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Both zephyr hawks and river drakes are level 3 creatures. This seems insane.

Zephyr hawks are worse than river drakes in just about every way. Their AC being 2 points higher than that of a river drake is a small consolation. Zephyr hawks deal one damage die. Their only ability gives 2 attacks without a penalty increase and saves them an action if they also move.

River drakes:

  • Have better HP, perception, skills, ability scores, and attack rolls
  • Deal 2 damage dice
  • Have a 3-attacks-for-2-actions ability, unlimited use
  • Have a 2-moves-for-1-action ability, three times a day
  • Have a 10-foot burst AoE that deals significant acid damage both initially and persistently, along with a speed debuff, once every 1d6 rounds
  • Have a reaction that gives them a free strike and applies a penalty to the target's roll if the strike hits

I don't see how anyone could imagine zephyr hawks to be on the same level or be worth the same XP as river drakes.

Last night at the table, with a bit of skewed luck, a party that had just wiped the floor with two zephyr hawks lost three characters to two river drakes. They had full spells, abilities, and HP for the river drake fight, in contrast to having few remaining resources to fight the hawks the day before. Absolutely not surprising when you look at the blatant power difference between these two creatures.

What's up with them both being level 3?

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The creatures are closer in balance than your case study suggests, but the River Drake is generally more dangerous. Here are a couple notes:

  • The Zephyr Hawk (ZH) has higher AC/Reflex, meaning it should be harder to kill. Both AC and Reflex are near the Extreme range of their respective Building Creatures guidelines.
    • The River Drake (RD) is about 10% more likely to be hit/crit and 20% more likely to take full/double damage from the most common damage spells via Reflex.
  • ZHs' Circling Attack allows it to perform two attacks at full attack bonus and remain out of melee reach.
    • RDs must remain within reach, with its lower defenses, when not using Caustic Mucus or else it only gets one attack.

Even accounting for these, ZHs' damage is between the Low-Moderate scale while RDs' are solidly in the High category. One lower attack bonus (Moderate-High vs High) means that it should be able to hit twice... dealing only slightly more damage than RDs' Fangs hitting once.


My take? Creature 3 is appropriate for both creatures, although one is on the low scale of 3 while the other is on the high scale. One is intended to be a tanky creature and the other a blaster. The difference of one or two critical hits could make the encounter feel very different, and either could pose problems for various parties. The ZH is too strong to be considered a Creature 2, and the River Drake is not strong enough to justify Creature 4 (but if I was going to change one, I would bump the River Drake up due to its Draconic abilities Frenzy and "breath" Mucus).

In a perfect world, these creatures would not be used by themselves but have creature that accommodate their shortcomings (perhaps a ranged damage dealer with the ZH and a tanky melee with AoO for the RD) but 'perfectly balanced' encounters aren't necessary for every fight, and honestly don't always make sense.

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