Making Planes Playable (Jan 5, 2013)

I recently created a fantastic and super-awesome list of monsters from the d20 System Reference Document (my favorite is the hypertext d20 SRD) organized by perceived “scope.” Interestingly, I found that the Challenge Rating system translated pretty well to the idea of scope, perhaps because of what it was supposed to represent.

Challenge Rating, in Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons, was generally intended to reflect the average level of the party a given monster was intended to challenge. A monster with a “CR 3” was built to challenge a third-level party of adventurers. This actually caused problems because not all adventurers were created equal.

You could think of Challenge Rating as an early version of the “solo” concept. A single ogre was intended to challenge a group of characters, while a bunch of lower-CR monsters would be needed to challenge a higher-level group. With power scaling to level, the system was also broken by characters simply advancing a few levels.

Scope: Personal, Local, Regional, Global, Planar, Cosmic

With few exceptions, creatures with a Challenge Rating less than one had a “personal” scope, threatening no more than a handful of adventurers, maybe three to five people at once. Should they come into some significant boost to health or damage, they might become a “local” threat, but that would make it a different monster.

No “outsiders” or elementals are found at the personal threat range, if for no other reason than the fact they tend to represent a greater danger. One very rarely finds a lantern archon wandering about without purpose, it’s usually a prelude to something greater (if not serving as a familiar for a more dangerous mage).

There was a much larger range for monsters of “local” scope. If they had a Challenge Rating of anything from about three to seven (with a few ones and twos, and a couple eights) they constituted a threat to a group of five hundred or so mortal humans. On that note, that’s what the scope system is based on – threats to normal people.

Monsters whose Challenge Rating ranged from eight to ten tended to fall in the scope of “regional,” threatening upwards of thirty thousand people. This is where the majority of demons could be found, but also giants and genies. While I didn’t actually address dragons (being fantastically complex monsters), they probably belong here.

Creatures with the “regional” scope tend to threaten whole tribes and villages with enslavement, displacement, or extinction, and they prove a threat to kingdoms unable to muster a force to meet and deal with them.

“Global” threats tended to include monsters with a Challenge Rating from twelve to fifteen, “planar” threats featured monsters about CR-17 (but includes the entire family of nightshades), and “cosmic” threats were made up almost exclusively of monsters CR-20 and higher, including of course the tarrasque, pit fiend, solar, and titan.