To help you with determining Challenge Levels and experience point values for monsters, the table below may be helpful. “Challenge Level” determines the experience point value for a monster. To determine a monster’s challenge level, take its hit dice and then add to that number if the monster has special abilities that make it harder to kill, or more dangerous to the characters. The Challenge Levels table shows the XP values for challenge levels. The Challenge Level Modifications table contains guidelines for how many additional challenge levels to add to a monster’s hit dice, based on special abilities.
Not a lot of detail is given about the monsters, because the more detail given, the more your own mental image of the fantasy world is going to be locked into a single track. We are not going to say that giant ants are red, nocturnal, three feet long, and fond of eating Elves, because in your mind, they might be blue, diurnal, five feet long, and eat only plants unless they are attacked. Details about monsters toss roadblocks in front of your imagination. Yes, details can also inspire the imagination, but we are making the assumption that if you are interested in fantasy gaming in the first place, you have a good imagination that does not need details about the size of a giant ant.
The following is a quick reference guide for how to read monster descriptions however.
Armor Class (AC) is explained in the rules for combat. If you’re using the descending AC system (where a lower AC is better), disregard the numbers in brackets. If you’re using the Ascending system (where a high AC is better) use the numbers in brackets.
Hit Dice (HD) is the number of dice (d8) rolled to determine an individual creature’s hit points. If there is a plus or minus next to the number, you add or subtract that number from the total, only once. For example: for a creature with 4+1 hit dice, you’d roll 4d8, and then add one more hit point. Note: in Swords & Wizardry, the monster’s normal “to-hit” bonus is equal to its number of hit dice (capped at +15). A monster with 3 HD attacks with a +3 bonus to its roll on the “to-hit” chart. When using the Ascending AC system, the monster would attack by rolling a d20, adding its hit dice, and comparing the result to the opponent’s AC—if the result is equal to or higher than AC, the attack hits. When using the descending AC system, the 3 HD monster would roll d20, add 3 for its hit dice, and compare the result to the target number on the chart.
Attacks is the number of attacks the monster has, and the damage they inflict. Monsters get a separate attack roll for each attack. A monster’s attack bonus is the same as its hit dice, up to a maximum bonus of +15.
Saving throw means the target number (on a d20) the monster needs to meet or beat in order to make a successful saving throw.
Special is usually just a “flag” for the Referee, to remind him that the monster has a special ability.
Challenge Level is used to separate the monsters into “difficulty levels,” so when you’re creating an adventure you’ve got some guidelines about what the characters can handle and what they can’t. XP tells you how many experience points the adventuring party gains for killing the creature. In some cases, you may choose to award experience points for defeating a creature without killing it (circumventing it by creative means, or capturing it to bring home are two examples of when such an award might be made).
Magic Resistance: This isn’t one of the entries, but some creatures may have “magic resistance.” The given percentage chance is the likelihood that any magic used against the creature (other than bonuses from weapons) will fail to take effect. Roll a d100, and if the result is less than the given percentage, the magic will fail.
Monsters are not player characters, and their abilities are not at all determined by the rules for player characters—not even the stats for races that can have player characters, such as Dwarves. The Referee decides a monster’s abilities, and he doesn’t have to follow any rules about this! Feel free to add wings, breath weapons, extra hit dice, wounded versions, or whatever suits your adventure and your campaign. Toggle and tweak, imagine and invent! The rules aren’t responsible for the quality of the swords and sorcery in your game, you are! So don’t try to create monsters according to any sort of power formula. Create monsters based on how they feel and how they play at the gaming table. Create challenges for the players, not headaches for yourself. Your job is to imagine and create, not to slave at rulebooks finding out what you’re “allowed” to do.
At each “Level,” whether it’s how deep into a dungeon or how far into a forest they’ve gone, the players ought to know they’re moving into an area where there’s a somewhat predictable level of risk and reward. The first thing to keep in mind is that a monster’s challenge level isn’t the same as the “level” on which it’s found: challenge level is really about calculating experience points. The table below gives you an idea of what might be found in a particular “level” of a dungeon or forest. The table is not a rule; it’s a guideline. Use your judgment.
Level One has the lowest level of risk, and the lowest level of treasure. Players are never guaranteed that every encounter is “beatable” at a particular level, though. Survival depends on knowing when to run and when to get tricky; assuming that every encounter is designed to “fit” the party’s combat capabilities is a sure way to die.
A short encounter table for a dark forest (which, frankly, you could re-use for every dark forest the characters enter unless you want to personalize them a bit more) might look as follows:
Obviously, different terrain types may have different encounter tables and subtables (the lycanthrope subtable, for example, is heavy on wereboars for a forest, but you might want to emphasize werewolves in less forested areas, or invent your own lycanthropes (perhaps the hills have a lycanthrope form of mountain goat, for instance).
Scroll down for Monster Attack Rolls Table.
|Target Armor Class [Ascending Armor Class]|
|Hit Dice||Attack Roll (d20) Required to hit Opponent’s Armor Class1|
|< 1 HD||10||11||12||13||14||15||16||17||18||19||20||21||22||23||24||25||26||27||28|
1A monster’s base “to-hit” bonus is equal to the number of Hit Dice (HD) it has, up to a maximum of +15.