5e Creature Design Guide

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Introduction

Monsters and NPCs are easy to make once you understand what they're made of. The down side is that having a solid grasp of what makes a creature requires a lot of reading, followed by a fair amount of experimentation and play testing. Please be sure you are familiar with the Help:Precedent for this content in fifth edition. This precedent is set by the monster appendix in the PHB, the entire Monster Manual, and the monster design and encounter building sections of the DMG on p.273-279.

If the creature is also an NPC, you should read all of the sections relevant to creating a player character in the PHB, and all of the sections on creating NPCs in the DMG, on p.279-283.

This content is subject to The Three Pillars of Adventure (5e Guideline) in the sense that creatures are used to interfere with or support the PCs. Understanding how a creature can be used in a variety of situations is important.

This content is subject to Understanding Bounded Accuracy (5e Guideline).

When designing a creature, the very first thing you should do is start with a concept. Everything in the game is supposed to represent something as though it were a real thing. The game rules and creature traits are simply a means to that end. Once you know what you want to represent, the next thing you should do is hit the Monster Manual or the 5e Monsters Reimagined page. Browse through and look for similar creatures. Don't just look for creatures which are conceptually similar either, look also for creatures with mechanical properties which sound like something your creature would do. You might find a creature which is almost exactly what you're trying to do mechanically! If your creature would ultimately be best represented by a reimagining of a creature, or just a slight tweak to a creature's mechanics, there's no reason to upload it here as a whole new page. However, if you find that your creation will require a great deal of invention, or will involve the patchwork-combining of different creature's statblocks, then by all means, add it to the wiki! We just don't need a million reskins of the wolf (for example) floating around.

Creature Name

When coming up with a creature's name, try to think of something snappy or that relates to the concept of the creature. The name should be capitalised, but only in the title, nowhere else.

,
size. This is the size of the creature. A creature's size is important, as it decides hit dice (which will be discussed later on), and also describes how much area the creature occupies if used in tabletop tactical combat. This should be capitalised. If your creature is a swarm, this is the size of the whole swarm, not the size of the individual creatures that compose it.
swarm. If your creature is a swarm of lesser creatures, it should have the swarm feature, and the size of the creatures in the swarm should be listed here, not the size of the swarm itself. Most swarms are Medium and composed of Tiny creatures.
type. This is the creature's type. A creature can have only one type. This shouldn't be capitalised.
race. If your creature belongs to a race (e.g. human, elf, devil), it should be listed here. Most NPCs can be of any race, represented by "any race", not "any".
alignment. This is the creature's alignment. It should be listed in full (i.e. neutral (not true neutral, which is a 3.Xism), lawful good, not N or LG) and shouldn't be capitalised.


Armor Class AC. This is the AC of your creature. (Armour. If your creature wears armour or uses a shield, list so here. Natural armour should be called "natural armour" and not "natural". The base AC granted by a creature's Dexterity modifier isn't natural armour.)
Hit Points (Hit Dice. This is an integral part of creature creation! Hit dice determine how many hit points a creature has, and are determined by size. A Tiny creature has d4 hit dice, a Small creature has d6 hit dice, a Medium creature has d8 hit dice, a Large creature has d10 hit dice, a Huge creature has d12 hit dice, and a Gargantuan creature has d20 hit dice. A general rule for hit point calculation is HD + (HD multiplied by Con mod) = the creature's hit points.)
Speed Speed. This is the creature's speed. Most creatures have a main speed of around 30 feet (as far as most PCs can move in a turn), though some (like horses) move faster. If a creature has special movement modes, such as flight, include these here. Speeds should be listed alphabetically, with its land-based movement (if any) listed first, for example, 30 ft., fly 30 ft., swim 20 ft.
Ability Scores. These are your creature's ability scores. Ability scores in 5e can be no lower than 1 and no higher than 30.


STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
() () () () () ()

Saving Throws Saving Throws. If a creature has a bonus to certain saving throws, list them here. If a creature doesn't have any bonuses, leave this space blank. The name of the ability score should be in capital letters, but only the first three letters of the score need to be used (i.e. Cha, not CHA or Charisma).
Skills Skills. If a creature has a bonus to certain skills, list them here. If a creature doesn't have any bonuses, leave this space blank. The names of skills should be in capital letters and listed in full (i.e. Stealth not Stl or STEALTH).
Damage Vulnerabilities Damage Vulnerabilities. These are the creature's damage vulnerabilities. A creature vulnerable to a certain type of damage takes double the damage when subjected to that type of damage. Creatures are rarely vulnerable to more than one type of damage. Certain vulnerabilities have more impact on a creature than others. For example, a creature vulnerable to force damage would likely only have that weakness come into play if it were attacked by a magic missile spamming wizard, while a creature vulnerable to slashing damage would likely be torn apart very quickly by the barbarian with a greataxe. If a creature doesn't have any damage vulnerabilities, leave this space unchanged or blank.
Damage Resistances Damage Resistances. These are a creature's damage resistances. A creature resistant to a certain type of damage takes half the damage when subjected to that type of damage. Commonly resisted damage types include cold and fire. If a creature doesn't have any damage resistances, leave this space unchanged or blank.
Damage Immunities Damage Immunities. These are a creature's damage immunities. A creature immune to a certain type of damage takes no damage when subjected to that type of damage. For example, most undead and fiends are immune to poison damage. If a creature doesn't have any damage immunities, leave this space unchanged or blank.
Condition Immunities Condition Immunities. These are a creature's condition immunities. A creature immune to a certain type of condition cannot be afflicted with that condition. Most undead and fiends are immune to the poisoned condition, for example, while a creature that permanently hovers (such as a ghost) would be immune to the prone condition. If a creature doesn't have any condition immunities, leave this space unchanged or blank.
Senses Passive Perception X (Put the creature's passive Wisdom (Perception) score (10 + the creature's Wisdom (Perception) modifier) and any special modes of sight here. Many creatures have darkvision, which is identical to that of a dwarf or elf, but some have other senses, like blindsight or truesight. Special senses should be listed alphabetically (blindsight, then darkvision, then tremorsense, then truesight), and go before the passive Perception score. If a creature has blindsight but can't see otherwise, it should be listed as such in parentheses. Senses have no impact on CR, but some stymie or render certain effects useless, such as blindsight and the blur spell).
Languages Languages. List the languages the creature can speak or understand here. Languages spoken have no impact on a creature's CR, but a creature that speaks many languages will have an advantage in social interaction, mainly because it might speak languages that it or its followers can understand, but that the PCs might not. If a creature speaks no languages, represent it with a dash (—). A creature with telepathy should have its ability listed here with a range in feet. If its telepathy is limited in some way, it should be represented with the Limited Telepathy feature. Having a language restriction on telepathy isn't cause for it to have limited telepathy.


Special traits and features that the monster shows are listed here. Common traits include Spellcasting, Innate Spellcasting, and Keen Senses.
Traits should have distinct effects. When creating a trait, consider if it would be better as part of the description. For example, if a trait mentions that that other creatures mindlessly obey your creature, you should list that in the description, not as a trait, but if it used magic to do so, consider granting it the Spellcasting or Innate Spellcasting feature and the ability to cast one or more enchantment spells.

Feature Name. Feature description

Spellcasting. If a creature has the Spellcasting or Innate Spellcasting feature (or both), it can cast spells. Spell names shouldn't be capitalised but should be in italics. Try and insert a link for convenience (if the spell is homebrew or in the SRD).

Swarm. If your creature is a swarm, it should have the following trait.
The swarm can occupy another creature's space and vice versa, and the swarm can move through any opening large enough for a (size of creatures in swarm) (creature). The swarm can't regain hit points or gain temporary hit points.

ACTIONS

Action Name. Melee Weapon Attack: +X to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: X (1dX + X) damtype damage.

REACTIONS

If the creature can use its reaction for something special (standard uses for reactions — like the opportunity attack (not attack of opportunity, which is a 3.5ism) — don't need to be listed here. It is assumed the creature can do those anyway), list them here. A common example is Parry.

Parry. The X adds its proficiency modifier to its AC against one melee attack that would hit it. To do so, the X must see the attacker and be wielding a melee weapon.

LEGENDARY ACTIONS

The can take 3 legendary actions, choosing from the options below. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. The regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn.

Description. This is the description of the creature. Important things to consider include what the creature looks/sounds/smells/feels/tastes (if applicable) like, some typical behaviours, some lore or culture (if applicable, a race of forest-dwelling fey would obviously have more culture than a type of construct, for example) and some battle tactics the the usual specimen might follow (such as if it prefers to charge into the melee or whether it prefers to cast spells from a distance). Does it keep other creatures as mounts or companions? Does it usually form groups, or is it solitary? What is its preferred diet (if it does eat)? What is its usual habitat (temperate forests, deserts etc.)? What does the creature make/wear? What is it known for doing?


General

  • Hit points should always be listed as such, and never be called "HP" or "health".
  • "Attack of opportunity" is a 3.5ism. They should be called "opportunity attacks".
  • Feet should always be listed as ft. (in movement, range of telepathy and special senses, and the reach or range of attacks), or foot or feet (where appropriate) everywhere else. Don't use an apostrophe at the end of the number!
  • All references to ability scores should have the score's name listed in full (except for saving throw bonuses, as detailed in the section above). Only the first letter should be capitalised (i.e. Intelligence, not INT).
  • Nothing has "an advantage" or "a disadvantage". It has "advantage" or "disadvantage". Similarly, nothing has "a vulnerability", "a resistance", or "an immunity". It has "vulnerability", "resistance", or "immunity".
  • DC should always be listed in capitals, not "dc". The DC of a saving throw should come before the relative ability score, and not in brackets (except when detailing the escape DC for a grapple). For example, DC X {ability} saving throw/check, not {ability} saving throw/check (DC X). Similarly, AC should also always be in capitals, never "ac".
  • Don't remove parts of the preload unless you know what you're doing! Removing bits of the preload makes the resultant page look messy.
  • A creature can be immune to conditions, but it can't resist them. Instead, give it a trait that grants it advantage on saving throws against that condition. Sometimes, it might be more appropriate to grant advantage on certain saving throws against that condition, such as the Sure-Footed trait of the goat.

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