Not all attacks have equal power and utility—some attacks are simple and have a minor impact, while other attacks are showstoppers that can completely change the course of battle.
This chapter introduces attack rarities and how you can use them to vary your monster's attack patterns.
Freeform attacks, by default, focus on achieving just one thing per attack—draining health, applying a condition, moving targets around, etc. But if you want to add some more variety to your monster's attacks, use rarities to adjust your attack damage and effects.
There are three rarities of increasing power and threat—common, uncommon, and rare. When creating an attack, pick one—the rarer the attack, the more devastation it can cause when it hits.
Common attacks can be performed without any significant limitation—slashing with a sword, lashing out with a tail, casting a magical cantrip, etc. These are basic actions that focus on achieving one thing, such as:
- Deal some damage.
- Apply a status condition.
- Apply ongoing damage.
- Move targets around.
Give your monster one or two common attacks to start with, and add/improvise additional freeform attacks during play whenever they come up.
For a more in-depth exploration of possible attack types and effects you can use, read Making Attacks.
The GM wants to build an orc berserker, and—for some variety—creates two common starting attacks: Slash (deals damage on a hit vs AC) and Rend (deals ongoing damage vs Constitution saving throw).
Uncommon attacks are limited in use, often because they depend on a restricted resource—such as stamina, rage, focus, mana, spell slots, or ammunition—or because they need time to recharge power and strength.
Because of their limitations, uncommon attacks are more powerful and can achieve two things—for example:
- Deal double damage.
- Deal damage and a status condition.
- Apply ongoing damage and a status condition.
- Move targets around and apply ongoing damage.
There are three main forms of uncommon attack: limited charges, recharge, and cooldown. Pick the type that best suits your monster and their style of attack.
Charge attacks can be used a set number of times before they are exhausted—usually 2, 3, or 5. Charges reset after the monster completes a short rest or completes an action that could reasonably restore some charges.
A kobold slinger is given a Stink Pot (limited 3) ranged attack that deals damage and applies the Poisoned condition. It can be used 3 times per short rest (if the kobold has access to new stink pots).
Recharge attacks can only be used again after a specific number (or range of numbers) is rolled on a d6. At the start of your monster's turn, roll to see if their attack recharges—if it does, you can use it again as normal.
A tiefling pyromancer uses her Scorch (recharge 5/6) attack against a player. At the start of the monster's next turn, the GM rolls a d6—they roll a 4, meaning the attack has not recharged yet and can't be used.
Cooldown attacks can only be used again after a specific number of rounds have passed. Whenever you use a cooldown attack, start a countdown timer. At the end of the monster's following turns, reduce the timer by 1—once it reaches 0, the attack has recharged.
An aberrant scourge spits a cone of acid with its Acid Spray (cooldown 2) attack, and the GM sets a new countdown timer to 2 (using a d6 to track the time).
At the end of the scourge's following turns, the timer is reduced by 1 until—at the end of the second round—the timer reaches 0.
Rare attacks are one-use abilities that take a significant time to recover, recharging at the end of a long rest (or longer, depending on your monster). These are some of your monster's most powerful attacks—their limit breaks, overdrive techniques, masterwork magic, etc.
Because they can only be used once, rare attacks can achieve three things—for example:
- Deal triple damage.
- Deal double damage and a status condition.
- Apply ongoing damage and two status conditions.
- Move targets around and apply double ongoing damage.
Give your rare attack plenty of flavor and description—these are some of your monster's most dangerous and exciting abilities, so put on a good show.
The GM is building a greatsword-wielding soldier NPC. As a damage-dealing striker, the soldier is given an Omnislash (rare) attack which deals triple damage on a successful hit—devastating if it hits.
Your Monster Profile
Below is an example monster profile with some premade attacks—a Herald of Corruption. This aberrant, barely humanoid figure spreads corruption and sickness across the land in the name of its eldritch master.
Heralds sing a discordant song that deals psychic damage to any nearby creature. Their most dangerous attack secrets a burrowing parasite which can infect and corrupt living flesh, turning victims into new heralds.
|Armor Class14||Attack Bonus+9|
|Hit Points170 (85)||Damage18|
|Speed30 ft||Spell DCs17, 14|
|Saving Throws Con +7, Int/Cha +4, Dex/Wis/Str +1|
|Skills Initiative +4, Perception +4, Stealth +4|
You may take one Paragon Action per round to either move or perform an action.
You have a 5/10/15 ft aura. Creatures that a) enter your aura or b) start their turn within your aura take damage equal to your level (7).
When you hit a creature that has 50% or fewer hit points, you deal extra damage equal to your level (7).
Touch of Decay (common)
Melee 5 ft: +9 vs AC. Hit: 18 necrotic damage.
Acid Spit (common)
Ranged 30 ft: DC 14 vs Dexterity. Hit: 18 ongoing acid damage, save ends (Constitution vs DC 17).
Poison Breath (recharge 5/6)
30 ft Cone: DC 17 vs Constitution. Hit: 18 poison damage and the target is Poisoned, save ends (Constitution vs DC 17).
Lifesteal (limited 3)
Melee 5ft: DC 17 vs Constitution. Hit: 18 necrotic damage and the target loses one unspent hit die.
Burrowing Parasite (rare)
Melee 5ft: +9 vs AC. Hit: the target is Stunned and takes 18 ongoing necrotic damage, save ends both (Constitution vs DC 17). The target also gains a level of exhaustion.
If a creature falls to 0 hit points whilst still infected with a burrowing parasite, it becomes a Lesser Herald of Corruption.