Level Up (A5E)How do I "damage cost" this ability?

FuzzyBunny

Villager
Hi all,

I'm looking to scale down a stat block, which I won't reproduce here because it's not part of any SRD. It doesn't easily fit the monster creation guides in the A5E MM, which is what is making it difficult to cost. This is a (Recharge 6) ability, so likely to only be used once per encounter. The text is something like this:

Each creature grappled takes 12 bludgeoning damage. All other creatures within 15 feet make a DC Y Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 12 bludgeoning damage per grappled creature, successful save for half damage.

For context, the creature's "basic attack" is 2 attacks, each of which deal 9 damage and can grapple and restrain a creature, dealing 3 damage each turn while the creature is grappled and restrained.

What makes this one tricky is that 1) a grappled creature gets no save against the special attack; if it's grappled, it hits and 2) the area of effect damage increases for each grappled creature - "On a failed save, a creature takes 12 bludgeoning damage per grappled creature."

Mathematically, it really only makes sense to use this special attack if you have 2 PCs grappled - so 12 unavoidable damage per PC = 24 damage minimum. But ideally, you'd have 2 PCs grappled and a third PC who can get hit by the area of effect attack: 12 unavoidable damage x 2 PCs = 24 unavoidable damage, and 24 avoidable damage against the third PC in the area of effect (12 x 2 PCs grappled) = 48 damage. My instinct is to split this down the middle and cost it at 36 damage. But since half of this damage has no save or attack role (assuming the PCs are already grappled), I think it makes sense to cost it as 48 damage per round.

I realize I could make a guesstimate and it would probably be fine. But it's more fun for me to try to understand the math and the logic behind it, if someone else would relish the challenge of taking a stab at it!

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W'rkncacnter

Hero
the damage budget assumes all attacks hit and all saves are failed, so by your calculations it'd come out to 48 damage - however, i'd argue this ability qualifies as conditional damage (if you are grappled you take x, and other creatures take yx where y is the number of creatures currently grappled [assuming the creature can only grappled 2 creatures max]), and conditional damage is counted as being halved for the purposes of damage budget (because it assumes the conditions can only be fully met 50% of the time).

edit: actually, it might technically be more correct to only assume 1 creature is grappled and 1 other gets hit, in which case it'd be 24 damage if not conditional and 12 damage if so.

FuzzyBunny

Villager
the damage budget assumes all attacks hit and all saves are failed
This is true, but I figured that this was a simplifying assumption that can only be made assuming spell save DCs/attack modifiers are within a given range - which means in reality, we can't make that assumption if the odds of success are significantly higher - and in this case the odds of hitting (against the grappled creature) are 100%.

i'd argue this ability qualifies as conditional damage
I thought about this as well. I understood the 50% conditional damage modifier to only be in place on attacks that would do damage otherwise: i.e. an attack does 10 damage, or 13 damage if a target is prone. In this situation, the attack can't even take place without being grappled.

edit: actually, it might technically be more correct to only assume 1 creature is grappled and 1 other gets hit, in which case it'd be 24 damage if not conditional and 12 damage if so.
Hmmm...I'm not following. Can you explain your reasoning here?

W'rkncacnter

Hero
This is true, but I figured that this was a simplifying assumption that can only be made assuming spell save DCs/attack modifiers are within a given range - which means in reality, we can't make that assumption if the odds of success are significantly higher - and in this case the odds of hitting (against the grappled creature) are 100%.
i think you're overthinking it.

edit: let me clarify why i think this - for one, i think it's assuming a worst case scenario (i.e. a player gets obliterated), not that certain numbers are within a certain range. for another, if the creature has 2 creatures grappled, and you compare the damage the grappled creatures take to the damage the creatures that make the save take - they're effectively automatically succeeding on the save. moreover, if only 1 creature is grappled, that creature is effectively automatically failing that save. i'd argue this balances out well enough for our purposes.
I thought about this as well. I understood the 50% conditional damage modifier to only be in place on attacks that would do damage otherwise: i.e. an attack does 10 damage, or 13 damage if a target is prone. In this situation, the attack can't even take place without being grappled.
and 50% of the time you can assume only one creature is grappled - (24/2)+(24/2)=12+12=24.
Hmmm...I'm not following. Can you explain your reasoning here?
the monster building rules don't specify how many creatures are assumed to be hit, which would imply that any given attack is only expected to ever hit 1 creature and that the damage per round is based off of that - however, given the way this is written, it seems as if for the attack to be possible at all one creature must be grappled and one creature must have to be in range to make the save for the ability to activate at all, which implies a minimum of 2 targets. hence my assessment.

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FuzzyBunny

Villager
I am only following your first paragraph I didn't consider that the two grappled creatures are effectively making a saving throw automatically, so I think treating it as conditional probably makes sense.

One thing I neglected to bring up is that this seems like it should be treated as AoE in addition to conditional. So if the creature is CR 4 and its DPR is 25, that converts to 50 conditional damage. It costs 10 damage to do 7 AoE damage, which means this attack would do 35 damage to everyone affected - but that seems like way too much. But costing this as 24 damage, enough to be used as a every-turn attack for a CR 4 creature sounds right to me, although the A5e rules are not pointing me in that direction.

W'rkncacnter

Hero
One thing I neglected to bring up is that this seems like it should be treated as AoE in addition to conditional. So if the creature is CR 4 and its DPR is 25, that converts to 50 conditional damage. It costs 10 damage to do 7 AoE damage, which means this attack would do 35 damage to everyone affected - but that seems like way too much.
it's a recharge 6 ability, so A. you don't apply the AoE penalty (because the AoE penalty assumes the AoE can be used every turn, which it clearly can't, being a recharge), and B. it's allowed to punch above the DPR limit (although yeah, 50 is excessive here). you could simply ignore the conditional damage section for this ability.
But costing this as 24 damage, enough to be used as a every-turn attack for a CR 4 creature sounds right to me, although the A5e rules are not pointing me in that direction.
well, it's not an every-turn attack...unless you make it one.

but yeah, this is hard, lmao

FuzzyBunny

Villager
Haha, yeah it's tricky. I think I just need to eyeball it. Although looking at my copy of MM, I have to quibble because I don't see anything about the AoE penalty not applying to recharge abilities - just that recharge abilities can exceed the budget.

W'rkncacnter

Hero
Haha, yeah it's tricky. I think I just need to eyeball it.
yeah, that might be the call here.
Although looking at my copy of MM, I have to quibble because I don't see anything about the AoE penalty not applying to recharge abilities - just that recharge abilities can exceed the budget.
the area attacks section is as follows (bolded for emphasis):
A hellhound’s breath, a cleric’s blade barrier, and abalor’s aura are area effects that can affect multiple opponents. If a monster can use an area attack every turn, reduce the damage it deals to about 70% compared to a normal attack.
recharge prevents an attack from being used every turn, so the damage reduction doesn't apply.

FuzzyBunny

Villager
You're right, I do see that now! But strangely, it then gives the firebird example, saying it can do 70% of 32 damage (22 damage) because it's area of effect. Then, in the next section on limited-use abilities, it says in order to bring the damage back up to 32, you have to reduce the damage on the other rounds (rather than it being enough to be limited use). That seems like an inconsistency.

W'rkncacnter

Hero
But strangely, it then gives the firebird example, saying it can do 70% of 32 damage (22 damage) because it's area of effect. Then, in the next section on limited-use abilities, it says in order to bring the damage back up to 32, you have to reduce the damage on the other rounds (rather than it being enough to be limited use). That seems like an inconsistency.
yeah, that is weird.

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