Monster Patterns and Roles
Epic Path has many, many monsters written up and ready to use, but if there is one thing we are very aware of it is that GM's are never satisfied with 'that junk in the books.'
And that's okay! We totally get that in YOUR world, in YOUR story, you need YOUR monsters. However, we also understand that its really slow to write up a good monster from scratch.
So, in Epic Path we offer two completely separate mechanics for modifying the current stable of monsters into creatures that more closely 'fit' with your game. Now, this is nothing new, Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder have offered GM's 'templates' to use for modifying monsters for ages, along with many other systems as well.
In Epic Path, we are shooting for a simpler and more powerful way of creating monsters, and as a result, we are offering 'patterns' and 'roles'.
A Pattern is a set of simple stat changes and a basic power or two which are added into an existing monster blueprint. This changes the Challenge Rating (CR) of the monster, and hopefully makes it behave in a way that more exactly fits what you want the monster to do in your story. A Pattern is the same thing as the old Pathfinder 'template'. The most common use of Patterns is to broaden the selection of monsters available to a referee. If the perfect bad guy is five levels too low, the Mighty pattern will boost their strength to the appropriate level. The Advanced, Fiendish, Hellish, Great, Fey, and Shadow patterns can adjust bad guys by smaller amounts, while not making them radically different in their behavior. The second most common use of Patterns is to add flavor and uniqueness to monsters. If plain old orcs are losing their luster, take some orcs, give them the Draconic pattern, and voila, you now have a group of flying monkeys torn straight from the classic fairy-tale. The only limit is your imagination! Remember, the goal is to make the mechanics work for you, not against you.
A Role is a dramatic change in the power level or capability of the monster, but it does not change the Challenge Rating of the monster, but instead, it changes how many monsters your party will face. Roles are used to make big, fun 'set piece' battles, like in the movies. They can also be used to lower the workload of a busy referee, or simply 'shake things up' at the table if your battles are feeling a little tired. A battle with four Killers is a very different thing than a fight with eight normal monsters, and will demand changes in tactics and strategies that will certainly get your players attention. The most classic use of Roles is to create Dragon encounters. It makes no sense at all to fight a half-dozen Dragons at once, and so all Dragons have Roles assigned to them by default. Dragons don't usually come in six packs, after all. This is a different mechanic that can even be stacked with a Pattern, if you are very careful.
- 1 General Pattern Rules
- 2 List of Patterns
- 2.1 Great Creature
- 2.2 Aquatic Creature
- 2.3 Caustic Creature
- 2.4 Grating Creature
- 2.5 Leathery Creature
- 2.6 Numbing Creature
- 2.7 Searing Creature
- 2.8 Swollen Creature
- 2.9 Dripping Creature
- 2.10 Sticky Creature
- 2.11 Alchemical Waxwork
- 2.12 Celestial Creature
- 2.13 Empyreal Creature
- 2.14 Fiendish Creature
- 2.15 Hellish Creature
- 2.16 Hateful Creature
- 2.17 Invisible Creature
- 2.18 Resolute Creature
- 2.19 Entropic Creature
- 2.20 Shadow Creature
- 2.21 Eldritch Creature
- 2.22 Agile Creature
- 2.23 Coursing Creature
- 2.24 Foo Creature
- 2.25 Fey Creature
- 2.26 Advanced Creature
- 2.27 Giant Creature
- 2.28 Draconic Creature
- 2.29 Two-Headed Creature
- 2.30 Mighty Creature
- 2.31 Wormskull Creature
- 2.32 Skeletal Creature
- 3 Monster Roles
- 4 List of Roles
- 5 Gamemaster Notes on Roles
General Pattern Rules
Most of the changes made by a pattern are described in detail inside the pattern. Adjust all values as described in the Pattern. If the Monster gets bonus Hit Points, for example, multiply the number listed in the pattern by the number of Hit Dice of the CR called for in the Pattern.
Many Patterns act by adding or subtracting values from the existing Monster Blueprint. Some Patterns add an entirely new power or attack, however. In such cases, refer to the Monster Pattern Damage Chart to determine the damage done by the new power or attack.
Now, when you apply the changes in a given Pattern, you will be tempted to compare your shiny new monster with a stodgy, boring 'vanilla' monster of the same CR, and you will doubtless be outraged to discover that the Patterned Monster does not exactly match the base numbers of its Adjusted CR. Fear not! You did not make a mistake, Patterns are not expected to exactly replicate the stats of a Monster's CR. Instead, it gets them...'close'. This is actually deliberate, and is a way for GM's to make monsters that feel and play differently...but not too differently.
And do not doubt that monsters with Patterns will feel a bit different than un-modified monsters. They will usually have a little higher Armor Class, and often will have a little lower Hit Points. Similarly, they may have a little worse chance to hit, but will usually do a touch more damage. These differences should be small (no more than 3 or 4, even if you combine several Patterns together) and will usually not greatly impact the difficulty of a given combat. But if your players have memorized the AC of every monster of levels one through twelve, Patterns are a great way of putting a little mystery back into the game. For this reason, we leave it to the GM to reveal, or conceal, the presence of Patterns on their monsters when Lore Checks are made. After all, monsters with Patterns are unusual and perhaps even unique. It is not a hard stretch to imagine that no check could reveal that this one obscure tribe of Orcs is especially fast on their feet (the Coursing pattern). And imagine the amazing stories your adventurers will have to tell in taverns in their old age!
However! As the Game Master, you should always keep an eye on the results of one or several Patterns, and you can absolutely 'nudge' any values you want! After all, if you are applying a Pattern or two (or three...), you want YOUR MONSTER. Patterns are just guidelines and suggestions, frameworks for you to hang your own ideas and creativity on. If you want your Draconic Orcs to be Flying Monkeys, then by the Heavens, you can make it so! And if you want your Flying Monkeys to have prehensile tails and icky poop-flinging attacks, then also give them the Wormskull Pattern and change the names and damage types of the powers until they match what you want.
Have fun, but if you start getting more creative, we urge you, to always 'tone down' your numbers before using creatures the first time. It is easy to raise the toughness in the next battle, but an accidental total party kill because you liked your custom monster a little too much is pretty embarrassing to explain to your annoyed friends. Trust us, just take it easy on the first encounter.
List of Patterns
Many of the Patterns described below are 'themed'. For example, Shadow Creature makes a monster which is a twisted shadowy version of a standard monster. However, sometimes you want a monster that 'shakes things up' without really having any sort of a 'theme'. Say, you want to create a tribe of interesting Orcs with a little extra strength and a unique 'hook'.
To do this, we offer the Great Creature pattern, which can be used to create dozens of variants on a single base creature, all by itself! Now you can add +3 CR to a tribe of orcs, using one of the offensive options. Say you give the Orcs the Elemental Breath power, and the special effect is that their tribal shamans brew up mighty potions they drink before fights, and they can then belch forth huge gouts of flame. Voila! Just like that you have created the mighty Firegut Orcs, and now your players have a brand new and fun bad guy to fight.
Great creature is a complex and flexible pattern. It's also modular, adding +2 CR to +4 CR, depending on options. It was specifically designed to stack cleanly with either the Advanced Creature pattern or the Mighty Creature pattern. Using only these three patterns, the CR of a monster may be adjusted from +1 CR to +10 CR. If desired, referees can use only these three patterns to generate thousands of variant monsters.
Aquatic Creature is a +2CR pattern that converts any creature into an underwater version of the same creature. Aquatic creatures are frequently tinged blue or green, and usually have large, webbed hands and feet with long, webbed toes. Their eyes will have a tough membrane for protection, and they will have some form of sonar, which is remarkably useful in many instances. If you need a tribe of Aquatic Goblins who are luring ships to their doom on a terrible reef, or a pack of Aquatic Ogres lurking in a remote tarn, Aquatic Creature is the pattern for you!
Some creatures are just soaked in acidic goo. This may be a coating of acidic slime, or a liberal discharge from some disgusting organ, some sort of an alchemical coating they apply before battle, flakes of quicklime that shower grittily all around them, and a hundred other things besides. This is a +1 CR pattern that may be applied to most creatures, based upon their form and appearance, and makes fighting them a thorny problem, as they shower damage all around them with every attack they make.
Some creatures make awful, awful damaging sounds. This might be a throat sac that inflates noisily, or the terrible grinding of bones, or the metal/stone parts of a golem scraping together, or perhaps its special plates of chitin, or a huge hammered-steel whistle the creature lustily blows whenever it makes an attack, or their eldritch origin is some Plane of Infrasound, or a dozen other things besides. Grating Creature is a +1 CR pattern that can be applied to any creature and grants them a sonic damage aura that triggers when they make attacks.
Some creatures are tough, gnarled veterans, heavily calloused and thick-knuckled, grizzled and wary and durable. This might be thickened chitin, tough, leathery hide, innumerable scars laid atop one another, or just battered, heavily reinforced armor and shield. Leathery creatures' durability extends to their attacks as well, as they know how to add terrible lacerating twists to their attacks, just to make things even more memorable. Leathery Creature is a +1 CR pattern that can be granted to any creature and grants them great resistance to all common forms of damage and adds lacerating damage to their most seasoned veterans.
Some creatures emit terrible, aching waves of cold. This may be a magical effect the creature creates due to its nature, or maybe the creature is made of some kind of living ice. It could be an alchemical effect the creature has smeared on its weapons or clothing, a skeleton or golem that is made of solid ice rather than bone or stone, or creatures laboring under an Ice-Heart Curse, or maybe the eerie cold is due to its origin in some Elemental Plane of Frost. Regardless of why, Numbing Creature is a +1 CR pattern that can be applied to any creature, and surrounds them in a bitter freezing-cold aura.
Some creatures are super hot, and not in a good way. They may be wreathed in supernatural flames from head to toe, they may have white-hot bones that emit waves of murderous heat, maybe they have alchemical concoctions smeared on their weapons and armor, maybe they just stepped out a a white-hot blacksmith's forge and are literally ON FIRE...or it could be any of a hundred other reasons. Searing creatures gain a +1 CR and can be almost any sort of creature. Fire Ghosts from the Furnace Plane could be a thing, after all! Searing creatures emit an aura of fire whenever they attack, which makes them almost literally too hot to handle.
Swollen Creatures have 'something wrong' with their forms. They may be stuffed with an infestation of thousands of wriggling larva, or they could have been overdosed on Vampire Blood. Maybe they have a demons foul essence building up within them, or they have been abusing the worst sorts of alchemical concoctions. It could be a massive buildup of pus that has flooded their entire system, or a massive internal blockage, or a huge dose of some awful negative or squamous energy that has corrupted their form, or any of a hundred other awful things. Swollen Creature is a +1 CR pattern that increases the base creatures melee reach, adds speed and armor, and worst of all, when they are defeated they... rupture. All over everything. Gross.
Dripping Creatures have stepped in something nasty, and when you fight them, they get it all over everything around them. This could be some kind of a terrible parasitic growths, a blessing from some terrible altar, bottles of sewage they wear as trophies strapped all over their bodies, or some smoldering illness that corrupts their very sweat, blood, and...other fluids. It can be deliberate or accidental, such as lackeys who are forced to wade through an otyughs lair before battle, or vile cultists who drink poison concoctions as part of their worship. Dripping Creature is a +1 CR pattern that splatters terrible energies when they are struck in battle, so beware!
A Sticky Creature is any base creature which hinders enemies that strike it. This could be a standard creature that's covered in glue, weird alchemical modifications so the creature is actually MADE of solid glue, it could be tar-coated elementals or even magnetic armor worn by the creature. Getting more esoteric, Sticky could represent a psionically enhanced monster than lays a nigh-unbreakable mental compulsion when it is attacked, or a ghost that converts things that strike it into portions of its own body. Sticky Creature is a +1 CR pattern that hinders attackers, and can even escalate to a grapple fairly quickly. Fights against Sticky Creatures quickly turn into straining, struggling tests of endurance, so beware!
Alchemists can take the bodies of slain monsters and with crazy serums, the use of creepy tools and methodologies, and lots and lots of wax, they can create amazing duplicates of those monsters! This is a +1 CR pattern that can be added to any physical monster, and maybe even some incorporeal beings as well, those crazy alchemists are always violating the laws of Nature anyway.... Alchemical Waxwork is a great way of having monsters show up in 'weird and unusual' places: If you see a Bulette in a palace, the odds are good its actually a Waxwork.
Not all things you meet (or summon) are bad! This is a +1 CR pattern which converts any monster from a bad guy to a good guy. Maybe that celestial Troll comes from an alternate universe where they eat candy mushrooms instead of flesh and live only to make children happy. Or, maybe, your players wanted to play an evil party, and you need to 'reverse' the alignment of a bunch of monsters so they have stuff to fight. For whatever the reason, if you need to turn a horrible, slavering fiend into a fine, upstanding, and noble creature of goodness, this is the pattern for you!
If Celestial Creatures are what you like, then you're going to love Empyreal Creatures! The Empyreal Creature pattern adds +2 CR, and is the bigger, nicer brother of the Celestial Creature pattern, with even more good will and upstanding deeds. If you need to turn some monsters into good guys for 'reasons', then the Empyreal Creature pattern is how you make them SUPER good! These guys are just like Celestial Creatures, except they can pronounce a magical Benediction that packs a real punch.
On the other hand, sometimes you're just in a bad mood, and it's time to turn the evil up to ELEVEN. You can add the +1 CR fiendish pattern to bad guys to make them even worse, or add it to good guys to make them into bad guys! To maximize the flexibility and interest of the monsters, tossing in the occasional 'fiendish' monster can be a clue to some corrupting influence in the background, or even a sign of a Big Bad who is corrupting his minions before sending them out into the world. (Aha! Fiendish Vampires! They must be working for Warlord Ummuk!)
If Fiendish creatures are bad, then Hellish creatures are even worse! The Hellish Creature pattern adds +2 CR, has everything a the Fiendish Creature pattern has, and adds a vicious magical Malediction power, just so they can spread their evil even further and wider. Hellish creatures make a great 'upgrade' for Fiendish creatures, and even better, can be used to designate bosses and leaders as opposed to 'rank and file' horrible enemies. (What? There is a Hellish Vampire here? It must be one of Warlord Ummuk's lieutenants!)
This +2 CR pattern is used to represent a monster that is consumed with bigoted, spiteful hatred. Hateful Creatures are consumed by their spite, and are constantly spitting the vilest insults and the cruelest blows against all around them. As a result, they receive more than their fair share of attacks, their outrageous provocations angering their Foes beyond all reason. Sadly, the unreasoning hate that consumes their spirits fortifies them against harm, allowing them to ignore wounds and drive home their viciously unfair attacks. Hateful Creatures are the vilest of the vile, which is just what the doctor ordered when you need a really mean pack of bad guys.
The Invisible Creature pattern adds +2 CR, and turns the base creature completely invisible to all senses! This can be used to simulate weird Ethereal hybrids, phase monsters from eerie humming gates, Things From The Id, or just the henchmen of an evil Alchemist. Invisible Creatures make for crazy paranoia, as they can't be detected past thirty feet away, which makes ambushes by Invisible Creatures really nasty. Even worse, once per fight they can turn BACK invisible! Watch your back!
Some creatures are not really good, or evil, but they really like the notion of law and order. Such creatures are represented by the Resolute Creature pattern, which adds +1 CR and makes these creatures the bitter foes of all things chaotic. Resolute creatures seem very organized and precise, are prim and proper dressers, have faultless etiqutte, and are generally sharp, precise, like clear instructions, and hate vagueness. If you need to make a tribe of civilized Orcs, or turn just about any creature into a guard, soldier, or watchbeast, Resolute Creature is the pattern for you!
Some creatures are not really good, or evil, but they really like the notion of freedom and self-expression. Such creatures are represented by the Entropic Creature pattern, which adds +1 CR and makes these creatures the bitter foes of law and order wherever they find it. Entropic creatures are free spirits and have no rigid organization, have wildly varying clothing and equipment, and are generally free thinkers that will cheerfully fulfill even the vaguest directions with surprising degrees of success and efficiency. If you need to make a loose pack of self-starters, a fluid band of baddies who can ADAPT TO ANY SETBACK, or a slovenly bunch of drunkard warriors, this is the pattern for you!
Shadow Creature is a +3 CR pattern that represents the teeming billions of creatures that exist in the shadow realm, just a simple twist of reality away from us all. Shadow Creatures are dark, wispy things, wrapped in shadow-stuff around a dark knot of being. They look and act like twisted, eerily 'wrong' versions of their base creature, disturbing and unsettling in nearly every way. Shadow creatures are a great way of creeping out your players with just how alien and odd they act, with motives and actions that seem to make no sense at all to creatures from the Prime.
Eldritch Creature is a +3 CR pattern that represents the really, truly weird critters out there. The classic use for the Eldritch Creature pattern is to indicate creatures that have come from the Outer Madness to trouble the Real World with their awful presence. Eldritch can also be used to represent created monstrosities in a Drow's lair, mutated vermin in the basement of the local Sorceror's Guild, and generally horrible things. The most distinctive feature of the Eldritch Things is the sound, that awful SOUND, an eerie high, piping whistle that worms its way into your mind until you can't do anything but listen to it.... Just horrible.
Agile Creature is a +3 CR pattern that represents creatures that are incredibly quick with their hands. This may be due to alchemical enhancements, magic from the Plane of Air, a terrible drug, religious madness, long, intense, ascetic training, or just native bad-assery. No matter the source, Agile Creatures are just crazy quick, able to dodge attacks and effects faster than the eye can see and whip across the battle-field in a blinding flurry of attacks. Agile is a simple but powerful pattern that can be used to "toughen up" a bunch of bad guys (an elite Troop of Town Guard for example) without drastically changing how they look or act or feel.
Coursing Creature is a +3 CR pattern that may be used to represent fast, far-ranging, hard-hitting monsters. Long-distance Orcs, those elite squads of Rangers in the King's Forest, a pack of Banshee's that prowl the darkling moors on moonless nights, long-roving Viking raiders, even the Wild Hunt, comprised of Hell Knights and Liches, all can be represented by adding the Coursing Creature pattern. Coursing Creature is a pattern useful for representing common themes from literature and film of half-wild, rugged frontier-dwellers and steely-eyed barbarian hordes. A pack of hobgoblins is bad enough, but a whole village of Coursing Hobgoblins who have decided to reave their neighbors? That's a problem!
Foo Creatures are beings from the Planes of High Goodness. This pattern adds +1 CR to the base creature, and converts it into a benevolent guardian spirit from another world, making it into an Outsider and giving it the weird ability to turn itself to stone, so that they may serve as guards and watchmen for places of goodness. The existence of Foo Creatures should make all adventurers everywhere wary of stone statues of all sorts! When they are not frozen into stone versions of themselves, Foo Creatures are among the nicest, kindest, and most generous of beings, and genuinely nice to be around...as long as they don't catch you trying to sneak in.
The First World is an ancient reality, similar to the Prime Material but much older. As a result, every being from the First World is rich in culture and decadence compared to their counterparts from the Prime. Fey Creatures add +2 CR to their ability, and gain the traits of their homeland, being wise and capricious, vicious and clever, all in turns. Fey Creatures are incredibly fast and agile, their foresight letting them see ahead, and they are able to dodge and dart with astonishing speed. Their motives are even more opaque, and they seem to act in odd, nigh-incomprehensible ways. All of these actions make perfect sense to them, of course, but they can hardly be bothered to explain their motives to primitives that live on the Prime.
Some bad guys are just a little tougher, better, smarter, or faster than most. This pattern adds +1 CR without making the monster feel or play any differently. That family of Hill Giants that all talk like hillbillies, that one REALLY big Rage Drake, that freaky albino Basilisk the local drug lord keeps as a pet, all are good candidates for the Advanced Creature pattern. It's just a little boost to make such monsters interesting and different and memorable, without overwhelming the players.
Sometimes, bigger is better. What happens when a Vampire manages to infect a Fire Giant? You wind up with a Giant Vampire, that's what! Giant Creature is useful for creating lost lands full of giant beasts, making a REALLY BIG red dragon, or making that ridiculously gigantic pet dire bear of the local gangster warlord. Also useful for creating hideous mutants, gigantic deformed henchmen, freaks of nature, and other memorable creatures and encounters. That tribe of Hill Giants has lost their luster? Add Giant Creature to their leader! Giant creature is worth +2CR, so its sure to make for some memorable battles!
Some monsters look like Dragons. They have strong wings and a fearsome Battle Howl ability, similar to those terrible monsters, Dragons. Such bad guys may be worshipers of dragons, or merely long-separated and degenerate descendants of dragons, or even Dragon henchmen with gifts. Conversely, they might be creatures that have arisen naturally with wings and a terrible sonic attack, who resemble dragons merely by chance. The appearance of their wings is a clue to their nature, which is left to the GM to flesh out. In all cases, Draconic Creature adds +2 CR to the base creature, and their flight and powerful cone attack is sure to make them an exciting and memorable challenge for anyone who faces them!
Some creatures have two heads! This pattern is great for creating lost tribes of spell-warped creatures, horrible bands of inbred monstrosities, or even creating entire tribes and nations of persecuted and misunderstood creatures who are just born a little bit different than most. This is great for shaking things up, and is one of the patterns that is often tempting to apply to a Role, to make a REALLY memorable encounter. After all, if a fight with a Dragon is memorable, then a fight with a Two-Headed Dragon is even moreso! As always, be careful when combining Roles and Patterns, but other than that, go for it! Two-Headed adds +1 CR to any monster, and works best on corporeal creatures with heads, although it can be used on almost any creature to give them an interesting 'twist'.
Sometimes, you need to make a monster into something much, much tougher than it began. The Mighty Creature pattern adds a whopping +5 CR to any monster, without drastically changing how they look and feel to the players. That can be done by simply making a new blueprint, true, but sometimes, it's fun to shake things up and make such large CR changes with patterns instead.
For example, if you realllly like goblins, it is possible to take them all the way up to CR 6 with this pattern, and Wolfriders all the way to CR 8! Stacking on Fiendish or Advanced, or even tossing in a Great pattern, can let you build entire stables of goblins all the way up to CR13 without ever having to change a blueprint. That is more than enough to run entire campaigns with nothing but your favorite monster, and gives you plenty of time to figure out how those pesky blueprints work.
If you need a quick tribal champion, monstrous ticking crocodile, or super-dangerous Igor, the Mighty Creature pattern is just the ticket!
This +2 CR pattern is used to represent creatures that have been taken over by a nefarious intelligent parasite, that is intent on Ruling The World...or something. Who knows what really motivates a mass of intelligent wormy parasites, aside from tasty brains? Wormskull Creature can be used to take a nice, vanilla encounter, dungeon, or even a whole campaign, and give it a big dose of wierdness and creepy body horror, and how could that possibly be a bad thing? Wormskull creatures can also be dropped onto one or two bad guys in a fight, just to 'shake things up' and give the players a bit of a mystery to investigate! The possibilities are endless, so have fun!
This pattern can be used to make a skeleton version of any monster that can reasonably be expected to have bones. Bugbears definitely, black puddings definitely not, aboleths... maybe. The GM adjudicates all monsters to allow them or not. Skeletal Creature adds +1 CR to the base creature, and converts their appearance to one of standing animated, mindless bone. GM's should disallow creatures whose damage relies on flesh (most creatures with a swallow attack, for example,) or reduce their CR to compensate for losing that ability. That said, you COULD rule that stomachs have a bony structure.... With this pattern you can run a campaign that was NOTHING but skeletons and other undead if you are crazy or cruel enough to do it. Not that we'd ever try such a thing...
The first rule of encounters is that they are fun. A sure way to avoid dull fights is to 'shake things up' with interesting settings, maguffins, variable terrain, etc. Another good way is to vary the monsters. For example, six orcs are a pretty vanilla encounter, but eight orc minions with a leader and a heavy backing them up is worth the same rewards and feels and plays differently. Note that adding roles increases the damage in the game considerably, especially when you add minions: This is completely intentional. Fights should be fairly brief but intense affairs.
Monster Roles are applied after all patterns. They are not patterns and do not change the CR. Instead, Role monsters count as more or fewer monsters each. It is possible to combine Roles and Patterns, if a GM desires, but this process should be approached with caution.
List of Roles
Your typical "tough guy" in an encounter.
- Heavies have double hit points.
- Heavies do double damage.
- Heavies get 1 action point.
- Heavies are immune to the first instance of all conditions applied during an encounter. Note that "all conditions" means exactly that: all conditions. This is not limited to status conditions, it also applies to any condition that the GM feels will render the monster 'trivial'. Spell effects, forced movement, status conditions or penalties to attack, damage, defenses, etc., are all rendered null through this ability. The second time the same condition is applied to a Heavy, however, it affects it normally.
- When a Heavy is reduced to zero hit points, it is not killed. Instead, it gains immunity to all damage until the beginning of its next turn, any conditions it is currently suffering under are immediately cleared, all accumulated efforts to pierce their condition immunity are removed, and its hit points are set to half its normal maximum. Its ability to take actions is not hampered in any way during this period of immunity. At the beginning of its next turn, the immunity expires. The Heavy is killed for good the second time its hit points reach zero.
- Heavies count as two monster for xp and loot.
A single Threat or Villain role monster is the equivalent of approximately four normal monsters, and should provide a good challenge to many parties all by themselves, but for larger parties a single Threat or Villain role monster might be too easy.
Each Threat or Villain role monster listed in the Bestiary also includes a link to the monster entry for a Henchman. Henchmen are creatures which have a thematic reason to be in the company of the Threat entry. Sometimes, these are just regular monsters of the same CR as their Threat role, and other times they are special creatures that don't make any sense without the Threat role monster being present (for example, the Additional Tail henchman of the Green Dragon).
Henchmen allow a GM to easily tailor a Threat encounter to accommodate gaming group sizes other than the standard 4-player party. For each additional PC present for the encounter beyond four, one Henchman should be added to the encounter (e.g. a party of six PCs would encounter one Threat role monster and two of its Henchmen). If the party has eight PC's, they should encounter two Threat role monsters instead. For parties greater than eight (wow!), GM's should use one Threat role monster for each full multiple of four PC's, and one Henchman monster for each remainder PC in the party beyond the multiples of four. For example, a party of 10 players, aside from drinking all of your soda pop, would encounter two Threat role monsters, and two Henchmen monsters.
Note that a GM can (and should) still run Threat role monsters against parties with fewer than 4 players, but the GM should expect them to use more of their resources (healing, high-level spells, etc.) to succeed than a larger party would. It might also be a good idea to avoid putting a smaller party up against a Threat or tougher monster as their third (or later) encounter of the day, when they're tired and have few of those resources left to bring to bear.
The scary-dangerous one.
- Killers have double hit points.
- Killers move 30 feet faster with each of their movement types.
- Killers add one third their CR to their initiative modifier, round up.
- Killers do triple damage or more.
- Killers count as two monsters for xp and loot.
The ones calling the shots.
- Leaders have double hit points.
- Once per round as an immediate action, a Leader may grant any one ally within the sound of his voice (typically 30 feet) a free standard action to be used immediately.
- Leaders give all allies in the encounter who can perceive the leader, or who know the leader exists, a base +2 morale bonus to attack rolls, plus an additional +1 to attack per ten hit dice of that ally (drop fractions). This attack bonus applies to Combat Maneuver rolls as well.
- Leaders give all allies in the encounter who can perceive the leader, or who know the leader exists, a base +2 morale bonus to damage rolls, plus an additional +1 to damage per five hit dice of that ally (drop fractions). This damage bonus applies to Combat Maneuver rolls as well.
- Leaders give all allies in the encounter who can perceive the leader, or who know the leader exists, a +1 morale bonus, with an additional +1 per five hit dice of that ally (drop fractions), to all Skill rolls (including Perception) and all inflicted saving throw DC's for extraordinary, supernatural, and spell-like powers.
- Leaders do not improve received saving throws, SR, DR or ER, or any other aspect of their allies.
- All Leader buffs end immediately when the leader is killed.
- This buff does not affect the leader, though if another leader is present, the leader gains this buff from the other leader. Morale bonuses do not stack; instead only the highest available bonus may be used. * Note that minions treat this as a buff, gaining their own benefit instead of the listed benefit.
- Leaders count as two monsters for xp and loot.
Some monsters are so mighty, they have their own mythology. Those monsters are Legends.
- Legends have four times as many hit points.
- Legends do triple damage.
- Legends have three Action Points. They may spend up to two of these in a single round.
- Legends are immune to all effects which are not damage, except those they choose to allow to affect them or which specifically state they pierce Role immunities. Attacks which deal damage and include a secondary effect (such as forced movement or a debuff) can only inflict the damage.
- Any damage that the Legend inflicts on an enemy heals the Legend for the same amount. This includes damage from spells and spell-like abilities. Area of effect attacks only heal the Legend an amount equal to the highest amount of damage taken by an affected enemy (not the sum of all damage inflicted). Damage mitigation abilities of victims, such as DR and ER, also reduce the amount of healing received since they reduce the amount of damage inflicted.
- Legends receive a free bonus attack at full BAB when they take a move action, either to move or for any other purpose. They may use any of their melee or ranged attacks for this free attack.
- Legends can force-move any non-Legend creature out of the path of their movement. The maximum distance of this Slide is undefined, but it must end as soon as the Legend can complete its movement. As a result, movement resistance is automatically overcome by this power. As all forced movement, creatures can elect to fall prone to end it.
- Legends count as five monsters for xp and loot.
Cheap fodder? Not likely.
- When you apply the Minion role to a monster, it turns into four monsters.
- Minions have only 1 hit point, but it is special:
- Killing a minion requires either the attacker to succeed on a to-hit roll, or the minion to fail on a saving throw roll. Even then, if the minion is able to successfully mitigate all of the damage with its defenses (such as DR or ER), they live anyway. Minions NEVER take damage from misses or from a successful saving throw against a spell or effect, even of that spell or effect would normally deal partial damage on a successful save.
- Always-hit spells (which have no to-hit roll, and no save, such as Magic Missile or the Fog spells) are counted as spells which allow a save at the normal DC of the caster. If the save is failed, the minion dies. If the save is successful, the minion lives. Unless the spell or effect specifies otherwise, the saving throw is resolved against the minion's strongest save.
- Note that making a Caster Check to overcome a Minion's SR (if any) is NOT counted as a successful roll against a minion and can never kill it.
- Minions never gain temp hit points or healing, although both count as a buff. If a minion receives any buff, at all, it gains a +2 untyped bonus to all types of Armor Class and a +2 untyped bonus on all saving throws. This is instead of the normal effects of the buff. Buffs on minions never stack. The duration of any buff is equal to the normal duration of the buff. Minions can never start a combat with a preexisting buff.
- Minions are able to squeeze into a space normally only accessible by someone of 1 size category smaller than themselves with no penalties. This means that up to two size medium minions may occupy the same 5-foot square without penalty.
- Four minions count as one monster for xp and loot.
Caution: Minions are extremely deadly to inexperienced players and low-level characters. Minions effectively quadruple the amount of damage in a combat until they are reduced in numbers.
Pew! Pew! Pew!
- Shooters have double hit points.
- Shooters may use any of their listed special attacks as though they have a range increment of 30 feet, with a maximum range of 150 feet. If an ability already has a listed range which is greater than this, use that range instead.
- Shooters never suffer penalties on their attack rolls due to range, though they are still limited by the maximum range of their attack.
- Shooters never take penalties for firing into melee or from creatures acting as cover.
- Shooters add one half their CR to their initiative modifier, round up.
- Shooters do double damage.
- Shooters count as two monsters for xp and loot.
They're stealthy, man. Super stealthy.
- Sneaks always have the Stealth skill, with a nudge value of +8 added to the normal skill value for their CR.
- Once per encounter, a Sneak may initiate stealth even if they are being observed. This is an immediate action (which can be used as an interrupt) if used outside their turn, or a swift action if used during their turn.
- Sneaks gain +4 to hit and a +1d6 bonus to their damage when they make an attack against a target that is unaware of them, or a target they are flanking. This bonus damage increases by an additional +1d6 per 4 CR's of the Sneak (drop fractions).
- Sneaks add one half their CR to their initiative modifier, round up.
- Sneaks count as two monsters for xp and loot.
The monster the other monsters expect to take all the hits.
- Tanks have double hit points.
- Tanks are immune to all effects which are not damage, except those they choose to allow to affect them. Attacks which deal damage and include a secondary effect (such as forced movement or a debuff) can only inflict the damage. (Abilities which specifically state they bypass the condition immunity of roles, such as a Prowler's Encroaching Jolt, also bypass this immunity.)
- Any damage that the Tank inflicts on an enemy heals the Tank for the same amount. This includes damage from spells and spell-like abilities. Area of effect attacks only heal the Tank an amount equal to the highest amount of damage taken by an affected enemy (not the sum of all damage inflicted). Damage mitigation abilities of victims, such as DR and ER, also reduce the amount of healing received since the reduce the amount of damage inflicted.
- Tanks may make a bonus attack against any character they can reach who does not include them in an attack. There is no limit to the number of these attacks they may make, though they can never make more than one attack per triggering action. Damage they deal with these attacks heals them as well.
- The first time in an encounter that a Tank is reduced to zero hit points, it is not killed. Instead, it gains immunity to all damage until the beginning of its next turn and its hit points are set to half its normal maximum. Its ability to take actions is not hampered in any way during this period of immunity. At the beginning of its next turn, the immunity expires. The Tank is killed for good the second time its hit points reach zero.
- Tanks count as two monsters for xp and loot.
A dungeon boss, or a tough "heavy." A really tough heavy. Remember that Cave Troll fight in Lord of the Rings? Yeah, that guy.
- Threats have triple hit points.
- Threats do triple damage or more.
- Threats get 2 action points. These may not be spent on the same round.
- Threats are immune to the first 5 instances of all conditions applied during an encounter. Note that "all conditions" means exactly that: all conditions. This is not limited to status conditions, it also applies to any condition that the GM feels will render the monster 'trivial'. Spell effects, forced movement, status conditions or penalties to attack, damage, defenses, etc., are all rendered null through this ability. The sixth time the same condition is applied to a Threat, however, it affects it normally.
- The first time in an encounter that a Threat is reduced to zero hit points, it is not killed. Instead, it gains immunity to all damage until the beginning of its next turn, any conditions it is currently suffering under are immediately cleared, all accumulated efforts to pierce their condition immunity are removed, and its hit points are set to half its normal maximum. Its ability to take actions is not hampered in any way during this period of immunity. At the beginning of its next turn, the immunity expires. The Threat is killed for good the second time its hit points reach zero.
- Threats count as four monsters for xp and loot.
The dungeon boss.
- Villains have four times as many hit points.
- Villains do triple damage.
- Villains get 2 action points. These may not be spent on the same round.
- Villains may summon four minions per round, every round as a free action. They may not use this action if they have eight or more minions in play already.
- Villains are immune to the first 8 instances of each condition, even outside of an encounter. Note that "all conditions" means exactly that: all conditions. This is not limited to status conditions, it also applies to any condition that the GM feels will render the monster 'trivial'. Spell effects, forced movement, status conditions or penalties to attack, damage, defenses, etc., are all rendered null through this ability. The ninth time the same condition is applied to a Villain, however, it affects it normally.
- Villains may use any of their listed special attacks as though they have a range increment of 30 feet, with a maximum range of 150 feet. If an ability already has a listed range which is greater than this, use that range instead.
- The first time a Villain is reduced to zero hit points, it is not killed. Instead, it gains immunity to all damage until the beginning of its next turn, any conditions it is currently suffering under are immediately cleared, all accumulated efforts to pierce their condition immunity are removed, and its hit points are set to half its normal maximum. Furthermore, it immediately summons 4 minions, regardless of how many minions are currently present. Its ability to take actions is not hampered in any way during this period of immunity. At the beginning of its next turn, the immunity expires.
- Villains often live to fight another day. In most encounters, a villain shouldn't even be present. However, in those encounters that include villains, GM's should strive to set up the fight in a way that the PC's can achieve victory without actually needing kill the villain. This can include saving imperiled civilians from some dastardly trap, stopping a horrible ritual, or retrieving the McGuffin before the villain can, etc. GM's are cautioned that having a villain escape 'just because' is often very frustrating for players. However, if they escape because the players were busy doing something else, that's usually seen as reasonable.
- Villains count as five monsters for xp and loot.
Gamemaster Notes on Roles
Even though the concept behind Roles is inspired by Fourth Edition, the way it is implemented here is different, and demands a lot more from the referee than 4e ever did. Since Roles can be applied to ANY monster, the referee is expected to have a strong grasp of what this is going to do. Since we recognize that not every referee out there may be a thirty year veteran like us old guys, this section is here to give you some tips on what to expect and how to run mind-boggling games.
How to use Roles
First, there's no reason to introduce roles right away. Let folks settle into their characters for the first two or three levels, run them through the classic 'five people meet in an inn' scenario, keep it simple as people get used to the way the new character classes work.
Once you decide that vanilla encounters and stories are losing their luster, try introducing a Heavy mob.
Heavy mobs, despite their scary factor, are possibly the least impactful of the roles. Their ability to ignore a condition will likely be a surprise, as will their hard-hitting attacks and resurrection power. But despite all that, Heavies are simple, easy-to-handle role mobs.
Once the players are used to Heavies, bring out a couple of Shooters. Shooters are the second least impactful role, and more importantly, demand an entirely different response (more mobility or ranged attacks) than a Heavy. Let the players get used to the way to handle Shooters.
Next, introduce Minions. Despite their lowly stature, minions are quite dangerous and demand good tactics to deal with. A single mob split into minions does quadruple the damage of a normal mob. Be sure your players are adaptable and tough before you pop minions on them. Also: Be quite aware of the ability of minions to squeeze! This makes the front ranks of your party completely irrelevant to minions, so be sure your "clothies" are ready for this surprising challenge.
Once you have Heavies, Shooters, and Minions, the rest of the roles are all really zesty. Tanks are especially nasty, especially if you combine a Tank with minions. The Tank will get lots of opportunity attacks while the party goes after minions, so be aware. Killers are extremely fast and can easily swamp the weaker members of the party if the group doesn't maneuver carefully, so handle with care. Sneaks are like Killers, only worse. Their ability to stealth even while being watched is sure to draw outraged cries the first few times, and rightly so. Plus, Sneaks hit so hard it's scary, so handle with care.
By far the most dangerous of the roles are the Leaders, Legends, Threats, and the Villains. Use them sparingly and carefully until you are sure your players can handle the challenge they present. Threats are basically drastically tougher Heavies. If your group is having trouble with Heavies combined with Tanks or Shooters, consider Threats carefully. Villains are much worse than Threats because they do even more damage and summon in hordes of minions. Legends are much simpler, tighter, combats, they do not have henchmen or minions and they do not resurrect, but they more than make up for it with their durability, healing, and ability to move the battlefield around as they wish. Absolutely worst of all are Leaders. Use Leaders with great care, and be sure your group can handle them. Be extremely careful of combining Leaders and Tanks, Leaders and Shooters, Leaders and Sneaks, and especially Leaders and Villains.
Using Roles, you can challenge any group of players at any time, but remember the first rule: Fights should be fun! Do not fall into the trap of using the same role too many times in a row: A steady diet of Heavies quickly becomes routine, and routine encounters, while they have their place, should never be the norm. Switch it up, add a Killer to a battle to use its speed and incredible damage to threaten the back ranks, or a Sneak for even more paranoia-inducing goodness. A basic fortification combined with a couple of Shooters will become a lethally dangerous combo and will certainly challenge the most complacent of tables. Add in a Leader and REALLY challenge your table!
Note that many combinations of Roles have synergies. Always start using a given type of role with one of that type on the table, at least until you have a feel for how your table of players will handle the monster. A group of players that handles a Threat-role mob easily may flounder against a pack of Minions, and vice versa. Every game is different, and it is your job as a DM to be sure that it's always fun.
A note about increased damage
We recommend several different ways of handling increased damage of roles.
- The first and simplest way is to roll the damage as listed in the stat block and multiply it. This is easy and effective, but it rewards high armor class and hurts folks with Damage Resistance. Even worse, it's not interesting. This is the cardinal sin of refereeing: being dull! It's fine to use this method every now and then, heck, vanilla fights are quite valuable. They're easy, they make the "oh holy crap" encounters more vivid by contrast, and they're easy. Just don't do them too much.
- The second way is to roll every attack multiple times. A fun variant on this is to give high-damage monsters a second or third initiative, for example, five counts or ten counts after their main initiative, respectively. Be careful of this variant method, as the players piling on the conditions can dilute the threat of your monsters. If you couple this with the simple expedient that every initiative count keeps a separate tally of statuses, this works extremely well, although it's a bit complicated. This works especially well with multi-headed monsters. The "two-headed" pattern is awesome stuff.
- The third way is to do both. Boost the damage of each attack by fifty percent, and then roll a few extra attacks to represent their high speeds. This is a good approach, and if you add the extra damage as flat damage, doesn't slow down the pace of combat much if at all. Even better, this feels true to the rules if that is important to you. A great variation is to make some or all of a monster's attacks into close blasts, or small cones, or affects any three adjacent squares. This is easily explained as the monster is sweeping its limbs in large arcs, and also spreads the damage out, so not only the tank is getting hit.
- The fourth way is to add a Swift action ranged attack. The monster throws a rock, spits of glob of ick, shoots rays from its eyes, flicks quills from its tail, animates the floor to bite at feet, pulls ropes to drop javelins from the ceiling, huffs poison from its nostrils, shoots tentacles from unmentionable places to zing the unwary, etc. Making it a swift action keeps it fun and rewards the characters for status effects. To make this more flexible, have this ranged attack hit two, three, or even more targets. This lets you dilute the impact of a strong melee front row, as you can hit that pesky fighter and still keep the back ranks on their toes. If your party is laying lots of status effects, make the ranged attack a free action that happens at the start of the monster's turn on a trigger.
- The fifth way is to add a damage aura. This is easy and effective, simply announce the aura and make the players keep track of it for you! A nice variation of this is the damage aura that only turns on while the monster is under a status effect. If you're really feeling nasty, have the aura do damage every time an effect is laid on the monster in addition to the normal trigger times. This gives the players a mean choice: Lay the effect and take damage, or leave the monster unfazed.
- The sixth way is a damage shield. Every time you strike the monster, you take damage. This is rough on melee and rewards ranged attacks, so a fun variation is giving a monster an automatic reflection ability, so any ranged attacks are turned back on the attacker. If you're really feeling nasty, have reflected ranged attacks target-able upon any of the PC's at will. Another fun variation is the "safety zone" damage aura. The further you are from a monster, the more damage the aura does to you, but you are completely safe when adjacent. This rewards melee attackers and punishes ranged attackers, which is a fun turnabout.
- The seventh way is to move the damage off the monsters completely. Have a damage zone that activates when the monster steps on it. If you're really feeling mean, have the zone heal the monster at the same time. Put in emitters, like poison mushrooms huffing spore clouds, or spinning blade pillars, or falling blocks of ceiling that do damage and then turn terrain into rough terrain, or sections of floor that slide everybody on them like conveyor belts right into spiked pits, or slippery patches that knock people on them prone, or jets of poisonous lava that squirt out at random intervals, etc, etc, etc.
The important thing is to introduce as much variety as possible into combat. Always strive to do something interesting. It doesn't have to be unique! Just interesting and fun. :)