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I've been a long time DM for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but I'm only now getting a solid grasp of designing monsters and monster encounters. There's a lot of hullabaloo about CR and how difficult it is to use. Here's a balance question that I hope isn't too ridiculous.

Monsters' Hit Dice in D&D 5e are usually determined by the creature's size, the most commonly used ones being d8s for Medium creatures and d10s for Large (or at least in my games). More Hit Dice are added to give monsters more HP, along with adjusting their Constitution.

Is there a balance issue with designing a Medium creature that uses d10 Hit Dice? I only wish to know if it there's a domino effect I'd be unaware of in doing such a thing.

Some thoughts and concerns I have:

  • Monsters rarely, if ever, have a chance to spend Hit Dice, so that doesn't seem to be relevant.

  • Using Hit Dice to adjust average health as well as maximum and minimum health seems more interesting than simply using Constitution.

  • Players and monsters using such drastically different rules for determining Hit Dice is difficult to wrap my head around.

  • I understand monster CR is design with the idea of 6-8 encounters in an adventuring day, though average play for my group and dramatic story telling don't always lend itself to that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm curious as to why you feel the need to adjust monster hp that way. The change from a d8 to a d10 is only +1hp, the same as raising Con by +1/+2, and adding extra hit dice doesn't have side effects like in previous editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – StarHawk
    Feb 28, 2022 at 15:59
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    – V2Blast
    Feb 28, 2022 at 16:40

2 Answers 2

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In several years of playing, I have cared about monster hit dice one time.

I have played a lot of D&D 5e in the last few years. I've run two different groups through Curse of Strahd, run a homebrewed campaign set in Critical Role's Exandria, run innumerable one shots as pick-up games, and played in a few adventures.

A monster's hit dice mattered one time.

In my Exandria campaign, the party trekked across the frozen wastes of Eiselcross, and encountered the ancient white dragon Gelidon, The Nightmare in Ivory. With some surprisingly good rolls from the party, and a turn of bad luck for Gelidon, the Nightmare in Ivory retreated to her lair. The party, emboldened by their performance, pursued. They tracked Gelidon back to her lair and engaged her there. It had not yet been enough time for her to complete a long rest, so I went by the book and rolled her hit dice for a short rest. And that's the only time I even used hit dice for a monster.

If the hit dice for monsters was something different, I wouldn't have ever noticed, and I'm finding myself unable to even contrive of a situation where a change to hit die size would even matter.

I have however used an NPC with the party on very rare occasions (I'm very keen on avoiding GMPCs), but those times, I've used a character sheet and built the NPC just as you would a player character, and the hit dice were based on the character's class, not size, which I suppose lends credence to the idea that it really doesn't matter, because I have used d10 medium creatures in the form of a fighter NPC, and it, well, didn't matter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's one more time than I've ever had. The only time I can think of in the books would be any companions (eg. Beast Master, Drakewarden, less so Battle Smith) which would roll hit dice as part of short rests. Not sure the proposed change would be noticeable though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 28, 2022 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have it happen nearly every session -- the players (early levels) are accompanied by a henchman NPC, and when they rest, so does the NPC, taking hit die to regain some hits. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28, 2022 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin I forgot about that, I have done that before. I added a doozy of a run on sentence about it. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28, 2022 at 14:20
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There is no balance issue

If you follow the official rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide for creating a monster stat block (starting on page 275), the challenge rating of a DM-designed monster is determined nearly entirely based on its overall hit points, its AC, its to hit probability and the damage it deals, with modifications to these numbers based on special resistances and abilities.

While the rules on page 276 (under "Step 8. Hit Points") say you should use d8 for a Medium creature, the kind of die you use does not affect the CR calculation. The rules only care about the resulting hit points, not the Hit Dice. You could engineer similar hit point totals by using d8 and adjusting Constitution. And, as you say yourself, the other properties of Hit Dice rarely come into play during a normal game.

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