There is a problem in 4e where, at high levels, monster damage output ceases to be scary.
This is my attempt to make a system that makes high level monster damage output sufficient to scare high level players.
Here is the backing mathematics. Skip if uninterested.
I started out with the idea that a threatening monster should be able to take down a target with defender-level HP and low enough defences to be hit 50% of the time in about 8 rounds.
Anything below that, and the monster really isn't a damage dealing threat.
This gave me the equation (Level+4)*3 average DPR.
I then turned this into a damage per hit.
Soldiers have higher defences and higher to hit, so they should do less damage on average (even after taking into the higher to hit).
Skirmishers and Artillery generate threat through damage.
Controllers have more status effects, so should do less damage (probably similar to soldier damage per hit).
Brutes need a huge boost to damage per hit, because of their low accuracy, in order to keep up with skirmisher damage.
Next, to make an easy system, I need to account for encounter powers (and the like).
So I split the damage budget between at-will and encounter powers. To keep soldiers at-will from being a joke, soldiers get a lower budget for encounter powers.
I made the system point-based, with a chart to turn points into damage expressions. Instead of the DMG "group 3 levels together", I grouped the levels geometrically -- each group of levels is about 25%-30% more damage per hit than the previous one. (Player HP doesn't go up as fast at higher levels, so damage expressions don't have to evolve as fast).
Using some math mojo, I worked out that elite damage output should be about 1.5 times normal monster damage output. However, elite brutes shouldn't get quite so much, and soldiers need a little extra, to keep things sane.
Solos end up at 3.0 times normal monster damage output, after accounting for improved focus fire from a solo compared to a normal. Once again, Soldiers get more than 3x, and Brutes less, to keep things sane. (in effect, the extra 2.0 should be closer to baseline monster damage, instead of solo/brute).
For area damage, if you compare what happens when fighting 5 opponents and concentrate fire compared to doing area damage, damage on secondary targets is worth about 50% of concentrated fire damage. And as that is easy math...
[4e] Monster Damage Points -- a system
This is an attempt to make an easy to use monster damage balancing system.
Each number gets a number of points. Soldiers get fewer, Brutes get more.
You spend these points on buying up your standard attack, or buying encounter attack powers.
At-Will Encounter Budget
Soldier: Low 4-9 pts
Controller: Low 14-20 pts
Artillery: Medium 9-15 pts
Skirmisher: Medium 9-15 pts
Brute: High 15-20 pts
At-Will Encounter Budget
Soldier: Medium 10-20 pts
Controller: Medium 25-35 pts
Artillery: High 20-30 pts
Skirmisher: High 20-30 pts
Brute: OMG 30-40 pts
Each point above represents roughly the same amount of damage. The amount of damage it concretely represents varies with monster level.
Point ranges for encounter damage points:
Use the lower end of the point range if you are at the lower end of your level range, and the upper end if you are at the upper end. If you are the middle... guess.
Creatures with an abnormal amount of annoyance abilities should have even more points deducted, or at-will damage lowered.
Boosting/lowering at-will attack:
To move from Low to Medium damage, it costs 6 encounter damage points -- or, you regain 6 by dropping from Medium to Low.
In essence, take the difference in value, and multiply by 6.
If you gain a second at-will attack that can be used with the first, you have to pay 6 times the value for it (ie, a 1/round minor attack, or an attack that does a double standard attack). Generally, you only pay for the "best" standard at-will attack (the others are free). So two "low-at-will" attacks that can be done on the same standard action is as good as an "OMG" at-will attack (as 3+3=6).
High end monsters (elites and solos, and sometimes brutes) should avoid having a basic attack that is as strong as their strongest at-will.
Buying per-encounter uses of a power:
For each time (estimated) you use a power in a fight, it costs the "Value" row in encounter damage points. Powers that are standard actions get a discount equal to the value of the at-will power it would displace.
An encounter power with recharge 6 is x2 cost, with recharge 45 is x3 cost.
Each target past the first in a power adds +50% to the power's cost. For area powers, estimate how many targets it would attack.
If the powers target is out of control of the monster, only charge 75% of the cost.
Controllers should have lots of them, soldiers should have some kind of stickiness. If a monster is a status effect beast... reduce its budget and damage abilities. Note that higher level monsters are expected to have more status effects 'free of charge'.
Alpha Strike Issues:
Avoid too much alpha strike. If you make a monster with wiff damage output and all of its damage in a single target non-situational encounter attack power, it will be too strong. Ideally damage should be spread out over multiple rounds.
Attacks and Defences:
Use DMG guidelines.
Each +1/-1 off the guidelines increases the damage value of the power by +/- 10%.
A monster with +1 AC over the standard for the role, or an average NAD 1 point higher, should have about 1/2 a level taken off it damage-wise.
Note that using the above rules makes Brutes an actual threat. They will lock down defenders because if the defenders don't mark them, everyone else goes splat against them.
The balance point of the above is aimed at monsters that where already a threat, which is probably high-balling monsters from many WotC suppliments. It isn't as strong as the fire beetle and the other legendary TPK monsters, however.
What I find interesting is how weak high level monsters end up being. I mean, low level monsters actually approximate my system pretty well.
Further edits coming (mostly to clarify things). After that, I'm going to post some "redone" WotC monsters using the above system.
My original attempt to do this was based off of raw damage budget balancing. While it wasn't bad for analyzing existing monsters, making monsters (or fixing them) with it was a serious headache.
This approach -- with points that you spend on powers, and the amount of damage it does that scales with level -- should make it easy to do.
Note that the ranges I picked for encounter budgets are not arbitrary.
Every 2 windows is a 60% increase in damage output. This prevented the annoyance of narrow windows at high levels, and wide windows at low levels.
The damage expressions are based off of the average level (and how much damage that monster should do), with the windows being about 15% of that (they really should be closer to 25%, now that I think about it... I'll fix it later, mayhap).
Young Red Dragon. L 7 solo soldier
Target attack: 14 vs AC, 12 vs NAD
Budget: OMG at-will / 55 encounter points
Actual defences: +2 AC, +6 fort, +3 reflex, +2 will.
Rather ridiculous. Lower NADs by 2 and AC by 1. Reduce budget to 40 EPs.
Lacks sufficient stickyness. Boost budget to 45 EPs.
At-will: 2d8+8 (OMG:6) base. Split into two blows (1d8+4, Low:3) for free.
Upgrade each blow to (1d12+7 High:5) for 2*2*6 = 24 points
Each claw does 1d12+7, or 2d6+6 (which is nearly identical)
(at-will cost is 10)
Tail strike: ~2x per combat. Uncontrolled target. 6 pts. 1d10+6
Breath Weapon: 4 uses, 3 of which replace at-will. 30 discount from at-will replacement. 45 pts.
Each attacks ~3 targets. x2 cost. Miss half for x1.5. Bloodied breath is semi-uncontrolled target for a small discount. 3.0*3 + 2.5 = 11.5 total multiplier.
45/11.5 = 3.91 each, which is close enough to 1d10+6. Change die to 1d12+5.
Bite attack: Less damage than claws. As a soldier, there is some justification for a high damage basic attack. So 2d6+6+2d6 fire is acceptable.
So, as a net we have:
AC: 24, Fort 23, Reflex 20, Will 19
[M] Bite: +14 vs AC, 2d6+2 +2d6 fire, reach 2
[M] Claw: +14 vs AC, 2d6+6 reach 2
Double Attack: Make two claw attacks
Tail Strike (imm. reaction to flanker): reach 2, +12 vs Reflex
1d10+6, push 1 square
Breath Weapon: Recharge 56, Fire
Close blast 5, +12 vs Reflex, 1d12+5 fire damage, miss half.
Bloodied Breath: free, first bloodied, encounter, fire
Breath weapon recharges and is used immediately
Frightful Presence: unchanged.
Finally, we would add some "anti-lockdown" abilities to the solo. Giving +1 AC and +2 to all NADs instead of anti-lockdown would be reasonable.
The only difference is that the above dragon deals 1 more point of fire damage on a breath weapon. So it appears I hit the spot (or they did) for a Young Red Dragon.
Next, I'm going to do an older red dragon, with the goal of seeing if they scale them right in the monster manual.
Ancient Red Dragon: level 30
Low end of a level range, so OMG base damage and 40 budget.
In this case, we'll trade the increased defences for a lack of anti-lockdown abilities strait off (we ended up doing it last time, in effect).
At-will attack: bite is 46 (including fire), 2x claw is 50 (in pre existing monster). So bite is 'free'.
Base claw under my system is level 30 OMG at-will, or 4d12+31. Split into to, that is 2d12+16 or so (higher than book red dragon).
Dropping to high makes it 2d10+12, which is a tad too low. So we'll keep it high.
Tail Strike: x2 per combat, uncontrolled, for a x1.5 multiplier. We'll make it 4d10+25 and spend 7.5 points on it. (+13 damage over book)
Immolate Foe: replaces at-will attack (6 ea). We want that 15 ongoing damage, which costs about 15 damage at this point (players have lots of ways to save against ongoing damage, at low levels it might be worth x2). Free is 4d12+31. Drop dice to d10s gives us 4d10+20, and pays for the ongoning damage. 0 points spent.
32.5 left to spend on breath weapon.
Breath Weapon: 3 uses that replace standard attacks for 50.5 budget.
3 targets each, miss for half is x3. 3 targets for bloodied, slightly uncontrolld is x2.5, for a total of x11.5. 50.5/11.5 =~ 4.4.
So between 3d12+19 and 4d10+25 damage on breath weapon. Call it 4d12+15.
The "remove fire resistance" and "stun everyone" is gravy on a level 30 solo, if a bit short.
End result: I ended up replicating the level 30 solo with similar damage rolls, and higher bonuses to those damage rolls.
In short, the system passed the "right ballpark" test. I'm going to have to test it against normal monsters (including notoriously over-damaging ones like fire beetles), and MM2 monsters (solo, elite and normal).
NAD total: -5, or -1.67 on average. That's worth a bit of a budget bump to 37 pts.
At-will is the triple threat.
1 encounter use of breath, and 1 free extra use when bloodied.
Triple threat is a dragon bite (main), and then a secondary Lion bite and a Gore.
Let's make the triple threat a high/medium/low attack. the medium/low attack, as they are on secondary targets, are discounted 50%.
5+4/2+3/2 = 8.5, which is +2.5 over the standard 6, costing 15 encounter budget. This leaves 22 for the breath weapon
Breath is a blast 5 (so 3 targets, or x2 cost). We get 8.5 because we are replacing an at-will with a breath attack, bringing our budget up to 30.5. We divide by 2 (3 targets) and 2 again (2 uses) for 7.6 budget per breath.
3d8+14 is 6, to 3d8+19 is 8. We are most of the way to 8, so call it 3d8+18.
Ongoing 10 is probably worth 15 damage at this point. So 3d8+3.
So the new chimera:
Lion Bite: (basic melee)
2d8+10 @ +18 vs AC
2d6+7 (plus push/prone) @ +19 vs AC charge
2d10+12 @ +18 vs AC
Lion Bite, Dragon Bite and Ram Butt against 3 different targets.
Close Blast 3, +16 vs Reflex, 2d8+3 fire and ongoing 10 (save ends)
Free recharge and use of Breath when first bloodied
+2 damage on Breath, +5 on Dragon Bite, +3 on Lion Bite, +2 on Ram's Butt.
All and all, a non-trivial upgrade. But in the same ballpark.
Frenzy: when bloodied (x2), replaces bite (10 free).
Close Burst 3 (4 targets, x2.5) = x5.
Bite attack (5 x 5 = 25). 15 spent.
81 pts left.
This monster is 81 points under budget. A serious joke.
Step 1: Let's up defences
Still low reflex/will, but not a joke.
Step 2: Up bite damage.
4d12+25 ongoing 25
This is Limited Low damage. (8)
Frenzies are ~4 bites for Bite damage that replace bites. 4 bites is 20 pts, minus the 8 bite it replaces, and 2 bites is 24 pts.
3 uses of Fury puts each Fury at 18.6 pts, plus the bite it replaces. That is way too much.
So let's turn Trample into a move action (!). It hits ~3 targets (x2). It provokes OAs (ouch), which gives it a discount (say 3 discount per target). We'll set the damage to OMG: 4d12+31 (6), 6 uses per combat (at-will), 15 points spent.
41 points left.
Let's make it "Make a bite and a rend on one target, and a tail slap on two other targets."
3 bites. 3 rends. 6 secondary tail slaps.
With rend and slap damage being about the same, and spending on +1 accuracy:
Rend is +32 vs Fortitude (reach 3), 4d12+25, and -5 penalty to AC (next turn)
Slap is +32 vs Reflex (reach 5), 5d12+25, push 4 and knock prone.
So, the reborn Tarrasque that Doesn't Suck:
AC 43 Fort 49 Reflex 40 Will 38
Speed 10 Burrow 8 Climb 8
basic melee Bite: Reach 3, +34 vs AC, 4d12+25 ongoing 25 (save ends)
melee Fury of Tarrasque: Recharge 56.
Make a Bite and a Rend attack on one target, and a Tail Slap on 2 other targets.
Rend: +32 vs Fortitude, 4d12+25, -5 penalty to AC until end of Tarrasques next turn
Tail Slap: +32 vs Reflex reach 5, 5d12+25, push 4 squares and knocked prone.
Trample: Move action. Move your speed over creatures smaller than you. This provkes OAs. Attack each creatures you move over for 5d12+25 damage.
Frenzy: when bloodied. Make a bite attack against all enemies in burst 3.
This monster is way scarier than the standard tarrasque.