Challenge High Level PCs with Monster Templates
High Level Dungeons & Dragons Characters, or any Role Playing Game, can be a huge challenge for Game Masters. Every combat need not be an Ancient Dragon or Tarasque. Add Class Levels and Templates to Monsters and Villains to increase the Challenge Rating!
PCs Get More Powerful, they gain abilities, buy better weapons and armor and can start walking through all the monsters you throw at them.
Use Class Levels and Monster Templates
An Orc is a .5 Challenge Rating (CR), but an Orc with 5 levels of Barbarian is a CR5 encounter. Ten of those Orc Barbarians is a CR12 Encounter Level.
A half-fiend orc gains wings for a fly speed, spell-like abilities, resistances to magic, a natural armor bonus and even Damage Reduction.
Google “D&D Templates” or “Pathfinder Templates” and you’ll get a ton of book references and lists of options to use. Half-Fiend, Half-Celestial, Half-Dragon, and Lycanthrope are just a few to scratch the surface.
You could even add more than one template to a bad guy! GASP! What if your Orc was a Half-Fiend, Half-Dragon infected with Lycanthropy?! Not only is that one powerful villain, there’s also some great questions to be asked about how this being came to exist which will help you flesh out the monster and make them more interesting.
Plus, any PC Class can be added to a monster or bad guy.
Give Monsters Feats
There are specific feats just for monsters, but you could also give any regular feat to a monster at your discretion. Are your bad guys always going last in the initiative order? Give them the Improved Initiative Feat to boost them in the order and maybe get some hits in before your Player Characters get to attack.
Each monster manual has lists of Monster Feats you can add to any creature.
Plus, just like adding templates, giving monsters feats also makes them more three dimensional which should help you add some story to them.
Give Monsters Gear, Equipment, Weapons and Armor. But Be Careful!
One of the most obvious improvements you can make to any bad guy is to give them better equipment.
Instead of fighting 10 orcs equipped normally according to the SRD or Monster Manual, maybe all of them are wearing +1 full plate and wielding +1 long swords.
The biggest problem with giving monsters magical weapons and better equipment is invariably the PC’s will likely wind up owning that gear. If you’re prepared for that then it’s all good, but if you weren’t ready to rain gold coins from the heavens in the form of expensive gear the consider the feats, class levels and templates discussed here.
Using the improvements to your monsters other than improved equipment will mean your player characters don’t wind up with items worth thousands of gold when they defeat the baddie.
One of my favorite websites D20srd.org has an entire section dedicated to Improving Monsters.
Every improvement you make to the monster or bad guy should add some interesting story to them.
Fighting that half-fiend, half-dragon orc who is also a werewolf would not only be far more challenging but would raise some really great in-game questions about this guy’s life story and how he came to be.
Improved Monster Ideas
- Fiendish, half-dragon, pyrohydra necromancer
- Disease ridden zombie giants
- Skeleton Dragon
- Regenerating mummies
- Warbest Ettin, with Multiweapon Fighting, dual wielding large clubs
- Young Green Dragon with Awesome Blow, Improved Flyback Attack and Hover Feats
- Deadly Prankster (CR+3) Minotaur who is a 5th level Cleric. (heal himself…)
- The possibilities are only limited by your imagination!!!
Tell us in the comments about some of your cool monster improvement methods!
Some Helpful Links: