Unofficial Monster Builder Manual v.2
Note:Wizards of the Coast just released an awesome update to the Monster Builder today. It changes some of the layout and things so this is a little out of date. I'm working on an update, but until then, one important thing to know is that you can still search by powers. Click on the center tab in the far right column and then click on the sword icon in the upper right.
You can find the old version here.
Table of Contents
Basics of Monster Customization
- General Interface Hints
- Finding Monsters Using Filters
- Monster Selection
- Monster Creation
- Importing a Monster
- Exporting a Monster
- The Holding Pen
- Monster Builder Cookbook
IntroductionWhile the Monster Builder tool is a great resource for Dungeon Masters, learning to use it can be hard. I couldn't find a manual for it anywhere. Figuring that others probably had similar issues, I decided to write one unofficially. This manual attempts to go through the various options available through the Monster Builder, explain what they mean and point out additional resources you can consult for more information.
Created by Wizards of the Coast for 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons, Monster Builder is the sole tool available in the Adventure Tools program. It enables Dungeon Masters (DMs) to create and modify monsters using information released in official sources, including books and magazines, and custom monsters built by members of the community. Adventure tools can be found on the Wizards of the Coast website at http://www.wizards.com/dnd/tool.aspx?x=dnd/4new/tool/adventuretools.Requirements
Display: 1024 x 768
Supported Operating Systems: Windows Vista; Windows XP SP2
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1
Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 Requirements:
Supported Operating Systems: Windows Server 2003; Vista; XP
Processor: 400 MHz Pentium processor or equivalent (Minimum)
RAM: 96 MB (Minimum); 256 MB (Recommended)
Hard Disk: Up to 500 MB of available space may be required
Display: 800 x 600, 256 colors (Minimum); 1024 x 768 high color, 32-bit (Recommended)
Not supported: Win 98, Win NT/Server 2000, Mac, Linux, or DOS
Creating monsters is much more art than science. However, why spend large parts of your creative time working on the game math when that time could be better spent bringing life to your monsters and making them an integral part of your campaign world? Using the Monster Builder will provide you with a large number of shortcuts including automatic adjustments to monster stats as you make basic changes to the monster as well as access to a large database of existing monsters and powers. In addition, Monster Builder allows you to quickly mix and match powers from a variety of existing monsters to help you build the monsters that are best for your table. Once you're done, you can export the monster to use in another program or print a stat block for your monster that will look similar to those available for the official monsters.
The Monster Builder currently is the only tool available in Wizards of the Coast's Adventure Tools program. To start the builder, click on the "Monster Builder" icon on the start screen of the Adventure Tools program. Doing so will open a screen with 3 columns, each with different tools available. To get back to the Adventure Tools main screen, click on the "Adventure Tools" button in the upper left corner.
Left Column: The content in this column depends on your current task, monster selection or monster editing. This column can be resized by moving your mouse over the divider until the bidirectional arrow appears, and then clicking and dragging the divider to the left or right.
In selection mode, this column displays the selection tools (pictured above).
- Monster Selection Panel - A list of all monsters which meet the criteria set in the filter panel. Select a monster by clicking on its name. Details about that monster will then appear in the middle column.
- Filter Panel - Allows the user to search through monsters based on certain criteria.
In edit mode, this column displays the monster sections you can modify. To enter this mode, you must create a new monster or edit an existing one.
Middle Column: Also changes depending on the current task. In selection mode, it will show you the monster stats and provide buttons for editing the monster. In edit mode, it will display the forms required to edit a monster.
Right Column: The right columns contains the tools available to you regardless of your current task. The tools are represented by icons.
- Information about the current task.
- Lists of monsters and powers along with a filters for finding the one you desire.
- The holding pen. You can place monsters and powers you are interested in into here for easy search later.
As you go through the steps, sections where more information is available will be written in blue and underlined. Clicking on these will bring up relevant information in the info column on the right hand side of the screen.
Footer: In addition to the three columns, a footer appears under the center and right columns. These are additional tools available to you and may change to match your current context.Monster Selection Mode
Edit Custom Creature
If you select a custom monster in the left column, you can click on this button to edit that monster. This icon is gray when not available.
Duplicate and Edit
Once you have selected a monster in the left column by clicking on it, you can click on this button to create a copy of that monster and enter edit mode. This icon is gray when not available.
Add New Custom Creature
Always available in the monster selection mode, pressing this button allows you to create a new monster from scratch.
Monster Edit Mode
At any point, you can save the progress you've made on your monster creation or edits. Just click on this button.
Save and Exit
Saves your progress and exits the monster edit screen.
This button will let you cancel your unsaved changes and bring you back to the monster selection screen.
This button allows you to print your current monster. Clicking on this will bring up your system's print dialog.
These are options available for the program. Not much here, you can choose to use large fonts for RTF Export and to show general information. You can also get the credits for the program by clicking on the credits button.
Some options are numeric based. For these options, you can increment or decrement the number by clicking on the arrows to the right or click in the text area and change the number. Clicking the up arrow will increment by 1 while the down arrow will decrement.
Some monster stats have the both a numeric field and a drop down, such as the Strength ability score. For these items, changing the drop-down will also change the numbers in the text field. A couple of things to note about these. First, the revert button applies only to the text field, not the drop-down. The second is that the drop-down will modify the number in the text field according to its current setting. This means if you have a 19 in the strength field and change the drop-down from Very High to Average, it will subtract 6 from the current number, giving you 13. If you then change the number back to 19 by hand or by using the revert button and then change the drop-down back to Very High, it will add 6 to the current value, giving you 25. Thus, you'll probably want to remember any original drop-down settings and revert to them by hand before clicking on the revert button.
Monster Builder provides two levels of filters for finding monsters. The basic filters allows you to search for monsters by name, source type, and level. The advanced filter gives you the additional options of monster role (main and secondary), size, keyword, origin, leader status and source.
Custom: Which monsters to include, choose from Official, Custom, or Official and Custom.
Min. Level: The minimum level of the monster to show.
Max. Level: The maximum level of the monster to show.
Main Role: The monster's group role, such as artillery, brute, soldier.*
Keyword: A monster keyword such as aquatic, aberrant, fire.**
Size: The size of the monster, such as tiny, small, medium, large.
Origin: The monster origin, e.g. fey, natural, shadow.
Secondary Role: The monster's secondary role, such as minion, elite.*
Leader: Whether or not the monster is a leader.
Source: The source material for the monster. This includes the official 4e D&D books and magazines. One thing to note, monsters designed for specific adventures are likely to be optimized for the terrain and encounter groups for that adventure. Thus, they may be harder to convert for encounters you create but may provide excellent guidance for integrating monsters into an encounter setting.
* More information on these roles can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Monster Roles).
** Definitions for these terms generally can be found in the glossary in the Monster Manuals.
Monster creation/modification in the Monster Builder is broken up into 5 parts: Name and Role, HP & Defenses, Powers, Ability Scores, and Tactics.
You can access the monster creation screen by clicking on the create new monster button. This will bring a blank template into the left window showing all 5 parts listed above. The first section, called Name and Role, details some basic information about the monster such as its name, level, roles, size, origin, type, experience value and any keywords. To access the detailed Name and Role panel, press the green Name and Role box at the top left hand column the screen. The following detailed view will now pop up into the middle column.
Name: The name you wish to give to the monster. It will help you differentiate between creatures in the selection panel.
Level: The monster's level. This stat automatically affects the standard damage expressions for a monster, both the normal and limited. More information about these expressions can be found in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Creating Monsters). It also affects its attack rolls, defenses, AC, and XP value. More information about these changes can be found in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Customizing Monsters).
Secondary Role: Choosing a non-standard role will influence a number of things about the monster including the amount of damage it does, its key stats, number of powers it should have, and whether or not it has action points. More information about secondary roles can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Monster Roles).
Role: The monster's main role, such as leader, skirmisher, artillery. Changing this role will automatically change a number of monster statistics including hit points, AC, other defenses, attack vs. AC and attack vs. other defenses. Information about monster roles can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Monster Roles).
Leader: Check the box if the monster is a leader. The builder will automatically add +3 to charisma. Depending on the creature's wisdom score, this may also change the creature's will defense. Beyond that, you'll want to pick or create some powers that provide buffs and/or healing to allies in combat. More information about secondary roles can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Monster Roles).
Size: The size of the monster. As detailed in the Monster Manual, monster size determines the number of squares the creature occupies and its reach. For larger monsters, reach is also determined by whether or not the monster is tall or long.
Origin: The origin of the monster, such as aberrant, elemental, fey, immortal, natural and shadow. Definitions for these can be found in the glossary of the monster manuals and in the DDI Compendium. A monster's origin determines which skill is applicable for monster knowledge checks and some monster powers are tied to giving bonuses to creatures of the same origin.
Type: The type of monster, such as animate, beast, humanoid or magical beast. Definitions for these can be found in the glossary of the monster manuals and in the DDI Compendium.
Experience Value: The amount of XP the monster is worth. This number is dependent on the monster's level and secondary role. For instance, a first level monster is worth 100 XP as a standard, 25 as a minion, 200 as an elite, and 500 as a solo. These XP values reflect the philosophy that 4 minions provide the same challenge as 1 standard and elites as 2 and a solo as 5 standard monsters. The monster XP chart can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Encounter Components). Most likely you will not edit this field on your own.
When you are done with the Name and Role section, click on the box title HP & Defenses on the left side of the screen. This will bring up the detailed HP & Defenses menu (see below) into the middle panel of your screen.Details:
Initiative: The monster's initiative bonus. This bonus is usually 1/2 of level + role bonus + dexterity bonus + initiative bonus. The dexterity bonus is equal to 1/2 of level + dex modifier. For instance, a level 10 skirmisher with average initiative but high dexterity would have a calculation of (10 / 2) + 2 + 8 + 0. Role based bonuses can be found in the Monster Statistics by Role chart in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Creating Monsters).
Perception: The monster's perception bonus. If the monster is trained in perception, check the box to add a +5 to the bonus. The perception bonus is also affected by the monster's wisdom and some races give a bonus to it as well.
Hit Points: The number of hit points a monster has. This is primarily affected by the monster's main role, Constitution modifier, and its secondary role. The information for standard monsters can be found in the Monster Statistics by Role chart in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Creating monsters) and the adjustments for elite and solo creatures can be found in the relevant subsections.
Regeneration: Some monsters have the ability to regenerate hit points each round. You would select the number per round here. Regeneration is important to some monsters, particularly iconic ones, but be aware that it can help prolong a fight to the point where it ceases to be fun. On the other hand, figuring out how to stop regeneration can provide a fun puzzle for your players.
Regeneration Details: Additional regeneration information goes here. For instance, the Feymire Crocodile has a regeneration of 5 but if it takes any fire damage, it will not regenerate on its next round.
AC: The monster's base armor class is determined by its main role and level as detailed in the Monster Statistics by Role chart in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Creating Monsters). However, it may be modified by the addition of certain equipment. To determine whether or not the equipment matters, you need to determine the creature's natural armor bonus as detailed in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Customizing Monsters). If the armor you want to add has a higher bonus than the creature's natural bonus, you would add the difference between the two. Since the Monster Builder does not have a list of equipment with bonuses, you will need to do this math by hand. One thing to keep in mind with this and other changes, it might be better to just change the monster's level instead of adding equipment. Otherwise, you might just throw off the balance of the encounter.
Fortitude: The monster's fortitude defense. This starts at 12 + monster's level. However, ability scores and monster race can also affect this.
Reflex: The monster's reflex defense. This starts at 12 + monster's level. However, ability scores and monster race can also affect this.
Will: The monster's will defense. This starts at 12 + monster's level. However, ability scores and monster race can also affect this.
Attack vs AC: The monster's attack bonus versus the target's AC. This is determined by the monster's level and role and the number of targets for the power as detailed in the Monster Statistics by Role chart.
Attack vs Reflex: The monster's attack bonus versus the target's Reflex. This is determined by the monster's level and role and the number of targets for the power as detailed in the Monster Statistics by Role chart. For instance, an Artillery's base attack bonus is level + 7 whereas the base for a brute is level + 3.
Attack vs Will: The monster's attack bonus versus the target's Will. This is determined by the monster's level and role and the number of targets for the power as detailed in the Monster Statistics by Role chart. For instance, a soldier has a base attack bonus of level + 5 whereas a controller is level + 4.
Action Points: The number of action points the monster has. Generally, standard monsters and minions have none while elites have 1 and solos have 2. Setting the secondary role will automatically change the action points available to the monster. Unlike PCs, monsters can spend multiple action points per encounter.
This is where you can set monster senses, such as dim-light or darkvision, tremorsense, etc. These senses often are based on the monster's race. For instance, drow have darkvision and myconids have tremorsense. For some races, you can find race templates in the back of the monster manuals or in the DDI Compendium. For others, look at the existing monsters of the same race to see what senses they tend to have.
Resistances and Vulnerabilities:
Monsters can be resistant or vulnerable to certain types of damage. Click on the + button to add a resistance or vulnerability to a monster. Monsters that are resistant to a particular damage type subtract this number from damage with that keyword while monsters who are vulnerable take additional damage when hit by a power with that keyword. More information can be found in the monster manuals, particularly MM3.
Type: The type of damage.
Resistance/Vulnerable: The amount of resistance/vulnerability.
Details: Additional information about the resistance or vulnerability. For instance, the Skinwalker Skeleton gains vulnerable 5 radiant, but only while bloodied. That limit would be entered in this section.
Monsters often have to make saving throws against effects and conditions. This section lets you set/adjust the modifier for these rolls. More information can be found in the DDI Compendium.
Amount: Most standard monsters receive no bonus to their saving throws. Elite monsters get a +2 bonus to saving throws. Solos get a +5.
Details: Sometimes monsters will have a different modifier for certain types of effects. For instance, the Sharn Hexshadow gets a +8, instead of a +5, against fear effects and conditions that hinder movement.
Speed: The number of spaces the creature can move on land during its move action. This is generally determined by the monster's race. For instance, a dwarf will have a speed of 5 whereas a kenku has a speed of 6. Racial traits are often found the back of the monster manuals or in the DDI Compendium.
Details: Any details about the movement. For instance, bullywugs have the swamp walk ability and that would be detailed here.
Some monsters have additional types of movement available to them, often race-based. For instance, many dragons can fly and aquatic creatures can generally swim.
Type: The type of movement, such as burrow, climb, fly, jump, overland flight, phasing, swim and teleport.
Speed: How many spaces it can move during a move action.
Details: Any details about the movement including limits or additional keywords. For instance, the Dragonborn Specter has a fly speed of 6 but also has the keywords hover and phasing.
Some monsters have traits such as auras. Auras can serve a number of functions from causing damage to providing allies with buffs to debuffing enemies. As an example, the Feymire Crocodile has an aura of 2. Enemies treat squares within that area as difficult terrain. Another example is the Kir-Lanan Voice which has an area of 5. Its aura provides a benefit to attack roles to all of its allies and a bonus to damage rolls for allies with a shadow origin.
Name: The name of the trait.
Aura Size: The range of the aura, in squares.
Aura Details: The details of the aura, such as what sorts of creatures it targets, whether or not it targets all creatures or enemies only, and what the aura does.
Details:For non-aura traits.
Standard Actions: Move, Minor, Free, and Triggered Actions and Other Powers
To access the detailed Powers panel, press the plus sign next to the word Powers in the magenta bar next to the word Powers. The following detailed view will now pop up into the middle panel of your screen. Adding powers to a monster is much more of an art than a science yet it is the most important part of monster design. The choice of powers really defines your monster, its class, its role and how likely your players are to remember it. The monster's role, secondary role and leadership status influence which powers you choose and how many of them. More information on this can be found in the DMG (Chapter 4: Building Encounters, Monster Roles).
Name: The name of the power
Type: The type of power such as melee, ranged, close.
Basic: Whether or not the power counts as the creature's basic attack, usable during opportunity attacks and other situations.
Action: The type of action, such as standard, move, minor.
Trigger: What triggers the power.
Usage: The recharge capability of the power, such as at-will, encounter, daily. More information on power recharges can be found at the beginning of the Monster Manual.
Keywords: The keywords associated with the power, such as teleport, poison, fire.
Requirements: Any requirements of the power.
Range: The range of the attack, in squares.
Targets: The targets of the attack.
Attack Bonus: The bonuses to the attack, normally taken from the settings set in HP & Defenses.
Defense: The defense the attack targets.
Attack Info: Additional information about the attack bonus, such as conditional modifiers. For instance, the Dragonborn Fireseeker gets a +6 to its Dragon Breath while bloodied instead of the normal +5.
Description: Used for more complex attacks, such as ones that include movement as part of the attack action. For instance, Gravash, Dragonborn Swiftblade, has an attack called End-Over-End Strike and it is described in this field.
Damage: The amount of damage the attack does. The base amount of damage is based on the chart available in the DMG.
Source: The chart to use for the damage expression. There are two charts, normal for most at-will attacks and limited for powers that have a recharge limit.
Modifier: The level of damage. Which one to use is highly influenced by the monster's main role, the number of targets and the other parts of the power. A good explanation of how to choose is in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Creating Monsters)
Damage Info: Any additional information about the damage done by or ongoing effects of the power. For instance, the Brown Dragon Wyrmling's Sand Spray attack causes damage and blinds the target until the end of the dragon's next turn.
Adding Existing Powers
You can add powers from other monsters by clicking on the powers icon in the right column and searching for the power you would like to add. Once you find a suitable power, click and drag it to the power list in the left column.
The monster's alignment. Further information about alignments can be found in the Player's Handbook (Chapter 2).
Not all monsters can speak. For those that do, you can usually just pick the ones related to their race, such as common and elven for an elf.
Strength: The creature's strength. Changing this score may affect the creature's fortitude defense.
Constitution: The creature's constitution. Changing this score may affect the creature's fortitude defense and hit points.
Dexterity: The creature's dexterity. Changing this score may affect the creature's reflex defense, initiative and AC.
Intelligence: The creature's intelligence. Changing this score may affect the creature's reflex defense.
Wisdom: The creature's wisdom. Changing this score may affect the creature's will defense.
Charisma: The creature's charisma. Changing this score may affect the creature's will defense.
In addition to the above changes, the ability bonuses affect skill modifiers. You can further modify skills by changing the number for each one and by clicking on the trained checkbox. Only those skills that you modify or train will appear in the monster's stat block. Skill modifications are often part of race, class and monster templates.
Adding equipment won't change the monster stats but will remind you about which items the monster has available and what the PCs can loot from the dead bodies of your poor, poor monsters. Monsters can have magic items. The threshold for magic bonuses is given in Monster Magic Threshold table in the DMG (Chapter 10: The DM's Toolbox, Customizing Monsters).
Name: The equipment name.
Quantity: The amount of the item the monster has available.
The tactics section is a great place to put down how you think your creature would fight and any other notes. Many monsters lack a tactics section. In addition, this section doesn't display in the monster stat block. If you want to use them, you'll have to copy and paste the information from the program.
Monster Builder supports importing custom monsters. To do this, click on the import icon, the image of a floppy disk with the green arrow on the left, in the left-column. This will open a finder window where you can select the monster to import. You can select multiple monsters at once, sequentially by clicking on the first monster in a row and holding down the shift key while clicking on the last one or individual by holding down the ctrl key while clicking. Once you find the monster(s) you want to import, click on the Open button.
The export icon will only display for custom monsters. Unlike imports, you can only export one monster at a time. When you export a monster, the tool adds a copyright notice to the bottom of the monsters.
Export by using the export icon:
- Click on the disk icon with the arrow on the right.
- Choose where to save your monster and give it a file name. Then click on the Save button.
Exporting your monster to rich text allows you copy the monster to a number of third party tools such as Masterplan and the D&D 4e Combat Tracker. To copy your monster information to rich text, right click on the monster name in the left column then select the "Copy to Rich Text" option.
In addition to rich text, you can copy the monster as an image and then save or edit it in a program such as Paint or Adobe Photoshop. To do this, right click on the monster name as you would to copy as rich text and choose "Copy as Image" instead. Then paste in your favorite image editor. Images are useful for sharing on websites.
The holding pen is a convenient way to bookmark monsters and powers you would like to refer back to. To add a monster to the holding pen, right click on the monster name and select the "Send to Holding Pen" option. You can do the same thing for powers when viewing them in their panel in the right column. You can remove items from the holding pen by clicking on the minus sign and you can clear the entire pen by clicking on the revert arrow on the upper right corner. It's important to note that the holding pen is not saved when you close the builder.
Probably the easiest change to make. Want to make a fire archer shoot poisoned arrows instead? Go through and change the monster name any power names, descriptions, and keywords.
One of the most common tasks, altering a monster's level is relatively straightforward in Monster Builder. Once you enter the edit screen for the monster, click on the Name and Role panel and adjust the level either by editing the number in the text field directly or by clicking on the up and down arrows on the right of the text field.
For a simple conversion, you might want to consider giving the new monster an additional at-will power or a recharge power.
Generally speaking, minions tend to be a bit simplified. Often they are a tool for the DM to put large numbers of foes on the board at once. Given this, you should simplify their power choices, maybe two total between attacks and utilities. You may also want to stay away from recharge powers since keeping track of which ones have and have not used their powers might slow things down at your table. DMs tend to use minions to have large numbers of melee combatants but also consider using them in the other group roles as well, particularly artillery.
One of the biggest differences between standards and elites/solos are the introduction of action points, and Monster Builder will take care of these automatically. Your task will involve the addition of more powers, making sure to add a few non-standard action powers into the mix as well. For solo monsters, in particular, consider adding attacks with that cost a free or minor action or are immediate interrupts or reactions. In addition, consider adding utility powers that help end status effects like dazed earlier or grant additional saving throws. To get an idea of how many powers to add and what types, look at other elites or solos of the same level as the one you are creating and use them as a guideline to inform your own choices.
Again, Monster Builder will take care of a number of changes for you automatically including action points. However, many elites and solos have more powers available to them than most standard monsters. To streamline running your new monster, consider paring back the number of powers available to a couple key powers that define the monster.
Monster creation in 4th Edition has evolved over time. Most of the heroic tier monsters in the earlier Monster Manuals still hold up well, but changes have been made in the design of many of the higher level ones. Here are some guidelines from Greg Bilsland's excellent blog, In the Eye of the Beholder.
- For older paragon and epic level monsters, double the flat damage for most monster roles and triple it in the case of brutes. So, if a monster currently deals 3d8 + 5 damage, make it 3d8 + 15 for brutes and 3d8 + 10 for the other roles.
- Soldiers and brutes should get some tweaks to their accuracy. In the case of the former, subtract 2 from their current attack bonuses; for the latter, add 2 instead.
- Add more effect and miss entries. Take a look at the current effects for the monster and consider adding them on a miss as well. If the power's effect on a hit is save ends, make it until the end of the target's next turn on a miss. So for the flame snake's spit fire attack, adjust the attack so the target takes ongoing 5 damage until the end of their next turn.
- Add automatic effects at paragon and epic tiers but make sure they don't inhibit the PCs too much. Stay away from dazed, immobilized and the like. However, you should be fine with lower level effects such as slowed, forcing movement, marks, and penalties.
Monsters that fill the leader role often have powers that buff or heal their allies or debuff their enemies. To get an idea of some of the options available, look through leaders approximately the same level as your monster and see what sorts of powers they have and use that information to guide your decisions.
Special Thanks to:
- Samuel Dillon, Jeff Greiner, Randall Walker and Mike Shea for review and editing
- Marcel Beaudoin and Mark Knapik for support.
- Wizards of the Coast for creating 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, the Adventure Tools and Monster Builder.