Five Pages, Thirty Stat Blocks (Aug 9, 2012)

Nine months ago, I produced a five-page PDF with standardized stat blocks for 4e monsters levels 1st to 30th. I wised up several months back and increased the attack bonuses, damage, and defenses (hit points remain the same) to make up for the fact that PCs become radically more powerful as they advance in level.

Monsters just don’t keep up.

Download: Five Pages, Thirty Stat Blocks v.2

I think Essentials is partly to blame, not due to Power Creep, but rather by making characters more accessible than they were before — not to mention easier to play. Powerful characters were always there, it just took more skill to build and play them with the “Classic” character classes.

The stat blocks I produced back in August follow the guidelines provided on Page 42 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, whereas the new ones follow a system I came up with for providing a far more constant threat to the player characters.

See, while the PCs are getting stronger — more hit points, more damage, higher accuracy, et cetera — they’re also gaining new powers. The important difference is that these powers are sometimes (on a situation-basis) exponentially more powerful than simple damage and accuracy bonuses. Monsters don’t get those.

Now, what you could do is ramp up monster powers to stay in line with player powers — I tried that — but it falls apart in the Late Heroic to Early Paragon tier, where battles start to last longer and longer — often as players add up ever-increasing modifiers.

Or you can just improve the monster at the source. It isn’t about making the monsters impossible to hit, merely difficult to hit. It isn’t about one-shotting the heroes with save-or-suck powers, it’s about two- and three-shotting them with regular attacks.

It’s about simplifying and streamlining the monsters so they work better on their own — but can work together — and prove a threat without temporary modifiers, healing, and various “player character shenanigans.” Flanking is the most powerful monster power.

I’m not even joking though — flanking is probably the most effective tactic monsters can (or should) have. When they surround a PC, they get a +2 bonus to hit, and the only way out for the player is to slowly shift position, or else risk Opportunity Attacks.

And that’s all it really needs to be. Threaten the party with things they’re already familiar with — if they have defenders, they know how effective those Opp Attacks can be in taking an enemy down quickly. And that’s … all there is to it.