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The Monster Manual explains that a creature's Advancement entry "shows how tough a creature can get in terms of its extra Hit Dice. (This is not an absolute limit, but exceptions are extremely rare.)" (7). Thus it hedges, permitting DMs to have their 19 HD achaierai, 13 HD allips, and ½HD toads, but it strands players, leaving them not knowing if they can craft a 7 HD homunculus or a 55 HD iron golem ("Buy one now! Only 385,000 gp!").

In other words, while all creatures have an Advancement entry that lists their (theoretical--see above) maximum HD, some creatures have Construction narratives, and in those construction narratives maximum HD goes unmentioned.

Question: Can creatures with Construction narratives (e.g. golems, homunculi, shield guardians) that include a method for adding HD (e.g. paying gp and XP) exceed the HD limits in their Advancement entries?

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So with three negatives my hopes of the campaign's big bad being a CR 20 85-HD packmate are nearly dashed. Thanks a lot, guys. –  Hey I Can Chan Sep 1 '13 at 21:44
    
The CR 21 mithral golem might suit your purposes: d20srd.org/srd/epic/monsters/golem.htm –  Jonathan Drain Sep 2 '13 at 0:31
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But the 85 HD packmate gets nearly 30 feats out of the box--so to speak. Unless the subject of an awaken construct spell, templated appropriately, or created with the Rudimentary Intelligence feat, the mithral golem gets 0. –  Hey I Can Chan Sep 2 '13 at 5:32
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@HeyICanChan You are the DM; you should do what feels appropriate to the campaign. But the 3.5 CR rules are ridiculously inaccurate; you should neither rely solely on them, nor should you try to optimize for a certain CR – it’s much, much too easy to end up with an absurd monstrosity. You’re the DM: if you want a boss to be unkillable, then you can just do that, but its actual “challenge” is by definition well above that of the players’ ability to fight. I consider it very poor form for a DM to say “but the CR rules say!” –  KRyan Sep 2 '13 at 14:39

3 Answers 3

No, I wouldn't think so -- there is nothing to indicate discrepancy between the text and the advancement entry. Therefore, it's not about trumping one with another -- the text gives the method, and the table gives the maximum HD possible. I do not see any reason why the Advancement entry should be ignored, and when you are playing strict RAW, I do not think it should be ignored.

With that said, I also do not see a big problem (balance or otherwise) with ignoring the max HD entry, IF your DM is okay with it, and IF your wealth is appropriate to character level.

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Very much a gray area. Your question title seems to refer to the notion of “text-trumps-table,” which is a rule set forth in the errata files for 3.5, but in this case there is not an explicit contradiction between the text and the table: the table just puts in a restriction not mentioned in the text. On the other hand, nowhere that I can find do the rules explicitly tell you to reference the table on this point, which it should.

In the case of the artificer (Eberron Campaign Setting) and his Craft Homunculus feature, we have an easy case: the class feature’s text explicitly states a limit on the homunculus’s HD, which is the clear-cut rule for artificers using that class feature to create homunculi.

Unfortunately, the easy answer ends there. The Craft Construct feat doesn’t mention anything about HD; it just says you can make a construct and see the individual monster entries for costs and the like.

In the case of golems, we have this rule:

Note: The market price of an advanced golem (a golem with more Hit Dice than the typical golem described in each entry) is increased by 5,000 gp for each additional Hit Die, and increased by an additional 50,000 gp if the golem’s size increases. The XP cost for creating an advanced golem is equal to 1/25 the advanced golem’s market price minus the cost of the special materials required.

Which unfortunately does not explicitly address the limits in the Advancement section of the stat block (though it does reference the Advancement section when it talks about size increases, since size increases are also indicated by the Advancement block)

And for homunculi crafted using Craft Construct rather than Craft Homunuli, we have

A homunculus with more than 2 Hit Dice can be created, but each additional Hit Die adds +2,000 gp to the cost to create.

Again, no reference to a maximum, though the table has “Advancement: 3-6 HD (Tiny)”

The shield guardian has a similar rule:

A shield guardian with more than 15 Hit Dice can be created, but each additional Hit Die adds +5,000 gp to the market price, and the price increases by +20,000 gp if the creature’s size increases to Huge, modifying the cost to create accordingly.

Again, no maximum. And that covers all of the Constructs in the Monster Manual that can be created with Craft Construct. Animated objects require animate object, and retriever demons and inevitables cannot be crafted.

The errata for Monster Manual did not touch on this point, which leaves us without RAW. The only thing I can offer is this: mindless constructs, such as golems and the shield guardian, are unlikely to advance on their own. They lack the capacity for learning. So I think that really, what else can the Advancement maximums refer to if not the HD added by the creator? If we do not use those lines for this, they don’t seem likely to be used at all. Moreover, adding more HD to a Construct is already referencing the Advancement section when it talks about size changes: those have to come from the Advancement line. So for a Construct, Advancement means the creator adding more HD, and thus that limit applies.

The artificer’s Craft Homunulus feature overrides that limit, though, since it does explicitly provide a different limit.

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The rules are vague here, but as a DM, I would rule no.

  1. The golem page refers to an "advanced golem (a golem with more Hit Dice than the typical golem described in each entry)". It seems reasonable that "advanced golem" refers to a golem which has undergone Advancement as per the hit dice limit in its monster description.

  2. Most creatures only support advancement to 3x their base HD. Above that, hit dice are not necessarily an accurate measure of challenge rating, as per Improving Monsters: "In general, once you’ve doubled a creature’s CR, you should closely watch any additional increases in its abilities. Adding Hit Dice to a creature improves several of its abilities, and radical increases might not follow this progression indefinitely."

  3. As you said, "The advancement line shows how tough a creature can get, in terms of extra Hit Dice. (This is not an absolute limit, but exceptions are extremely rare.)" This suggests to me that the Advancement line is recommended limits for constructs, whether encountered normally or player-crafted. Above that, the player would have to craft multiple advanced constructs, or use a more powerful construct (delving into the epic golem line, for example).

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+1 especially for 2. –  LitheOhm Sep 2 '13 at 16:17

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