5e Monster Templates

I like the idea of the template system where a DM can quickly change a monster’s level to suit the needs of the upcoming combat. I vaguely remember that this was something somewhere in 4e, and I was wondering if we could do something like that for 5e. You can download the results here.

Basic upgrades:
I did a quick analysis of the monster creation section, and this is what I found. If you increase any of the following statistics by the amount mentioned, the creature gains half of the next CR level.

  • Hit points by 15 (or any fraction thereof)
  • AC by 2 
  • Attack damage by 5 (or any fraction thereof)
  • Attack bonus by 2

This isn’t exact due to scaling proficiency and AC, but should provide an easy rule of thumb that makes it easy to swap in “leader” monsters. If you wanted to get really nitty-gritty, you could swap out +1 attack, 7 hp, et cetera for quarters of the next CR level.

Next CR Level
In this context, leveling up a monster refers to bringing it up to the next CR level. So if you added 30 hit points to a CR 0.5 creature, it would now have a CR of 1, not 1.5. If you added 30 hit points to a creature that is CR 2, it would move up to CR 3.

Weak monsters (CR 0 to 1) scale differently, making it difficult to make Sergeant Orcs or Gnolls on the fly.  In general, these templates can be added to any monster that does at least 9 damage and has 21 hit points and shouldn’t be used if the monster’s CR is over 18. If a creature has less than 21 hit points, but more than 6, increase the monster's hit points to 21, then apply the template. This “bonus” increase in hit points does not change the CR level of the monster. These templates cannot be used with creatures that have less than 6 hit points. Also, proficiency bonuses and expected armor class slowly increase with a monster’s level, and this method doesn’t take this into account. Your freshly minted monsters may be slightly weaker than their CR indicates.

Let’s see this in action
Say you wanted to make Orog Elite that is 2 levels higher than then the standard Orog grunt. You could easily just tack on a third multiattack (worth 10 points of damage) and 30 additional hit points, and you have something that can act as a CR 4 monster. It makes a great leader for the rest of the crew. Upgrading this monster took about 20 seconds.

Adding 30 hit points is fun and all, but what about making monsters interesting?
You can look through all the “monsters features” in the DMG then use the breakdown above to convert them in to portions of the next CR Level. Here are some examples:

  • Add 10 hp a turn regeneration? That converts to 30 hit points, or a full CR level.
  • Perry adds 1 AC to a monster, so it counts for a quarter of the next CR level. 
  • Magic resistance (as in advantage on saving throws) counts for 2 AC so it counts for half of the next level
  • Magic-like effects (dragon breath and death burst) are assumed to hit 2 players, and are assumed to only used once a combat. Since a monster is expected to last 3 rounds you could take the monsters normal attack damage, add 15 (5 damage for 3 rounds for a half a level), and then divide by two to get the resulting damage of the spell effect. So if you wanted to give Orog a grenade, it would do 17 ((20+15)/2) damage in a 20 ft wide area with a reflex saving throw of 14 (8 + the monsters attack modifier). This would add half a level, then you could add 5 hit points regeneration and all of a sudden you have a CR 3 Orog alchemist.

Bringing it all together – Creating Templates
Let’s mash all of this together and see what we come up with. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Sergeant Template
Increases monster CR by the next two levels.
These brutish fighters have a received a bit more military training than their counterparts
Creature gains:

  • Perry. Monster uses its reaction to get +3 AC against a single melee attack.
  • +30 hit points
  • +2 to hit
  • +1 AC

Alchemist Template
Increases monster to the next CR level
These monsters have spent the majority of their time devising and drinking vials of ominous liquid.
Creature Gains:

  • Grenade (1/day). Creature throws a grenade at a target. Each creature within a 10 feet radius of the target needs to succeed on a reflex saving throw or take ((normal weapon damage +15)/2) damage. Those that succeed take half damage. Damage type is set by the DM when she uses the template.
  • Regeneration. The creature regenerations 5 hit points a turn.

Well Armored
Increases monster to the next CR level
Requirements Strength 13, AC < 15
These monsters are wearing strong and well kept armor. 
Creatures gains:

  • +4 AC

Increases monster CR by the next two levels.
Requirements: Not wearing heavy armor, ranged weapon

These monsters have been trained in the arts of guerrilla warfare and are often a problem for merchant caravans.
Creature Gains:

  • Proficiency in Stealth
  • Movement increase to 35 ft
  • Commando’s Shot (1/turn). On a hit with a raged attack, the creature can choose to add 10 (3d6) piercing damage to its target.
  • +2 to attack
  • +15 hit points