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Npcs & Monsters

Retainers, Renown, & Reactions


PCs are powerful leaders, and as such will acquire retainers, NPCs in their service. Retainers are controlled by the GM, but given orders by their PC commander.

Retainers demand 10gp per HD per day in service. Highly dangerous work might elicit a demand for higher wages.

Max Retainers & Hench

A PC can’t command more than their CHA retainers. Elite retainers, hench, are earned equal to ((CHA mod + level) – 5). A level 5 PC with CHA mod +1 attracts 1 hench (1 + 5 – 5 = 1). The same PC at level 9 could have attracted 5 hench. Hench work for free and have superior morale and check modifiers, generally starting at 3HD or higher.

Retainer Checks

Retainers are built in a similar fashion to monsters (see page 35). Retainers (usually) fall into one of four categories:

  • Laborer: diligent and athletic
  • Expert: educated or experienced
  • Militia: capable in a fight
  • Adept: an acolyte priest or conjurer

The GM rolls for retainer checks (including attacks, morale, and ability checks) with modifiers based on their HD and category (such as a 4HD Laborer gets +6 to hauling load). A retainer’s mod should change based on their category’s relevance to the check.


PCs can garner renown, a rating of their infamy. The higher their renown, the more likely an NPC knows of a PC’s exploits. Renown = PC’s highest ability mod + level.

The GM can choose to roll for an NPC’s familiarity, judging off of the PC’s renown. If rolling, the GM rolls 1d20; the NPC knows the PC if equal or under their renown. If the GM thinks it likely or unlikely that an NPC would know the PC but still wishes to roll, they may do so at advantage (the NPC is more likely to know the PC, take the lower result) or disadvantage (the NPC is unlikely).

A level 7 PC with STR +4 has 11 renown.

The GM says this obviates a roll, and that the PC’s reputation precedes them as they enter a small hamlet. Later, the PC goes to confront a warlord.

The GM rolls to determine if the warlord knows of the PC, and gives them advantage – making it more likely that they do – to the roll due to the PC’s martial background.

The GM rolls 2d20, 4 and 17, and selects the 4. The warlord knows of the PC.


The GM can roll 1d20 to determine an NPC’s reaction to a PC when confronted, with the higher the roll the more favorable. A result of 1-5 is hostile, 6-10 cautious, 11-15 curious, 16-20 positive or even friendly. Renown or other factors can modify the roll.


PCs can give orders to retainers. Giving orders counts as a quick if it’s less than a few words, or a movement action if more. Retainers behave as the GM sees fit if they are given no orders by their PC commander.

A PC commander can spend an active action on their turn to roll a command check (usually DC 11, but higher if the GM thinks the tactical situation is especially troubling). Rather than attack or similar, the commander focuses on and maximizes the impact of their retainers. Success means that the ordered retainers gain advantage on their next roll or are able to execute a special maneuver as a single unit:

  • Charge: move forward and attack
  • Form Up: get +2AC until next turn
  • Kite: move away and attack
  • Focus Fire: attack 1 target if possible
  • Reposition: move twice their speed
  • Retrieve: move to, grab, and retreat

Each ordered retainer’s turn ends once the maneuver is complete, even if they have not yet acted. Those who can’t follow orders (e.g. out of range, immobile, etc) may still act as independent NPCs. A PC commands 10 retainers; 5 don’t have bows. The PC uses their active action and passes a command check. The PC orders their unit to Focus Fire an orc 80′ away. The 5 without bows can’t reach the orc and so don’t act. The 5 with bows fire, and the GM rolls 5 times (once for each attacker).


Monsters are broken out into categories based on their behavior and role. A monster of any category can have any HD. Special techniques can be added to any monster to make it more difficult or interesting.

Each category has a description with actions and abilities that the monster is good or bad at. Monsters gain a check modifier to these actions per the below formulas.

Monster Check Modifiers

Weak Modifier
  • Rarely attempted actions.
  • Modifier 1/2 HD – 2 (max +8)
  • A 5 HD monster has a +0 check modifier (1/2 of 5 = 2; 2-2 = 0)
Normal Modifier
  • As good as you?d expect.
  • 1/2 HD + 2 (max +10)
  • A 5 HD monster has a +4 check modifier (1/2 of 5 = 2; 2+2 = 4)
Strong Modifier
  • The monster excels at this.
  • HD + 2 (max +12)
  • A 5 HD monster has a +7 check modifier (5HD = 5; 5+2 = 7)
  • Add +10 to best suited mod

Assume unlisted actions or abilities have a ?Normal? modifier for that monster.

Monster Math Table
HD (1d8) Average HP Weak Mod Normal Mod Strong Mod Average Damage
1/4 1 -2 +2 +2 1d4
1/2 2 -2 +2 +2 1d6
1 5 -2 +2 +3 1d8
2 9 -1 +3 +4 1d10
3 13 -1 +3 +5 1d12
4 17 +0 +4 +6 2d6
5 21 +0 +4 +7 2d8
6 25 +1 +5 +8 2d10
7 29 +1 +5 +9 2d12
8 33 +2 +6 +10 3d8
9 37 +2 +6 +11 3d8 + 1
10 41 +3 +7 +12 3d8 + 2
11 45 +3 +7 +12 3d10
12 49 +4 +8 +12 3d10 + 1
13 53 +4 +8 +12 3d10 + 2
14 57 +5 +9 +12 3d12
15 61 +5 +9 +12 3d12 + 1
16 65 +6 +10 +12 3d12 + 2
17 69 +6 +10 +12 4d10
18 73 +7 +10 +12 4d10 + 1

Monsters that have multiple dice worth of average damage can split that damage up across multiple targets (such as by multiple attacks, aura effects, counter-attacks, and so forth).

Monster Categories & Techniques

Category Description

  • Brute Weak: INT, DEX, stealth, finesse, perception, tactics
  • Strong: STR, CON, morale, holding the line, resistance
  • Leader Weak: STR, CON, combat, being alone, resistance
  • Strong: INT, CHA, magic, commands, with minions
  • Predator Weak: CON, resistance, morale, direct combat
  • Strong: INT, offense, stealth, patience, cunning
  • Shaper Weak: Melee combat, being locked down in one place
  • Strong: WIS, INT, forced movement, changing the environment
  • Sniper Weak: CON, STR, melee, resistance, morale
  • Strong: DEX, WIS, ranged combat, perception
  • Soldier Weak: magic, speed, lack of leadership, stealth
  • Strong: STR, DEX, combat, morale, unit discipline

Monster Categories

Each monster belongs to one category, which provides the GM guidance on how to determine its modifiers and behavior (most soldiers are similar despite their details).

Monster Techniques

Weak monsters have 0-1 techniques, Normal monsters have 1-2 techniques, and elite monsters have 3 or more. Techniques can come from innate abilities, equipment and weapons, or external or environmental factors such as a monster’s lair.

The GM can select any of the techniques below and modify the monster per the technique.

Technique Description

Ability Drain Successful attacks temporarily (or permanently at HD 5+) reduce a hit PC’s ability by 1d6. Pick one ability to target

Adept Pick up to two spells from the Arcane or Divine spellcaster list. The sum of these spell’s levels can’t exceed the monster’s HD. The spells can be cast once per encounter at will

Alter Environment

Area: Spread, 30′ / HD

The monster can introduce new physical hazards or reshape the battlefield in some way.

The GM selects one style of alteration: stone, plants, weather, mechanical, sensory, or magical Blast Area: Cone, 10′ / 2HD; Damage: 1d6 / 2HD

Check: PCs check to resist or dodge

Notes: usually elemental or magic. 1 use per fight per 3 HD

Burst Area: Sphere, 5′ / HD Damage: 1d6 / HD

Check: PCs check to resist or dodge

Notes: usually elemental or magic. 1 use per fight per 3 HD Extra When Gain a bonus of some kind when criteria are met (more damage when in a forest, extra AC when in darkness, etc)

Force Condition

Successful attacks force a negative condition on their PC target: blind, deafened, paralyzed, stunned, charmed, etc. Pick one

Multi-Attack 1 extra attack per 3 HD (6HD would have 3 attacks, 1 + 2 extra)

Resistance or Immunity

Gain either 1/2 damage or immunity to certain weapons or damage types (fire, slashing, non-magical, non-silver, etc)

Shove Target: 1 PC / 2 HD

Check: Monster checks to hit each target

Each hit PC suffers forced movement up to 10′ per 5 HD Special Movement

Gain a unique movement type or speed in certain circumstances: flying, burrowing, ethereal, underwater, leap, teleport, extreme speed, wallclimb, ignore harsh terrain in certain environments

Monster Tactics, Conversions, & Alignment


Monsters often protect hoards, collections of treasure or loot. Hoard tables from older editions can be used as is, or estimated at 1,000 gp per HD of the highest HD monster (e.g. a castle with a 7 HD lord has 7,000 gp).

Converting Monsters

5e monsters and NPCs can be run as written (however 5e monsters tend to have more HP than advised; consider 1/2 HP). Convert CR to HD, and use HD for Monster Math. Games with ascending AC can be played as is, except with hard caps set per the Monster Math table (AC 20, +12 mod). Descending AC can be converted by the formula 20 – Descending AC. A classic monster with 6 AC becomes 14 AC (20 – 6 = 14). Negative AC converts to 20 AC. Damage and effects can usually be played as is. Paralysis saves can be made as CON or WIS checks. Most saves have a listed ability which remains, just made as a check.

If a monster is listed ?As Fighter N? in a table or adventure, you can use the Brute monster category as a replacement. Likewise, other monster stats listed as classes can be easily swapped out to a similar category per their specialization.

A monster’s DEX score from other games can be used as is to determine initiative, otherwise convert to Monster Math by determining their relevant HD mod +10.

Monster Alignment

This game largely ignores alignment, and only mentions alignment for certain spells or effects against Evil. Note that capital E Evil is a wholly different notion than how a particular creature behaves.

Evil creatures are literal manifestations of cruelty, corruption, and sadism. By default, mortal creatures – such as humans, dwarves, bears, horses etc – can’t be Evil.

Creatures and NPCs that are listed as Evil from other sources can be treated as such, but this generally denotes a connection to an aberrant or infernal plane, and not merely a reflection of that NPC’s actions. Common Evil creatures:

  • Demons and Devils
  • Necromancers and their ilk
  • Undead, sentient or otherwise
  • Aberrations and their thralls

Monster Tactics

Monsters should deploy tactics to the best of their ability. Even unintelligent beasts are able to cooperate as a pack. In general all monsters prefer ambushes, ranged attacks, and focusing on one target. PCs should fear wide open battlefields. Heavily emphasize monsters? techniques. Most monsters and NPCs will organize into various types of units, which deploy certain tactics to best leverage their strengths.

Non-Evil alignments are irrelevant. PC alignments are likewise irrelevant.

Group Tactics

Standard Contains: a brute, a leader, and multiple soldiers.

Tactics: brute charges and distracts, soldiers fight at range, leader prioritizes.

Raid Contains: a mix of snipers and predators.

Tactics: stealth, hit and run, focus fire, predators block PCs from snipers. Patrol Contains: multiple soldiers with one sniper.

Tactics: patrol an area, highly alert, sniper sprints away if PCs detected.

Force Contains: a leader, shaper, brute, and many soldiers.

Tactics: brute melee, soldiers support, shaper and leader damage from range

Building Monsters

Building a monster is done in steps:

  1. 1. Concept: a sentence or phrase
  2. 2. Threat: its HD and danger level
  3. 3. Category: what monster category it is
  4. 4. Techniques: which, if any
  5. 5. Monster math: HP, AC, mods, etc


What is the monster’s function, description, and theme? What should the party feel when seeing it, entering its lair, fighting it? The concept is an important aspect of creating a monster as it defines all of the later steps. Define it in prose or a simple bullet list.


Threat consists of HD and a description of the monster’s level of danger. A GM can fully or partially randomize a monster’s HD:

Fully random: roll 1d20, with HD equal to the result – 2 (a natural result of 1 is 1/4 HD and of 2 is 1/2 HD; see Monster Math table).

Partially random: determine how similar the monster is to the party’s level: close is 1d6, medium is 2d6, far is 3d6. Roll and sum the dice pool twice, subtracting the second result from the first. The remaining number is then applied to the PCs? average level.

The GM rolls for a medium monster (2d6) getting a 9 (6, 3) and 5 (1, 4). 9-5 is 4, and the GM adds 4 to the party’s average level of 3; this monster is 7 HD.


Refer back to the monster’s concept: is it a natural beast or predator; an intelligent and capable leader; a simple brute or member of a larger, organized unit? Simply assign the most fitting category, or roll 1d6:

1 Brute
2 Leader
3 Predator
4 Shaper
5 Sniper
6 Soldier


If the GM is going through the trouble of building a monster from scratch, it’s likely important and therefore warrants at least one technique. GMs, note that each added technique notably increases lethality. By default, a single technique is enough to differentiate a monster without making it more threatening than intended. Always adhere to what’s interesting rather than ?balanced.? The players?ll figure it out.

Monster Math

Refer to the Monster Math table on page 35 to determine your creation’s relevant mods, AC, HP, and average damage. Use the original concept and monster category to determine what types of actions or events are considered weak or strong mods. These actions should be immediately clear and useful to the GM, requiring as little time as possible to note when the mod applies. Concept: an ethereal dragon made up of magically unified smoke and energy. It’s on the hunt for tasty living souls. Threat: the GM refers to the hex that this dragon resides within, and decides that it should be threatening: 10 HD. Category: the GM can’t decide which category makes the most sense, and so rolls, getting a 5: Sniper. That changes the way the dragon can fight its prey. Techniques: to get this concept across, the GM needs to use a few techniques. A misty breath (Blast, 50′, 5d6), move like smoke (Special Movement), and an incorporeal form (Immunity to nonmagical damage).

Monster Math: 41 HP, +3 / +7 / +12. As a Sniper and smoke dragon, it?ll gain the +12 bonus to perception and ranged attacks, but only +3 to keep the PCs away from it in melee or to resist their ability to force morale checks. If it must use an attack out of its breath weapon, it still packs a punch at 3d8+2.

Example Monsters

Junglecat, 1 HD [Predator]

Patient, cunning, stealthy, arboreal, focus on the weak

Fearful, quick to run and hide, susceptible to magic

To Hit: +3; Damage: 1d8; AC: 9; HP: 5; Base mod: +2; Speed: 40′

Strong INT: +3, Stealth: +3

Techniques Special movement: in forest, ignore harsh terrain

Force condition: hit PC is prone

Weak CON: -2; Morale: -2

Orc Raider, 2 HD [Brute]

Fierce, athletic, tough, brave, damaging

Dumb, loud, clumsy

To Hit: +4; Damage: 1d10; AC: 13; HP: 9; Base mod: +3; Speed: 30′

Strong STR/CON: +4; Morale: +4

Techniques Resistance: take 1/2 damage vs. all non magical or physical attacks Weak

INT/DEX: -1; Perception: -1

Brigand, 3 HD [Sniper]

Athletic, stealthy, balanced, greedy

Weak, cowardly, poor in melee

To Hit: +5; Damage: 1d12; AC: 13; HP: 13; Base mod: +3; Speed: 30′

Strong DEX/WIS: +5; Perception: +5

Techniques Extra When: deal double damage with bow vs. unaware PC

Weak STR/CON: -1; Resistance: -1

Hobgoblin, 4 HD [Soldier]

Disciplined, tough, brave, deadly

Needs a leader, slow

To Hit: +6; Damage: 2d6+2; AC: 14; HP: 17; Base mod: +4; Speed: 20′

Strong STR/DEX: +6; Morale: +6

Techniques Extra When: +2 AC when in formation

Shove: hit pushes PC back 10′

Weak vs. Magic: +0

Stealth: +0

Archcultist, 7 HD [Leader]

Evil, compelling, commands a devout following of cultists

Vulnerable when alone, feeble

To Hit: +5; Damage: 2d10; AC: 11; HP: 29; Base mod: +5; Speed: 30′

Strong INT/CHA: +9

Magic: +9

Techniques Blast: 15′ cone, 3d6 damage, 2 uses

Ability Drain: atk, 30′, 1 PC -1d6 STR

Weak STR/CON: +1

Combat: +1

Stone Drake, 9 HD [Shaper]

Massive, powerful, shape stone, clever, perceptive, cautious

Loud, fragile, weak when out of lair

To Hit: +5; Damage: 3d8+1; AC: 11; HP: 37; Base mod: +6; Speed: 20′ / 80′ dig

Strong INT/WIS: +11, Environment: +11

Techniques Special Movement: 80′ move in stone

Alter Environment: shape or alter 270′ of rock or soil

Weak STR/CON: +2

Combat: +2