Friday, June 11, 2010

Changes in Monster Manual 3: Accurate brutes, more damage

UPDATE (12-06-10) - After looking at the monster stats from the official MM3 previews, it looks like the damage increase is even greater than announced. The difference seems to be about 50% more at Paragon Tier, and up to 66% at epic. I've provided a table with the data below.

Monster Manual 3 is coming out soon - and, in fact some stores already have it. Judging from the comments of the lucky owners of early copies, this is going to be an even better book than the previous two in the series. To begin with, there's the revised format for monster stat blocks (presented here and commented here, though both links are sadly for DDI subscribers only), which presents monster information in a much more clear way - this is quite a blessing for the DM, as it greatly reduces the chance of forgetting a crucial ability. But probably the most significant change is one that affects players and DMs alike: an overall increase in monster damage.

I can't give first hand information as I still don't have Monster Manual 3, so the details will have to wait for a future post. What we know, for know, is that damage from all monsters (except maybe those in heroic tier?) is going up by 30-40%, and the balance between monster roles will be shifting, with Brutes (typically seen as the weakest type of monsters) now making attacks at normal accuracy (rather than at a -2, compared to other roles).

The source is as official as it gets: Greg Bilsland, D&D game editor and one of the authors of MM3, has commented the issue on an interview at Critical Hits, as well as his own blog. Here are some of the highlights:

"...we increased monster damage output by about 30-40%."
"...most older monsters up until about level 10 are performing just fine. It’s only around paragon tier that the damage really needs some adjustments."
"We reexamined the various roles and ended up adjusting brute accuracy back to baseline"

Without having seen the changes in play, I think they made a good call. Our campaing is still finishing heroic tier, but we're already starting to feel a decrease in monster threat. And I recently posted an analysis showing that the time it takes for a monster to kill a PC more than doubles between level 1 and 30. The greater monster damage will be a change for the good, particularly if they make the increase proportional to level, that is, you add more damage percentage-wise at paragon and epic tier. And anything that makes brutes more balanced with other roles (and not downright unplayable against higher level parties) is very welcome.

Some Tentative Formulas.

A while ago, I worked out a few simple formulas to describe the average monster damage across levels. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see how these might look like, for post-MM3 monsters. I have applied a linear increase to them, so that level 1 monsters deal the same damage, whereas level 30 ones get the full 40% boost, and we have the following:

Attack damage, normal attacks
  • Low: 6 + 0.6*Level
  • Medium: 7.5 + 0.85*Level
  • High: 8.5 + 1*Level

A quick patch for old monsters

Following the formulas above, we can patch a current monster to MM3 levels by adding a fixed amount of damage to its attacks. The following values can work:

Monster damage increase
  • Low: 1/5 * Level
  • Medium: 1/3 * Level
  • High: 2/5 * Level

You should modify these accordingly if a monster's damage is split among multiple attacks (i.e. divide the bonus by the number of attacks), unless it's an elite or solo, in which case you should probably add the full bonus.

Update: Sampling actual monsters

Out of curiosity, I checked these numbers against the monsters from the official previews. Sample size is small (just 7), but the results are consistently higher than expected. The damage increase seems to be about 50% for paragon monster, and 65% for epics.


  1. Glad to see monsters dealing more damage. Whenever you build a templated monster using class templates, or even make an NPC type an enemy, I always found that their damage output vastly exceeded that of comparative monsters. That being said, you certainly don't want to increase the damage values of said enemy types. I had a party of 4 go up against an Ogre that was loosely based on a bugbear barbarian, who did 10d8+5 damage with rage strike.

    But the actual difficulty of the encounter was the close quarters making it harder for the wizard to aim, making the ranged artificer get pinned down and unable to use his crossbow immediates, and the soldier enemies basically having the combat challenge feature.

    And the party still mopped the floor with them. So, I'm pretty sure that monsters-at least with decently powerful groups (this was a group with 0 magical items, though inherent level bonuses)-have plenty of room to grow.

    And jeeze, this group's defender was a paladin. A paladin for crying out loud!

    Then again, two hybrid leaders and a full-blown artificer certainly helps.

  2. Very good article. Our group just hit Paragon (we're 12th-level), can't say if I've seen a big drop in lethality so far. But my chars a ranged beast-master ranger, so he doesn't take many hits to begin with.

    I forwarded the article on to my DM in case he wanted to try the mod-formula.

    Not to be a jerk or math-nerd, but I think your "Actual Percentage" column is labeled wrong. It should either be factor (+0.27) or a percentage (+27%) <-- probably this one, as is it looks like the difference is minimal (0.27%), or (<1%), unless you're paying attention :)

  3. I'll fix the table - I had to type it in a hurry, and didn't check it afterwards.

    I'm glad you liked the post, though I hope this kind of home-made patches will not be needed for long - Wizards should release some official tables addressing this. And, for us DDI-addicts, either a stat update in Compendium or some kind of feature to automatically adjust damage of old monsters in Monster Builder would be really, really welcome...

    I enjoyed reading and playing the previous MMs, but the third looks like an absolute must-have!

  4. I'll let you know what we find. I'm running Star Wars Saga for my group right now, then Deadlans: Hell on Earth enters the rotation, and then we're back to our paragon D&D game. So MM4 might be out by then :)