So, for my upcoming Wild West game and existing Cyberpunk game, I am working my way through some Everyday Heroes NPCs, and by NPCs, I mean the monsters from the D&D 5e SRD.
It is pretty well documented that the monsters in the 5e Monster Manual are underwhelming; these monsters are not as powerful as the Monster creation guidelines in the Dungeon Master’s Guide says they should be, and by extension, the open content monsters in the SRD are just as underwhelming. The theory goes that the people working on the Monster Manual didn’t have the finished Dungeon Master’s Guide to work from when writing the Monster Manual. There are books of monsters such as Volo’s and Mordenkainen’s that both fixed some of the base monsters, but those fixes aren’t open content, and for whatever reason, the SRD monsters were never given the update.
What does that mean for Everyday Heroes and, by extension, my Wild West game? Well, picking a monster out of a hat, I mean a spreadsheet that includes a subset of SRD monsters, those I have art for, and those also supported by EDH, I choose the Tyrannosaurus Rex. The T-Rex is a CR 8 Monster in the SRD and a CR 8 NPC in the EDH core book.
|Dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex
|Dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex
|25, 10, 19, 2, 12, 9
|27, 10, 19, 2, 12, 9
|+10, 10ft reach, 4d12+7 + grapple (DC 17)
|+10, 10ft reach, 4d12+7 + grapple (DC 17)
|+10, 10ft reach, 3d8+7
|+10, 10ft reach, 3d8+7
The SRD version has 1 hit die more than the EDH version, and the EDH version has a higher STR, but it is not reflected in the STR modifier or the damage modifier on attacks as such, I’m convinced the 29 is a typo and not the damage or ability modifiers.
So, if we’re just copying the SRD, it’s pretty close, and there’s not much to write home about. However, as EDH has a goal of being compatible with 5e, it’s a shame we had to import well-known deficiencies from the SRD. When DMs try to balance encounters with the original Monster Manual/SRD monsters, the fights are not tough enough as the monsters don’t meet expectations.
According to the DMG page 274, a CR 8 creature should have a 16 AC, 176-190 hit points, deal 51-56 damage per round, and save DC of 16. There are some other guidelines and finessing, but you can already see that the base creature is too easy to hit and too easy to kill. The bite does an average 33 points, and the 20 for the tail gets us right in the middle of the damage range. A creature’s abilities are a base of 8 plus Proficiency bonus (+3) plus Ability Modifier (+7), which (8+3+7=18) actually comes out a little high for the guidelines (DC 16). Since the grapple DC in the stat block is 17, it looks like they pulled it back some. The T-Rex attack bonus (+10) looks too high for a CR 8, but it is still correct if you use the Proficiency (+3) + Attribute Modifier (+7) method.
The base creature doesn’t have any resistances or immunities so the hit points are really too low for its CR. The monster grapples on a hit, but that actually takes away it’s most powerful attack if it uses that ability. The T-Rex doesn’t have special senses, vision, reactions, or abilities that make it weird on the design table. This means that somehow, it ended up with the armor of a CR 3 and the hit points of a CR 4-5 and nothing cool, weird, or extraordinary to show for it.
The T-Rex has an Armor Value of 3 in EDH, which only means that on a potentially fatal blow, the T-Rex could make an armor save against small arms fire, by then it’s really too late, and this subtle difference between systems isn’t worth the low AC/Defense or missing 40-50 hit points.
Same, but different
If you open your EDH Core to page 438, you find that the CR 8 suggested statistics include Defense of 15, 125 hit points, +8 attack, 30 average damage, and a save DC of 16. This means by their own guidelines that T-Rex has just enough hit points, hits too often, does too much damage, and still has a really crappy Defense. The T-Rex is listed as having both the Hulk and Melee roles, which says it should have 2-3 lower Defense (it does), 25-50% more hit points (they didn’t), and deal up to 50% more damage (it’s +25%). There’s a note for critters with Armor Value 3 or higher should lose 10 hit points. So, in the end, we’re short 31-62 hit points, give or take 10 for armor.
I’m not certain what made the EGG crew revise the monster creation guidelines; I feel like that hurts the idea of cross-compatibility, and the player experience suffers when the EDH monsters don’t follow their own guidelines. There’s some nuance when considering the monster roles, but as you can see, those nuances don’t always get applied.
I like EDH; I bought the full package in the first Kickstarter, as well as the Legendary follow-up campaign. I’m running a Cyberpunk game in the system right now and expect to run a Wild West game in the not-too-distant future. I bought four core books from the charity bundle to cover some of my players in two different groups, and three others grabbed the larger bundles on their own. I’m pretty committed to the system, but I also hope some folks looking at EDH for the first time can benefit from these little exercises.
The Lost World and its Dinosaurs
How does this tie into the Wild West? Well, just because Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t publish The Lost World until 1912 doesn’t mean the still-living dinosaurs from the Cretaceous period weren’t also around in the 1800s.
Curiously, the CR 8 Zombie T-Rex in the Tomb of Annihilation has the same HP, same attacks, and even less armor class, but now it has some undead immunities and new abilities. Obviously, the Zombie T-Rex would have the same issues as the regular one in EDH.
If you need a bigger Deinonychus or a smaller T-Rex, call the Allosaurus, it’s functionally a bigger Deinonychus with Pounce, but no pack tactics. From the Monster Manual, the AC is spot on, the HP is a bit high, the attack is a bit high, and the damage is perfect if it only ever bites. The Allosaurus doesn’t have multiattack so it’s not likely to use its claw attack unless it pounces, claws the opponent, knocks the opponent down and then gets a free bite which would be above average for its CR.
CR 5 has just the right armor class, ten too few hit points, its stomp attack is a little weak for its CR, and the save DC is a little high for the same. Overall, it is not unbalanced or too easy to kill. Under EDH rules, the Bronto Defense that’s too high, too many hit points by 30 unless it is a Tank, then it all works out. It’s attack bonus is also a little high.
CR 1, AC is right on, hit points are way too low, damage across all three (four) attacks is a bit high, pounce allows it to get a second bite as a bonus action, the attack bonus is just barely too high. The saving throw DC is too high. Under EDH rules the Defense and HP are normal, attack is normal, damage is high, save DC is too high.
CR 1/4 has a low AC and half the HP it should for its CR, slightly high attack and double the damage it should do. Under EDH, it still does too much damage, but otherwise, it is pretty average for its CR.
The dinosaur you can ride and headbutt people at the same time. It’s a large CR 1/4, just the same as the Velociraptor, with almost double the hit points and hits for less damage overall due to its single attack and the lack of pack tactics. Under EDH, this critter has low Defense, above-average HP, and slightly high attack and damage.
This CR 4 dino has 13 AC instead of 14, 76 hit points instead of ~120, and average damage just at the bottom of its range, it hits like a CR 3 and has the HP of a CR 1. Does it have any special abilities to make up for these shortcomings? No, nothing. Under EDH rules, the Stegosaurus is a pretty close CR 4, Defense one too low, attack one too high.
CR 5 has too few hit points and too little armor; it can conditionally do a little too much damage for its CR, it only punches like a CR 6, which is not too outrageous. The save DC against its knock prone is a little weak, but that offsets the chances of being trampled which is where the extra damage comes in. The Bronto’s stomp isn’t limited to prone creatures.
Velociraptor, hold me closer tiny dino
The CR 1/4 Velociraptor from ToA is Tiny, unlike the Jurrasic Park ones, which are really Deinonychus, but for a 1/4 CR, their 13 AC is fine, their 10 HP are well under the minimum, they also have pack tactics (which is not cheapened by the optional flanking rule, pack tactics is more versatile than flanking). Due to their multiattack, they can do double the expected damage in a round, which might explain them having 1/3 of the suggested hit points. Under EDH as a CR 1/4, the Velociraptor has the right Defense, lacks a few hit points, has a slightly higher attack than recommended, and almost double the expected damage.
It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.
My PCs recurring bad guys at this point are the Boston Dynamics Atlas-looking Robot Soldiers, a CR 4, it has the Loner role, Defense 17 and 59 hit points, and it has the Loner role, which says it might get special attacks and abilities. The Defense is 3 too high for its CR, it has 16 too few hit points, which might be there to offset the high Defense and the AV 3 armor. The attack bonus is right on the money, and damage is also at the expected levels. It’s got a slight weakness to electrical damage, but it’s not likely to be triggered by anyone in the game except Scientists or Hackers.
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