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I was looking through the 3.5 Monster Manual, and started noticing something. Some monsters had a 'This monster as a character' section, apparently telling the players how to adjust their stats to become said monster. I was blown away. Then I realized that all monster stats were treated as if they were actual characters, including the base attack bonuses, feats, and even level adjustments for starting as that monster (if my understanding is correct). As if the writers of the book wanted you to be able to play as almost anything shown in the MM, even when there isn't an actual 'This monster as acharacter' section.

Is my understanding of the writer's intent correct? And if yes, how can you complete the starting stats of monsters who don't have their own 'This monster as a character' section (that is, finding starting ability bonuses, recommended class, and so on.)?

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3 Answers 3

That's Not The Intention

The intention of monsters having a block of stats like characters do is so a DM has stats to use when they look up the monster. If I want to put a Bodak into play, I don't want to have to create stats for it every single time. That's what those stats are for - they greatly speed up DM preparation (and improv if things suddenly change mid session and we need monsters we hadn't planned for).

Those monster stats could be changed, if I for example advance the monster using the rules to do that. But they serve as a good base.

The ones you're intended to be able to play as a PC have the "Monster as Character" section.

But...

Spells like Polymorph let you become most of the monsters. Masters of Many Form can Wild Shape into almost anything. Shapechange lets you change into all kinds of things. etc, etc.

On top of that, you could just ask your DM and say "Can I play as this cool monster?" Your DM can make anything happen, no matter how wacky.

Will they? Quite possibly not, as some monsters can be really hard to integrate into a campaign when other people are playing Dwarves. But it's not outside of what a DM can do if they want to.

A friend of mine and I Once came up with a character concept for a two-headed Ogre. We'd each play a head. We had different character sheets, and even different classes. Each turn, we'd decide what we wanted to do. If they didn't match, we'd flip a coin to determine which head gets to act.

Totally not within the core rules, as written. Totally awesome if your DM & table are cool with it. :)

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3  
This reminded me of the Ogre and Ogre Mage from Warcraft II. –  Jason_c_o May 16 at 16:31
    
Speaking as one who's character was turned into a bodak and played as that for a couple months, anything is possible. –  BBlake May 16 at 17:57
    
This reminded me of markrosewater.tumblr.com/post/51236335371/… –  corsiKa May 16 at 18:49

No, not all monsters are playable. Monsters designated as non-playable have an entry of

Level Adjustment: -

in their statistics block.

To play as a monster that does have a listed LA, you have to do a bit of work. This is largely explained on pages 172-173 of the Dungeon Master's Guide. I also strongly recommend reading Urpriest's Monstrous Monster Handbook.

I have two suggestions before you run off:

  1. Don't get too excited about monster characters. The 3.5 execution of them is rather poor. It being possible by the rules to play monsters doesn't mean they make appropriate PCs, most monster characters are horribly underpowered when compared to "ordinary" characters of their level.
  2. You will hear about rules (from Savage Species) to make any monster playable. Those rules are terrible, produce badly balanced characters, and I suggest you stay clear of them. Handwave if you must.
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My +1 comes for point 2 actually. Really bad set of rules for a really unbalanced DnD edition. –  Drunken_Guy May 28 at 12:04

Yes, you're right.

Monsters are constructed like characters, with racial HD and special abilities taking the place of HD from class and class features.

Any monster with a listed 'LA' (Level Adjustment) in the MM is designed for possible player use. You can work out racial attribute bonuses by taking the creature's ability scores and subtracting 10 from them (if even) or 11 (if odd). If a monster instead uses the Elite Array (typically only example monsters with class levels, should be noted in the entry) you subtract 15 from the highest, 14 from the second highest, so forth.

Rules for doing this, and assigning LA to LA-less monsters, are presented in Savage Species.

Typically, though, the authors high-balled the LA and when you add RHD to that, the resulting creature is clearly not as powerful (with very, very few notable exceptions) as a simple LA+0 race like Human with levels in a class (even a terrible class).

There's been a lot of suggestions for a fix to this, from savage progressions to monster classes and every houserule between. My choice, however was Frank and K's rules from Races of War. Post 3 - 'Unusual Races'.

It's a relatively simple set of rules based around the simple and universal idea that a ECL should equal CR - i.e., a level 5 Human Fighter is CR 5, so an Awakened CR 5 Fleshraker should be able to adventure in the same party as the Fighter without issue.

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I love it when people downvote and don't leave any sort of sign as to why they are downvoting - it is my very favourite thing. –  Jack Lesnie May 18 at 7:27

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