Scaling Solo Monsters

by Mike Shea on 25 April 2011

A reader on Twitter asked about scaling solos the other day so today we're going to take a quick look at what you can do to scale solo monsters up from one level to another. To begin, read Chris Perkins's article on easily scaling monsters. That article alone gives you most of what you need to scale any monster. Solo's however, probably deserve a little extra treatment. Let's take a look at what else they need.

Add +1 to defenses, AC, and attacks

Easy enough. D&D 4e monsters scale relatively linearly since they don't have feats or items to boost them up like PCs do. Base ACs for creatures are level +15. Base defenses are level +13 mixed up depending on the creature's build. Attacks are almost always level +5 vs AC and level +3 vs other defenses.

Calculate hit points

Hit points are a little bit trickier to calculate for a solo than for other creatures. If you want to get particular about it and have a little bit of time, add or subtract 32 hit points per level difference or 40 for bigger creatures. An easier way is to look up a comparable solo monster of the right type in the monster manual 2 or later and use those hit points. If you're running a monster on the fly, add 40 hit points per level and round down to the nearest ten if the creature his heroic or paragon or 100 if the creature is epic to make it easier for you to handle the math.

Calculate damage

Damage is a bit trickier to calculate. If you're scaling a solo creature up or down 5 levels or less, you can just add or subtract 1 per level difference to damage expressions assuming they are already using updated damage expressions from the Monster Manual 3 and beyond. If you're not sure when your particular original monster was published or you're scaling more than five levels, use the damage per level chart in the Dungeon Master's Kit, the updated DM Screen, or my Ultimate DM Cheat Sheet. Use normal expressions for at-will single target attacks or multiple target limited use powers. Use higher damage expressions for brutes or for limited attacks. Use lower expressions for at-will group attacks.

Add + 1/2 level to everything else

For skills, initiative, and attributes, stick to +1 per every other level if you need to. This isn't very accurate so you might have to wing it.

Add 5 per tier to ongoing damage and aura effects

For each tier, use a base of 5 damage for auras and ongoing damage effects. If you're in the epic tier, increase this to around 20 instead of 15 and 25 from levels 25 to 30 to keep the threat high on epic PCs.

Advanced class: considering the anatomy of your solo

The above steps are all small ad-hoc DMing techniques to get the math right. If you're delving into epic-tier creatures or want to give your group a well balanced challenge, you'll probably want to do more than tweak the math. Does your monster need a good aura? Do they need to up the damage output to match your high paragon heroes? All of these things require a bit more care than just playing with the numbers. Sometimes, though, you just need to get some beast up and running quickly. For that you can't do too wrong with these basic tips.

For more DM tricks, check out Sly Flourish's Dungeon Master Tips and Running Epic Tier D&D Games. For the most up to date monster math pick up the latest Dungeon Master's Screen, the Dungeon Master Kit, or the Monster Vault. Good solos need awesome minis. While they last, pick up your favorite D&D minis at Troll and Toad, an official Sly Flourish sponsor.

Send feedback to @slyflourish on Twitter or email mike@mikeshea.net.