How Are Monster Hit Points Determined?

According to 4th edition rules (Dungeon Master's Guide, page 184), hit points for monsters are determined as follows:

  • Minion: 1 hit point.
  • Artillery: 6 + Con + (Level * 6)
  • Lurker: 6 + Con + (Level * 6)
  • Controller: 8 + Con + (Level * 8)
  • Skirmisher: 8 + Con + (Level * 8)
  • Soldier: 8 + Con + (Level * 8)
  • Brute: 10 + Con + (Level * 10)

Hit points are then modified for Elite and Solo monsters (DMG, page 185):

  • Elite: "An Elite monster has hit points equal to twice the hit points of the standard monster, plus twice its Constitution score."
  • Solo: "A solo [monster] has hit points equal to 8 times its level +1, plus its Constitution score. If the solo [monster] is level 10 or lower, multiply that result by 4 for its final hit points. If it is level 11 or higher, multiply that result by 5 for its final hit points."

Math should never be described using English. It isn't precise and leaves room for interpretation. a better definition would be:

  • Elite: Standard monster hit points * 2
  • Solo up to Level 10: (8 + Con + (Level * 8)) * 4
  • Solo above Level 10: (8 + Con + (Level * 8)) * 5

Verify the Data

I am in the process of typing in all of the data from the Monster Manual as a first step towards creating my own online database and gaming utility. Once I had entered all of the hit points, I created another column of calculated hit points. The vast majority matched the entered values but in a number of instances they did not.

Angel of Battle calculates to 148 hit points but there are 296 listed. This monster may have been intended to be Elite since that is what the HP are calculated for.

Fire Bat calculates to 160 but is listed as 60. Typo?

Beholder eye of Flame calculates to 204 but has 240 listed. Transposition?

A number of entries have listed values that are short of the calculated values by exactly the amount of the Constitution score.

Since an overwhelming number of entries match the calculated values, across all role types as well as Standard, Elite and Solo, I assume that these represent errors not caught by editors. This is one of the reasons I prefer to create and maintain my own databases. :)

Minions

Minions are designed to be fodder to be thrown in the path of the adventurers. as such they have a single point and fall to a single hit.

I have a real problem with that. I understand the desire to have easily disposable creatures and, for the most part, agree with the rationale behind having level-appropriate foes that are quickly and easily dispatched. However, I just can't get behind the idea of them having but one hit point. it brings to mind a sea of animated monster balloons that pop when you poke them with a pin.

My solution is to give minions roughly a quarter of the hit points of other monsters their level. That should still accomplish the goal of having easily-dispatchable foes while maintaining a semblance of realism.

My calculation for Minion hit points then is: 2 + Con + (Level * 2).

Minions have a special rule relating to them that states that any attack that normally does damage on a miss will not do damage to a minion. Obviously, this was added because any damage would kill a one hit point minion and killing a minion with a miss seems spectacularly silly.

I've never liked the idea of special rules that, imo, only exist to cover some flaw. I would firmly place this rule in that category. Since I am increasing Minion hit points to the point where they aren't so fragile, I have no problem getting rid of this rule as well.

Elite and Solo HP Adjustments

Elite monsters have twice the hit points of standard monsters but Solo monsters are adjusted differently based on level and have their die/level set to eight regardless of the monster's role. I don't see a benefit in either of these decisions and think that they just unnecessarily complicate the determination of hit points.

Therefore, I've thrown them both out and calculate hit points as follows. First, I determine hit points based on role as described at the top of this post. If the monster is Elite, I double that number. If the monster is Solo, I multiple the standard hit points by five, regardless of level.

Die per Level

Standard monster hit points are calculated as "n + Con + (level * n)" where n is the die/level and is determined by the monster's role. Artillery and Lurkers have a die/level of six. Brutes have a die/level of ten. The others have a die/level of eight. Except for Minions which I have set at two.

This works fine but I want to give Soldiers and Brutes a bit more kick. I've increased the die/role for soldiers to ten and that of brutes to twelve. This doesn't result in a tremendous change for lower level monsters but by paragon levels it can equate to a significant boost without overpowering the monster.

Constitution Modifier

Each monster has its Constitution included in its hit point determination. At first level, this has a huge impact. At each level above first, the impact of Constitution becomes less and less.

I would like to have Constitution become a more important influencing aspect of hit point determination. I'm toying with the idea of replacing Con in the equation with Con modifier / level. it would be something similar to "(Level + 1) * (n + Constitution modifier)".

I'm currently doing some testing to see just how overpowering this could be. So far it doesn't seem to be too bad but I want to do a lot more testing before making such a drastic change. It certainly makes Elite more leet! And Solo monsters become far more challenging. However, looking at the list of Solo monsters, I don't think I mind overpowering them a bit. I don't think I would adjust experience for these either as these monsters tend to have more treasure which should be incentive enough.

One problem that I've encountered so far is that a monster with a low Constitution would have a negative Constitution modifier which would significantly lower its hit points. I guess that should go hand in hand so maybe it's not so bad. However, a Minion with a Constitution of six would have zero hit points and one with a Con of four or lower would have negative hit points. An obvious solution would be to count positive Con modifiers but not negative ones. I don't like using rules with exceptions though so I am avoiding that solution. Changing the equation to "(Level + 1) * (n + 3 + Con modifier)" would prevent zero hit points (or lower) results but that seems like a poor answer to me as well so I am avoiding it for the time being.

Last Thoughts

It's your game so use whatever rules make sense to you. Most of what I've presented here has worked for me in testing without seeming to overpower any monsters beyond what I think is acceptable. All but the last that is since it is just something I am toying with and haven't really tested much yet.

As I said earlier, I am entering all the data in order to create my own databases. I would love to put it all online when it's done but I will need to research Hasbro's/WotC's policies and see what they allow. I assume that they are pretty restrictive on the data but there is no reason I couldn't post the database structure and provide tools to access it. Then folks would just have to do their own data entry. :)