How to create Homebrew Creatures in D&D 5e
If you have ever tried to be a DM, then I’m certain that you wanted to make the party fight an original enemy. One that isn’t in the bestiary. Well, in this article I will explain how to create your Homebrew Creatures in D&D 5e and make the encounters more original and fun.
So, without any further ado, let’s start designing.
Table of Contents
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Step 0 - Choose the "Blue Pill" or the "Red Pill"
While starting creating Homebrew Creatures for D&D 5e, you have two main options to consider: starting from an existing creature or creating from a simple idea.
The official D&D bestiaries are full of every kind of creature, and if you want to create one by yourself, there’s a high chance that you can find on them a creature that’s similar to yours. So feel free to take inspiration for it.
Also, creatures present on the bestiary are generally optimized and reviewed, so the risk of unbalanced statistics is relatively low. Because of that, we advise you to start creating your creature by customizing an already existing one, changing statistics, making it stronger or weaker…
However, you can choose the other option, which is more complex and, for certain aspects, slower. You can decide to make a D&D creature from scratch, starting from a general concept and then building your homebrew creature around that.
In both cases, you should follow the order of steps while creating a custom monster for D&D 5e.
So, “how do you do that practically?”
Step I - Creation of the general concept
If you plan on making a DnD monster you must already have a concept but let’s talk about some way to solidify that concept.
So first off take a deep breath and be patient throughout the creation, because the more time you spend thinking now, the easier will be to create your monster. If you have no idea then sit down, brainstorm, and write down the things you would want for the monster to have and then compile it all.
Here are some tricks that I think will help you in creating a DnD homebrew monster concept. One option is to use a pre-existing and add an element to it. For example, It’s not a simple fox, it’s a froststorm fox.
Another option is to combine two different creatures together. Perhaps, you could give it wings?
Now that the concept has been born you simply need to name the monster on its appearance and quality. For example, you create a monster that has a water elemental but looks like a buffalo. So its name can be waffalo.
In any case, if you still can’t come up with something then just use a name generator.
Step II - Decide the Alignment of the Creature
After you have decided what will be the principal characteristics of the creature, it is time to decide the alignment.
What is the alignment?
The alignment of a D&D Creature expresses the way it behaves and its personality. Will it be aggressive or peaceful? Is it a loyal creature or it’s a wild creature that runs around rampant?
Then comes the morality of the creature. Depending on its behavior towards others the creature can be defined as Good, Neutral, or Evil.
Then comes its willingness to obey a command. The creature can be Lawful, Neutral, or chaotic. However, you should know that a creature can be lawful but still not follow rules in its environment.
A creature can be a combination of nine alignments, including Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil.
Step III - Determine the Size of the Monster
The next step is to determine the size and type of your creature.
However, while deciding the type and size do consider the fact that these will affect the resistances, abilities, and vulnerabilities of your monster. Though I’ll get to that part in a moment.
After taking all these things into consideration you can decide how big do you want your monster to be?
Remember that Tiny and Medium are a standard 5 feet by 5 feet square and each size above Medium expands the perimeter by an additional 5 feet (for example Large = 10 by 10, Huge = 15 by 15 etc).
Step IV - Choose its Statistics
Now with all those things out of the way, it is time to determine the Ability Scores.
And with Ability scores, I mean, of course, the Strenght (STR), Dexterity (DEX), Constitution (CON), Intelligence (INT), Wisdom (WIS), Charisma (CHA), and write down their modifiers.
Remember that a creature can’t have an ability score lower than one and higher than 30.
To calculate the modifier, you simply take the value of the statistic, subtract 10 and divide by 2 (rounding down).
e.g. STR: 17 | 17–10 = 7 | 7/2 = 3.5 -> +3
I suggest that you pick a creature similar to what you have planned for your beast and adjust the stats according to your taste.
Calculating Armor Class.
Then assign its Armor Class (AC). You can calculate that by adding 10 to its DEX modifier. However, if it’s too low for you, you can scale it up as much as you like.
Remember, that AC of a creature should be justified. It has to be explained. If it is a monster, you must mention the value of its natural armor besides the AC value of the creature.
Determine Hit Points (HP)
After that, determine what will be the Hit Points of your creatures in this way: choose the number of life dices it will have as you like. The creature’s size will determine the type of the dice.
Keep in mind that you will need to add – or subtract if negative – its Constitution modifier after you multiply it by the number of dices.
If my creature has a constitution of 14 with a bonus of +2 and has 10d8 as life dices
I need to add 2 times 10, which equals 20
So the hit points of my creature are given by 10d8+20.
Step V - Calculate the Challenge Rating (CR)
Now it’s time to determine Challenge Rating…but what is CR exactly?
CR is often confused as the level of the creature but it is actually a statistical value that gives you the upper maximum difficulty of the monster that your party is able to challenge.
However, it is just a rough estimation and it does not evaluate whether the party is optimized for that sort of enemy or not.
So now the next question is how can I calculate CR?
You can use this useful tool: it will help you determine to the correct Challenge Rating according to its characteristics and special abilities.
Step VI (I) - Determine the Skills and Saving Throws
Assign skills and saving throws proficiency basing yourself on what do you think your monster “is good at”.
e.g.: My “Volcanic Troll” is a strong creature that’s very territorial and aggressive. I’m expecting it to be proficient with abilities like “Intimidation” and “Athletics”, so I add to these its proficiency bonus.
The same thing for its saving throws: I think my troll should be proficient in its STR saving throws, while not in its DEX ones; so I will put the proficiency bonus in the first one.
Their modifier is provided by the correspondent skill’s modifier + the creature’s proficiency bonus (given by the challenge rating of the creature).
If you think your creature is extremely proficient in a single ability, you can duplicate its proficiency bonus for that ability.
Like our Death Angel: This creature is extremely proficient in Perception, so it can have a really high modifier.
Talking about saving throws: if you want your creature to be exceptionally resilient against certain saves you can add the proficiency bonus to certain saving throws. Note that it could be used also for balancing purposes like to counteract a low ability score.
Step VI (II) - Choose its Conditions, Damage Immunities, Resistances and Vulnerabilities
After that, you have to assign vulnerabilities to specific types of damage if you want your creature to be weak to those.
Instead, if you want it to be more resilient, then assign resistances and immunities.
However, be thoughtful when deciding these traits because they will heavily impact the creature’s effective hit points and challenge rating.
To be more specific, take into consideration that:
- Vulnerability: to a type of damage means that if the creature receives any amount of damage of that type, the effective damage it receives is doubled.
- Resistance to a type of damage means instead that that value is halved (Rounding down).
- Immunity means that the creature cannot be harmed by that type of damage at all.
Step VII - Attacks, Action, Reactions and Special Traits
Step VII - Calculate the Attacks, Actions, Reactions and Special Traits of your Homebrew Creature
And now, the most exciting part: that’s right! Choosing your creature’s attacks, actions, reactions, and its special traits.
A) Calculate the Attack Bonus
First off, you have to calculate the creature’s attack bonus. You can take the previous table as a reference.
To calculate it you have to choose which ability score modifier your creature uses, according to what it uses to attack. (STR if it uses its claws, or a Warhammer, DEX if it’s using its bow or if it has a finesse weapon).
Once defined its ability score modifier you must add the creature’s proficiency bonus, and voilà, you have your attack bonus.
B) Type and amount of damage
Once you have done that, determine the type and the amount of damage that it deals with.
This operation needs to be applied for every attack.
The type of attack is simple to determine: if your creature uses sharp claws it’s surely slashing damage, while if it crushes enemies with its fists, the correct type is bludgeoning.
After these steps, you need to calculate the amount of damage. To do so you will have to identify the attack dices.
Swords usually have stated 1d6 as damage, while a greataxe deals 1d12 damage etc, but you can always add an exception and come up with a new weapon just for the creature.
After this step, you simply have to add the creature’s ability modifier as you do for normal playable characters.
If your creature attacks with sharp and flaming claws, you might split the damage into two parts, physical and elemental. Don’t forget that you must consider the two types of damage separately.
e.g. My “Giant Cobra” (CR:2, STR: 16) has an attack with his bite, that has a bonus of +5 and deals 5 (1d4 + 3) piercing damage + 2 (1d4) poison damage.
Step VIII - The Last Details
Now we have arrived at the final stage.
Which is simply choosing the senses, speed, and languages that your creature is able to speak.
So for that, you will have to specify the creature’s senses.
Some of these senses are:
“A creature with blindsight can perceive its surroundings without relying on sight, within a specific radius. Creatures without eyes, such as oozes, and creatures with echolocation or heightened senses, such as bats and true dragons, have this sense.” (Player Handbook p.183)
“Many creatures in fantasy gaming worlds, especially those that dwell underground, have darkvision. Within a specified range, a creature with darkvision can see in dim light as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light, so areas of darkness are only lightly obscured as far as that creature is concerned. However, the creature can’t discern color in that darkness, only shades of gray.” (Player Handbook p.183)
“A monster with tremorsense can detect and pinpoint the origin of vibrations within a specific radius, provided that monster and the source of the vibrations are in contact with the same ground or substance. Tremorsense can’t be used to detect flying or incorporeal creatures.” (Monster Manual)
“A creature with truesight can, out to a specific range, see in normal and magical darkness, see invisible creatures and objects, automatically detect visual illusions and succeed on saving throws against them, and perceives the original form of a shapechanger or a creature that is transformed by magic. Furthermore, the creature can see into the Ethereal Plane.” (Player Handbook p. 185)
And don’t forget also to assign, its passive perception, given by 10 + its WIS (perception) bonus.
Speed and language
Once you have added the senses of the creature, then comes the time to add its walking speed, and if the creature is an aerial, aquatic, or digging one then add that corresponding speed as well.
Then determine if the creature can use telepathy or not.
Also, determine the languages it can understand.
Do that accordingly with the creature’s intelligence score, but keep that only as a reference.
keep in mind that creatures like beasts rarely speak a language and that a creature could comprehend a language even if it can’t speak it.
For example, take into consideration that a huge bear won’t have much to say.
Finally, Determine its XP reward, given by the corresponding challenge. (You can use the table in “Challenge Rating“)
These are all the things that you will need to make your own creature in D&D.
Now with this knowledge go ahead and have fun making your own characters.
Go and tell it to your party members too. So all of you can come up with interesting monsters together.