If you played 3e D&D for any length of time, you may have heard about JaronK’s “Tier System for Classes.” Then again, you may have had to poke around the Internet for some time before learning of that.

Well, a zillion years ago I started a similar tier system for monsters. Just the other day, I finally got around to starting the Monster Manual 2. MM2 is pretty infamous for its Challenge Ratings being off — like, way off. Way, way, way off.

Like, “the book says CR 19, how’d your 4th-level party take it down?” off.

A lot of 3e was like that, but MM2 was notorious — so I’m not really going by CR. I’m using it as a starting point, but ‘hit dice do not a challenge make.’

Part of this is some creative re-interpretation. If you recall, my Scope system isn’t quite so much about how dangerous a monster is, but how potentially dangerous it could be. This is not without reason, too. A monster has to have a genius-level Intelligence score to be considered a potential evil genius.

Some things automatically bump a monster up the ranks.

Large monsters, flying monsters, and monsters with reliable invisibility almost always find themselves in the local-scope or higher.

Huge monsters are almost always regional-scope or higher. When they’re large enough to terrorize a village from the next village over, they pretty much become regional threats. That’s just how it is.

There’s a barrier to entry for planar- and cosmic-scope threats though, and that’s pretty much the ability to teleport long distances or cross planar boundaries. (Anything that can cast 7th-9th level spells can get in on this too.)

The tarrasque is pretty big, and it might threaten the whole world — but it only threatens the world it’s currently on. No matter how many hit dice it has, the tarrasque can only threaten one ‘way of life’ at a time.

If I actually make enough headway with this project, I’ll start a massive overhaul of every ever monster written. It’ll actually be pretty easy because what we’re talking about has less to do with making monsters mechanically unique (which isn’t really important) and more about interesting and varied encounters.