View Full Version : What Makes an epic monster?

2007-06-21, 01:13 PM
In preperation for the announcemed topic for next month's contest, I must wonder what it is that make a monster "epic." I thought I'd ask the experts here. Is it just having a save DC of 35 rather than 15 on its death effects or a BAB that can only be estimated with mundane numbers? or is there some aspect of its mechanics or fluff that turns a monster from just a tough fight at level 21 into something "epic?"

Any and all help would be appreciated, Both by myself and, i imagine, by others thinking of making such a monster.

2007-06-21, 01:29 PM
The way I see epic things, as I recently ran an epic campaign, is anything potentially overwealming; something that makes the lords of the nine seem like frightened kittens. Depending on the CR, I'd give the creature AC ranging anywhere in the 40's-50's, and a large number of 8th and ninth level spell like abilities unless you're creating the absolute melee type that doesn't have any magical attributes whatsoever (For example, see devastation Vermin in the SRD). Fluff wise, most epic creatures should be powerful and rare enough to make the gods cringe at fighting them.

2007-06-21, 01:33 PM
There are stats and fluff. Fluff doesn't always matter. Only key plot device monsters need Epic fluff. If its just a Paragon flesh golem on the second floor of the Demilich Archmage's tower it doesn't need epic fluff.

If its been sleeping for 99999 years while it sleeps off devouring a planet, if it manipulates Arch Fiends into doing its dirty work, if it can track you across the multiverse, if it causes dieties to start lying low, if it only appears at a once in a millenia stellar alignment, if it can only be killed by the tears of the Lady of Pain, then you can be pretty sure its an Epic Monster.

2007-06-21, 04:28 PM
I'll agree with Closet Skeleton above.

Just adding numbers and immunities doesn't necessarily make a creature truly epic (merely beardy, and any putz can do beardy). Take another look at the various yawnsome multi-headed animals, the prismasaurus, the primal elementals, colossi and such in the ELH; they are, by-and-large, malignant suckitude that should have been caught in editing and sent back for re-work.
Then you had the epic templates: demi-lich, pseudonatural and paragon. Ick! Someone just wasn't trying that week, were they? Specimen-quality lazy beardiness, all three! :smallconfused:

What makes an epic creature truly epic is the flavour; the style, the theme, the stats as represented by their use within the played game.

OK, the ELH says the Neh-Thalggu (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/nehThalggu.htm) wotsits (the brain collectors rezzed from the old OD&D Mystara setting) are worshipped as gods by the Mind Flayers. Fine, they're rock and they eat brains gooooooood. But let's hear some more about what they want. Gimme a couple of hints about what happens when one of them consumes an elder brain and enslaves an entire Illithid *city*, thereby leading to Ilsensene ordering a full-on Illithid-on-Illithid secret crusade. Gimme a hint that they're the downfall of a mighty ancient empire in the game world, or that they're fleeing from an even more terrifying threat in their own world.

If handled right the players should be reminiscing about the time they got into a four-way fight between the Aboleth savants of Thruthuun-Krava, their old arch-enemies the Illithid psion-lords, and the mutated, brain-eaten Flayer hordes of the vile Devourer of Minds long after they've forgotten what the Neh-Thalggu's AC or BAB was.

IMO, at epic play story and style should trump raw stats. There are balance DCs to walk on clouds and climb slicked glass for a reason you know. :smallwink:

For a fine example of 3rd party epic monster building you might want to take a look at Upper_Krust's "Epic Bestiary, Vol 1". That book contains some of the best thought out abominations, aberrations, epic angels, devils and demons, and super-epic cosmic horrors I've seen (Nexus Dragon? "Aaaaaaaagh!"). Of course, there's some rare taint of duffness there too (druidic epic wood dragon? *pffft*), but - unlike the random monstrosities in the ELH - every one of UK's creatures has at least 3 evocative, hooky and campaign-shaking plothooks as an integral part of the creature write-up. Heck, even a rogue severed tentacle gets a full write-up and a bunch of juicy plot hooks!

If you're too tight to spring $12 for what the ELH's monster chapter ~should have been all along~, then wander over to DiceFreaks. The chaps there have re-worked a lot of the high-powered (CR20+) D&D creatures so they fit in an internally self-consistent world. And their fluff is top notch.

The Vorpal Tribble
2007-06-21, 04:42 PM
Yeah, epic theme-wise is as mentioned above.

Epic stat-wise means any creature with a CR of 21 or higher (thats right, even the mighty tarrasque isn't quite considered epic).

The next monster competition will demand both :smallamused:

Here are some monsters to look over from the Epic Level Handbook to know what kind of stats we're talking here.

Epic feats and rules and such are to the left-hand side there.

2007-06-21, 04:46 PM
Thanks to all who've posted above, both for the explanations and the additional sources. I think I have a far better understanding of the dynamic then when I asked the question. I hope this was of use to others as well.