Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New monster damage formulas

I have previously reported on how Monster Manual 3 brings a new monster design principle, with several adjustments to monster roles and an overall increase in damage. There was an important detail that was missing, though - the specific damage values under these new principles. This has been addressed in the latest round of rule updates, which introduce a new damage table for monsters and traps, replacing the one in page 185 of Dungeon Master’s Guide.

A nice thing about this new table is that it streamlines the process - instead of two tables with entries for low, medium and high damage each, there is just a single table with values for single-target damage and area damage. For brutes and limited attacks, you just add a 25% extra damage (or up to 50%, for certain limited attacks).

As for the actual numbers, they are much more streamlined - since the tables now have rows for each level, the increases in damage are much more smooth. In fact, I was able to determine the formula for average standard damage by simply looking at the table: it is now just about eight plus monster level. This is how it breaks down, for the different attacks. For a look at the old formulas, you can check this.
- Low (Area): 6 + 0.75*Level
- Medium: 8 + Level
- High (Brute/Limited): 10 +1.25*Level
- Very High (Limited): 12+1.5*Level

It doesn’t look like minion damage is affected, though I’ll try to check the damage for MM3 minions against the formulas from Dungeon Master’s Guide 2, and see if they fit.

So, now that we have these, we can tell how much the damage has really increased. Early reports from D&D editor Greg Bilsland pointed at an increase between 30% and 40%, but actual values deviate a bit from this, and vary with level:

As we can see from the table, the increase varies between 10 and 30% for heroic levels, 40-60% at paragon tier, and 60-70% at epic. We should be able to appreciate a difference at lower levels, but it is at paragon and beyond where the game experience will change the most. In future posts, I will analyze how this affects character survivability, and difficulty in general.


  1. I'm a bit late to the conversation, but I appreciate the analysis, and figured you are the person to talk to.

    I had a question related to Spirit Companions/new monster damage formulae.
    Do you think that the effective HP of the Spirit Companion needs to be adjusted? It is dispelled with hits that deal 10+1/2 level damage; this meant that originally it was pretty tough, it took a solid hit to dispel it. With the increases in monster damage, though, it would seem that the +1/2 levels simply won't keep up, and that virtually any hits at Paragon/Epic will be flattening it. If you were to suggest an adjustment that would maintain roughly the right amount of vulnerability to the spirit, what would it be?

  2. Short answer: I do think it should be adjusted, and in fact I started a conversation with that purpose in the official errata forums (

    Long answer: To maintain the _previous_ level of companion vulnerability, something like 9+level damage would be enough - that takes the previous threshold at level 1, and has it scale according to the new math.

    On the other hand, I don't think the original degree of survivability was a good one. I talk about this in depth in the cited thread (please check it out!), but the PHB2, pre-MM3 version was both too hard to kill, and not worth killing. Personally, I think a good target would be to have attacks against the companion kill it about 50% of the time, and have the shaman take about 50% of the normal damage they would deal. On top of that, I'd try to make sure that spirits are not immune to minions. But your mileage may vary.

    With this in mind, my favourite option would be replacing the current rules with the following: 'Whenever an attack damages the spirit, you take half that damage, and make a saving throw. If you fail the saving throw, the spirit disappears. Otherwise, it is unaffected by the attack.

    At any rate, this is an interesting issue, and I probably should write a full post about it one of these days.