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4th Edition Monsters

posted Saturday, October 13th 2007 by Jonathan Drain
Fourth EditionNews, Reviews & Culture

EDIT: Upon closer examination, some of my suggestions in this article were later proven incorrect. See my follow-up article.

My fellow D&D blogger Mike Hensley at HackSlash has fourth edition D&D monster stats courtesy of a leaked D&D Game Day minis stat card. Although it’s miniatures, this gives us some insight into some of the changes that have already been decided on, and it’s entirely feasible that the two games are being brought closer together. I’ll iterate over the stats here and what changes they represent.

SPINED DEVIL—Medium Immortal Humanoid (Devil)—LEVEL 6 SKIRMISHER

“Outsider” type is gone, replaced with “immortal humanoid”. Humanoid seems to be a catch-all for any two-arms-two-legs creature, while “immortal” may convey some other game benefit or be merely flavour. Size types remain largely the same. “Skirmisher” refers to the creature’s velites-type niche, which is an important descriptor in D&D minis and may become so in the regular game. Is “challenge rating” now referred to as “level”, perhaps doing away with hit dice altogether?

INIT +5 SPD 5 FLY 7
Hackslash suggests this infers that D&D 4e measures move speed in squares now. I might agree.

Senses: nethersight. Perception +5—Resist fire 20
Nethersight is anyone’s guess; perhaps darkvision and see-invisibility. I would assume that Perception is combined Spot/Listen, although confusingly they later they refer to Spot as its own skill. Interestingly, they seem to be moving toward the Dragon magazine statblock format here, which is an excellent move.

Attacks: Melee 2 claws +9 vs AC each: 2d4+4—Spine Rain Standard; ranged 10; +9 Dex vs. Ref; 1d6+2 + 2d6 fire AND Poisoned 5, Slowed while Poisoned

Melee attacks work as normal, with the noted exception of any split between single and full attack, good riddance. Special attacks are rolled into the attack category, with the example here of Spine Rain. It’s designated “Standard” (no clues here) and a ranged attack, with the number ’10′ perhaps the squares range, potentially doing away with range increment penalties.

The attack is made with the creature’s Dexterity bonus versus the opponent’s Reflex score; remember now that in fourth edition, saving throws are out, and opponents instead roll to beat your Fort/Ref/Will score the same way they roll to beat your AC. “Poisoned 5″ is anyone’s guess (5pts poison damage?), although poison is clearly simplified (good riddance – I never remembered to roll secondary poison damage). Finally here, “Slowed while Poisoned” implies an interesting, Diablo 2 style side-effects system.

AC 20—FORT 18—REF 18—WILL 18
More evidence that opponents now roll to beat your saves instead of you rolling to save from theirs.

HP/Bloodied 47/23
Creatures are “bloodied” at half their hit points and suffer penalties. Whether this applies to all creatures remains to be seen; perhaps undead are treated differently.

Str +7 (19) Con +5 (14) Dex +5 (15) Int +5 (15) Wis +5 (14) Cha +5 (15)

A significant change to the ability bonuses applied by scores. We only know from this that 14 and 15 are both +5, and 19 is +7. Could the new formula for ability score modifiers be “score minus 5, divided by 2″? What we can be sure of is that ability scores are weighted more heavily than previously, or at least are on a different scale.

What the ability score line also tells us is the effect of ability scores on other stats. Perception (spot/listen) is equal to Wisdom modifier as usual, and Init equal to Dexterity mod. The “poisoned” attribute equals the Constitution modifier, but this could be coincidence. Likewise, ground speed equals Dexterity, an important synergy for a skirmisher, but this too could be coincidence; Strength equals fly speed, but again, it’s to soon to tell if that’s deliberate. (One could suggest that fifth edition will merge the Init/Speed designators, but I’m getting way ahead of myself here.)

The effect of Strength and Dexterity on attacks is a little vague here. Melee and ranged attacks have identical bonus despite Strength being higher than Dexterity. Making a huge leap here, it’s possible that AC no longer benefits from your Dexterity modifier (dodging things is Reflex now), allowing it to be used as attack bonus for both melee and ranged. The +2 to the spine attack could come from Dexterity or Constitution, assuming the “round down” rule has stayed; however, this precludes the possibility the +4 to claw damage is derived from half Strength (bar some feat or racial damage bonus). The saving throws all at 18 suggests that we’re seeing +10 base, +5 ability score bonus, and +3 from another source such as hit dice (all the good saves).

As Mike says, we must also look at what what the card doesn’t say. Alignment is removed, consistent with the previous suggestion that it’s being toned down in importance. There’s no flat-footed AC. Sub-stats like natural armour and Dexterity-to-AC and base attack bonus are ignored along with feats and hit dice, although this is to be expected on a terse miniatures card.

My opinion: Although miniatures cards aren’t as complex as the full monster stats, I think this still portends a welcome simplification of the monster rules. Just recently as I was statting up some monsters I realised that a lot of my time as a Dungeon Master was spent calculating statistics based on predefined rules, rather than thinking up cool things. DM’s time is a limited resource, and anything that makes his job easier, I’m all for it.

Comments

  1. Jeffrey Boser

    October 13th, 2007

    I think the stats are what I always believed they should be, the bonus is stat divided by 3, rounded up. (1-3=+1, 4-6+2, 7-9=+3, 10-12=+4, 13-15=+5, 16-18=+6..)

    So actually, stats are DEPRECATED, they are a third less important. And this is good, also, stats make alot of sense starting from zero. No longer do you have stupid results like a small creature with a two handed weapon (really the only type that should be doing serious damage) having a weird damage modifier. If you’re -2 strength, do you do -3 with a two handed weapon?

    All of that goes away. If you have a stat at all that is applicable to a test, you get a bonus of some kind, multipliers and adders work much more smoothly.

    Also, massively high strength (30 = +10 only) is not quite out of hand as it is in 3.5. Someone with a disgusting str/dex in 3.5 can really make other player characters look lame, at least when it comes to melee. In casters stats in 3.5 aren’t massively important, they’re nice but not out of control, so they’re more balanced. But a over-the-top strength person in 3.5 really makes other pc’s look embarassing.

  2. ChattyDm

    October 13th, 2007

    Wow thanks for the scoop/analysis.

    I’m all for the ‘easier to work with’ monster options.

    I bet that poison 5 means poisoned for 5 rounds.

  3. Jonathan Drain

    October 13th, 2007

    That’s possible. In that case, either all poisons have the same standard effect unless otherwise specified, or the poison’s only effect is to “slow” you. The latter makes a lot of sense.

  4. Sam Judson

    October 13th, 2007

    I suspect that the Saves are +10 base, +5 ability, +3 level/2 :)

    All good fun this guessing stuff isn’t it :)

  5. Dominic Amann

    October 14th, 2007

    I am with Jefffrey here: Stat/3 round up makes good sense, and helps a lot with calculation and balancing. This is perhaps the most ground breaking “leak” to be deduced from the card, since most of the other things are already mentioned in other releases.

    I interpret the nethersight line rather differently: my quess nethersight is a particular ability (the ability to see into the nether regions between planes?) that grants +5 to perception, the other 5 comes from Wis. This suggests that skills have no base – no HD.

    The absence of a listen check suggests to me that listen is dropped altogether, spot covering the whole “notice something” role.

    As to poison, I believe there is either no roll to save vs. the poison – if you are injured then you are poisoned, or the spined devil would roll (again) against your Fort to see if you are poisoned (and slowed) possibly for 5 rounds.

  6. Burrowowl

    October 14th, 2007

    There are feats listed on the back of the card, specifically Point Blank Shot and Precise Shot. So’s the hit dice (7), alignment (Lawful Evil), Touch AC (16) and Flat-footed AC (also 16).

  7. Jonathan Drain

    October 15th, 2007

    @Burrowl: Do you have a picture of the back of the card to confirm?

    Retaining “hit dice” makes sense, since this doesn’t tie level (challenge rating) directly to offensive and defensive power and precludes mage-types (low offensive/defensive, high special power). In this case we can surmise that at least in the case of devils, all saves are 10 + half HD + relevant ability score modifier.

    Touch AC according to your source seems to be AC -4. I don’t know if this is a general thing or it’s derived some other way. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume the former; it makes sense.

    With seven hit dice, it’s entirely feasible that the creature received 6HP per level (42HP) plus a flat 5 for Con modifier (total 47). But does the 6HP come from 1HP/HD and 5HP/HD Con modifier with a bonus Con modifier at first level, or is Con modifier applied only once per creature?

    Point Blank Shot… This might explain the disparity between melee and ranged attack. Are we seeing +2 attack from hit dice, +7 from Strength on the melee and +5 Dex / +2 from Point Blank Shot (and optionally Precise Shot)? No, I don’t believe a 7HD creature would receive only one third hit dice in base attack. Or would it? If the one-third theory is true, an ability score of 10 offers the average person +3 base.

    Damage, I still can’t work out why the claws deal +4 (half modifier plus one?) and the spine rain deals +2 (from Point Blank Shot, perhaps?)

  8. Dominic Amann

    October 15th, 2007

    They may have changed things, but I have read a designers’ note on the Wizard’s that specifically states that instead of Touch AC they will use Ref.

  9. Dominic Amann

    October 15th, 2007

    I believe Burrowow is mistaken, he has probably looked at the image on ENWorld which has the 4ed card pictured directly above a 3.5e card (not the reverse of the 4e card).

  10. eleran

    October 15th, 2007

    The stat bonuses could also be derived by normal stat bonus + 1/2 level (ie 19 Str = +4 bonus + 3 (1/2 level 6) it works out that way for all the stats presented on that card. It is also consistent with the way its done in Star Wars Saga edition.

  11. Jonathan Drain

    October 15th, 2007

    eleran could be correct. A sequel to this article is up.

  12. Burrowowl

    October 16th, 2007

    Could be. I’ve been wronger :)

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