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Challenge Ratings and what represents an epic monster in 5E

Upper_Krust

Adventurer
Hey all,

yes work still progressing on the Mega Gods Epic Bestiary but that's not what I wanted to discuss at the moment (I'll talk more about that next week). In designing this next book I am of course absorbing more and more of the new rules into my cranium and a few things have stood out. For instance.

CR 5 monster x 4 = CR 16 encounter
CR 10 monster x 4 = CR 22-23
CR 15 monster x 4 = CR 27
CR 20 monster x 4 = CR 32
CR 25 monster x 4 = CR 39-40
CR 30 monster x 4 = CR 45

Level 20 PC* (individually CR 12) x 4 = CR 24-25
*Before Epic Boons or Divinity.

Lets say I individually stat Thor and he's CR 32. That's the same as 8 Storm Giants (with the caveat we beef up the Storm Giants slightly to match the guidelines for AC/HP/Damage etc.)

So my question is:
What CR represents an Epic Monster in 5E? CR 12 equals a Level 20 PC. CR 20 is a nice round number. CR 24 equals the power of a typical level 20 PC group.

Any thoughts?
 

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beej

Explorer
Hey hey U_K!

My gut feel is that there are two different lenses to looking at this (numerical and narrative). Like I see how four CR 5 monsters should be CR 16 from a numbers standpoint, but in running 5E I find that four, say, CR 5 trolls would be quite a bit lower than what I would expect from a CR 16 challenge.

(That said CR 16 monsters don't feel like CR 16 monsters in the same way that a CR 5 monster feels like a CR 5 monster - at least in the official books - so blah.)

So I guess:
  • If I'm looking at it numerically, I'd say monsters as low as CR 13 should already be able to do things that a level 20 character (sans rare to legendary magic items, epic boons, etc) can't, and are therefore "epic."
  • Narratively, I find that monsters start to truly "feel" epic once they hit the tier 4 threshold, which I think is level 17? eg my 5E narrative sense would accept a "weak" demon lord at CR 17.
Hope this helps!
 


Upper_Krust

Adventurer
Hey hey U_K!

Howdy beej buddy! :)

My gut feel is that there are two different lenses to looking at this (numerical and narrative). Like I see how four CR 5 monsters should be CR 16 from a numbers standpoint, but in running 5E I find that four, say, CR 5 trolls would be quite a bit lower than what I would expect from a CR 16 challenge.

The official monsters seem to be a bit scattershot in terms of Challenge Rating.

I outline at the start of this new book that my CR's only use the primary tables from the DMG and not all the secondary effects so the CR's in my book would maybe be +25% higher under the official rules. The argument I make is that if you adhere to the secondary abilities impacting CR then it undermines the Threat Levels by XP table.

  • So you can either have the CR's equal to the official monsters...in which case they feel too weak when used as appropriate threats
  • Or you can have them be appropriate threats (for their XP)...in which case they will hit harder than equivalent CR official monsters.

I went with the latter mainly because it was less work for me. :giggle:

(That said CR 16 monsters don't feel like CR 16 monsters in the same way that a CR 5 monster feels like a CR 5 monster - at least in the official books - so blah.)

So I guess:
  • If I'm looking at it numerically, I'd say monsters as low as CR 13 should already be able to do things that a level 20 character (sans rare to legendary magic items, epic boons, etc) can't, and are therefore "epic."

The 'proper' monsters in my book start around CR 12-13 (with a small number below that which are unavoidable 'minions' that needed including to round another monster out). However, as noted my CR 12 would be more like an official CR 15 (or at the very least a Monster Manual CR 15, if we assume slight power creep per CR in books like the Tome of Foes).

  • Narratively, I find that monsters start to truly "feel" epic once they hit the tier 4 threshold, which I think is level 17? eg my 5E narrative sense would accept a "weak" demon lord at CR 17.

That should hopefully fit well with my long list (hence the delays) of monsters. My monsters kick in at CR 12 (equal to an official CR 15) and then its a pretty even spread up until the mid 30's (which would be more akin to a Monster Manual mid forty* I guess. and then I have a handful of special cases above that, shall we say. ;)

*If such a thing existed.

Hope this helps!

Thanks amigo, I appreciate the feedback. Hopefully the final book will feel epic enough even if 20-25% of the monsters are technically under CR 21.
 

Upper_Krust

Adventurer
Understandably cr in 5e is linear rather than exponential so things will be weird

Hey Akira mate! :)

The big issue I am finding is that multiple opponents do warrant their XP multipliers in terms of threats. On the face of it this is not a problem, but I don't want every epic monster necessarily being a one-vs-one solo battle for even a Level 20 party (even if I have brief rules for ascending PCs above Level 20 in the book).

I think that's why I lowered the CR of some of the rank and file; yet still technically 'epic' monsters.
 

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