D&D 5E Need Opinions on Relative Strength of this Feature

Because WOTC often does such a horrible job with the design of monsters, I modify them to something that is more thematic and of the appropriate power level. It also stops players who are also DM's from meta-gaming at my table. The players at my table are aware I run a tough game, and combat with BBEG's often end in death, as I am a 1e DM at heart.

I am looking at the CR 8 Deathlock in the original Mord's, and am buffing it/ giving it appropriate spells. I have taken the Life Drain feature from the CR 3 Deathlock Wight, increased its potency, and added it to the Mastermind. Clearly, my Mastermind is going to be tougher than the CR 8 in the book. But I would like opinions on one particular feature, as to how powerful this is. I would not have chars lower than level 8 face off against this BBEG. I realize that I am only providing one of the features of this modified BBEG, and operating in a vacuum is not as useful as the entire picture, but here it is anyway:

Life Drain. Magical Range Attack: +9 to hit, range 30 ft., one creature. Hit: 26 (6d6 + 5) necrotic damage. The target must succeed on a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or its hit point
maximum is reduced by an amount equal to the damage taken. These HP can be restored with Greater Restoration or the equivalent. The target dies if this effect reduces its hit point maximum to 0. A humanoid slain by this attack rises 24 hours later as a zombie under the deathlock's control, unless the humanoid is restored to life or its body is destroyed. The deathlock can have no more than twelve zombies under its control at one time.
 

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the Jester

Legend
It's just damage, for purposes of figuring out its CR. You don't worry about 'reduce hit point maximum' when evaluating a monster's offensive CR. That said, if the only way to restore the hps is via greater restoration, make sure your group has access to it!
 

It's just damage, for purposes of figuring out its CR. You don't worry about 'reduce hit point maximum' when evaluating a monster's offensive CR. That said, if the only way to restore the hps is via greater restoration, make sure your group has access to it!
I always assume that spells like Greater Restoration will be available, if the party travels far enough, and is willing to pay the price, be it in coin and/or tasks.
 

JThursby

Adventurer
You're getting into very tricky territory with tweaking monsters like this. The first thing you should know with monster building in 5e is that the DMG guidelines are lies. Monsters built for publication consistently have much lower HP and much higher attack bonuses than the guidelines would lead you to believe. They also deal less damage on average. Having resistances has no practical impact on their HP. The only statistic that the DMG guidelines accurately predict in the MM is Armor Class. Then there is the ongoing revision of old material into the new core books coming out in a few years. From what we know about monster changes in Multiverse the changes are skewing towards nerfed higher level monsters, especially casters.

So let's whiteroom this attack, ignoring what the books say about balance and just drawing our own conclusions from observing published monsters of a similar CR.

+9 will hit on 7's against AC 16, the lowest AC we can expect from mid level PCs like Monks and unarmored Casters. It will hit on 11's vs AC 20, which is full plate + shield. So the band of accuracy we should expect without resource expenditure is 50%-70% accuracy. That's hitting pretty frequently. The only CR 8 creature I can find that shares a +9 to hit is the Frost Giant, whose only gimmick is making attacks. Most other creatures have a +7 at this CR. Since there is an obnoxious rider on this attack that drains HP, I would recommend lowering the accuracy to +7 to bring it in line with other CR 8 monsters. Similarly, I would reduce the DC on the HP drain to 15 for the same reasons.

Greater Restoration is a 5th level spell. Most campaigns end before this spell is even available to cast. I would add that a long rest can restore the hit point maximum unless you want to force your PCs to find an NPC to give them back their HP maximum.

The damage roll is in line with monsters of this CR. That can stay the same.

Most monsters of this CR are getting two attacks off. You will want to include a Multiattack option that allows this attack to be used twice.
 

It's just damage, for purposes of figuring out its CR. You don't worry about 'reduce hit point maximum' when evaluating a monster's offensive CR. That said, if the only way to restore the hps is via greater restoration, make sure your group has access to it!
This is both right and a terrible way of doing it, so is interesting.

For the purposes of the specific encounter, that's mostly true, except if a PC gets hit by it enough to reduce their HP total to zero it will instantly kill them. Which makes it a lot MORE dangerous than just normal damage, because D&D 5E is calibrated on the assumption that you can hit zero and get healed back up.

Also, every single fight thereafter until they get greater restoration is effectively a higher CR, perhaps almost as if the party was down an entire PC. So you'll need to recalculate all of those. If you don't, you've just created a situation with an entirely luck-based extremely murderous situation, which won't be fun or engaging, and will probably just make the party back out of the adventure if they get enough unlucky rolls.
 

I never worry about a NPCs CR. To me they are near useless.

To your question, the power of this NPC is significant. But as a BBEG and not just another mook, it sounds good. It will force the party to seek Greater Restoration when they finish this fight, so if the BBEG is at the end of the adventure, that works and gives them a motivation for the next part of the campaign (possibly).

So, to me it's more about a plot/story device rather than a combat challenge (at least for this fight).
 

You're getting into very tricky territory with tweaking monsters like this. The first thing you should know with monster building in 5e is that the DMG guidelines are lies. Monsters built for publication consistently have much lower HP and much higher attack bonuses than the guidelines would lead you to believe. They also deal less damage on average. Having resistances has no practical impact on their HP. The only statistic that the DMG guidelines accurately predict in the MM is Armor Class. Then there is the ongoing revision of old material into the new core books coming out in a few years. From what we know about monster changes in Multiverse the changes are skewing towards nerfed higher level monsters, especially casters.

So let's whiteroom this attack, ignoring what the books say about balance and just drawing our own conclusions from observing published monsters of a similar CR.

+9 will hit on 7's against AC 16, the lowest AC we can expect from mid level PCs like Monks and unarmored Casters. It will hit on 11's vs AC 20, which is full plate + shield. So the band of accuracy we should expect without resource expenditure is 50%-70% accuracy. That's hitting pretty frequently. The only CR 8 creature I can find that shares a +9 to hit is the Frost Giant, whose only gimmick is making attacks. Most other creatures have a +7 at this CR. Since there is an obnoxious rider on this attack that drains HP, I would recommend lowering the accuracy to +7 to bring it in line with other CR 8 monsters. Similarly, I would reduce the DC on the HP drain to 15 for the same reasons.

Greater Restoration is a 5th level spell. Most campaigns end before this spell is even available to cast. I would add that a long rest can restore the hit point maximum unless you want to force your PCs to find an NPC to give them back their HP maximum.

The damage roll is in line with monsters of this CR. That can stay the same.

Most monsters of this CR are getting two attacks off. You will want to include a Multiattack option that allows this attack to be used twice.
Keep in mind the comment I made in my OP. The minimum level chars would be when facing this would be 8th level. A 9th level char is needed for Greater Restoration. So it is entirely likely the party would have the spell, or know "someone" who does.

As for the multi-attacks, this is just one option for its attack function. This is another one, taken from the existing stat block. But I bumped the monster from a 10th level caster per page 129 of Mord's, to 11th level, thereby giving the monster 3 attacks as opposed to 2 with Grave Bolt. (see below). This Life Drain option would be more of a coup de grace against a badly damaged char, as various spells or the Grave Bolt would be likely a better option for pure damage dealing.

Is this a CR8 anymore? Not by a long shot. But through my experience as a DM I know that the CR rating system falls apart at very low (sub 1) and mid-level (CR 7ish) when comparing party strength to a matched CR monster.

Grave Bolts. Ranged Spell Attack: + 9 to hit, range 120 ft., 3 attacks. Hit: 18 (4d8) necrotic damage. If the target is Large or smaller, it must succeed on a DC 17 Strength saving throw or become restrained as shadowy tendrils wrap around it for 1 minute. A restrained target can use its action to repeat the saving throw, ending the effect on itself on a success.
 



aco175

Legend
I feel the DC17 Con save is a bit high for 8th level PCs. Might be ok for the fighter with around +7 to Con, but the non-Con builds like casters and rogues will likely have only +2-+4 here. Like having Dex saves that only rogues could make or Wisdom saves that need the cleric to save since everyone else is held because the DC is too high. A better save DC should be about 14.
 



CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It was. But given that this thread is posted in the 5e area, and given that the OP was clearly objecting to the 5e monster design, I would certainly argue that the 4e design could be put forward as a suitable alternative.
In that case, I'd go with my favorite WotC-era monster design, or at least the one I've played the most (3.XE). For all its faults, templates were an extremely handy way to modify on the fly. I really miss templates.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
"HP maximum reduction" is almost entirely fluff as far as CR is concerned; what matters is the damage. Rounding error.

+12 damage per round sustained over at least 3 rounds, +36 damage one round (both before factoring in accuracy), 32 HP, +4 AC, +4 to hit/save DCs are all worth about 1 CR.

If you are replacing an other ability, it is the change that matters. So if the monster's best option was a multiattack for +11 to hit/3d6+10 damage, that is 41 damage per round. If you add in a new ability that does less than 41 damage, it is a wash. If you add in a 1/encounter ability that does 41+36 = 77 damage average, that is +1 CR.

If that 77 damage ability is a medium sized AOE and save for half, you'd double it for the AOE (to 154) then throw another +50% at it for save for half (231), subtract the 41 (190) then divide by 36 (5); that ability is worth about +5 CR, give or take.

It gets harder when you throw in stuff like status conditions, but for basic damage it isn't hard to adapt CR.

(be careful of HP multipliers from immunites, however. A creature that is resistant to everything gets 1 CR for every 16 HP, not 32, as their HP are effectively doubled.)
 

delericho

Legend
In that case, I'd go with my favorite WotC-era monster design, or at least the one I've played the most (3.XE). For all its faults, templates were an extremely handy way to modify on the fly. I really miss templates.
Fair enough.

That wouldn't be my choice, and actually 4e itself wouldn't be my choice either - the ideal would probably be to take the best practices from everything to date and build something new incorporating those benefits.

(An awful lot of people found templates fiddly to use. Personally I felt they had strengths, especially when allowing for some really niche combinations, but they definitely needed prep time to use. In particular, I really enjoyed Green Ronin's "Advanced Bestiary"... in theory. Alas, I don't think I ever got to actually use it.)

For me, the really big strength of the 4e design was in making the various monster roles explicit, and also the Minion/Elite/Solo thing. 5e has emulated some of that (especially with legendary actions and lair actions), but a lot of it does represent a step backwards. As with so many things, 5e took a big step back from 4e, even where that edition had real strengths.
 

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