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I'm starting a new campaign and I'd like to try and make some of my monsters a little hardier. I'm fine with how hard they can hit the PCs, but my main problem is how quickly the monsters go down.

For example, if I was to use the Goblin's maximum HP of 12 (2d6) instead of the average, 7, would this cause any major issues or will it just do what I'm hoping?

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    \$\begingroup\$ @RichBenner See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mouhgouda See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkTO See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Sep 27 '18 at 14:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ For those not clicking through the link SSD keeps providing - do not answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Sep 27 '18 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're looking for ways to add challenge to combat, take a look at 1d4chan.org/wiki/Tucker%27s_Kobolds Wimpy, one-hit-crump monsters can still lead to fast-paced, thrilling combat if they're vicious little geniuses. It's worth considering as an alternative to just making them tougher. \$\endgroup\$ – Perkins Sep 27 '18 at 22:40
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Early enemies become more dangerous

A goblin has an AC of 15, which is much higher than the DMG-recommended AC for a foe of its CR. In exchange, it has extremely low HP. Let's consider a level 1 melee character. With 7.5 (1d8+3) damage from a longsword, the character will, on average, barely kill a goblin if they hit. If the goblin instead has 12 HP, it will take two hits (around 4 attacks) to down it, doubling the length of already-dangerous low-level combats.

Control becomes more powerful

The fighter takes up to twice as long to kill an enemy with maximized HP. The wizard casts hypnotic pattern and it is exactly as effective as it was against enemies with normal HP. In my experience, the game is already slightly in favor of full spellcasters, and maximizing HP would exacerbate the situation.

Certain spells are much less effective

As @DanielZastoupil pointed out, sleep directly affects HP, and thus is far less effective against maximized HP enemies. Against a room full of goblins with 7 HP, sleep has a 96% chance of affecting at least two of them, a 65% chance of affecting at least three, and a 17% chance of affecting at least four. If a goblin's HP is 12, the chances drop to 42%, 0.4%, and 0% for at least two, three, and four, respectively. In my experience, sleep is a large part of low-level bard, sorcerer, and wizard effectiveness.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing I've learned to implement more often are resistances. Like making skeletons resistant to piercing, or giving goblins abilities like a Rogue's Uncanny Dodge. They cause players to revise their tactics and increases enemy survivability without tipping it overboard. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Sep 27 '18 at 16:10
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You're free to adjust the stats of monsters as you like in order to achieve the right balance of challenge in your game - if you find that your monsters are too easy to kill, increasing their hitpoints seems the natural answer. Keeping it within the realm of what is hypothetically possible for a given creature should ensure that the balance impact isn't too overwhelming, at least at low levels, where it means one or two attack's difference; at higher levels, near-doubling a creature's hit points may make several rounds of difference to the fight, so it's a much more significant change.

The biggest balance effect will be that the relative value of effects which aren't based on direct hit point damage or totals will increase; a tougher monster might be able to take twice as many hits, but it is no more resilient to being blinded or restrained than it was previously, so smart players may start using more debuffing and disabling methods of attack.

This does shift the balance of power towards spellcasting classes that can more easily produce such effects; at low levels this won't seem a massive change (since you don't get many spells per day and the difference in HP is smaller in absolute terms) but at higher levels it's going to increase the existing disparity between the effectiveness of martial and magical classes. Whether or not that's a particular problem for you depends on the attitude of your group and how they approach the game's balance.

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It depends on your definition of "I'm fine with how hard they can hit".

If a goblin can survive for 7hp worth of damage, and in that time cause (For example) 5 damage of their own, then a goblin surviving for 12hp worth of damage then in that time they are likely to cause 8-9 points of damage instead of just 5.

So be increasing their longevity you are also increasing their expected damage output.

This has the effect of making fights more dangerous, and the party needing more rests to recover from damage, not just increasing the length of the fights.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you feel like a few points on a CR change would be worth mentioning as a complementary part of your answer? I think it might fit in pretty well. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 27 '18 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast honestly I am not certain how that works. I am going to have the double check that when I get chance but try as I might the CR section of the DMG just doesn't stick in my head. If I get reading in time I will give it an update. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 28 '18 at 6:36
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I'm fine with how hard they can hit the PCs, but my main problem is how quickly the monsters go down.

You do end up messing with game feel - a regular enemy that takes a few rounds to go down mostly gets frustrating, and a quick fight's a good fight. Sometimes it's okay for an enemy to go down quick, because players feel rewarded for picking that enemy.

However, most of the base advice for building 5th edition encounters don't really help you make fun, exciting encounters for your players. If you're trying to boost HP so that players feel more threat from your enemies, there's other approaches you can take. I've found that when I just drop a handful of identical enemies in front of the players, they tend to go down quickly, but if I take the time to make complex terrain and think more tactically about how enemies and the environment are going to work together, players enjoy the fights more and I have time to really sell the encounter.

Your core problem is that players are attacking your enemies each turn, so, consider building features into your fights that encourage your players to do things other than attack on their turn:

  • Traps and devices that require skill checks to operate
  • Turrets and defenses your enemies can operate
  • Negotiations with bystanders
  • Grappling (pairs particularly well with pit traps)
  • Webs and other attacks that do little damage but take someone out of the fight unless another party member spends a turn rescuing them
  • Multi-level arenas, with the upper level accessed by ramps 30 feet or more away
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I am not certain this counts as a proper answer in strict terms (So I can't bring myself to upvote it) I do think it is good advice in general. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Sep 28 '18 at 9:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Saw three people get their comment chomped because it was an answer and said 'fine, I'll make it an answer and get downvoted'. \$\endgroup\$ – Merus Sep 28 '18 at 13:26

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