Making your own creatures fleshes out your game world and lets you introduce concepts not yet available in published products like the Bestiary volumes. These guidelines help you customize creatures to your specifications and explore your imagination. From strange beasts to canny political rivals, you have the power to design creatures that fit the narrative needs of your story.
This section details the following steps in the creature-building process.
This section provides the abilities conveyed by certain traits, such as demon, dragon, and undead. You’ll also find abilities typical of creatures with those traits to help guide you as you plan your creatures.
Sometimes you’ll design a creature that’s meant to have abilities or characteristics similar to that of a PC. Maybe you need a bold champion, a sly rogue, or a wizened druid elder for your game. You also might need a common baker, who has little combat ability but great skill with an oven. In these cases, this section provides ways you might modify aspects of the creature-building process to fit those needs.
Creatures aren’t built the same way PCs are. The rules for building them
are more flexible, and their statistics are based on benchmark final numbers
rather than combining each individual modifier together. This is called top-down
design, in which you consider the design process as a whole and select the details
that reflect your intended result rather than building statistics from the bottom
up and hoping the finished creature matches your vision.
Though this guide provides a step-by-step process to build creatures, when you feel more comfortable you may prefer to use different methods. You could start with one ability you think is cool, or you might need to create a spellcaster of a certain type. There’s no wrong starting place nor wrong way to compile and present your creation; some GMs prefer to generate a stat block that is as similar to an official Bestiary entry as possible, while others prefer to compile just a brief set of notes.
To begin making a creature, you should first come up with its concept. You
likely already have the basic idea. As you add details to the general idea,
taking notes can help keep your creature on track. Consider the parts of your
creature you find most compelling and that you want to emphasize when the creature
hits the table. For example, in the Bestiary, demons are creatures of sin, and
were designed to have weaknesses against virtues that oppose them. Harpies enchant
creatures by singing, represented by their centerpiece ability, Captivating
Song. Note your creature’s core aspects, and if you feel uncertain later, you
can look back and ask yourself, “Does this emphasize a core aspect or not?”
Next, look at the creature’s role in your game. Is it meant to be a combatant? A social creature? A trusted ally? Figuring this out will help you determine whether to give it strong combat abilities or whether to put more effort into skills, spells, and special abilities. Think about how the creature might behave in a fight, if someone tries to talk to it, or if it’s in a social situation. Does it work better alone or with allies? What sort of character should be best at facing it or be particularly weak against it?
Consider also the complexity of the creature. This matters most when you have a large number of creatures. If you’re planning to use five of the creatures at the same time, you’ll want its turns to move swiftly and avoid complex special actions. A creature likely to face a group of PCs alone can have more abilities, and it might need a more versatile set of defenses against PC tactics. Cut complexity as much as you can while retaining your desired theme.
Now, how do you want an encounter with this creature to feel? Should it be scary? Mobile? Confusing? A mystical duel or a knock-down, drag-out fight? What can you give your creature to convey those characteristics? Note that much of this feel will come from your choice of the creature’s special abilities or spells, rather than the creature’s raw numbers.
With all this in mind, think about the specific abilities your creature should have. Take a few notes now, and get to the details later. You might want to snag some existing abilities from the Bestiary or from feats in the Core Rulebook, adjusting as needed, to save you some time. It helps to think of the creature that’s most similar to yours and seeing what makes it tick—and what you can steal from it. Maybe you can just reskin the creature, instead of making it from scratch (page 58).
Now that you understand your creature’s concept, it’s time to get to the statistics. Remember that you can always change your concept later on. Your creation might evolve and transform as you go, so be open to change and revisions.
Most of the statistics in this section use a scale of extreme, high, moderate,
and low—though some incorporate terrible values as well.
Extreme: The creature is world class in this statistic, and can challenge almost any character. Most creatures have no extreme statistics or one extreme statistic, with the exception of creatures that trade accuracy for extreme damage being slightly more common. Examples from the Bestiary include the succubus’s Diplomacy and the lich’s spell DC.
High: Extremely capable, but not world class, the creature presents a challenge for most characters. Just about all creatures have at least one high value. Most combat-focused creatures have high AC and either high attack and high damage, or merely moderate attack but extreme damage. An ogre warrior’s attack bonus and a kobold scout’s Stealth are high values.
Moderate: A middle-of-the road statistic can cover anything unremarkable about the creature. Use this one liberally!
Low: The creature is actively bad at this. Choose these intentionally to represent the creature’s weak points. Most creatures should have at least one low statistic; an example is the goblin pyro’s Will save.
Terrible: Some statistics can dip even lower than low, to terrible. This indicates a truly awful statistic that still isn’t game-breakingly bad. A spider’s Intelligence is poor, as is a dero stalker’s Will save.
When it comes to statistics, a creature should be balanced overall. That means if you’re giving a creature an extreme statistic, it should have some low or terrible statistics to compensate. For example, if you were making a creature extremely hard to hit by giving it an extreme AC, you’d likely give it lower saving throws or low HP. If a creature is great at spellcasting, it might need several low statistics to be a balanced challenge. There’s no perfect system for making these decisions. If you’ve made a creature roadmap that has four high stats and nothing low, or vice-versa, take another look. The strengths and weaknesses of a creature change the PCs’ strategies in dealing with it, and that’s what makes playing the game fun!
At the higher levels of the game, PCs have more tools at their disposal. That means the creatures need to hit back harder! At higher levels, give each creature more extreme statistics. Having one extreme statistic becomes typical around level 11. A creature at level 15 or higher typically has two extreme statistics, and one at level 20 or higher should have 3 or 4. Keep in mind that these should be relevant to the encounters you expect them to have. A combat-focused creature won’t get far having four extreme social skills. Be careful about doubling down the extreme statistics: a creature with extreme damage and Fortitude saves is one thing, but having both extreme attack bonus and damage allows the creature to apply both extreme statistics to each attack.
Sometimes you need a creature that has abilities that are almost exactly the same as another published creature. In this case, it can be more efficient to simply “reskin” the old creature rather than design a new one; that is, to change the description but keep the abilities mostly the same. Occasionally a reskin will require a small amount of mechanical adjustment. For instance, a fire cat that has immunity to fire, an aura that deals fire damage, and the ability to light people on fire with its jaws to deal persistent fire damage could be reskinned as a caustic animate tree that has immunity to acid, an aura that deals acid damage, and the ability to leave behind acid on a creature’s body with its branch attacks, causing persistent acid damage.
For most homemade creatures, the level will depend on the level of the party
who will encounter it. Look at other creatures you think are similar in power
to yours to determine its level. Note that level represents a creature’s combat
ability, and a creature that’s more social might have, for example, 3rd-level
combat statistics and 6th-level skills but remain a 3rd-level creature. Most
such creatures are NPCs; for more information on this distinction and how to
use it, see page Non-Combat Level on page 72.
Some abilities are hard to deal with at low levels. For instance, creatures that can fly and have ranged attacks should typically appear around 7th level, when PCs can fly. Natural invisibility or at-will invisibility as an innate spell should come at around 6th level, when PCs are more likely to prepare see invisibility in lower-level spell slots, or 8th level, when some PCs get the Blind-Fight feat.
The tables in this chapter go up to level 24—the highest-level extreme encounter a party might face.
Fill out the trait line of your creature’s stat block. The alignment can
be whatever suits your story, though some types of creatures must be or tend
to be certain alignments. Creatures can be whatever size they need to be, though
you seldom find Large creatures below 1st level, Huge creatures below 5th level,
or Gargantuan creatures below 10th level. There aren’t any automatic statistical
adjustments by size, except for an exception to Strength modifiers for Large
and bigger creatures, which you’ll find below.
Your creature will almost certainly have one of the following traits to define its type: aberration, animal, astral, beast, celestial, construct, dragon, elemental, ethereal, fey, fiend, fungus, giant, humanoid, monitor, ooze, plant, or undead. If you’re making a creature from an existing category, it has that trait as well, such as demon. Elements—air, earth, fire, and water—and types of energy—like acid, cold, and electricity—appear on creatures with a close affinity to them.
Some abilities typical to creatures with the traits listed above can be found in the Trait Abilities section (page 70). As with the other steps, looking at similar creatures will give you an idea what traits to use.
Also add any traits that have detailed rules attached to them: amphibious, aquatic, incorporeal, mindless, and swarm. You can add traits related to the creature category, such as dinosaur or werecreature, but most of these traits are pretty self-evident in play. In fact, if at any point you realize during play that you didn’t add a trait the creature really should have, you can usually include it in retroactively.
You can use the following suggestions to set the baseline when creating
your roadmap. For example, use brute for a big, tough creature like an ogre,
or skirmisher for a darting enemy. Each entry is a starting point you can
customize as you see fit. Any core statistic that isn’t listed normally
uses moderate numbers. You can set ability modifiers and add additional
abilities as needed. To make a creature that resembles a character of a
certain class, see the Class Roadmaps sidebar on page 73.
Brute low Perception; high or extreme Str, high to moderate Con, low or lower Dex and mental modifiers; moderate or low AC; high Fortitude, low Reflex, Will, or both; high HP; high attack and high damage or moderate attack and extreme damage
Magical Striker high attack and high damage; moderate to high spell DCs; either a scattering of innate spells or prepared/spontaneous spells up to half the creature’s level (rounded up) minus 1
Skill Paragon high or extreme ability score matching its best skills; typically high Reflex or Will and low Fort; many skills at moderate or high and potentially one or two extreme skills; at least one special ability to use the creature’s skills in combat
Skirmisher high Dex; low Fortitude, high Reflex; higher Speed than typical
Sniper high Perception; high Dex; low Fortitude, high Reflex; moderate to low HP; ranged Strikes have high attack and damage or moderate attack and extreme damage (melee Strikes are weaker)
Soldier high Str; high to extreme AC; high Fortitude; high attack and high damage; Attack of Opportunity or other tactical abilities
Spellcaster high or extreme in a corresponding mental modifier; low Fortitude, high Will; low HP; low attack bonus and medium or low damage; high or extreme spell DCs; prepared or spontaneous spells up to half the creature’s level (rounded up)
It’s useful here to figure out your creature’s ability modifiers, since these
will suggest what their other stats should be. You don’t have to determine the
exact numbers, but it’s generally good to avoid creating a creature with a terrible
Wisdom and a very high Perception, or one with terrible Dexterity and highly
accurate ranged attacks. Most of the time, you’ll just be using ability modifiers
for untrained skills, so they’re useful as a guide, though not crucial.
The Ability Modifier Scales table shows some benchmarks for your creatures. Use high for the creature’s best stat or stats, moderate for ones they’re okay at, and low for the rest. If a creature has a truly bad ability, you can go as low as –5. That’s the “terrible” range for ability modifiers, and doesn’t really change by level. This is most common with animals, which have an Intelligence of –4 (for dogs, dolphins, and such) or –5 (for more instinctual animals like spiders), and for mindless creatures, which use –5 Intelligence.
Few creatures use the extreme column. A powerful, dedicated spellcaster might use an extreme spellcasting statistic, or a preternaturally charming creature like a succubus or nymph might have extreme Charisma. However, the most common way extreme numbers are used is for really big, really strong creatures. This happens with Large or larger creatures from level 1 to 5, only Huge or larger creatures from level 6 to 9, and only Gargantuan creatures from level 10 to 15. Beyond that level, a creature wouldn’t gain extreme Strength from size alone.
Perception is a fairly straightforward statistic. Use Wisdom as a guide for setting it, and adjust to the high side if your creature has acute senses or extra training. If your creature had low Wisdom, for example, it would probably have a low Perception modifier, or moderate if it’s supposed to be a great hunter. Perception shouldn’t be artificially high, even though it’s used for initiative. (Also note that some creatures with worse Perception might have a good Stealth modifier to use for initiative instead.)
Choose or design any special senses for your creature, such as low-light vision, darkvision, or scent. If you’re making a sense from scratch, simply decide what it senses, whether it has a range limit, and whether it’s precise or imprecise. For example, the sinspawn (on page 297 of the Bestiary) has “sin scent (imprecise) 30 feet.” This means it can smell creatures bearing its sin if they’re within 30 feet, and the sense is imprecise—as acute as human hearing.
If you’re converting creatures from First Edition, you won’t find a direct
numerical conversion. Instead, use the original stats to create your roadmap,
giving a better AC to a creature that had a good AC in First Edition, and
Here are the main areas of difference that you’ll want to keep in mind for your conversion.
Think about what languages the creature would need to communicate with other creatures in its home. For instance, many intelligent undead speak Necril, and many creatures from the Darklands speak Undercommon. If you want your creature to be able to speak to the PCs, be sure it has Common; for a creature with no reason to speak the common tongue of your setting (such as most extraplanar creatures in a typical campaign), be sure it doesn’t. Some creatures can understand language but not vocalize themselves; in this case, you can state that they can’t speak any language. For creatures that need to be able to infiltrate and communicate wherever they go, you might give tongues or a similar ability as a constant innate spell.
You have lots of flexibility in setting your creature’s skills. Pick some
skills you think are appropriate, and consider how good the creature is at them.
High skills are roughly on par with a specialized PC of the creature’s level;
sometimes they’re a little lower or higher. Most creatures have at least one
high skill, but no more than three. The best skills typically go with the best
ability modifiers, and you might even want to estimate skills using proficiencies
like you would with a PC. Some skills can get a high bonus “for free” to fit
the creature’s theme, particularly Lore skills.
Most creatures don’t have an extreme skill unless they are world class for their level, like a succubus’s Diplomacy. Having an extreme skill is less impactful than an extreme AC or attack bonus, but still might warrant sacrifice elsewhere, especially if the creature also has more high skills than usual. There’s no need for “terrible” skill modifiers, since an untrained skill usually represents that.
|–1||+8||+5||+4||+2 to +1|
|0||+9||+6||+5||+3 to +2|
|1||+10||+7||+6||+4 to +3|
|2||+11||+8||+7||+5 to +4|
|3||+13||+10||+9||+7 to +5|
|4||+15||+12||+10||+8 to +7|
|5||+16||+13||+12||+10 to +8|
|6||+18||+15||+13||+11 to +9|
|7||+20||+17||+15||+13 to +11|
|8||+21||+18||+16||+14 to +12|
|9||+23||+20||+18||+16 to +13|
|10||+25||+22||+19||+17 to +15|
|11||+26||+23||+21||+19 to +16|
|12||+28||+25||+22||+20 to +17|
|13||+30||+27||+24||+22 to +19|
|14||+31||+28||+25||+23 to +20|
|15||+33||+30||+27||+25 to +21|
|16||+35||+32||+28||+26 to +23|
|17||+36||+33||+30||+28 to +24|
|18||+38||+35||+31||+29 to +25|
|19||+40||+37||+33||+31 to +27|
|20||+41||+38||+34||+32 to +28|
|21||+43||+40||+36||+34 to +29|
|22||+45||+42||+37||+35 to +31|
|23||+46||+43||+38||+36 to +32|
|24||+48||+45||+40||+38 to +33|
You can also add special, thematic modifiers for certain skill uses. For instance, you might give a creature that secretes adhesive “Athletics +7 (+9 to Climb or Grab).” This special bonus should probably still remain at or below the extreme number, especially if it has a combat purpose like the Grab bonus above.
As you get more experienced, you might find that you don’t even need to build your creatures in advance. In many cases, especially for simple creatures, you can just insert the value from the table on the fly and track HP. When you do, track which value you used as it came up. For instance, let’s say you’re improvising a 2nd-level kobold soldier. When it’s time for initiative, you decide it has moderate Perception and jot down “Per +8.” Your group’s fighter beats it at initiative and attacks. You decide the soldier has high AC—looking at the table, you see that’s 18—and add this information to your note. The fighter’s Strike hits, and you select the low end of high HP: 36. Well, now it’s 25. Your note says “Per +8, AC 18, HP 25.” If it gets to take a turn, maybe you’ll give it a Strike then.
If you gave a creature gear equivalent to a PC, defeating a gang of thieves
would give your party a huge amount of treasure! Using Table 2–4: Safe Items
can help you avoid that. A creature can have a single permanent item of the
listed level without issue. For example, if a 6th-level creature has a +1 weapon,
that item’s not amazing for the PCs, but it’s also not worth so much that they
would be massively rich if they encountered many creatures of that type and
sold everything they found. You can give a creature several lower-level items
too. Just pay attention to your overall treasure as measured against the guidelines
on page 508–510 of the Core Rulebook. At the lowest levels, a creature can certainly
have multiple level 0 items even though normally the table means the creature
has only one item of the level listed in the Safe Item Level column.
Specific creatures or NPCs have more leeway to break these guidelines because you can plan the rest of your adventure’s loot around them, not to mention that giving a boss villain a powerful magic item makes the fight and its aftermath more interesting.
|Creature Level||Safe Item Level|
|3 or lower||0|
|6||2 (+1 weapon)|
|8||4 (+1 striking weapon)|
|9||5 (+1 armor)|
|12||8 (+1 resilient armor)|
|14||10 (+2 striking weapon)|
|15||11 (+2 resilient armor)|
|16||12 (+2 greater striking weapon)|
|18||14 (+2 greater resilient armor)|
|20||16 (+3 greater striking weapon)|
|22||18 (+3 greater resilient armor)|
|23||19 (+3 major striking weapon)|
|24||20 (+3 major resilient armor)|
Because AC is one of the most important combat stats, you need to be more careful with setting this number for any creature you expect will end up in a fight. Low AC typically fits spellcasters, who compensate with their selection of powerful spells. High and moderate statistics are close together—most creatures use these. High is close to what a PC fighter would have. Reserve extreme values for a creature that is even better defended; these values are for creatures that have defenses similar to champion or monk.
You might adjust your creature’s HP, AC, and saves in tandem. Almost no creature has great defenses in all areas; making such a creature will often result in frustrating fights. A creature with higher AC might have fewer HP and weaker saves, and one that’s easy to hit could take more damage and have a strong Fortitude. This depends on the theme of the creature. An extreme AC might mean reducing the creature’s HP to the next lowest category, or reducing its HP by a smaller amount and making another reduction elsewhere.
You can often set saves quickly by assigning one high, one moderate, and
one low modifier. Some creatures might vary from this, either because they have
poor AC but better saves or because they should thematically have multiple good
saves and compensate elsewhere. You have more flexibility with saves, and having
one save off the listed number by 1 is rarely a big deal. Pay attention to the
creature’s Con, Dex, and Wis—these don’t have to correspond to the creature’s
saves exactly, but they should inform your choices.
Extreme saves often pair with extreme or high ability modifiers. Almost no creature should have more than one extreme save, even at higher levels. Terrible saves can be given to creatures who have a clear weak point, like a nearly immobile creature’s Reflex save.
Give a creature HP in the moderate range unless its theme strongly suggests
it should use another range. Spellcasters, for example, often have low HP. Brutish
creatures usually have high HP, compensating with lower AC, weaker saves, few
tactical options, or other limitations. As mentioned in the Armor Class section
on page 61, you don’t want a creature with extreme AC to have high HP too.
Hit Points are closely tied in with immunities, weaknesses, and resistances, so if your creature has any of those, look at that section before finalizing HP.
Your creature might regenerate, possess fast healing, or have some other
ability to heal itself. These can really affect the flow of a fight. Regeneration
or fast healing heals back some number of hits each round, so look at the high
damage value on Table 2–10: Strike Damage (page 65) and see how many hits it
should be able to heal back each round. Usually, regeneration should heal back
one hit or a hit and a half. For instance, if the high damage is 20, regeneration
between 20 to 30 makes sense. The value should be higher if the regeneration
is easy to overcome—and remember that most regeneration gets easier to overcome
at higher levels. Also, you might want to decrease the creature’s total HP by
double its regeneration value. Fast healing follows the same rules, but because
it can’t prevent a creature’s death and doesn’t always have a way to deactivate
it, it’s typically less interesting to put on a creature than regeneration,
so you might want to just give the creature more Hit Points instead of fast
healing to keep things simple.
If a creature can take an action that heals it, the healing is usually higher because the creature must spend its actions on it. An at-will healing ability should be based on a heal spell 2 levels lower than the highest-level spell a creature of that level could ordinarily cast (for example, an 11th-level creature can typically cast up to 6th-level spells, so a 4th-level spell). If the ability both deals damage and heals, use the same baseline scale as vampiric touch.
If it’s highly thematic for a creature to have an immunity, weakness, or
resistance, add it. The Resistances and Weaknesses table lists the ranges for
weaknesses and resistances by level.
Immunities should be reserved for creatures that are made of a substance (like a fire elemental being immune to fire). You can also give an immunity when your creature’s biology or construction would logically cause it to be unaffected (like a mindless creature’s immunity to mental effects).
If the creature should be hard to affect with something, but the above isn’t true, give it a resistance instead. For instance, a giant octopus isn’t actually made of cold water, so it wouldn’t be immune to cold, but it’d still be resistant from its life in the ocean depths. You’ll typically use the lower end of the value on the table for a broad resistance that applies to a wide range of effects, like “physical 5 (except silver)” and the higher end for something more narrow, like a single damage type. A creature with resistances, especially broad ones or against physical damage, usually has fewer HP.
Giving your creature a weakness can add flavor to your creature, and it greatly rewards effective player tactics once your players identify the weakness. You’ll want it to apply to one damage type or phenomenon, and use the high end of the scale. Creatures typically don’t have more than one weakness. If a creature has a weakness, especially to something fairly common, give it additional HP. The amount of extra HP might depend on how tough the creature should feel if you don’t exploit its weakness. A tough creature might have additional HP equal to quadruple the weakness value, whereas a weakness that is hard to exploit probably gives the creature extra HP equal to its weakness value, or less.
More HP and a weakness has a different feel from standard HP with resistances. If the creature being an impervious tank really a fits its theme, use a resistance with an exception, such as “physical 5 (except silver).” If, however, it makes more sense for normal hits to get through and the creature to have great staying power, use more HP and a weakness. Skeletons and zombies are a good example of the difference between these styles. Skeletons have resistances because they’re bony and hard to hurt, but zombies have more HP and a weakness to slashing damage. They’re tougher, but their bodies aren’t built to deflect weapon attacks, and slashing attacks can rip them up quickly.
Your creature’s Speed should be 25 if it moves just like a human. Beyond
that, you can set the Speed to whatever makes sense. Remember that the creature
can move triple this number if it spends its whole turn, so if you want the
PCs to be able to chase the creature you can only go so high. Creatures at higher
levels will need ways to deal with flying PCs, very fast PCs, and more efficient
actions at the PCs’ disposal that let them engage and retreat more easily. This
might mean adding a fly Speed, giving the creature ranged attacks, and so forth.
Creatures can have climb and swim Speeds even at low levels. While fly Speeds can also be there from the start, its better to wait until around 7th level (when PCs gain access to fly) to give your creature a fly Speed if it also has ranged attacks or otherwise has a way to harry the PCs from a distance indefinitely.
When building your creature’s selection of Strikes, use the table below to
set the attack bonus and the section beyond for damage. Give the attack all
the normal traits if it’s a weapon; for unarmed attacks or weapons you invent,
give whatever traits you feel are appropriate. Note that these traits might
influence the damage you give the Strike.
Use a high attack modifier for combat creatures—fighter types—which also usually have high damage. A creature could shift its attack modifier up while simultaneously, shifting its damage down, or vice versa (for instance, a moderate attack modifier and extreme damage might fit a creature that’s more like a barbarian), instead of having a poor statistic in another category. Spellcasters typically have poor attack, potentially in exchange for extreme spell DCs.
You might want to make sure a creature has an unarmed attack if you think they’re likely to get disarmed. At 7th level and higher, PCs might have the ability to fly, which makes it more important for creatures to have decent ranged Strikes to make sure they aren’t totally hopeless against flying PCs (though they might instead have fast fly Speeds or something similar).
As noted in the Items section, most creatures have lower treasure than
PCs, which means those that rely on manufactured weapons are significantly
weaker if you don’t adjust their damage to compensate in some way. The default
method given for Strikes abstracts the sources of damage so you don’t have
to worry about it. If you decide to calculate the damage more like a PC,
give your creature weapon specialization or greater weapon specialization
much earlier than a PC would get it. You might also need to add sneak attack
or similar abilities to make the creature deal more damage.
On the flip side, you might want to use a one-off creature as a source of a particularly high-level piece of treasure, such as a magic weapon. In these cases, you might want to make the attack bonus higher for potency or the damage higher for a prime striking rune so the PCs feel the weapon’s effect before gaining the treasure. This will make the treasure feel more powerful, since they’ve already been on the receiving end.
The table below gives the amount of damage a creature should deal with a
single Strike. You might use a lower category if the creature has better accuracy,
or a higher category if its accuracy is lower.
A creature that’s meant to be primarily a combat threat uses high damage for its melee Strikes, or moderate for melee Strikes that have the agile trait. Ranged attacks more typically use the moderate value, or maybe low. A creature that’s meant to be highly damaging uses the extreme damage values, but might have a moderate attack bonus. As with most stats, extreme damage is more likely at higher levels. You can also use the extreme value for special attacks that the creature can use only a limited number of times or under circumstances that aren’t likely to happen every round.
More versatile creatures, such as ones that can cast some spells and aren’t meant to primarily get their damage through Strikes, go one category lower: medium for their main melee Strikes, low for agile and ranged Strikes. Spellcasters and other creatures that aren’t meant to be competent in a direct fight might use the low damage value, or even less if they completely don’t care about their Strikes.
On the Strike damage table, you’ll find a damage expression (dice plus a flat modifier) you can use as is, or you can take the damage in parentheses and build your own damage expression. If you do the latter, remember that a d4 counts as 2.5 damage, a d6 as 3.5, a d8 as 4.5, a d10 as 5.5, and a d12 as 6.5. Usually, a damage expression works best when it’s roughly half the damage from dice and half from the flat modifier. If your creature gets special damage, like 1d6 fire from flaming attacks, that needs to come out of its total damage per Strike. Keep in mind that a creature using a weapon should have a damage value that feels right for that weapon. A dagger-wielder dealing extreme damage isn’t a common sight without something like sneak attack to boost the damage—that’s usually reserved for two-handed weapons that deal d10s or d12s for damage. However, the dagger-wielder might have the ability to attack several times or use other sorts of tricks.
|–1||1d6+1 (4)||1d4+1 (3)||1d4 (3)||1d4 (2)|
|0||1d6+3 (6)||1d6+2 (5)||1d4+2 (4)||1d4+1 (3)|
|1||1d8+4 (8)||1d6+3 (6)||1d6+2 (5)||1d4+2 (4)|
|2||1d12+4 (11)||1d10+4 (9)||1d8+4 (8)||1d6+3 (6)|
|3||1d12+8 (15)||1d10+6 (12)||1d8+6 (10)||1d6+5 (8)|
|4||2d10+7 (18)||2d8+5 (14)||2d6+5 (12)||2d4+4 (9)|
|5||2d12+7 (20)||2d8+7 (16)||2d6+6 (13)||2d4+6 (11)|
|6||2d12+10 (23)||2d8+9 (18)||2d6+8 (15)||2d4+7 (12)|
|7||2d12+12 (25)||2d10+9 (20)||2d8+8 (17)||2d6+6 (13)|
|8||2d12+15 (28)||2d10+11 (22)||2d8+9 (18)||2d6+8 (15)|
|9||2d12+17 (30)||2d10+13 (24)||2d8+11 (20)||2d6+9 (16)|
|10||2d12+20 (33)||2d12+13 (26)||2d10+11 (22)||2d6+10 (17)|
|11||2d12+22 (35)||2d12+15 (28)||2d10+12 (23)||2d8+10 (19)|
|12||3d12+19 (38)||3d10+14 (30)||3d8+12 (25)||3d6+10 (20)|
|13||3d12+21 (40)||3d10+16 (32)||3d8+14 (27)||3d6+11 (21)|
|14||3d12+24 (43)||3d10+18 (34)||3d8+15 (28)||3d6+13 (23)|
|15||3d12+26 (45)||3d12+17 (36)||3d10+14 (30)||3d6+14 (24)|
|16||3d12+29 (48)||3d12+18 (37)||3d10+15 (31)||3d6+15 (25)|
|17||3d12+31 (50)||3d12+19 (38)||3d10+16 (32)||3d6+16 (26)|
|18||3d12+34 (53)||3d12+20 (40)||3d10+17 (33)||3d6+17 (27)|
|19||4d12+29 (55)||4d10+20 (42)||4d8+17 (35)||4d6+14 (28)|
|20||4d12+32 (58)||4d10+22 (44)||4d8+19 (37)||4d6+15 (29)|
|21||4d12+34 (60)||4d10+24 (46)||4d8+20 (38)||4d6+17 (31)|
|22||4d12+37 (63)||4d10+26 (48)||4d8+22 (40)||4d6+18 (32)|
|23||4d12+39 (65)||4d12+24 (50)||4d10+20 (42)||4d6+19 (33)|
|24||4d12+42 (68)||4d12+26 (52)||4d10+22 (44)||4d6+21 (35)|
Your creature might have magical abilities that are best represented by spells.
If you’re making a highly spellcasting-themed creature, give it prepared or
spontaneous spells. For a creature that has spells due to its magical nature,
especially if that magic isn’t its core focus, look at giving it some innate
spells instead. How many spells you give a creature should depend on how you
expect it to spend its actions in combat. If it’s primarily going to making
Strikes, it might not have any spells, or just have a few to help it move around
better or protect against certain types of magic.
When choosing spells, lean hard into the creature’s theme. Many PCs choose spells to cover a wide variety of situations, but creatures are more evocative the more focused they are. Consider selecting 75% of spells based on relevance to the theme and the remaining 25% for other things. However, make sure the spells aren’t one note. Selecting fireball for 75% of a creature’s spell slots doesn’t make for a compelling fire creature in the way a diverse selection of fire spells would.
When choosing spells, pay attention to heightened versions, as some spells won’t be very useful if prepared at their minimum level despite the creature having higher-level spell slots. Most notably, damaging spells drop off in usefulness for a creature that’s only expected to last a single fight. A damaging spell two levels below the highest level a creature of that level can cast is still potentially useful, but beyond that don’t bother. Spells that have the incapacitation trait should be in the highest level slot if you want the creature to potentially get their full effect against PCs.
Set the creature’s spell DC and spell attack roll using the following table.
Most creatures use the same DC for all their spells, even if they have multiple
types, such as a creature with both prepared spells and innate spells.
Use the high numbers for primary casters, and moderate for creatures that have some supplemental spells but are focused more on combat. At 15th level and higher, the extreme numbers become standard for spellcasters. A few might hit extreme at lower levels, but they tend to be highly specialized, with very weak defenses and attacks. Secondary spellcasters can go up to high numbers if they’re above level 15 and have offensive spells. There is no low value—the creature shouldn’t have any spells in the first place if it would be that bad at using them!
|Level||DC||Extreme Spell Attack||DC||High Spell Attack||DC||Moderate Spell Attack|
Spell slots work best for creatures that are meant to play like spellcasters.
Choose the magical tradition best suited to the creature. You aren’t strictly
limited to that tradition’s spell list, though sticking close to it will make
your creature’s connection to that tradition more clear. The decision to use
prepared or spontaneous spellcasting should align with the creature’s theme.
As a one-off creature, a spontaneous spellcaster will have more flexibility
in combat and is thus more effective than a prepared spellcaster. However, if
you expect the creature to be a recurring character, a prepared spellcaster
might be able to change their spells between appearances in a way a spontaneous
The highest spell level a creature can cast equals half its level rounded up, at maximum for a creature that can cast the same number of spells as a PC spellcaster. The maximum number of spell slots it has of that spell level is 2 or 3 if the creature’s level is odd, or 3 or 4 if it’s even. Then, every spell level below gets 3 or 4 spell slots (depending on what you picked for its highest level), and the creature gets 5 cantrips.
Because creatures tend to be “on stage” for only a short period of time, you usually don’t need to fill every single spell slot. You can often fill just the top three levels of spells, pick cantrips, and maybe slot in a few thematic backup spells in the fourth level down. For a creature you expect to recur, you might give it the full complement of spells.
Some creatures have focus spells, especially when a set of focus spells clearly fits a creature’s theme. Simply give the creature the focus spells you like and between 1 and 3 Focus Points (you can also allow your creature to cast a focus spell using spell slots). Use the same DC and spell attack roll as any other spell. A creature that has just 1 Focus Point is likely to cast a focus spell only once, unless it’s a recurring enemy. If the creature has plenty of spells already, you might want to skip the focus spells altogether, as they aren’t as strong as top-level spell slots.
Unlike prepared or spontaneous spells, innate spells can be of higher level
than half the creature’s level rounded up, and you can choose how often they’re
used—they can even be used at-will or be constant effects. The most notable
innate spells tend to be top-level ones that make a big impact but can be used
only once, at-will spells that strongly reinforce the creature’s theme, and
constant spells that give it an ongoing benefit. A spell that’s usable a limited
number of times and falls at a lower level than the top tier tends to be less
interesting and less likely to come up in play. However, that’s a great spot
for utility and recovery spells, such as restoration or dispel magic.
Sometimes a strongly thematic innate spell is higher than the creature would normally be able to cast, but it’s so fitting that it belongs there. Be careful when doing this, as PCs might not have their normal countermeasures for the spell. This spot works best for “helper” spells that change the odds of a fight without outright killing anyone, such as the succubus’s dominate spell. These should make the fight more interesting, not end it. Keep the number of such spells very low, typically just one.
Though you can achieve all sorts of things with innate spells, always start with theme and with an idea of how you want the creature spending its actions. Sure, you could give the creature a tool to counter every kind of PC attack or trick, but remember that the players chose those options to enjoy using them, rather than to be constantly foiled while tiring effortlessly against an effectively invincible creature.
Since rituals happen during downtime, giving them to a creature is usually a purely thematic choice. You can skip even looking at rituals in most cases. If you decide a creature needs to have a ritual for your story, add in the ritual whenever you need it.
As noted back in the creature concept step, you should have decided upon
some linchpin abilities you plan to design. Again, you can look at existing
creature abilities from the Bestiary and feats from the Core Rulebook and use
them as printed or modify them to fit your needs.
When choosing abilities, think about both the number of abilities and the diversity of abilities. Having a large number of similar abilities can make the creature tougher to run, and means it probably won’t use them all! Diversity of abilities gives the creature different ways to act in different situations, and helps guide you as GM. For instance, a combat creature might have one ability it uses to get into position, another to use when it wants to focus damage on a single enemy, and a third that’s more defensive.
There are a few principles of ability construction that you’ll want to keep in mind. Some guidance for specific types of abilities will come later, but these apply to everything.
Core to making a creature work is understanding its action economy. Remember
how short the lifespan of a typical combat creature is. Including a bunch of
combat abilities might mean you spend time building actions the creature will
never have time to use. Narrow your selections down to the smallest and most
compelling set that makes sense. Also keep in mind that special actions will
compete for time with any combat spells you gave the creature.
Reactions can help somewhat, giving the creature a way to act when it’s not its turn. See the Reactive Abilities section for advice on designing these tricky abilities.
Because of PC capabilities at higher levels, creatures at those levels should get more advantages to their action economy. For instance, creatures that grapple should have Improved Grab instead of Grab, Speeds should be higher, and many abilities that would have cost an action at a lower level should be free actions.
The effects of an ability should be appropriate to the creature’s level. For damaging abilities, that really just means they follow the damage guidelines below. For others, take a look at spells and feats with a similar effect to see if they’re appropriate. For instance, say you’re considering giving a 6th-level creature the ability to teleport a short distance. Something comparable is dimension door. That’s a 4th-level spell, normally cast by a 7th-level or higher creature. That means 6th level probably isn’t too low, but the creature shouldn’t be able to use the ability more than once! You can also compare your creature to those in a Bestiary volume to see if the special abilities seem appropriate to those of other creatures of the same level.
Avoid abilities that do nothing but change the creature’s math, also known as “invisible abilities.” These alter a creature’s stats in a way that’s invisible to the players, which makes them less engaging because the players don’t see the creature using its abilities in a tangible or evocative way. For example, a creature ability that takes an action to increase its accuracy for the round with no outward sign (or worse, just grants a passive bonus to its accuracy) isn’t that compelling, whereas one that increases its damage by lighting its arrows on fire is noticeable. These both work toward the same goal—dealing more damage this round—but one is far more memorable.
Abilities a creature uses on its turn have the most flexibility and scope.
You can have them spend 1 to 3 actions as needed (or be free actions in rare
cases), and use just about any type of tactic. Feats, spells, and creature abilities
provide a wide variety of examples here, so look for something similar to your
idea to use as a basis.
Consider how you want your creature to spend its turns. Two-action activities pretty much define the creature’s turn, and single actions work best for supplemental benefits or normal Strikes. And as you build out your idea of a creature’s turn, don’t forget about movement! Remember that, especially early in a fight, a creature often needs to spend actions getting into position. This is especially challenging with melee-only creatures. You can give such creatures abilities similar to Sudden Charge or the deadly mantis’s Leaping Grab.
Use 3-action activities sparingly, as they become useless if the creature is slowed or stunned. Putting a 3-action ability that’s crucial to define the creature might mean it never uses its most interesting tactic. These activities should be reserved for abilities that include some movement (such as Trample), or that the creature is likely to use before it’s engaged in combat. Don’t use three actions as a balance point. In other words, saying “This can be more powerful than other abilities because it is less likely to work,” is a recipe for frustration if you’ve made a cool ability that’s too hard or even impossible for the creature to use.
Be especially careful with activities when designing boss creatures. They’re likely to get targeted with the PCs’ worst debuffs, get grabbed, become slowed, or otherwise have their actions restricted. Bosses need to have some solid options they can take with 1 or 2 actions. This lets them save their third action to get away, use a simple ability, or otherwise keep the fight dynamic.
Use free actions that don’t have triggers sparingly. They should almost always be used for “helper” actions, not Strikes or movement. If you come up with a free action, consider whether it should be its own action or whether you’re really looking for a combo, such as drawing a weapon and attacking. In cases like the latter, you might be better off making a single action that allows the creature to draw a weapon and then Strike instead of creating a free action to draw a weapon.
If a special action is a single action with only one target, you can often
set damage using Table 2–10: Strike Damage on page 65. If it takes more than
one action or requires set-up in some way, it might deal higher damage than
is typical. Often you can get there just by using the extreme column.
For abilities that deal damage in an area, use the Area Damage table below. These numbers are based on a 2-action activity (i.e., most damaging spells). Single actions should do much less damage. Of course, an ability that has another significant effect, like applying a condition, should deal less damage; for this, you can look at the damage for two or more levels lower, and judge based on the severity of the additional effect. Area damage typically allows a basic saving throw. The table includes values for unlimited-use abilities (ones that can be used at-will) and limited-use ones (which can be used once or, like a Breath Weapon, once or twice and not on consecutive turns).
As with the Strikes damage table, you can either use the dice given or generate your own based on the average damage in parentheses. If a high-level effect has a small area for its level, it might deal more damage.
|Level||Unlimited Use||Limited Use|
|–1||1d4 (2)||1d6 (4)|
|0||1d6 (4)||1d10 (6)|
|1||2d4 (5)||2d6 (7)|
|2||2d6 (7)||3d6 (11)|
|3||2d8 (9)||4d6 (14)|
|4||3d6 (11)||5d6 (18)|
|5||2d10 (12)||6d6 (21)|
|6||4d6 (14)||7d6 (25)|
|7||4d6 (15)||8d6 (28)|
|8||5d6 (17)||9d6 (32)|
|9||5d6 (18)||10d6 (35)|
|10||6d6 (20)||11d6 (39)|
|11||6d6 (21)||12d6 (42)|
|12||5d8 (23)||13d6 (46)|
|13||7d6 (24)||14d6 (49)|
|14||4d12 (26)||15d6 (53)|
|15||8d6 (27)||16d6 (56)|
|16||8d6 (28)||17d6 (60)|
|17||8d6 (29)||18d6 (63)|
|18||9d6 (30)||19d6 (67)|
|19||9d6 (32)||20d6 (70)|
|20||6d10 (33)||21d6 (74)|
|21||10d6 (35)||22d6 (77)|
|22||8d8 (36)||23d6 (81)|
|23||11d6 (38)||24d6 (84)|
|24||11d6 (39)||25d6 (88)|
Active offensive abilities usually fit creatures better than defensive abilities do. Save defense increases for creatures that are strongly defense-themed. For martial creatures, something as simple as a shield and Shield Block is usually plenty. Defensive abilities often run the risk of being invisible abilities. For good examples, look at spells like sanctuary for ideas, or other spells that create interesting protective effects instead of just granting a bonus. If you do want to make a creature defensive, pick one defensive ability rather than several, since stacking up multiple defenses can make for a frustrating fight. One solid style of defensive ability is a mode switch, which causes the creature to get stronger defenses, but limits its attacks, spells, or other offensive options.
Reactions and free actions with triggers can give a creature an impact outside
its turn. This can make the fight more interesting, but may also be risky. It’s
tempting to give every creature a reaction, but that’s not necessarily a good
idea. To decide whether your creature should have a reaction, first consider
if the creature has the reflexes or insight to react well in the first place.
Oozes, constructs, and unintelligent creatures are less likely to have reactions
than others for this reason. For instance, an ogre doesn’t have Attack of Opportunity
because it’s a big oaf.
Second, look at the complexity of the encounter your creature is likely to appear in. If you’ll have a large number of creatures, skipping reactions can make the fight flow faster. A creature that’s more likely to fight solo, on the other hand, might have a reaction to give it a way to continue to be dangerous amid an onslaught of attacks by the party.
When creating reactions, be careful with “gotcha” abilities. These are reactions that punish the players for making perfectly reasonable choices, for rolling poorly, and so on. If you include abilities like this, they need to reinforce the creature’s core theme and the play style you want it to use during combat. For example, a creature that Strikes as a reaction when someone fails an attack roll will encourage PCs not to take their second and third attacks, or to not attack at all if their bonuses are low. Is that what you want? Is this dynamic essential for making the creature feel like it’s supposed to? This isn’t the type of ability you’d throw onto any old creature—only an incredible duelist or something similar. Reactions should also require something out of the ordinary to happen in most cases, or be relatively weak if triggered by something ordinary. Having a reaction that can trigger any time someone attempts a Strike against a creature is likely to be perceived as mundane because it’s so predictable.
The best reactions should be telegraphed, so when they happen it makes sense to the players. Think of one of the core reactions of the game: Shield Block. The creature raises its shield—an obvious action the PCs can see—so when it blocks damage from an attack, that makes perfect sense. If you made a crystalline creature, you might have it build up sonic energy in a low thrum, so that when it uses a reaction to release a burst of sonic energy when hit, the players can say, “Oh, I should have seen that coming.”
Reactions should use lower damage, usually equivalent to a moderate Strike. A reaction dealing area damage (which should be used with caution) might deal low damage.
Certain abilities shouldn’t take any actions. Auras are one example. Look
at frightful presence, the adult red dragon’s dragon heat, or a xulgath’s stench
for examples. Your aura will need a range, and likely a DC. You’ll usually set
this to the moderate spell DC, unless the aura is one of the core concepts the
creature is crafted around. For example, the xulgath’s DC is significantly higher
because its stench is such an iconic part of the creature.
Abilities the creature has no control over should be automatic. For example, the living wildfire fire elemental explodes into flame when it dies. It has no option not to, so this wouldn’t make sense as a reaction or free action. Conversely, the Ferocity ability is a reaction because it requires the creature to give itself a last push to stay at 1 HP.
Much like reactions, damage for any constant ability should be pretty low. Usually this value is just below low Strike damage. Automatic abilities like the living wildfire’s tend to deal moderate Strike damage or unlimited area damage, and can deal more than that if they only happen after the creature is dead or otherwise no longer presents a threat.
A skilled creature might have special abilities related to its skills. The skill feats in the Core Rulebook make for a good baseline. Avoid giving your creature skill abilities that won’t matter in its interactions with PCs. When NPCs deal with NPCs, you can decide what happens as you like.
Now it’s time to look over your creature and do a final check to make sure
it’s living up to your roadmap. Can it do everything you wanted? Will it fit
the role you planned for it? Is there anything you could add or anything superfluous
you could cut to get the creature where it needs to be?
If this creature is built for combat, run through a few turns in your head. Does it still work decently if it gets slowed? Can it move into combat against the PCs given their mobility options compared to its own? Does it have any abilities it won’t ever use given its other actions?
When you’re satisfied with your creation, it’s ready to hit the table. But that’s not necessarily the end! If you notice issues during the game, you can fix them on the spot! It’s your game, and you don’t have to be beholden to what you wrote if you think differently later on.
Creatures with certain traits tend to have similar abilities to one another. Many of them appear here, to help you make your creatures match the theme of the trait when you build your own creatures.
Senses usually darkvision
Languages usually Aklo
Traits LN, monitor
Languages Utopian and other planar languages; envisioning for true aeons
Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.
Languages usually Auran
Speed Many air creatures have fly Speeds.
Traits good (usually NG), celestial
Aura Angels each have a unique aura based on how they serve as messengers and how they deliver those messages.
Speed usually has a fly Speed
Rituals usually angelic messenger
Int –4 or –5
Traits LG, celestial
Virtue Ability Archons each represent a specific virtue, like courage or hope, and have a special ability based on the virtue they represent.
Traits CG, celestial
Weaknesses cold iron, evil
Freedom Ability Azatas each represent a specific freedom, like free expression or free love, and have a special ability based on the freedom they represent.
Int –3 or higher
Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic
Damage Attacks always deal additional good damage.
Immunities or Resistances cold
Traits many constructs lack minds and have the mindless
Immunities bleed, death effects, diseased, doomed, drained, fatigued, healing, necromancy, nonlethal attacks, paralyzed, poison, sickened, unconscious; if mindless, add mental
Traits NE, fiend
Languages Daemonic, telepathy 100 feet
Immunities death effects
Death Ability Daemons each represent a specific kind of death, like death by disease or starvation, and have a special ability based on the method of death they represent.
Traits CE, fiend
Languages Abyssal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)
Weaknesses cold iron, good
HP typically high to account for their multiple weaknesses
Divine Innate Spells usually 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door
Rituals usually Abyssal pact
Sin Vulnerability Demons each represent a specific sin, like envy or wrath, and have a special vulnerability based on the sin they represent. This should be something the PCs can exploit through their actions, which should then deal mental damage to the demon. The amount of damage should be based on how easy the vulnerability is to exploit.
Sin Ability Demons also have a special ability based on the sin they represent, which either makes them better embody the sin or instills that sin in others.
Traits LE, fiend
Languages Infernal, telepathy (usually 100 feet)
Immunities fire; Resistances physical (except silver), poison
Divine Innate Spells usually one 5th-level dimension door and at-will 4th-level dimension door
Rituals usually Infernal pact
Infernal Hierarchy Ability Devils each have an ability corresponding to the role they play in the infernal hierarchy, typically focused around control or being controlled, from the lowly lemure’s subservience to the gelugon’s tactician of Cocytus and the pit fiend’s devil shaping.
Languages usually Draconic
Speed usually has a fly Speed
Breath Weapon Many dragons have the Breath Weapon ability, with specifics determined by the theme of the dragon.
Perception often tremorsense
Languages usually Terran
Speed usually a burrow Speed
Immunities bleed, paralyzed, poison, sleep
Senses low-light vision
Languages usually Sylvan, Aklo, or both
Weaknesses cold iron
Saves often a +1 status bonus to all saves vs. magic
Damage Attacks always deal additional evil damage.
Languages usually Ignan
Immunities fire; Resistances cold
Traits fungi without minds have the mindless trait
Immunities if mindless, mental; Weaknesses sometimes slashing or fire
Traits Large or bigger, humanoid
Senses low-light vision
Languages usually Jotun
Int –3 or higher
Traits LN, aeon, monitor
Immunities death effects, disease, emotion, poison, unconscious
Damage Attacks always deal additional lawful damage.
Traits neither good nor evil
Traits almost all oozes lack minds and have the mindless
Senses typically motion sense (Bestiary 254) and no vision
AC usually well below the low value for their level
HP usually around double
Immunities critical hits, precision, unconscious, often acid; if it has no vision, add visual effects, if mindless, add mental
Traits plants without minds have the mindless trait
Senses usually low-light vision
Immunities if mindless, mental; Weaknesses sometimes fire
Traits CN, monitor
Weaknesses lawful; Resistances precision, protean anatomy
Protean Anatomy (Bestiary 237)
Damage attacks always deal additional chaotic damage
Divine Innate Spells constant freedom of movement
Traits N, monitor
Senses lifesense (typically 60 feet)
Immunities death effects, disease
Resistances negative, poison
Damage spirit touch (Bestiary 270)
Traits LE, fiend
Saves usually +2 status to all saves vs. magic (+3 vs. divine magic)
Resistances physical (except piercing)
Traits incorporeal, often undead
Traits size based on the entire mass, usually Large
HP typically low; Immunities precision, swarm mind; Weaknesses area damage, splash damage; Resistances physical, usually with one physical type having lower or no resistance
Traits Almost all undead are evil. Ghostly undead have
the incorporeal trait. Undead without minds, such as most zombies, have
the mindless trait.
HP negative healing
Immunities death effects, disease, paralyze, poison, sleep (or unconscious if it never rests at all); if mindless, add mental
Languages usually Aquan
Speed usually has a swim Speed
Creatures that are meant to cleave closely to character classes or intended
to represent normal people instead of monstrous creatures are NPCs. They might
face more scrutiny around their mechanics than creatures, because a player can
more directly compare their rogue to an NPC who acts like a rogue. That doesn’t
mean you have to build an NPC exactly like a PC, though.
You can build your NPCs just like any other creature. Use the class features and feats of a suitable class to pick abilities, and look at both the class’s proficiencies and ability modifiers to determine how strong stats should be. The Class Roadmaps sidebar on page 73 has many prebuilt roadmaps for the Core Rulebook classes to get you started.
If the NPC isn’t meant to work like a PC class (a baker, for example), instead look at the NPC Gallery on pages 202–249. Compare your NPC to the existing ones to determine their level, and look for abilities that are similar to what yours should have. You can also create new abilities as needed to get the NPC’s interactions with the players to express their theme and role in the story. Remember that these NPCs can be level –1 or level 0. They have capabilities below that of PCs, and should typically not use any class features or feats from PC classes. Creatures of these levels tend to be extremely simple, and usually you can just take one from the NPC Gallery and reskin it.
It’s highly recommended that you select NPC skills using proficiency ranks as you would a PC, though you don’t need to be precise with the number of skill increases you give it. You can give it earlier access to expert, master, or legendary proficiency if they’re a skill-based NPC, and hand out better proficiency in narrow areas of expertise, like Engineering Lore for a tinker NPC.
An NPC’s level should represent its combat prowess. A common person, even
if they’re important or highly skilled, might not be a combat threat, and consequently
have a low level. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t present a challenge
in other types of encounters. This is represented by a non-combat level, and
tends to be specific to their area of expertise. For example, the barrister
on page 232 of the NPC Gallery is a 4th-level creature in an encounter related
to legal matters.
This can go the other way as well, such as with a powerful combat creature that’s not suited to social settings. This is usually the case with creatures untrained in mental skills! You can improvise this as you run the game, or plan ahead if you have something particular in mind.
Building a creature’s non-combat level is pretty simple. Choose the level you want them to be for the type of challenge you have in mind, and use the skill numbers for that level—typically high or even extreme. Some challenges, such as social challenges, require the creature to have a high Perception and Will DC, so in those cases, you should increase those values as well. These should be set at the moderate or high values for the non-combat level, usually, depending on how adept you want the NPC to be.
The Experience Points gained for besting an NPC depend on how the party overcame them, because XP comes from overcoming a specific challenge. If it was in a non-combat setting of the NPC’s specialty, the party gets XP based on the NPC’s non-combat level. If they just beat the NPC up, that’s going to use the NPC’s creature level. Quite often, that means 0 XP and failure at the PCs’ objective; for instance, during a baking contest, if the PCs murder the other baker, they will not only be disqualified, they will likely be apprehended for their crime.
If you do choose to build an NPC fully using the PC rules, your NPC should
likely end up being an appropriate challenge as a creature of their level. They
will likely have lower statistics in some areas than if you had built them using
the creature rules, but more options due to their full complement of feats and
class features. This is best saved for important, recurring NPCs, especially
if they’re meant to engage in social or exploration endeavors rather than just
There are still some considerations and shortcuts that can expedite the process and make sure the NPC works as you intend.
You can use these suggestions when creating your roadmap to emulate a PC
class, customizing as you see fit. You’ll still need to look at the class to
pick feats, weapons, and the like. Any statistic that isn’t specifically listed
can use moderate numbers.
Alchemist low Perception; high Crafting; high Int, moderate or better Dex or Str; low to moderate HP; moderate attack with bombs; infused alchemical items, Quick Bomber if a bomber alchemist, a few other alchemist abilities; it’s usually easier to simply give the alchemist its bomb items rather than use Quick Alchemy on the spot.
Barbarian high Athletics; high Str, high to moderate Con; high AC; high Fortitude; high HP; moderate attack and extreme damage (when raging); Rage and a few barbarian abilities
Bard moderate Occultism, high Performance, high Charisma-based skills; high Cha; low Fortitude, moderate to high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; spontaneous occult spellcasting as a bard of their level; composition spells
Champion low Perception; moderate Religion; high Str or Dex, moderate Cha; extreme AC; low Reflex; moderate attack and high damage; champion’s reaction, devotion spells, Shield Block
Cleric (Cloistered) high Perception; high Religion, moderate or high skill themed to deity; low AC; high Wis; low Fortitude, high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared divine spellcasting as a cleric of their level; divine font; domain spells
Cleric (Warpriest) moderate Perception; moderate Religion, moderate or high skill themed to deity; high Str, moderate Wis; high AC; low Reflex, high Will; high spell DC; prepared divine spellcasting as a cleric of their level; divine font, Shield Block
Druid high Perception; high Nature, moderate or high skill from order; high Wis; high Will; low to moderate HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared primal spellcasting as a druid of their level; order ability and order spell for their order; Shield Block; add an animal to the encounter for animal order
Fighter high Acrobatics or Athletics; high Str or Dex; high AC; low Will; high attack and high damage; Attack of Opportunity, Shield Block, a few fighter abilities
Monk high Acrobatics and/or Athletics; high Str or Dex, moderate Wis; high or extreme AC; moderate attack and high damage; Flurry of Blows, a few monk abilities (possibly including ki spells)
Ranger high Perception; moderate Nature and moderate to high Survival; high Str or Dex; high AC; moderate attack and high damage (or for a simpler ranger, remove Hunt Prey and just use high attack and high damage); a few ranger abilities
Rogue high Perception; high Dex (unless using a different key ability score using a specific rogue’s racket); high Stealth and Thievery, plus more skills than usual; high AC; low Fortitude, high Reflex; low to moderate HP; moderate attack and low to moderate damage before sneak attack plus high or extreme damage with sneak attack; sneak attack, a few rogue abilities
Sorcerer low Perception; moderate bloodline skills and high Charisma-based bloodline skills; high Cha; low AC; low Fortitude; low HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; spontaneous spellcasting of a tradition based on bloodline as a sorcerer of their level; bloodline spells
Wizard low Perception; high Arcana; high Int; low AC; low Fortitude; low HP; low accuracy; high to extreme spell DC; prepared arcane spellcasting as a wizard of their level; Drain Bonded Item, school spells and additional slots for a specialist (or additional uses of Drain Bonded Item for a universalist)
You don’t need to give an NPC all the abilities from its class—especially
those that just alter numbers. The following abilities are good quick choices
that make for more interesting encounters.
Alchemist Feats 1st: Quick Bomber; 6th: Debilitating Bomb; 8th: Sticky Bomb; 10th: Expanded Splash, Greater Debilitating Bomb; 14th: True Debilitating Bomb; 18th: Miracle Worker
Barbarian instinct ability and related feats, raging resistance; Feats 1st: Raging Intimidation; 2nd: No Escape, Shake it Off; 4th: Fast Movement, Swipe; 6th: Attack of Opportunity, Cleave; 8th: Sudden Leap; 10th: Come and Get Me, Knockback, Terrifying Howl; 14th: Awesome Blow, Whirlwind Strike; 18th: Vicious Evisceration
Bard muse feats; Feats 4th: Melodious Spell; 6th: Dirge of Doom, Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Quickened Casting; 14th: Allegro, Soothing Ballad; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 20th: Fatal Aria
Champion divine ally and related feats, divine smite, exalt, feats based on cause; Feats 1st: Deity’s Domain; 2nd: Divine Grace; 4th: Aura of Courage, Mercy; 6th: Attack of Opportunity; 8th: Greater Mercy; 12th: Aura of Faith; 14th: Aura of Righteousness, Divine Reflexes; 18th: Celestial Form, Ultimate Mercy
Cleric Feats 1st: Harming Hands, Healing Hands; 2nd: Sap Life, Turn Undead; 4th: Command Undead, Necrotic Infusion; 6th: Divine Weapon, Selective Energy; 8th: Channeled Succor; 12th: Defensive Recovery; 14th: Fast Channel; 16th: Eternal Bane, Eternal Blessing
Druid order feats; Feats 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 8th: Fey Caller (only the added spells); 10th: Overwhelming Energy; 12th: Primal Summons; 16th: Effortless Concentration, 20th: Leyline Conduit
Fighter bravery, feats associated with a combat style; Feats 1st: Power Attack, Sudden Charge; 2nd: Intimidating Strike, Lunge; 4th: Knockdown, Swipe; 6th: Shatter Defenses; 8th: Blind-Fight, Felling Strike, Sudden Leap; 10th: Certain Strike, Combat Reflexes, Disruptive Stance, Fearsome Brute; 12th: Spring Attack; 14th: Determination, Whirlwind Strike; 20th: Weapon Supremacy
Monk mystic strikes, metal strikes, perfected form, stance and related feats; Feats 1st: Ki Rush, Ki Strike; 2nd: Crushing Grab, Stunning Fist; 4th: Deflect Arrow, Flying Kick; 6th: Abundant Step, Ki Blast, Whirling Throw; 8th: Wall Run; 10th: Winding Flow; 16th: Quivering Palm, Shattering Strike; 18th: Diamond Fists, Swift River; 20th: Enduring Quickness, Impossible Techniques
Ranger Hunt Prey, hunter’s edge, nature’s edge, masterful hunter, swift prey, companion or combat style and related feats; Feats 2nd: Quick Draw, Wild Empathy; 4th: Scout’s Warning; 6th: Skirmish Strike; 8th: Blind-Fight, Warden’s Boon; 10th: Camouflage; 14th: Sense the Unsee; 18th: Shadow Hunter; 20th: Ultimate Skirmisher
Rogue surprise attack, deny advantage, debilitating strike, master strike, rogue’s racket and related feats; Feats 1st: Nimble Dodge; 2nd: Mobility, Quick Draw; 4th: Scout’s Warning; 6th: Gang Up, Skirmish Strike, Twist the Knife; 8th: Blind-Fight, Opportune Backstab; 10th: Sneak Savant; 12th: Fantastic Leap, Spring from the Shadows; 14th: Sense the Unseen; 16th: Dispelling Slice, Perfect Distraction; 20th: Hidden Paragon, Reactive Distraction
Sorcerer bloodline and related feats; Feats 1st: Counterspell, Dangerous Sorcery; 4th: Bespell Weapon; 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Overwhelming Energy, Quickened Casting; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 20th: Metamagic Mastery
Wizard school and related feats; Feats 1st: Counterspell; 4th: Bespell Weapon; 6th: Steady Spellcasting; 10th: Overwhelming Energy, Quickened Casting; 12th: Clever Counterspell; 14th: Reflect Spell; 16th: Effortless Concentration; 18th: Infinite Possibilities; 20th: Metamagic Mastery, Spell Combination