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What Monsters got nerfed from early D&D/AD&D to now/5e

Yardiff

Explorer
2 monsters I can think of off the top of my head that started out pretty tough but are now 'not so much' are the Will 'O the Wisp ans the standard Mummy.

Will 'O the Wisp was a 9d8 HD, AC-8 creature that was immune to all spells except Maze and Magic Missile. Now its 9d4 HD, still has a lot of immunities but is only a CR2 monster for 5e.

The Mummy needed a +3 weapon to do full damage. Now it has resistance to non magical weapons and is considered CR3 for 5e.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
Pretty much most undead (level draining, aging, paralysis), all monsters who are venomous or gaze attacks, rot grubs, and oozes/slimes/molds, monsters with magic resistance, and monster with immunity.

So...pretty much half of ADnD monsters are nerfed by comparison
 

Arilyn

Explorer
I miss things like mummy rot. I always dreaded mummies, now they're just another bag of hp to be killed. I miss monsters that are immune to non magic or need silver. Total immunities made you do some research, made monsters seem scarier. Half damage is boring, you just need to hit more. Yawn.
 

Mycroft

Explorer
Demons and Devils took a hit, especially spellcasting, no blade barrier for the marilith, etc.

There are also some odd omissions, such as the displacer beast lacking a bite attack.

One major thing I do not like is proficiency bonus being based off of CR for monsters, should be hit dice (like PCs, and some NPCs).
 
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Mycroft

Explorer
Otherwise the real winner is obviously the Nymph, who got nerfed to the point of not existing anymore.
Ah, thank you, I had forgotten to convert it to 5th Ed. I have converted most fey that have not already been covered (and celestials, fiends, etc). I also ported back the cold-iron deal from 3rd Ed (for many fey, demons, eladrins, etc).
 

dave2008

Adventurer
One major thing I do not like is proficiency bonus being based off of CR for monsters, should be hit dice (like PCs, and some NPCs).
I think I agree with you here. I am starting to be bothered by the lack of meaning for hit dice (other than HP), and I think I may start using HD for prof. bonus. Thank you for bringing that up!
 
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Mycroft

Explorer
I think I agree with you here. I have started to be bother by the lack of meaning for hit dice (other than HP), and I think I may start using HD for prof. bonus. Thank you for bringing that up!
Right on, I have been using Hit Dice for proficiency bonus for everything for a few years now. CR is way too nebulous and subjective for my tastes. Basically, some monster's attacks and DCs go up by 1 or 2, and a handful go down by 1.
Also, makes designing new monsters easier (or converting), as you bypass the circular reference in the DMG.
 

aco175

Explorer
Monsters took a hit just as much as PCs. The classes have more powers and HP compared to earlier editions, maybe not 4e, and needed to change to be 'balanced' to each other. 2e had +5 weapons to throw around since you had no class powers as a fighter. You needed monsters that only a +5 weapon could hit to make an epic battle.

There is a lot of save or die monster abilities that are gone and I do not have any problems with that. Same with needing +weapons to hit something. 5e changed the rules on needing magic to be competitive, so they needed to change the monsters.
 

Mycroft

Explorer
Monsters took a hit just as much as PCs. The classes have more powers and HP compared to earlier editions, maybe not 4e, and needed to change to be 'balanced' to each other.
It seems 5th Ed characters have the same number of hit points as 3rd Ed (fighter: 1d10 + Con mod per level, etc), though they bumped the wizard and sorcerer to d6, and bard and rogue to d8 (like PF).
 
In general, most monsters have inflated in hit points, chance to hit, and average damage per round across the editions in a steady number inflation. There are exceptions though, as every edition has monkeyed with the balance of monsters (often unnecessarily IMO) so that for example giants and dragons were tougher in 2e than 1e, but arcanodaemons were weaker. Demons were much tougher in 3e than they were in prior editions with balrogs in particular getting a huge boost, while stock humanoids like gnolls or lizardmen were relatively weaker (something reversed by 5e's bounded accuracy).

There is one big change in the game that is going to complicate this and that is that in AD&D 10th level was considered the "top level" and monsters level - the predecessor of today's "Challenge Rating" - went from 1 to 10 (or rather I to X, using roman numerals). So today's CR 20 monster has no real good counterpart since monster level X was the point that things topped out at. You can come up with a different scale to extend monster level upwards (and I have and have used it in places) to get a better feel for what challenge a monster presents to characters above 10th level, but that's a house rule and not RAW.

Still, I think you are pretty solid for both your choices. I don't have my books on hand, but I think Mummy was Monster Level V, and so to drop to CR 3 means that it is in fact relatively weaker. I don't remember Will O' Wisps monster level, but it was a viable end game monster that you could challenge high level characters with so it had to be around Monster Level VIII. To drop to CR 2 represents a massive loss of threat.

Other choices that I think are viable: Shambling Mound, Roper, and Black Pudding. These monsters have all lost relative threat and some special attacks and defenses that made them especially challenging in 1e AD&D. Shambling Mound is no longer resistant to basically all damage, no longer has a death attack, and it's attacks still do basically the same damage even though PC's have vastly more hit points. Roper has lost several special defenses and its attacks still do basically the same damage even though PC's have vastly more hit points. The black pudding is fairly close to its old nasty 1e AD&D self and still eating equipment (which let's face it is one of the scariest things a creature can do), but manages to be a mere CR 4 monster - which says a lot about how 4d8 damage and 10HD has become relatively less scary than it was in 1e AD&D.

UPDATE: The more I think about this, the weirder it gets. Shadow, always a nasty monster if you didn't have a cleric around to turn them, is still basically its old nasty self. It's strength drain was slightly nerfed from 1d6 to 1d4, but if anything it actually hits harder than it used to because it also does significant Necrotic damage. It's otherwise mostly unchanged, and yet the new version which on paper might be worse is only CR 1/2. What does CR even mean in this edition? The Black Pudding is CR4 yet the Purple Worm is a robust CR 15.

I'll also echo the person who said Spectre by noting just how badly nerfed what was once one of the most feared creatures in the game is. This creature is now CR 1. Not only has it lost the real bite of level drain, but for some reason they reduced it's HD. So an encounter with say 6 of these which once would have been terrifying in pretty much any edition is now pretty blasé once you hit the mid-levels.
 
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Monayuris

Explorer
I miss things like mummy rot. I always dreaded mummies, now they're just another bag of hp to be killed. I miss monsters that are immune to non magic or need silver. Total immunities made you do some research, made monsters seem scarier. Half damage is boring, you just need to hit more. Yawn.
Yeah me too.

A general trend in 5E monster design (probably applies to 3E and 4E as well) is the reduction of asymmetric monsters. Monsters with immunities, or special attacks or special requirements existed to provide an alternative approach. Some monsters can't be assaulted directly and need to be handled a different way. These 'puzzle' monsters exist to force players to look at other tactics.

5E puts all monsters into the same approach.... if you just hit it hard enough it will die. There is only one tactic needed to defeat any monster (some make it harder but it still exists).

Likewise the removal of save or die or level drain from the game. These special attacks weren't implemented to make the game unfair, they were implemented to provide an alternative threat to just hit point ablation. It is a means of showing that even the highest level character is vulnerable to death and that thought and preparation is required at any level. Attacks that bypass hit points like this force players to engage with the world and take alternative approaches to defeating or overcoming challenges.
 

Yardiff

Explorer
How did the undead line up in 1e/2e? I think it was something like this.

Skelly/zombie, ghoul/shadow, ghast/wight, wraith, spectre/ghost, vampire, lich. And each step was a little harder.

Did I miss anything? Was shadow higher?
 

Monayuris

Explorer
How did the undead line up in 1e/2e? I think it was something like this.

Skelly/zombie, ghoul/shadow, ghast/wight, wraith, spectre/ghost, vampire, lich. And each step was a little harder.

Did I miss anything? Was shadow higher?
I actually don't know AD&D all that well. I played it but never really ran it. I know B/X much better.

I think in B/X it was:

1HD: Skeletons,
2HD: Zombies, Ghouls*, Shadows**
3HD: Wights***
4HD: Wraiths***
6HD: Spectres***
7HD+: Vampires***

* Ghouls had claw/claw/bite + paralysis which made them tougher.
** Shadows in B/X aren't considered undead and can't be Turned.
*** All the higher HD undead had Level Drain

Undead are absolutely mortifying in B/X. This makes Clerics so valuable. In B/X, Clerics get Turn Undead at 1st level (but no spells), and they can Turn Undead at will.
 
Demons and Devils took a hit, especially spellcasting, no blade barrier for the marilith, etc.

There are also some odd omissions, such as the displacer beast lacking a bite attack.

One major thing I do not like is proficiency bonus being based off of CR for monsters, should be hit dice (like PCs, and some NPCs).
I have found you can add a couple of levels of warlock to most fiends without changing the CR on the off chance that the fight goes long (and I feel the need to spice things up) or the good chance that the PC's will try to artillery pound the fiend that lacks a range attack. In terms of CR, you are probably fine for offensive CR as long as you keep the level of warlock at or below the CR of the fiend. If you add hitpoints to the fiend like you would for a PC getting levels of warlock, you can mess up your defensive CR pretty easily, so I recommend not adding them, or stopping when you would move up to the next CR level.
 
How did the undead line up in 1e/2e? I think it was something like this.

Skelly/zombie, ghoul/shadow, ghast/wight, wraith, spectre/ghost, vampire, lich. And each step was a little harder.
That's pretty close. Mummy was between wraith and spectre. Ghost was between vampire and lich.

The thing about shadow that made it such a problem is that its a attack had a quality that I describe in my writings as "level invariant", meaning that the normal protections that a player expects from being higher level like more AC and more hit points were in some sense bypassed by the attack. A ghoul would get relatively weaker over time because you'd have better AC and better saving throws. But the shadow, which is attacking your strength which doesn't change much as you level up, has an attack which would remain just about as deadly no matter what level you were. So while you might kill shadows more easily as you leveled up, you still had to respect them and still had reason to fear them.

Thinking about this a bit more, let me put in a different way something someone further up the thread has already said, and that is that I think one of the things 5e has gotten rid of to some extent is level invariant attacks. To a large extent attacks in 5e don't bypass defenses or if they do they don't bypass them as much and the cure tends to be simply be a "long rest". Monsters have gotten rather more uniform and have relatively fewer strengths compared to other monsters and require relatively less alteration of strategy. To replace those level invariant attacks, 5e simply reduces the ability of the PC to do things like improve AC so that the PC cannot as easily escape the danger presented at earlier levels. And in compensation, pretty much everything comes down to a hit point race so that if you want something to have higher CR really that just comes down to more hit points and a higher expected damage per round.
 
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Arilyn

Explorer
I have found that the monster books Kobold Press released for 5e have a wider variety of interesting and challenging abilitues, while staying within the 5e philosophy. They have been very useful for spicing up my 5e game. A lot of them seem a bit on the tough side for their CR, but maybe we've just gotten too complacent with less scary 5e critters.

The books are The Creature Codex and Tome of Beasts. They're massive, minimal fluff, but full of great, flavourful monsters. I don't usually get too excited about bestiaries, but these are good.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
There are also some odd omissions, such as the displacer beast lacking a bite attack.
It didn't have one in the 1e MM.

A general trend in 5E monster design (probably applies to 3E and 4E as well) is the reduction of asymmetric monsters. Monsters with immunities, or special attacks or special requirements existed to provide an alternative approach. Some monsters can't be assaulted directly and need to be handled a different way. These 'puzzle' monsters exist to force players to look at other tactics.
Nod. Those sorts of designs (spells & traps as well as monsters) caught some flack as "rock/paper/scissors" or as being tests of player knowledge.

Monsters took a hit just as much as PCs. The classes have more powers and HP compared to earlier editions, and needed to change to be 'balanced' to each other.
Sweeping comparisons of 5e to 'earlier editions' are a little iffy, since 3e & 4e were very different from the TSR era, and notably different from (even antithetical to) eachother in some ways. Hit points, for instance, peaked in 3.x, with CON potentially going very high, CON mod adding to every HD (retroactively) and every class getting HD at every level. 5e might sound similar, and it is probably second-highest in terms of PC hps, but it's CON mods top out at +5, so a 20th level barbarian with high CON is 'only' going to have around 220 hps (OK 340 if it had max hp), 3e you could conceivably get double that CON bonus, so add another 100 hps (before raging). But, given the same CON for whatever reason, 5e characters'll have the same hps as 3e, and some classes get the bump in HD size. Number of special abilities in terms of spells known was always pretty crazy, and has come down some in 5e because there are simply fewer spells out (though not as far as 4e), while classes like the fighter have gotten a boost relative to the TSR years in each WotC ed (11 bonus feats; 3 class features & 16 exploits; 2 bonus feats & 3 encounter specials & Combat style & 4 archetype features + either spellcasting or 6 maneuvers or just better features one hopes*)













* should be obvious which of those is from the 'simplest' fighter. ;P
 

Bacon Bits

Explorer
I miss things like mummy rot. I always dreaded mummies, now they're just another bag of hp to be killed. I miss monsters that are immune to non magic or need silver. Total immunities made you do some research, made monsters seem scarier. Half damage is boring, you just need to hit more. Yawn.
I remember in 3e we came across a crypt full of mummies. Mummies in 3e are kind of nasty. An aura of fear that causes paralysis. Mummy rot. Everyone was really worried, and then we realized we had a paladin. Paladins in 3e are immune to fear, and immune to disease, including supernatural and magical diseases. In 3e, mummies are just tough zombies to a paladin.
 

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