Monster math, tweaking, analysis, etc...

Long time Next lurker, first time Next poster... So be gentle :D

I've have been following Next with interest since the beginning but haven't had the chance to run it yet. Well my group has taken the plunge and I'll be running a L6 one-shot.

I need a certain BBEG to be a real challenge, read all I could about the monsters and decided I needed to do some analysis.  So I put all the Jan 2013 Bestiary critters crucial stats in Excel and did a little crunching (you can have a look at the spreadsheet here on Google drive).

So I levelled up the pregens and they each got a couple magic items. And I took the PCs my players have rolled. And I looked. And I worked out some fight scenarios. I was especially surprised when I looked at how the fights with some level 10 opponents would shape up!

Wow! Like everyone says the math is way low!

The PCs with a Belt Of Hill Giant Strength or Gauntlets Of Ogre strength only need to roll an unbuffed 5 to hit an average level 10 monster. And the rest need an unbuffed 8.

Since the party probably does about 80 hp of damage per round most level 10 monsters, with their average 140 hp, will keel over in round 2 or 3.

The to-hit situation is a little less grim due to the slower curve on AC increases. To hit a Rogue or Sorcerer it'll need a 10 or better. But the Dwarf Fighter with his +1 banded mail and +1 shield (and associated AC 20) will take a 13 or better. But this also certainly seems on the low side.

I'm glad Wizards are planning to fix monsters in the next packet and I'm interested to see what they do. And I'll likely redo my spreadsheet - just because I like to understand those aspects of how monsters work when I employ them.

My guesses, looking at trendlines, are....


  • AC: Level 1 gets adjusted to 14, Level 20 to somewhere above 20. Maybe 25?

  • HP: Level 20 hp gets bumped by 50%-100%

  • Attack: Level 1 goes to +6 and level 20 to +12 or higher.

  • Damage: Level 20 damage gets bumped by 50%-100%


Anyway I'm no expert on game math so I could be utterly wrong.


I'd certainly be interested to hear thoughts from anyone who has had a good hard look at monster math.


Want to understand D&D 5e monsters?  ♦  @surfarcher  ♦  +Surf Archer  ♦  /u/surfarcher

I think they need to look back to AC ranks in 1e, and the behind the curtain analysis that took place in 3e, leaving most of those 1e ACs unchanged.  I think AC25 should be equivalent to 1e AC -10 and work backwards from there.  Very few monsters ever had AC -10, including gods.  However, they did go a bit mad with the natural armour bonuses for some monsters, such as dragons, in 3e.  If you are going to introduce damage resistance as a mechanic to make up for lower ACs, you have to be careful not stack both.

For example, Lolth in 1e had AC-10 (in spider form) but only 66 hp.  In her tougher form, her spell-casting power was limited and in her drow form she had only AC -2 (I think).  She was in a module suitable for levels 10-14.  They doubled her hp in 2e and multiplied them by a factor of 10 in 3e so that presumably she became a challenge for epic level characters.

The balance in 1e was different, since damage output was much lower but I can't see how you can lower AC, increase damage output, and leave hp the same and not expect that to massively shift the balance of power.

I'm no expert in maths but if the average level 1 character gets +3 to +4 on attack rolls, AC25, the ultimate AC is just out of reach so that seems like a sensible cap to me. At level 20, you might be able to hit on a 12+, so that seems decent enough.  They key is not tanking your high level monsters so they all have AC25.  Most of them would be much lower.  I think that 1e ACs where natural armour is toned down so that most monsters have -1 to -3 to the original ratings would work fine and preserve their challenge from the original rules.

E.G.

Dragon Black 1e AC17 vs 5e AC15
Dragon Blue  1e AC18 vs 5e AC16
Dragon Green 1e AC18 vs 5e AC16
Dragon Red 1e AC21 vs 5e AC15 (should be AC18?)

Demon Balor 1e AC22 vs 5e AC16 (should be AC20?)
Demon Marilith 1e AC25 vs 5e AC16 (should be AC22?)
Demon Vrock 1e AC20 vs 5e AC13 (should be AC17?)
Demon Succubus 1e AC20 vs 5e AC13 (should be AC17?)

Devil Asmodeus  1e AC27 vs 5e AC23?
I was thinkng along the same lines but it uses 20 increments (range of a D20) so AC -10 would be AC 30 in 5E, and AC 9 would be AC 11 in 5E. This provides enough space for future development, or when magic is added to the game, so the DM does not have to modify every creature at higher levels. Basically I am equating this to 4E desgin to make monster management as easy as possible for the average DM.
Long time Next lurker, first time Next poster... So be gentle :D

I've have been following Next with interest since the beginning but haven't had the chance to run it yet. Well my group has taken the plunge and I'll be running a L6 one-shot.

I need a certain BBEG to be a real challenge, read all I could about the monsters and decided I needed to do some analysis.  So I put all the Jan 2013 Bestiary critters crucial stats in Excel an did a little crunching (you can have a look at the spreadsheet here on Google drive).

So I levelled up the pregens and they each got a couple magic items. And I took the PCs my players have rolled. And I looked. And I worked out some fight scenarios. I was especially surprised when I looked at how the fights with some level 10 opponents would shape up!

Wow! Like everyone says the math is way low!

The PCs with a Belt Of Hill Giant Strength or Gauntlets Of Ogre strength only need to roll an unbuffed 5 unbuffed to hit an average level 10 monster. And the rest need an unbuffed 8.

Since the party probably does about 80 hp of damage per round most level 10 monsters, with their average 140 hp, will keel over in round 2 or 3.

The to-hit situation is a little less grim due to the slower curve on AC increases. To hit a Rogue or Sorcerer it'll need a 10 or better. But the Dwarf Fighter with his +1 banded mail and +1 shield (and associated AC 20) will take a 13 or better. But this also certainly seems on the low side.

I'm glad Wizards are planning to fix monster next packet and I'm interested to see what they do. And I'll likely redo my spreadsheet - just because I like to understand those aspects of how monsters work when I employ them.

My guesses, looking at trendlines, are....


  • AC: Level 1 gets adjusted to 14, Level 20 to somewhere above 20. Maybe 25?

  • HP: Level 20 hp gets bumped by 50%-100%

  • Attack: Level 1 goes to +6 and level 20 to +12 or higher.

  • Damage: Level 20 damage gets bumped by 50%-100%


Anyway I'm no expert on game math so I could be utterly wrong.


I'd certainly be interested to hear thoughts from anyone who has had a good hard look at monster math.





Thanks for putting the stats on an excel sheet.  I had done that with the earlier packets but only got about a third of the way through this packet before I quit.....



Your treatment also looks far more detailed than I did - very nice.

I've been advocating for tougher monsters for the last few major packets.  They are just too weak.  The most frustrating thing for me was that when they decreased the PCs attacks in the last major packet they decreased most monsters ACs by even more.

The PC attacks dropped by 2 - and many creatures ACs dropped by 3.  So the players - who already hit too often - were actually able to hit even more often despite their lower attacks.

At a start, I'd roll the monster ACs back to the pre-Dec levels and see how that works.  Monster attacks also jumped (another thing I thought they needed) - but in some cases they jumped too far (which coming from someone who has always felt the monsters too weak might mean something...).  Some level 1 monsters had their attack bonus increased by as much as +5 or +6 over the prior packet.  It felt that (before that) all monsters across the board needed a +2, with a few needing a +3.  I didn't think that a goblin needed the same bonus to hit as a Vrock (L VIII demon).  Actually - I think that one needs to go up and the other down....

I'd suggest they change the level 1 and level 2 monsters to be about two points lower (+3ish).


Carl

Thanks for the interesting and insightful responses all!


@pauln6
Yeah, the 1e progression worked and it was solid. Your example comparisons are pretty good too - tho we should probably keep in mind that not all the 1e monsters necessarily had the right AC. Which is part of the reason I tried to get a significant sample of monsters (i.e., all of them in this case) into my spreadsheet.

You also raise a good point about DR.  There's two obvious ways to compensate for that - AC or HP. It's worth pointing out I didn't factor DR into my spreadsheet.  But, again, getting a significant sample hopefully mitigates that.


@Uchawi
I kinda like the idea of AC30 as the cap.


@CarlT
Thanks for the kind words.  LOL yeah it takes a while to get them all into the spreadsheet :P  

Hhhmm... You know interested folks could team up entering the stats via Google drive for future packets. We'd probably get through it much sooner...

I didn't realise they did that with both monster AC and PC attacks... It seems kinda... Urm... Yeah.


Cheers!

Want to understand D&D 5e monsters?  ♦  @surfarcher  ♦  +Surf Archer  ♦  /u/surfarcher

Yeah I think lowering the green hag's AC was a good idea.  I think yoiu could lower a marilith's AC and give her a parry ability instead.  A balor's AC might be lowered in exchange for more hp (they had only 8HD in 1e).

Interesing post, way useful sheet. Thanks for posting that.


I too have been after some monsters that are actually dangerous, but I've also been working with unbinding accuracy a little bit 'cause my players have consistently been saying they don't feel they get much with level. I've basically taken the attack bonuses and doubled them by level 20, then just adjusted the math upward to match it.


I find it does two things:



  1. It allows monsters to have more of a gradient, but the demarkation is still quite blurry relative to previous editions. I find it's a nice compromise.

  2. It lets the players see visible improvement with attack rolls because monsters they struggle to hit at one stage get easier as they advance, but again not so much that I can't use lower level monsters and have them still threaten the PCs.


I also adjusted player armour to include more armour types. Exotic materials like mithral, hydra scales or ankheg shells push the AC to 25 at the upper limit. To keep the players from expecting to buy the stuff, I make them find the creatures and kill them. I also use the crafting skill checks to good effect so getting your AC above the upper limits in the packet is not a certainty. To top it off, I've made the effectiveness of custom built armour variable based on the skill check for creating it.


I'm still testing all this but as a place to start it's working well. It also gives me design space to make monsters that totally wreck the curve as notible exceptions, which is nice and very much part of why I enjoy D&D's encounter model.

I've been going over the numbers - and there are some interesting trends.  And a few monsters which are clear outliers.

One thing I did was to add the Str, Dex and Con to the data.  That lets me separate out the base AC and base attacks.

Another thought:  The XP data is more usefully expressed (imho) as a logarithmic scale.


Hit point numbers are a bit all over the place - I'm curous how they assign level.  I'd say that the attack bonus is probably assigned after the fact based on the pre-determined level (the base attack bonus seems to have no relationship to level, rather it looks more like attack bonus is an artificial number (although the level 2-3 inflation breaks that pattern).

The same is true for the damage values - they are also all over the place.

The question I want to get at now is:   Do they track together (in which case the assigned level may be the problem) - or is the variance in the data due to some monsters having high hp and low damage while others have low hp and high damage.  I may look at what happens when you plot damage against hit points (rather than level). 



Carl
Take a closer look at your Multiattack entries and the extended 'calculated damage'.  I'm finding quite a few typos there with many monsters (especially demons)  having under-reported calculated damage.  This may smooth out the curve - still checking.


(And again, thanks for all the work entering data).

Note:  I'm also changing that column from 'yes/no' to a numerical value indicating how many attacks something gets, i.e. 2 = two attacks, 7 = seven attacks.  This makes it easier to see at a glance the differences between monsters with different attacks.


Edit:  The adjusted numbers, when charted, still show that same dip in damage at levels  8,9 and 10 and 12 and 13 (as well as clearly showing that Asmodeus just doesn't do enough damage).   It actually makes me wonder if several of the monsters at those levels (which seem to have lower than expected hit points, attacks and damage) are just mis-classified and ought to all be dropped a level or two.


Except for the Marilith - damage output plateaus after level 13.  On the other hand - there is only one example at most of the higher levels so any statistical relevance disappears as well. 

Part of the issue may be the balancing of special attacks with damage as more and more special attacks show up.  Perhaps the plateau effect is intended to be offset by more effects tacked onto the damage. 

Carl


The 8-9-10 damage dip are due to the fact that the demons and devils don't seem to put out quite enough damage.  I'd recommend some small adjustments there (for example let a Vrock do talon/talon/bite rather than just talon/bite, let a Bone Devil use its Hook attack for its multiattack, not just its claws).  I also think that the Umberhulk ought to be upgraded from level 7 to level 8 as it does high damage for a level 7 (or a level 8) and also has a special attack.   The Hezrou either needs better damage (perhaps change claws from 1d8+4 to 2d6+4) or be downgraded in level as well.




The Annis (Hag) I'd just downgrade a couple of levels (maybe L12). 

On the other hand, I'd bump the Amphisbaena up a couple (it does a lot of damage - the second highest in the Bestiary; plus its bites drop max hit points the way energy drain does.  Actually, I'm not sure just moving it up to 13 is high enough....).  I'd also raise the Spirit Naga and Giant Mummy for similar reasons (high damage combined with powerful bonus effect).


Finally, some of the giants seems a bit odd (cloud giants should do more damage than Fire giants  - but they don't) and all of the giants rank very high for damage (which isn't too surprising since they tend to mostly do just damage).  But possibly too high. Offhand, I'd suggest lowering Frost and Fire giant damage since there is a big gap between them and Stone and almost no difference between them and Cloud.

With a few changes of this nature, the 8 -> 14 part of the curve straightens out nicely.

The higher level reaches are more problematic because special attacks start to dominate (and many are represented by one example per level).

Asmodeus is his own problem - mostly he just doesn't do nearly enough damage.  Fixing his 'spells' is a good start.  For example:  What is so 'superior' about his flamestrike?  It looks just like the normal one cast by a level nine cleric.  Of course - if a flame strike were cast by someone of the appropriate level to be fighting Asmodeus it would do 50% more damage than his....  And his 'superior cone of cold' does less damage than any cone of cold any player will ever cast (Asmodeius:  5d6; PCs 6d8).  For a start - just fix his 'spells' so they do the damage that the same spells would do when cast by a PC against him.  The Pit Fiend has the same issue (his fireball does less damage than a level 3 slot fireball and a fraction of what a fireball by a PC would do) - but at least his fireball is better than Asmodeus' spells because he doesn't have to recharge it.  But if you assume the Pit Fiend always gets at least two targets in the Fireball it works out 'ok'.  This isn't the case for Asmodeus who would need to catch at least three targets in his Cone of Cold (or four in his flame strike) just to be on par with his lower level flunkies.  To be superior he would need to get four or five - and that just ain't gonna happen.  Alternately - he needs a good damage boost to either the rod or to his spells.  But there have already been enough Asmodeus bashing threads on these forums....


The Automaton is ok.  Of course - its damage is the same as the Amphisbaena (with an extra +1 to hit).  And they the Amphisbaena rated a 7 levels lower (see above).  Maybe I should go with 15 or even 17 for the snake. 

Majalor is probably underrated at L14 and the highest damage output in the Bestiary (not to mention Parry and immunities).  He probably ought to be a few levels higher....  Likewise, I'd bump the Marilith a bit.  Perhaps 16th for both?  (The curve below actually puts the Amphisbaena at 17th).   At some point it might be easier to cut its damage to bring it in line with a lower level).



The Bottom Line:  I think if you took the demons and devils out of the calculation the damage would scale decently (although a few others - like the Amphisbaena - are just odd).  However they seem to have made the demons and devils consistently weaker for their level than their damage would indicate.  And they do not all have other effects and powers to compensate. 

Note:  I also moved the Red Dragon to L15 because a) there was no longer anything at L15 because I changed the Marilith to L16 and b) it fits very nicely into the curve there.

 

Note:  As in the OPs original spreadsheet, calculated damage ignores the chance to hit (which is a separate column).  I continued this methodology.  I may later look at the effect of modifying the calculated damage by the hit chance against some standardized ACs.


Carl
I'm glad folks got some use out of it :P


@kadim
Yes, I've considered similar tweaks myself, but in the end have restrained myself to monsters. Most get an attack increase of at least +2, and soemtimes more. And they all get a damage increase.


@CarlT
Just... Wow! That's quite a bit to digest. Let's see...

Yes adding Str/Dex/Con seems interesting, but I figure monsters should, to a certain extent, stand on their own by level and type (hence XP).

I always expected damage in my sheet to be a bit fuzzy. Given we are close to the next packet, they'll "fix it all" in that packet and my limited time I simply went with the best attack they had and multiplied that by two if they were a multiattack.  Next packet I'm planning to take my time and work through all the standard attacks properly and, as you say, use an "attack multiplier" instead of a Multiattack column.

Is there any chance of getting a copy of your raw data? PM me if you like.  Also, as previously stated I'm happy to collaborate for the next packet, if you are interested. Otherwise I'll just do it on my own again LOL

Want to understand D&D 5e monsters?  ♦  @surfarcher  ♦  +Surf Archer  ♦  /u/surfarcher

I'm glad folks got some use out of it :P


@kadim
Yes, I've considered similar tweaks myself, but in the end have restrained myself to monsters. Most get an attack increase of at least +2, and soemtimes more. And they all get a damage increase.

Yeah that's where I started too, but two packets ago I lost patience with the monster math and apart from looking at the beastiary for special attack ideas and names I've pretty much made those numbers up as I go based on the PCs. Makes the whole playtest part of the beastiary difficult for me to comment on, though I guess this bit of feedback probably tells the devs volumes about the value of their beastiary.

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