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Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Revising the DMG monster damage progression table
Instigated by the first few excerpts from MM3 and the forthcoming Dark Sun Creature Collection I recently decided to investigate the damage progression tables given in the monster creation guidelines in the DMG.
Now, instinctually, like many others I've always felt that monster damage might actually be a bit too low, especially at the higher levels. But now I actually tried to make some sense of the numbers by calculating a couple of reference values.
I made a couple of assumptions that reflected my goal of making combat at higher levels about as dangerous as it is at level 1:
- use the average damage value for the normal moderate damage expression as a starting point
- brutes should represent the same threat as other monster roles, or more specifically skirmishers, which are as close to being a 'standard' monster as you can get
- damage should be compared against the hit points of player characters of the same level resulting the same percentage of hp lost
- one-hit kills should be impossible, so max damage should not exceed 1.5 times the lowest hp for a pc
After picking the original table apart I also decided on the following:
- damage should increase by an identical factor from column to column
The final adjustment I made was to apply a sliding balancing factor to compensate for the increased to-hit percentage in paragon/epic tier that is apparent when comparing average defenses with attack bonuses.
I also investigated the expected damage output of a standard party created using PHB1 material only (wizard, fighter, cleric, rogue, ranger) to compare it against monster hit points to decide if the values should also be adjusted to take longer staying power of monsters into account.
However, even before taking feats, magic item powers, action points, epic destiny traits, and critical hits into account, average damage output was sufficiently high at all levels to take monsters out in about six rounds (based on four encounters per day against five standard monsters of the same level).
So here's the resulting new damage progression table.
This is actually my first (intentional) visit to this forum. I assume someone else has already created something similar - probably a long time ago. So, I'd appreciate any pointers to previous efforts to revise the damage expression table!
For the sake of comparison, here's the original table from the DMG formatted similarly:
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
Actually, for this version of the table I haven't done a translation into dice+adds. I had created one for an earlier version but it isn't always easy (or even possible) to get exactly the min/max values I've picked for the table (at least if you only want damage expressions using a single type of dice).
Note, that, as I mentioned in this thread, I've picked the min/max numbers basically out of thin air; only the average damage numbers are calculated.
I've created an Excel Sheet to help me find damage expressions that work, though a small app would be even better. Check out the attachment: you can set different adds by modifying the top left cell (the one with the red number).
P.S.: I could also upload the Excel Sheet(s) I've used for my calculations to calculate the damage progression table, if you are interested. I'd just have to clean them up a bit.
Last edited by Jhaelen; Saturday, 12th June, 2010 at 12:47 AM. Reason: added short explanation
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
The tricky part about monster damage is that not all of it comes from one hit, and as you go up in level monsters tend to acquire a lot more non-basic attacks, auras, zones, minor and immediates, etc.
That makes this task a lot trickier, overall.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
However, I don't think it's really _that_ tricky. Or rather: I don't think it the system is so fragile that it wouldn't survive a bit of experimenting. The rule updates to swarms and auras have shown that even the game's developers aren't always sure about what's the right amount of damage for non-standard attacks.
Basically, they seem to have preferred the time-honored tradition of playtesting monsters instead of trying to come up with accurate but tricky mathematical methods.
The DMG guidelines are _very_ vague: use the low damage expression for area-attacks and attacks that are accompanied by one of the nastier status effects and the standard damage expression for everything else.
Use the limited damage expressions for everything that is expected to be used once or twice in an encounter (i.e. encounter powers, including those that recharge when bloodied and powers that recharge on a 6 or on a 5 and 6).
There are several common methods to vary standard damage expressions. Here's some ideas how to deal with them, if you want more precision:
- monsters have several attacks using different damage expressions
This is the easiest case, since those variations are often just done for variety's sake. They typically just seem to be different, e.g. one attack is doing '3d8+5 + push 1' and one is doing '3d6+8 + slow (save ends)'. I.e. average damage is identical and the status effects are comparable.
- on its turn the monster can use its basic attack(s) twice using a single standard action.
This is a case when the damage for the basic attack should be half the damage expression you'd use following the table.
- the monster has an additional attack it can use as an at-will minor (immediate) action
The average damage for this attack should be simply substracted from the value derived from the table. Depending on a monster's role this is usually either low or standard damage.
- part of the damage is translated into ongoing damage
Ignoring any bonuses to saving throws or effects granting extra saves, ongoing damage is equal to about 1.8 times the ongoing damage value (55% of the time, damage is taken just once, 55*45% it's taken twice, 55*45*45% it's taken three times, etc.).
The ongoing damage value used is tied to a monster's level (typically 5 or 10 per tier).
- part of the damage is translated into a damaging aura
Since aura damage is automatic damage, it should rate higher than damage requiring a successful attack roll. The factor depends on the average to-hit chance of a monster, so it slightly decreases with a monster's level, since accuracy goes up.
E.g. assuming an average to-hit chance in the heroic tier of 65%, I'd use a factor of about 1.5 (100/65) in the heroic tier, 1.4 (100/70) in the paragon tier, and 1.3 (100/75) in the epic tier.
The size of the aura is also important, since it could potentially affect several party members at once. If only adjacent targets are affected, I'd use a factor of about 1.5, up to range 3 a factor of 2, up to range 5 a factor of 2.5 or 3, etc. up to a factor of 5.
Similar to ongoing damage, the Monster Manuals typically use about 5 to 10 damage per tier.
- part of the damage is translated into status effects
That's definitely the most tricky one. Apart from dividing them into nasty and not-so-nasty, I don't have any idea how to equate them with a fixed amount of damage. So, I'd just use the DMG guideline of using either standard or limited damage expressions.
Imho, if you're using that kind of calculations you're already putting a lot more thought into this than the monster designers ever did.
It's probably easier and not significantly less accurate if you simply pick two (or more) example monsters of the same role and level and compare them with each other.
Spellbinder (Lvl 16)
In other words, I decided to keep the variable damage expressions identical to the DMGs, using any multiples up to six dice.
Interestingly, the standard damage expressions end up being very close to the suggested values in the higher tiers while my calculated limited expressions are still quite a bit higher. Here's how the resulting table looks:
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