Rules Index


Chapter 2: Tools

Building Creatures

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 56
Making your own creatures fleshes out your game world and lets you introduce concepts not yet available in published products like the Bestiary volumes. These guidelines help you customize creatures to your specifications and explore your imagination. From strange beasts to canny political rivals, you have the power to design creatures that fit the narrative needs of your story.

Creatures aren’t built the same way PCs are. The rules for building them are more flexible, and their statistics are based on benchmark final numbers rather than combining each individual modifier together. This is called top-down design, in which you consider the design process as a whole and select the details that reflect your intended result, rather than building statistics from the bottom up and hoping the finished creature matches your vision.

This guide provides a step-by-step process to build creatures, but as you get more comfortable with creature creation, you may prefer to use different methods. You could start with one ability you think is cool, or you might look to create a spellcaster of a certain type. There’s no wrong starting place or wrong way to compile and present your creation; some GMs prefer to generate a stat block that is as similar to an official Bestiary entry as possible, while others prefer to compile just a brief set of notes.

Develop the Concept

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 56
To begin making a creature, you should first come up with its concept. You likely already have the basic idea. As you add details to the general idea, taking notes can help keep your creature on track. Consider the parts of your creature you find most compelling and that you want to emphasize when the creature hits the table. For example, in the Bestiary, demons are creatures of sin, and are designed to have weaknesses against specific virtues that oppose them. Harpies enchant creatures by singing, represented by their centerpiece ability, Captivating Song. Note your creature’s core aspects, and if you feel uncertain later, you can look back and ask yourself, “Does this emphasize a core aspect or not?”

Next, look at the creature’s role in your game. Is it meant to be a combatant? A social creature? A trusted ally? Figuring this out will help you determine whether to give it strong combat abilities or to focus on skills, spells, and special abilities. Think about how the creature might behave if it’s in a fight, if someone tries to talk to it, or if it’s in a social situation. Does it work better alone or with allies? What sort of character should be best at facing it or be particularly weak against it?

Consider also the complexity of the creature. This matters most when you plan to use a large number of creatures of that type. If you’ll use five at the same time, you’ll want their turns to move swiftly and avoid complex special actions. A creature likely to face a group of PCs alone can have more abilities, and it might need a more versatile set of defenses against PC tactics. Cut complexity as much as you can while retaining your desired theme.

Now, how do you want an encounter with this creature to feel? Should it be scary? Mobile? Confusing? A mystical duel or a knock-down, drag-out fight? What can you give your creature to convey those characteristics? Note that much of this feel will come from your choice of the creature’s special abilities or spells, rather than its raw numbers.

With all this in mind, think about the specific abilities your creature should have. Take a few notes now, and get to the details later. You can use abilities from the Bestiary or feats in the Core Rulebook, adjusting as needed, to save yourself time. It helps to think of a creature that’s similar to yours and see what makes it tick—and what you can steal from it. Maybe you can just reskin that creature (page 58), instead of making a new one from scratch.

Now that you understand your creature’s concept, it’s time to get to the statistics. Remember that you can always change your concept later on. Your creation might evolve and transform as you go, so be open to change and revisions.

Understanding and Choosing Statistics

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 57
Most of the statistics in this section use a scale of extreme, high, moderate, and low—some use terrible values as well.

Extreme: The creature is world class in this statistic and can challenge almost any character. Most creatures have no extreme statistics or only one extreme statistic, although some creatures might have additional extreme statistics and weaker related statistics elsewhere (a common example being a creature trading accuracy for extreme damage). Examples from the Bestiary include the succubus’s Diplomacy and the lich’s spell DC.

High: Extremely capable but not world class, the creature presents a challenge for most characters. Just about all creatures have at least one high value. Most combat-focused creatures have high AC and either a high attack bonus and high damage, or a merely moderate attack bonus but extreme damage. An ogre warrior’s attack bonus and a kobold scout’s Stealth are high values.

Moderate: A middle-of-the road statistic can cover anything unremarkable about the creature. Use this one often.

Low: The creature is actively bad at this. Choose these intentionally to represent the creature’s weak points. Most creatures should have at least one low statistic; an example is the goblin pyro’s Will save.

Terrible: Some statistics can dip even lower than low, to terrible. This indicates a truly awful statistic that still isn’t game-breakingly bad. A spider’s Intelligence is terrible, as is a dero stalker’s Will save.

Push and Pull

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 57
When it comes to statistics, a creature should be balanced overall. That means if you’re giving a creature an extreme statistic, it should have some low or terrible statistics to compensate. For example, if you were making a creature extremely hard to hit by giving it an extreme AC, you’d likely give it lower saving throws or low HP. If a creature is great at spellcasting, it might need several low statistics to be a balanced challenge. There’s no perfect system for making these decisions. If you’ve made a creature that has four high stats and nothing low, or vice-versa, take another look. A creature’s strengths and weaknesses change the PCs’ strategies for dealing with it, and that’s what makes playing the game fun!

Extreme Increases

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 58
At the higher levels of the game, PCs have more tools at their disposal, so the creatures they face need to hit back harder! At higher levels, give each creature more extreme statistics. Having one extreme statistic becomes typical around 11th level. A creature of 15th level or higher typically has two extreme statistics, and one of 20th level or higher should have three or four. Keep in mind that these should be relevant to the encounters you expect them to have—extreme social skills aren’t much use to a combat-focused creature. Be careful about giving multiple extreme statistics that are closely linked: a creature with extreme damage and Fortitude saves is one thing, but having an extreme attack bonus and extreme damage allows the creature to apply both extreme statistics to each attack.

Level

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 58
For most creatures you build, their level depends on the level of the party who will encounter it. Look at other creatures you think are similar in power to yours to determine its level. Note that level represents a creature’s combat ability, so a creature that’s more social might have, for example, 3rd-level combat statistics and 6th-level skills but remain a 3rd-level creature. Most such creatures are NPCs; for more information on this distinction and how to use it, see Non-Combat Level on page 72.

Some abilities are hard for PCs to deal with at low levels. For instance, creatures that can fly and have ranged attacks should typically appear around 7th level, when PCs gain access to flight. Natural invisibility or at-will invisibility as an innate spell should come at around 6th level, when PCs are more likely to prepare see invisibility in lower-level spell slots, or 8th level, when some PCs get the Blind-Fight feat.

The tables in this chapter go up to 24th level—the highest-level extreme encounter a party might face.

Alignment, Size, and Traits

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 58
Fill out the trait line of your creature’s stat block. The alignment can be whatever suits your story, though some types of creatures must be or tend to be certain alignments. Creatures can be whatever size you need them to be, though you seldom find Large creatures below 1st level, Huge creatures below 5th level, or Gargantuan creatures below 10th level. Generally, you don’t automatically adjust statistics for size, except for an exception to Strength modifiers for Large and bigger creatures, which you’ll find in Ability Modifiers on the next page.

Your creature will almost certainly have one of the following traits to define its type: aberration, animal, astral, beast, celestial, construct, dragon, elemental, ethereal, fey, fiend, fungus, giant, humanoid, monitor, ooze, plant, or undead. If you’re making a creature from an existing category of a type, such as demon, it also has that category as a trait. Creatures with a close affinity to elements—air, earth, fire, and water—or types of energy—like acid, cold, and electricity—have those traits.

Some abilities typical of creatures with the traits listed above can be found in Trait Abilities on page 70. As with the other steps, looking at similar creatures will give you an idea of what traits to use.

Add any traits that have detailed rules attached to them, like amphibious, aquatic, incorporeal, mindless, and swarm. You can add traits related to the creature category, such as dinosaur or werecreature, but most of these traits are pretty self-evident in play. If at any point you realize during play that you didn’t add a trait the creature really should have, you can usually apply it retroactively.

Ability Modifiers

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 59
Next, figure out your creature’s ability modifiers, since these will suggest what their other statistics should be. You don’t have to determine the exact numbers, but it’s good to avoid creating creatures whose ability modifiers are at odds with their abilities, like creatures with a terrible Wisdom modifier and very high Perception. Most of the time, you’ll just be using ability modifiers for untrained skills, so they’re useful as a guide but not crucial.

Table 2–1 shows some benchmarks for your creatures. Use high for the creature’s best ability modifiers, moderate for ones they’re okay at, and low for the rest. If a creature has a truly bad ability, you can go as low as –5. That’s the terrible range for ability modifiers, and doesn’t really change by level. This is most common with animals, which have an Intelligence modifier of –4 (for dogs, dolphins, and such) or –5 (for more instinctual animals like spiders), and for mindless creatures, which have a –5 Intelligence modifier.

Few creatures use the extreme column. A powerful, dedicated spellcaster might use an extreme spellcasting statistic, or a preternaturally charming creature like a succubus or nymph might have an extreme Charisma modifier. However, the most common way extreme numbers are used is for really big, really strong creatures. This happens with only Large or larger creatures from 1st to 5th level, only Huge or larger creatures from 6th to 9th level, and only Gargantuan creatures from 10th to 15th level. Beyond that level, a creature doesn’t gain an extreme Strength modifier from size alone.

Table 2–1: Ability Modifier Scales

LevelExtremeHighModerateLow
–1+3+2+0
0+3+2+0
1+5+4+3+1
2+5+4+3+1
3+5+4+3+1
4+6+5+3+2
5+6+5+4+2
6+7+5+4+2
7+7+6+4+2
8+7+6+4+3
9+7+6+4+3
10+8+7+5+3
11+8+7+5+3
12+8+7+5+4
13+9+8+5+4
14+9+8+5+4
15+9+8+6+4
16+10+9+6+5
17+10+9+6+5
18+10+9+6+5
19+11+10+6+5
20+11+10+7+6
21+11+10+7+6
22+11+10+8+6
23+11+10+8+6
24+13+12+9+7

Perception

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 60
Perception is a fairly straightforward statistic. Use Wisdom as a guide for setting it, and adjust to the high side if your creature has acute senses or extra training. If your creature has low Wisdom, for example, it would probably have a low Perception modifier, or moderate if it’s supposed to be a great hunter. Don’t make your creature’s Perception higher just because it’s often used for initiative; creatures with poor Perception could use a skill check for initiative instead, such as Stealth.

Senses

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 60
Choose or design any special senses for your creature, such as low-light vision, darkvision, or scent. If you’re making a sense from scratch, simply decide what it senses, whether it has a range limit, and whether it’s precise or imprecise. For example, a sinspawn has “sin scent (imprecise) 30 feet.” This means it can smell creatures bearing its associated sin if they’re within 30 feet, and the sense is imprecise—about as acute as human hearing.

Table 2–2: Perception

LevelExtremeHighModerateLowTerrible
–1+9+8+5+2+0
0+10+9+6+3+1
1+11+10+7+4+2
2+12+11+8+5+3
3+14+12+9+6+4
4+15+14+11+8+6
5+17+15+12+9+7
6+18+17+14+11+8
7+20+18+15+12+10
8+21+19+16+13+11
9+23+21+18+15+12
10+24+22+19+16+14
11+26+24+21+18+15
12+27+25+22+19+16
13+29+26+23+20+18
14+30+28+25+22+19
15+32+29+26+23+20
16+33+30+28+25+22
17+35+32+29+26+23
18+36+33+30+27+24
19+38+35+32+29+26
20+39+36+33+30+27
21+41+38+35+32+28
22+43+39+36+33+30
23+44+40+37+34+31
24+46+42+38+36+32

Languages

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 60
Think about what languages the creature would need to communicate with other creatures in its home. For instance, many intelligent undead speak Necril, and many creatures from the Darklands speak Undercommon. If you want your creature to be able to speak to the PCs, be sure it has Common; for a creature with no reason to speak the common tongue of your setting (such as most extraplanar creatures in a typical campaign), be sure it doesn’t. Some creatures can understand language but can’t vocalize; in this case, you can state that they can’t speak any language. For creatures that need to be able to infiltrate and communicate wherever they go, you might give them tongues or a similar ability as a constant innate spell.

Skills

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 60
You have lots of flexibility in setting your creature’s skills. Pick some skills you think are appropriate, and consider how good the creature is at them. High skills are roughly on par with a specialized PC of the creature’s level, though they could be a little lower or higher. Most creatures have at least one high skill, but no more than three. The best skills should go with the best ability modifiers, and you might even want to estimate the creature’s proficiency rank for these skills. Some skills can get a high bonus for free to fit the creature’s theme, particularly Lore skills.

Most creatures don’t have an extreme skill unless they are world class for their level, like a succubus’s Diplomacy. Having an extreme skill is less impactful than an extreme AC or attack bonus, but still might warrant a sacrifice elsewhere, especially if the creature also has more high skills than usual. There’s no need for terrible skill modifiers, since an untrained skill usually represents that.

Table 2–3: Skills

LevelExtremeHighModerateLow
–1+8+5+4+2 to +1
0+9+6+5+3 to +2
1+10+7+6+4 to +3
2+11+8+7+5 to +4
3+13+10+9+7 to +5
4+15+12+10+8 to +7
5+16+13+12+10 to +8
6+18+15+13+11 to +9
7+20+17+15+13 to +11
8+21+18+16+14 to +12
9+23+20+18+16 to +13
10+25+22+19+17 to +15
11+26+23+21+19 to +16
12+28+25+22+20 to +17
13+30+27+24+22 to +19
14+31+28+25+23 to +20
15+33+30+27+25 to +21
16+35+32+28+26 to +23
17+36+33+30+28 to +24
18+38+35+31+29 to +25
19+40+37+33+31 to +27
20+41+38+34+32 to +28
21+43+40+36+34 to +29
22+45+42+37+35 to +31
23+46+43+38+36 to +32
24+48+45+40+38 to +33

Special Modifiers

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 61
You can also add special, thematic modifiers for certain skill uses. For instance, you might give a creature that secretes adhesive “Athletics +7 (+9 to Climb or Grab).” This special bonus should still remain at or below the extreme number, especially if it has a combat purpose like the Grab bonus above.

Items

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 61
If you gave a creature gear equivalent to a PC, your PCs would gain a huge amount of treasure by defeating a large group of them. Using Table 2–4: Safe Items can help you avoid that. A creature can have a single permanent item of the listed level without issue. For example, if a 6th-level creature has a +1 weapon, that item’s not worth so much that the PCs would be massively rich if they encountered many creatures of that type and sold everything they found. You can give a creature several lower-level items too. Just pay attention to your overall treasure as measured against the guidelines on pages 508–510 of the Core Rulebook. At the lowest levels, a creature can certainly have multiple level 0 items, even though normally a creature should have only one item of the level listed in the Safe Item Level column.

Specific creatures or NPCs have more leeway to break these guidelines because you can plan the rest of your adventure’s loot around them. Also, giving a boss villain a powerful magic item makes the fight and its aftermath more interesting.

Table 2–4: Safe Items

Creature LevelSafe Item Level
3 or lower0
4–51
62 (+1 weapon)
73
84 (+1 striking weapon)
95 (+1 armor)
106
117
128 (+1 resilient armor)
139
1410 (+2 striking weapon)
1511 (+2 resilient armor)
1612 (+2 greater striking weapon)
1713
1814 (+2 greater resilient armor)
1915
2016 (+3 greater striking weapon)
2117
2218 (+3 greater resilient armor)
2319 (+3 major striking weapon)
2420 (+3 major resilient armor)

Armor Class

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 61
Because AC is one of the most important combat stats, you need to be more careful with setting this number for any creature you expect will end up in a fight. Low AC typically fits spellcasters, who compensate with their selection of powerful spells. Most creatures use high or moderate AC—high is comparable to what a PC fighter would have. Reserve extreme AC for a creature that is even better defended; these values are for creatures that have defenses similar in power to those of a champion or monk.

Table 2–5: Armor Class

LevelExtremeHighModerateLow
–118151412
019161513
119161513
221181715
322191816
424212018
525222119
627242321
728252422
830272624
931282725
1033302927
1134313028
1236333230
1337343331
1439363533
1540373634
1642393836
1743403937
1845424139
1946434240
2048454442
2149464543
2251484745
2352494846
2454515048

Compensating with HP and Saves

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 62
You might adjust your creature’s HP, AC, and saves in tandem. Almost no creature has great defenses in all areas, as such creatures often result in frustrating fights. A creature with higher AC might have fewer HP and weaker saves, and one that’s easy to hit could have more HP and a strong Fortitude to compensate. This depends on the theme of the creature. An extreme AC might mean reducing the creature’s HP to the next lowest category, or reducing its HP by a smaller amount and making another reduction elsewhere.

Saving Throws

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 62
You can often set saves quickly by assigning one high, one moderate, and one low modifier. Some creatures might vary from this, either because they have poor AC but better saves or because they should thematically have multiple good saves and compensate elsewhere. You have more flexibility with saves, and having one save off the listed number by 1 is rarely a big deal. Pay attention to the creature’s Con, Dex, and Wis modifiers—these don’t have to correspond to the creature’s saves exactly, but should inform your choices.

Extreme saves often pair with extreme or high ability modifiers. Almost no creature should have more than one extreme save, even at high levels. Assign terrible saves to creatures that have a clear weak point—for example, a nearly immobile creature would have a terrible Reflex save.

Table 2–6: Saving Throws

LevelExtremeHighModerateLowTerrible
–1+9+8+5+2+0
0+10+9+6+3+1
1+11+10+7+4+2
2+12+11+8+5+3
3+14+12+9+6+4
4+15+14+11+8+6
5+17+15+12+9+7
6+18+17+14+11+8
7+20+18+15+12+10
8+21+19+16+13+11
9+23+21+18+15+12
10+24+22+19+16+14
11+26+24+21+18+15
12+27+25+22+19+16
13+29+26+23+20+18
14+30+28+25+22+19
15+32+29+26+23+20
16+33+30+28+25+22
17+35+32+29+26+23
18+36+33+30+27+24
19+38+35+32+29+26
20+39+36+33+30+27
21+41+38+35+32+28
22+43+39+36+33+30
23+44+40+37+34+31
24+46+42+38+36+32

Hit Points

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 62
Give a creature HP in the moderate range unless its theme strongly suggests it should use another range. Spellcasters, for example, often have low HP. Brutish creatures usually have high HP, compensating with lower AC, weaker saves, few tactical options, or other limitations. As mentioned in the Armor Class section above, you don’t want a creature with extreme AC to have high HP too.

Hit Points are closely tied in with immunities, weaknesses, and resistances, so if your creature has any of those, look at that section before finalizing HP (page 63).

Regeneration and Healing Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 62
Your creature might have regeneration, fast healing, or some other ability to heal itself. These healing abilities can greatly affect the flow of a fight. Regeneration or fast healing heals some number of hits each round—usually one to one and a half hits. To determine the number of Hit Points it should restore, look at the high damage value on Table 2–10: Strike Damage (page 65) and multiply that value by the number of hits healed. For instance, if the high damage is 20, regeneration between 20 to 30 makes sense. The value should be higher if the regeneration is easy to overcome—and remember that most regeneration gets easier to overcome at higher levels. Also, you might want to decrease the creature’s total HP by double its regeneration value. Fast healing follows the same rules, but because it can’t prevent a creature’s death and there isn’t always have a way to deactivate it, you might want to give the creature more HP instead of fast healing to keep things simple.

If a creature can use an ability that heals it, that ability typically restores more HP since it costs actions. An at‑will healing ability should be based on a heal spell 2 levels lower than the highest-level spell a creature of that level could ordinarily cast (for example, an 11th-level creature can typically cast up to 6th-level spells, so you would base its healing ability on a 4th-level heal spell). If the ability both deals damage and heals, use that same baseline scale from above but with vampiric touch instead of heal.

Table 2–7: Hit Points

LevelHighModerateLow
–198–76–5
020–1716–1413–11
126–2421–1916–14
240–3632–2825–21
359–5348–4237–31
478–7263–5748–42
597–9178–7259–53
6123–11599–9175–67
7148–140119–11190–82
8173–165139–131105–97
9198–190159–151120–112
10223–215179–171135–127
11248–240199–191150–142
12273–265219–211165–157
13298–290239–231180–172
14323–315259–251195–187
15348–340279–271210–202
16373–365299–291225–217
17398–390319–311240–232
18423–415339–331255–247
19448–440359–351270–262
20473–465379–371285–277
21505–495405–395305–295
22544–532436–424329–317
23581–569466–454351–339
24633–617508–492383–367

Immunities, Weaknesses, and Resistances

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 63
If it’s highly thematic for a creature to have an immunity, weakness, or resistance, consider adding it. Table 2–8 lists the ranges for weaknesses and resistances by level.

Immunities are generally reserved for creatures made of an unusual substance (like a fire elemental being immune to fire). You can also give an immunity if a creature’s biology or construction would logically cause it to be unaffected (like a mindless creature’s immunity to mental effects).

If the creature should be hard to affect with something but the conditions above aren’t true, give it a resistance instead. For instance, a giant octopus isn’t actually made of cold water, so it wouldn’t be immune to cold, but its life in the ocean depths make it resistant to cold. You’ll typically use the lower end of the value on Table 2–8 for a broad resistance that applies to a wide range of effects, like “physical 5 (except silver)” and the higher end for something narrower, like a single damage type. A creature with a resistance, especially a broad resistance or a physical resistance, usually has fewer HP.

Giving your creature a weakness adds flavor to it and greatly rewards effective player tactics once your players identify the weakness. The weakness should apply to one damage type or phenomenon and use the high end of the scale. Creatures typically have at most one weakness. If a creature has a weakness, especially to something common, give it additional HP. The amount of additional HP might depend on how tough the creature should feel if the PCs don’t exploit its weakness; a tough creature might have additional HP equal to quadruple the weakness value. A creature with a hard-to-exploit weakness might have additional HP equal to the weakness value or less.

Table 2–8: Resistances and Weaknesses

LevelMaximumMinimum
–111
031
132
252
363
474
584
695
7105
8116
9126
10137
11147
12158
13168
14179
15189
16199
171910
182010
192111
202211
212312
222412
232513
242613
The combination of more HP and a weakness has a different feel from standard HP with resistances. If the creature being an impervious tank really fits its theme, use a resistance with an exception, such as “physical 5 (except silver).” If, however, it makes more sense for normal hits to get through and the creature to simply have great staying power, use more HP and a weakness. Skeletons and zombies are a good example of the difference between these styles. Skeletons have resistances because they’re bony and hard to hurt. Zombies, on the other hand, have more HP and a weakness to slashing damage—they’re tougher, but their bodies aren’t built to deflect weapon attacks, and slashing attacks can rip them up quickly.

Speed

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 64
Your creature’s Speed should be 25 feet if it moves like a human. Beyond that, you can set the Speed to whatever makes sense. Remember that the creature can move up to triple this number if it spends its whole turn moving, so if you want the PCs to be able to chase the creature, its Speed can be only so high. Creatures at higher levels need ways to deal with flying PCs, speedy PCs, and PCs with more efficient actions that let them engage and retreat more easily. This might mean adding a fly Speed, giving the creature ranged attacks, and so forth.

Creatures can have climb and swim Speeds even at low levels. While you can give your creature a fly Speed at those low levels, it’s better to wait until around 7th level (when PCs gain access to fly) to give your creature a fly Speed if it also has ranged attacks or another way to harry the PCs from a distance indefinitely.

Strikes

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 64
When building your creature’s selection of Strikes, use the following sections to set the Strike’s attack bonus and damage. Give the attack all the normal traits if it’s a weapon; for unarmed attacks or weapons you invent, give whatever traits you feel are appropriate. Note that these traits might influence the damage you give the Strike.

You might want to make sure a creature has an unarmed attack if you think it’s likely to get disarmed. At 7th level and higher, PCs might have the ability to fly, which makes it more important for creatures to have decent ranged Strikes to make sure they aren’t totally hopeless against flying PCs (though they could instead have fast fly Speeds or something similar).

Strike Attack Bonus

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 64
Use a high attack bonus for combat creatures—fighter types—that also usually have high damage. A creature could have a higher attack bonus and lower damage, or vice versa (for instance, a moderate attack bonus and extreme damage might fit a creature that’s more like a barbarian), instead of having a poor statistic in another category. Spellcasters typically have poor attack bonuses, potentially in exchange for extreme spell DCs.

Table 2–9: Strike Attack Bonus

LevelExtremeHighModerateLow
–1+10+8+6+4
0+10+8+6+4
1+11+9+7+5
2+13+11+9+7
3+14+12+10+8
4+16+14+12+9
5+17+15+13+11
6+19+17+15+12
7+20+18+16+13
8+22+20+18+15
9+23+21+19+16
10+25+23+21+17
11+27+24+22+19
12+28+26+24+20
13+29+27+25+21
14+31+29+27+23
15+32+30+28+24
16+34+32+30+25
17+35+33+31+27
18+37+35+33+28
19+38+36+34+29
20+40+38+36+31
21+41+39+37+32
22+43+41+39+33
23+44+42+40+35
24+46+44+42+36

Strike Damage

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 64
Table 2–10 on the next page gives the damage a creature should deal with a single Strike. You might use a lower category if the creature has better accuracy, or a higher category if its accuracy is lower.

A creature that’s meant to be primarily a combat threat uses high damage for its melee Strikes, or moderate for melee Strikes that have the agile trait. Ranged attacks more typically use the moderate value, or even low. A creature that’s meant to be highly damaging uses the extreme damage values, but might then have a moderate attack bonus. As with most statistics, extreme damage is more likely at higher levels. You can also use the extreme value for special attacks that the creature can use only a limited number of times or under circumstances that aren’t likely to happen every round.

More versatile creatures, such as ones that can cast some spells and aren’t meant to primarily get their damage through Strikes, go one category lower: moderate for their main melee Strikes, low for agile and ranged Strikes. Spellcasters and other creatures that aren’t meant to be competent in a direct fight might use the low damage value, or even less if they completely don’t care about their Strikes. On Table 2–10, you’ll find a damage expression (a die roll or rolls plus a flat modifier) you can use as is, or you can take the damage in parentheses and build your own damage expression to hit that number. If you do the latter, remember that a d4 counts as 2.5 damage, a d6 as 3.5, a d8 as 4.5, a d10 as 5.5, and a d12 as 6.5. Usually a damage expression works best when roughly half the damage is from dice and half is from the flat modifier. If your creature deals special damage, like 1d6 fire from flaming attacks, that counts toward its total damage per Strike. Keep in mind that a creature using a weapon should have a damage value that feels right for that weapon. Extreme damage works well for two-handed weapons that uses d10s or d12s for damage. On the other hand, a dagger uses only d4s, so a dagger wielder would need something like sneak attack to deal extreme damage, or you might compensate for the dagger’s lower damage per Strike by giving the creature the ability to attack more efficiently or use other tricks.

Table 2–10: Strike Damage

LevelExtremeHighModerateLow
–11d6+1 (4)1d4+1 (3)1d4 (3)1d4 (2)
01d6+3 (6)1d6+2 (5)1d4+2 (4)1d4+1 (3)
11d8+4 (8)1d6+3 (6)1d6+2 (5)1d4+2 (4)
21d12+4 (11)1d10+4 (9)1d8+4 (8)1d6+3 (6)
31d12+8 (15)1d10+6 (12)1d8+6 (10)1d6+5 (8)
42d10+7 (18)2d8+5 (14)2d6+5 (12)2d4+4 (9)
52d12+7 (20)2d8+7 (16)2d6+6 (13)2d4+6 (11)
62d12+10 (23)2d8+9 (18)2d6+8 (15)2d4+7 (12)
72d12+12 (25)2d10+9 (20)2d8+8 (17)2d6+6 (13)
82d12+15 (28)2d10+11 (22)2d8+9 (18)2d6+8 (15)
92d12+17 (30)2d10+13 (24)2d8+11 (20)2d6+9 (16)
102d12+20 (33)2d12+13 (26)2d10+11 (22)2d6+10 (17)
112d12+22 (35)2d12+15 (28)2d10+12 (23)2d8+10 (19)
123d12+19 (38)3d10+14 (30)3d8+12 (25)3d6+10 (20)
133d12+21 (40)3d10+16 (32)3d8+14 (27)3d6+11 (21)
143d12+24 (43)3d10+18 (34)3d8+15 (28)3d6+13 (23)
153d12+26 (45)3d12+17 (36)3d10+14 (30)3d6+14 (24)
163d12+29 (48)3d12+18 (37)3d10+15 (31)3d6+15 (25)
173d12+31 (50)3d12+19 (38)3d10+16 (32)3d6+16 (26)
183d12+34 (53)3d12+20 (40)3d10+17 (33)3d6+17 (27)
194d12+29 (55)4d10+20 (42)4d8+17 (35)4d6+14 (28)
204d12+32 (58)4d10+22 (44)4d8+19 (37)4d6+15 (29)
214d12+34 (60)4d10+24 (46)4d8+20 (38)4d6+17 (31)
224d12+37 (63)4d10+26 (48)4d8+22 (40)4d6+18 (32)
234d12+39 (65)4d12+24 (50)4d10+20 (42)4d6+19 (33)
244d12+42 (68)4d12+26 (52)4d10+22 (44)4d6+21 (35)

Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 65
Your creature might have magical abilities that are best represented by spells. If you’re making a highly spellcasting-themed creature, give it prepared or spontaneous spells. For a creature that has spells due to its magical nature, especially if that magic isn’t its core focus, consider giving it some innate spells instead. How many spells you should give a creature depends on how you expect it to spend its actions in combat. If it’s primarily going to be making Strikes, it might not have any spells, or it might just have a few to help it move around better or protect against certain types of magic.

When choosing spells, lean hard into the creature’s theme. While many PCs choose spells to cover a wide variety of situations, creatures are more evocative the more focused they are. Consider selecting about three-quarters of the spells based on relevance to the theme and the remainder for other things. However, make sure the spells aren’t one note—selecting fireball for most of a creature’s spell slots doesn’t make for a compelling fire creature in the way a diverse selection of fire spells would.

When choosing spells, some spells won’t be very useful if cast at an extremely low level compared to the creature’s levels. Most notably, damaging spells drop off in usefulness for a creature that’s expected to last only a single fight. A damaging spell 2 levels below the highest level a creature of that level can cast is still potentially useful, but beyond that, don’t bother. Spells that have the incapacitation trait should be in the highest level slot if you want the creature to potentially get their full effect against PCs.

Spell DC and Spell Attack Roll

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 65
Set the creature’s spell DC and spell attack roll using Table 2–11 on page 66. Most creatures use the same DC for all their spells, even if they have multiple types, such as a creature with both prepared spells and innate spells.

Use the high numbers for primary casters, and the moderate numbers for creatures that have some supplemental spells but are focused more on combat. At 15th level and higher, the extreme numbers become standard for spellcasters. A few creatures might use the extreme numbers at lower levels, but they tend to be highly specialized, with very weak defenses and Strikes. Secondary spellcasters can go up to high numbers if they’re above 15th level and have offensive spells. There is no low value—the creature shouldn’t have any spells in the first place if it would be that bad at using them!

Table 2–11: Spell DC and Spell Attack Bonus

LevelExtreme DCExtreme Spell Attack BonusHigh DCHigh Spell Attack BonusModerate DCModerate Spell Attack Bonus
–119+1116+813+5
019+1116+813+5
120+1217+914+6
222+1418+1015+7
323+1520+1217+9
425+1721+1318+10
526+1822+1419+11
627+1924+1621+13
729+2125+1722+14
830+2226+1823+15
932+2428+2025+17
1033+2529+2126+18
1134+2630+2227+19
1236+2832+2429+21
1337+2933+2530+22
1439+3134+2631+23
1540+3236+2833+25
1641+3337+2934+26
1743+3538+3035+27
1844+3640+3237+29
1946+3841+3338+30
2047+3942+3439+31
2148+4044+3641+33
2250+4245+3742+34
2351+4346+3843+35
2452+4448+4045+37

Prepared and Spontaneous Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 66
Spell slots work best for creatures that are meant to play like PC spellcasters. Choose the magical tradition best suited to the creature. You aren’t strictly limited to that tradition’s spell list, though sticking close to it will make your creature’s connection to that tradition more clear. The decision to use prepared or spontaneous spellcasting should align with the creature’s theme: a spontaneous spellcaster fits well as a one-off creature, since spontaneous spellcasting grants greater flexibility in the middle of battle, while a prepared spellcaster makes for a great recurring character who can change their spells between appearances.

For a creature that can cast as many spells as a PC spellcaster, the highest spell level the creature can cast is half its level rounded up. It gets five cantrips. If the creature’s level is odd, it gets two spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or three spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level). If its level is even, it gets three spell slots of the highest spell level (plus three spell slots of each lower level), or four spell slots of that level (plus four spell slots of each lower level).

Because creatures tend to be “on stage” for only a short time, you usually don’t need to fill every spell slot. You can often fill just the top three levels of spells, pick cantrips, and slot in a few thematic backup spells in the fourth level down. For a recurring foe, you might give it a full complement.

Innate Spells

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 66
Unlike prepared and spontaneous spells, innate spells can be of higher level than half the creature’s level rounded up, and you can choose how often they’re used—they can even be used at will or be constant effects. The most notable innate spells tend to be top-level ones that make a big impact but can be used only once, at-will spells that strongly reinforce the creature’s theme, and constant spells that give it an ongoing benefit. A spell that’s usable a limited number of times and falls at a lower level than the top tier is typically less likely to come up in combat; however, that’s a great spot for utility and recovery spells, such as dispel magic or restoration.

Sometimes a strongly thematic innate spell is of a higher level than the creature would normally be able to cast, but it’s so fitting that it belongs there. Be careful when doing this, as PCs might not have access to the appropriate countermeasures for the spell. This option works best for support, action denial, or battlefield control spells that change the odds of a fight without outright killing anyone, such as the succubus’s dominate spell. These should make the fight more interesting, not end it. Keep the number of such spells very low, typically just one.

Though you can achieve all sorts of things with innate spells, always start with the theme and an idea of how you want the creature spending its actions. And though you could give the creature a tool to counter every kind of PC attack or trick, remember that the players chose those options to enjoy using them, rather than to be constantly foiled by an effectively invincible creature.

Rituals

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
Since rituals happen during downtime, giving them to a creature is usually a purely thematic choice. You can skip even looking at rituals in most cases. If you decide a creature needs to have a ritual for your story, add in the ritual whenever you need it.

Design Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
In this step, you’ll take the ideas for abilities you noted when you developed your concept and design these abilities for your creature. You can look at existing creature abilities from the Bestiary and feats from the Core Rulebook and use them as is or modify them to fit your needs.

When choosing abilities, think about both the number of abilities and the diversity of abilities. Having a large number of similar abilities can make the creature tougher to run, and it probably can’t use them all anyway. Diversity of abilities gives the creature different ways to act in different situations, and helps guide you as the GM. For instance, a combat creature might have one ability it uses to get into position, another to use when it wants to focus damage on a single enemy, and a third that’s more defensive.

Basics of Ability Design

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
There are a few principles of ability construction that you’ll want to keep in mind. Some guidance for specific types of abilities will come later, but these apply to everything.
  • Respect the action economy.
  • Make sure abilities are level appropriate.
  • Avoid “invisible” abilities.

Action Economy

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
Understanding a creature’s action economy is key for making it work in play. Remember how short the lifespan of a typical combat creature is. Including a bunch of combat abilities might mean you spend time building actions the creature will never have time to use. Narrow your selections down to the smallest and most compelling set that makes sense. Also keep in mind that special actions will compete for time with any combat spells you gave the creature.

Reactions can help, giving the creature a way to act when it’s not its turn. See Reactive Abilities on page 69 for advice on designing these tricky abilities.

Because of PC capabilities at higher levels, creatures at those levels should get more abilities that improve their action economy. For instance, creatures that grapple should have Improved Grab instead of Grab, Speeds should be higher, and many abilities that would have cost an action at a lower level should be free actions.

Level Appropriateness

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 67
The effects of an ability should be appropriate to the creature’s level. For damaging abilities, that means they follow the damage guidelines on page 68. For others, take a look at spells and feats with a similar effect to see if they’re level appropriate. For instance, say you’re considering giving a 6th-level creature the ability to teleport a short distance. Dimension door is comparable—that’s a 4th-level spell, normally cast by a 7th-level or higher creature. That means 6th level probably isn’t too low, but the creature shouldn’t be able to use the ability more than once. You can also compare your creature to those in a Bestiary volume to see if the special abilities seem similar in power to those of other creatures of the same level.

Invisible Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 68
Avoid abilities that do nothing but change the creature’s math, also known as “invisible abilities.” These alter a creature’s statistics in a way that’s invisible to the players, which makes the creature less engaging because the players don’t see it using its abilities in a tangible or evocative way. For example, an ability that allows a creature to use an action to increase its accuracy for the round with no outward sign (or worse, just grants a passive bonus to its accuracy) isn’t that compelling, whereas one that increases its damage by lighting its arrows on fire is noticeable. These both work toward the same goal—dealing more damage this round—but one is far more memorable.

Active Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 68
Abilities a creature uses on its turn have the most flexibility and scope. You can use Table 2–11 to determine active ability DCs as well as spell DCs. You can have an ability use 1 to 3 actions as needed (or be a free action in rare cases) and use just about any type of tactic. Feats, spells, and existing creature abilities provide a wide variety of examples, so look for something similar to your idea to use as a basis.

Consider how you want your creature to spend its turns. Two-action activities pretty much define the creature’s turn, and single actions work best for supplemental benefits or normal Strikes. And as you build out your idea of a creature’s turn, don’t forget about movement! A creature often needs to spend actions getting into position, especially early in a fight. This is especially challenging with melee-only creatures. You can give such creatures abilities similar to Sudden Charge or the deadly mantis’s Leaping Grab.

Use 3-action abilities sparingly, as a creature can’t use them if it is slowed or stunned—making a creature’s coolest or most defining ability use up 3 actions might mean the creature never gets to use it. These activities should be reserved for abilities that include some movement (like Trample) or that the creature is likely to use before engaging in combat. Don’t make an ability use 3 actions as a way to balance it—saying “This can be more powerful than other abilities because it is less likely to work,” is a recipe for frustration if you’ve made a cool ability that’s too hard or even impossible for the creature to use.

Be especially careful with activities when designing boss creatures. They’re likely to get targeted with the PCs’ most powerful detrimental effects, get grabbed, become slowed, or otherwise have their actions restricted. Bosses need to have solid options they can use with 1 or 2 actions. This lets them use their remaining actions to get away, use a simple ability, or otherwise keep the fight dynamic.

Free Actions

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 68
Use free actions that don’t have triggers sparingly, and when you do, they should almost always be used for support or utility actions, not Strikes or movement. If you come up with a free action, consider whether it should be its own action or part of a combo, such as drawing a weapon and attacking. In cases like the latter, you might be better off making a single action that allows the creature to draw a weapon and then Strike.

Damage-Dealing Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 68
If a special action is a single action with only one target, you can often set damage using Table 2–10: Strike Damage on page 65. If it uses more than 1 action or requires setup in some way, it might deal higher damage than is typical; often, you can just use the extreme column in these cases.

For abilities that deal damage in an area, use Table 2–12 below. These numbers are based on a 2-action activity (e.g., most damaging spells). Single actions should deal much less damage. An ability that has another significant effect, like applying a condition, should deal less damage; for this, look at the damage for 2 or more levels lower, and judge which value would best match based on the severity of the additional effect. These abilities typically allow a basic saving throw. The table includes values for unlimited‑use abilities (ones that can be used at-will) and limited-use ones (which can be used once or, like a Breath Weapon, once or twice but not on consecutive turns).

You can use the dice given or generate your own expression based on the damage in parentheses, as detailed in the Strike Damage section on page 64. If a high-level effect has a small area compared to similar abilities, you have it deal more damage.

Table 2–12: Area Damage

LevelUnlimited UseLimited Use
–11d4 (2)1d6 (4)
01d6 (4)1d10 (6)
12d4 (5)2d6 (7)
22d6 (7)3d6 (11)
32d8 (9)4d6 (14)
43d6 (11)5d6 (18)
52d10 (12)6d6 (21)
64d6 (14)7d6 (25)
74d6 (15)8d6 (28)
85d6 (17)9d6 (32)
95d6 (18)10d6 (35)
106d6 (20)11d6 (39)
116d6 (21)12d6 (42)
125d8 (23)13d6 (46)
137d6 (24)14d6 (49)
144d12 (26)15d6 (53)
156d8 (27)16d6 (56)
168d6 (28)17d6 (60)
178d6 (29)18d6 (63)
189d6 (30)19d6 (67)
197d8 (32)20d6 (70)
206d10 (33)21d6 (74)
2110d6 (35)22d6 (77)
228d8 (36)23d6 (81)
2311d6 (38)24d6 (84)
2411d6 (39)25d6 (88)

Defensive Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Active offensive abilities usually fit creatures better than defensive abilities do. Save defense increases for creatures that are strongly defense-themed. For martial creatures, something as simple as a shield and Shield Block is usually plenty. Defensive abilities often run the risk of being invisible abilities. For examples of good defensive abilities, look at spells like sanctuary for ideas, or other spells that create interesting protective effects instead of just granting a bonus. If you do want to make a creature defensive, pick one defensive ability rather than several, since stacking up multiple defenses can make for a frustrating fight. One solid style of defensive ability is a mode switch, which causes the creature to get stronger defenses, but limits its attacks, spells, or other offensive options.

Reactive Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Reactions and free actions with triggers can give a creature an impact outside its turn. This can make the fight more interesting, but may also be risky. It’s tempting to give every creature a reaction, but that’s not necessarily a good idea.

To decide whether your creature should have a reaction, first consider if the creature has the reflexes or insight to react well in the first place—for instance, an ogre doesn’t have Attack of Opportunity because it’s a big oaf. Oozes, constructs, and unintelligent creatures are less likely to have reactions than others for this reason.

Second, look at the complexity of the encounter your creature is likely to appear in. If you’ll have a large number of creatures, skipping reactions can make the fight flow faster. A creature that’s more likely to fight solo, on the other hand, might have a reaction to give it a way to continue to be dangerous amid an onslaught of attacks by the party.

When creating reactions, be careful with “gotcha” abilities—ones that punish players for making perfectly reasonable choices, for rolling poorly, and so on. If you include abilities like this, they need to reinforce the creature’s core theme and the play style you want it to use in combat. For example, a creature that Strikes as a reaction when someone fails an attack roll will encourage PCs to use their actions on other tactics, rather than attacking multiple times each turn. Is that what you want? Is this dynamic essential for making the creature feel like it’s supposed to? This isn’t the type of ability you’d give to any old creature— only an incredible duelist or something similar.

Reactions should require something out of the ordinary to happen, or should be relatively weak if triggered by something ordinary. A reaction that triggers anytime someone tries to Strike a creature is likely to be perceived by the players as uninteresting because it’s so predictable.

The best reactions should be telegraphed so when they happen, it makes sense to the players. Think of one of the core reactions of the game: Shield Block. The creature raises its shield—an obvious action the PCs can see—so when it blocks damage from an attack, that makes perfect sense. Similarly, if you made a crystalline creature, you might have it build up sonic energy in a low thrum, so when it uses a reaction to release a burst of sonic energy when hit, the players can say, “Oh, I should have seen that coming.”

Reaction Damage

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Reactions should use lower damage, usually that of a moderate Strike. A reaction that deals area damage might deal low damage, though use such reactions with caution.

Constant and Automatic Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Certain abilities shouldn’t use any actions. Auras are a common constant ability, with frightful presence, an adult red dragon’s dragon heat, and a xulgath’s stench as notable examples. An aura needs a range, and if it needs a DC, you’ll usually set it to the moderate spell DC unless the aura is one of the creature’s defining concepts. For example, the xulgath’s stench DC is significantly higher because the aura is such an iconic part of the creature.

Abilities the creature has no control over should be automatic. For example, the living wildfire fire elemental explodes into flame when it dies. It has no option not to, so this wouldn’t make sense as a reaction or free action. Conversely, the Ferocity ability is a reaction because it requires the creature to give itself a last push to stay at 1 HP.

Constant and Automatic Damage

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Much like for reactions, damage for a constant ability should be pretty low. Usually this value is just below low Strike damage. Automatic abilities like the living wildfire’s explosion ability tend to deal moderate Strike damage or unlimited-use area damage, and can deal even more if they happen only after the creature is dead or otherwise no longer presents a threat.

Skill Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
A skilled creature might have abilities related to its skills. The skill feats in the Core Rulebook make for a good baseline. Avoid giving your creature skill abilities that won’t matter in its interactions with PCs.

Review Holistically

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 69
Now it’s time to look over your completed creature as a whole and make sure it’s living up to your concept. Can it do everything you wanted? Does it fit its intended role? Is there anything you could add or anything superfluous you could cut to get the creature where it needs to be?

If this creature is built for combat, run through a few turns in your head. Does it still work decently if it gets slowed? Can it move into combat against the PCs effectively given their mobility options compared to its own? Does it have any abilities it’ll never use given its other actions?

When you’re satisfied with your creation, it’s ready to hit the table. But that’s not necessarily the end! If you notice issues during the game, you can fix them on the spot. It’s your game, and you can freely change what you wrote if you think differently later on.

Trait Abilities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 70
Creatures with certain traits tend to have similar abilities to one another. Many of them appear here, to help you make your creatures match the theme of the trait when you build your own creatures.

Aberration

Senses usually darkvision
Languages usually Aklo

Aeon

Traits LN, monitor
Languages Utopian and other planar languages; envisioning for true aeons
Weaknesses chaotic
Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.

Air

Languages usually Auran
Speed Many air creatures have fly Speeds.

Angel

Traits good (usually NG), celestial
Aura Angels each have a unique aura based on how they serve as messengers and how they deliver those messages.
Speed usually has a fly Speed
Rituals usually angelic messenger

Animal

Traits N
Languages none
Int –4 or –5

Archon

Traits LG, celestial
Virtue Ability Archons each represent a specific virtue, like courage or hope, and have a special ability based on the virtue they represent.

Astral

Senses darkvision

Azata

Traits CG, celestial
Weaknesses cold iron, evil
Freedom Ability Azatas each represent a specific freedom, like free expression or free love, and have a special ability based on the freedom they represent.

Beast

Int –3 or higher

Celestial

Traits good
Senses darkvision
Languages Celestial
Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic
Weaknesses evil
Damage Attacks always deal additional good damage.

Cold

Immunities or Resistances cold

Construct

Traits Many constructs lack minds and have the mindless trait.
Immunities bleed, death effects, diseased, doomed, drained, fatigued, healing, necromancy, nonlethal attacks, paralyzed, poison, sickened, unconscious; if mindless, add mental

Daemon

Traits NE, fiend
Languages Daemonic, telepathy 100 feet
Immunities death effects
Death Ability Daemons each represent a specific kind of death, like death by disease or starvation, and have a special ability based on the method of death they represent.

Demon

Traits CE, fiend
Languages Abyssal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)
Weaknesses cold iron, good
HP typically high to account for their multiple weaknesses
Sin Vulnerability Demons each represent a specific sin, like envy or wrath, and have a special vulnerability based on the sin they represent. This should be something the PCs can exploit through their actions, which should then deal mental damage to the demon. The amount of damage should be based on how easy the vulnerability is to exploit.
Divine Innate Spells usually 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door
Rituals usually Abyssal pact
Sin Ability Demons also have a special ability based on the sin they represent, which either makes them better embody the sin or instills that sin in others.

Devil

Traits LE, fiend
Languages Infernal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)
Immunities fire; Resistances physical (except silver), poison
Divine Innate Spells usually one 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door
Rituals usually Infernal pact
Infernal Hierarchy Ability Devils each have an ability corresponding to the role they play in the infernal hierarchy, typically focused around control or being controlled, from the lowly lemure’s Subservience to the gelugon’s Tactician of Cocytus and the pit fiend’s Devil Shaping.

Dragon

Senses darkvision
Languages usually Draconic
Speed usually has a fly Speed
Breath Weapon Many dragons have the Breath Weapon ability, with specifics determined by the theme of the dragon.

Earth

Perception often tremorsense
Languages usually Terran
Speed usually a burrow Speed

Elemental

Senses darkvision
Immunities bleed, paralyzed, poison, sleep

Ethereal

Senses darkvision

Fey

Senses low-light vision
Languages usually Aklo, Sylvan, or both
Weaknesses cold iron

Fiend

Traits evil
Senses darkvision
Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic
Weaknesses good
Damage Attacks always deal additional evil damage.

Fire

Languages usually Ignan
Immunities fire; Resistances cold

Fungus

Traits fungi without minds have the mindless trait
Immunities if mindless, mental; Weaknesses sometimes slashing or fire

Giant

Traits Large or bigger, humanoid
Senses low-light vision
Languages usually Jotun

Humanoid

Int –3 or higher

Inevitable

Traits LN, aeon, monitor
Immunities death effects, disease, emotion, poison, unconscious Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.

Monitor

Traits neither good nor evil
Senses darkvision

Ooze

Traits Almost all oozes lack minds and have the mindless trait.
Senses typically motion sense (Info here) and no vision
AC usually well below the low value for their level
HP usually around double
Immunities critical hits, precision, unconscious, often acid; if it has no vision, add visual effects; if mindless, add mental

Plant

Traits plants without minds have the mindless trait
Senses usually low-light vision
Immunities if mindless, mental; Weaknesses sometimes fire

Protean

Traits CN, monitor
Languages Protean
Weaknesses lawful; Resistances precision, protean anatomy
Protean Anatomy (Info here)
Damage Attacks always deal additional chaotic damage.
Divine Innate Spells constant freedom of movement
Change Shape

Psychopomp

Traits N, monitor
Senses lifesense (typically 60 feet)
Languages Requian
Immunities death effects, disease
Resistances negative, poison
Damage spirit touch (Info here)

Rakshasa

Traits LE, fiend
Saves usually +2 status bonus to all saves vs. magic (+3 vs. divine magic)
Resistances physical (except piercing)
Change Shape

Spirit

Traits incorporeal, often undead

Swarm

Traits size based on the entire mass, usually Large or bigger
HP typically low; Immunities precision, swarm mind; Weaknesses area damage, splash damage; Resistances physical, usually with one physical type having lower or no resistance

Undead

Traits Almost all undead are evil. Ghostly undead have the incorporeal trait. Undead without minds, such as most zombies, have the mindless trait.
Senses darkvision
HP negative healing
Immunities death effects, disease, paralyze, poison, sleep (or unconscious if it never rests at all); if mindless, add mental

Water

Languages usually Aquan
Speed usually has a swim Speed

Designing NPCs

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 72
Creatures that are meant to cleave closely to character classes or intended to represent people rather than monsters are NPCs. They might face more scrutiny around their mechanics than creatures, because a player can more directly compare their rogue to an NPC who acts like a rogue. That doesn’t mean you have to build an NPC exactly like a PC, though.

You can build NPCs just like you would any other creatures. If an NPC should work like they have a class, use the class features and feats of a suitable class to pick abilities, and look at both the class’s proficiencies and ability modifiers to determine how strong the NPC’s statistics should be. Class Road Maps on page 73 has prebuilt road maps for the Core Rulebook classes to get you started.

If the NPC isn’t meant to work like they have a class (a baker, for example), instead look at the NPC Gallery on pages 202–249. Compare your NPC to the existing ones to determine the NPC’s level, and look for abilities that are similar to what yours should have. You can also create new abilities as needed to get the NPC’s interactions with the PCs to express their theme and role in the story. These NPCs can be level –1 or level 0. Their capabilities are below those of PCs, and they should typically not use any class features or feats from PC classes. Creatures of these levels tend to be extremely simple, and usually you can just take one from the NPC Gallery and reskin it.

It’s highly recommended that you select NPC skills using proficiency ranks as you would a PC, though you don’t need to be precise about the number of skill increases you give the NPC. You can give them earlier access to expert, master, or legendary proficiency if they’re a skill-based NPC, and better proficiency in narrow areas of expertise, like Engineering Lore for a tinker NPC.

Non-Combat Level

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 72
An NPC’s level should represent their combat prowess. A common person might not be a combat threat, even if they’re important or highly skilled, and they consequently have a low level. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t present a challenge in other types of encounters. This is represented by a non-combat level, and tends to be specific to their area of expertise. For example, the barrister on page 232 of the NPC Gallery is a 4th-level creature in an encounter related to legal matters.

This can go the other way as well, such as with a powerful combat creature that’s not suited to social settings. This is usually the case with creatures untrained in mental skills. You can improvise this as you run the game, or you can plan ahead if you have something particular in mind.

Building an NPC’s non-combat level is pretty simple. Choose the level you want the NPC to be for the type of challenge you have in mind, and use the skill numbers for that level—typically high or even extreme. Some challenges, such as social challenges, require the creature to have a high Perception and Will DC, so in those cases, you should increase those values as well. These should be set at the moderate or high values for the non-combat level, usually, depending on how adept you want the NPC to be.

The Experience Points gained for besting an NPC depend on how the party overcame them, because XP comes from overcoming a specific challenge. If the PCs defeat the NPC in a non-combat setting of the NPC’s specialty, the party gets XP based on the NPC’s non‑combat level. If they just beat the NPC up, the XP would be based on the NPC’s creature level. Quite often, that means 0 XP and failure at the PCs’ objective; for instance, during a baking contest, if the PCs murder the other baker, not only would they be disqualified, but they would likely be apprehended for their crime.

PC-Style Build

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 72
If you do choose to build an NPC fully using the PC rules, your NPC should generally end up being an appropriate challenge as a creature of their level. They will likely have lower statistics in some areas than if you had built them using the creature rules, but more options due to their full complement of feats and class features. This is best saved for important, recurring NPCs, especially if they’re meant to engage in social or exploration endeavors rather than just battles.

There are still some considerations and shortcuts that can expedite the process while ensuring the NPC works as you intend.
  • The creature’s treasure should follow the Treasure for New Characters rules on page 510 of the Core Rulebook. You’ll need to account for this in your campaign’s overall treasure. You might even want to give the NPC a higher-level item appropriate as a treasure allotment for the level.
  • You can expedite ability score generation by making the starting ability modifiers add up to +9, with no more than one modifier at +4 (and typically no more than one negative modifier). You can skip adding a background if you do this, but you might want to give the creature two skills, which includes one Lore skill, to represent the skills granted by a background.
  • It’s not necessary to assign every skill feat, particularly for a higher-level NPC. You can just pick the most emblematic ones and gloss over the rest.
  • For general feats, Incredible Initiative and Toughness make good choices.
  • Most of the guidelines about choosing spells still apply, though you might want a few more utility spells that deal with non-combat challenges, particularly in low-level slots.