Acquired and Inherited Templates: Some templates can be added to creatures anytime. Templates such as these are referred to as acquired templates, indicating that the creature did not always have the attributes of the template. Other templates, known as inherited templates, are part of a creature from the beginning of its existence. Creatures are born with these templates. It's possible for a certain kind of template to be of either type.

Reading a Template: A template's description provides a set of instructions for altering an existing creature, known as the base creature. For clarity, the entry for a statistic or attribute that is not changed is given as "Same as the base creature."

Adding More Than One Template: In theory, there's no limit to the number of templates you can add to a creature. To add more than one template, just apply each template one at a time. Always apply inherited templates before applying acquired templates. Whenever you add multiple templates, pay attention to the creature's type - you may add a template that makes the creature ineligible for other templates you might want to add.

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