For Christmas this year, I got the Monster Manual Three. Only problem is, this one is for 4e and I play almost exclusive 3.5. However, I started flipping through the pages anyway out of curiosity.

I've barely heard of some of these monsters, and a others I've never heard of. The tulgar? I like the stuff in here, but the stat blocks are obviously all 4e. Is there a method of translating the monsters from the 4e stat blocks to 3.5 monsters?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/14510/… \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 25, 2012 at 20:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd treat the two systems as completely different and port accordingly (i.e. form a vision of the monster by taking the fluff and using the 4e stats to get an idea for how the monster is supposed to operate, then build the mechanics for 3.5 from scratch to suit that vision). \$\endgroup\$
    – Quentin
    Dec 26, 2012 at 0:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Quentin falling short of an answer with decent ranking, that's what I'll be doing. I'm just hopeful that there's the possibility to cut corners for this. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 26, 2012 at 5:43

3 Answers 3


Again, there's no easy way to do that.

You might be familiar with this assumption and I can tell you where it steams off too. D&D 4th edition is quite a different game with some similarities that were kept to brand it as "D&D".

The main problem here is that monsters only have powers they can actually use during an encounter. No more 1st level spells on your epic dragon. No more "the monster has this spells provided it has the time to buff". Everything in 4e happens during combat. And 4e Monsters don't have to deal with save-or-die spells, while most solos have to deal with multiple stuns (which didn't happen in 3.x). AoO work in a different way, ranged attacks deal damage based on Dex, spells deal bonus damage based not on the level but on the mental scores. 5-feet step is now a movement action (except for kobolds)... Different game.

The easiest thing you can do is to take existing D&D 3.5 monsters or NPCs and present them to the group as if they were the kind of interesting monsters you want to portray. Maybe choose something that has similar mechanics if you can find it.

In other word(s), reflavor.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 wow. I knew of a few differences but not that many, it really is a totally different game. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the most problematic thing with people doing edition wars against 4e is that tey expect to find pathfinder and they don't. It's extremely weel tought on the mechanical part. One AoO per turn (not per round) and only on adjacent squares. Monsters are built to be one-shot enemies that are balanced versus not-15'-day characters. Of course most of the rules are about combat and there's a new (fatally flawed) mechanic called skill contest that can cover all the non-combat challenges. But since it just needs a few pages "the system only cares about combat".. I shrug and play it for I like it \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jan 9, 2013 at 0:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem I have with reflavoring the monsters is that the mechanical abilities of the 4th Ed monsters are so good. E.g. the Tulgars broken spirit giving it's nearest ally HP and a boost when it dies. Just great abilities. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Jan 22, 2016 at 7:51

There is no easy way to do this.

Which doesn't mean there's NO way to do this, mind you. It's just that it's going to be a rough and toothy thing on you. I'm afraid the proposed answer involving shaving the defenses and the like is more of a stop-gap solution than it is a long-term way to convert the monsters.

Now, the absolute 100% best thing to do is to get someone who's talented at monster homebrew and see if you can convince them to help you. If you can't, then while I can't actually help with the specific conversions I can give you some things to keep in mind. You're going to want to use the D20 SRD and its (annoyingly split-up) monster section for this.

  • 4e and 3.5 treat monsters and PCs in entirely different fashions. 4e has an actual mechanical divide between 'this is a player' and 'this is everything that is not a player' with completely different mechanics for each. 3.5, on the other hand, treats everything as part of the same basic 'this is a creature' paradigm, PC, NPC, or monster. As a result, there's no real "monster guidelines" I can point you to.

  • In 3.5, every creature has a type, such as Humanoid, Elemental, or Dragon. Some of them also have subtypes. You'll find examples of both in the SRD, and you should pay attention to them because both have mechanical effects on the resulting creation. Being a Dragon comes with certain automatic considerations (like the size of your hit die) that are different than the ones for, say, Outsiders or Aberrations. When creating a monster without class levels, your Type is also your "class" in many ways, and so it needs to be your first consideration.

  • Assign some ability scores to this bad boy. There's no hard-and-fast way to do this, and you may end up adjusting ability scores depending on what you do with their other abilities. Look at other, similar monsters in the SRD (for example, if you're translating an angel you should look at other angels of the appropriate CR) for inspiration on this, but ultimately this is going to be the second-haziest part of this whole process.

  • Assign your skill points! The Type of your monster will give you an amount of skill points, but not any class skills. This is because monsters have different class skills per monster - that is, each kind of Outsider has its own "class skills" list, each kind of Dragon has its own, etc, etc. The TL;DR version is that you get to put your skills wherever you want to as appropriate for the monster!

  • Translate special abilities. This is going to be really, really tricky and it's the biggest reason I'd suggest you find an experienced homebrewer to help or teach you. If this is NOT an option, then you need to keep in mind that all abilities in 3.5 are defined as (Ex)traordinary, (Sp)ell-like, (Ps)i-like, or (Su)pernatural. You can find more descriptions of what these ability types mean for an ability in the SRD I linked above, but the short version is this: (Ex) abilities can break the laws of physics, but are non-magical results of inherent ability (like a dragon's claws) or training (like a rogue's Evasion), (Sp) and (Ps) abilities mimic or act like a spell or psionic power, and (Su) abilities are magical abilities that do NOT mimic spells or psionic powers. If you feel an ability should require a saving throw, the standard formula used in ALL printed DCs is 10 + 1/2 hit die (round down in D&D 3.5 always) + appropriate ability modifier. Most monsters use Con for things like poison, sonic roars, and other biological attacks, Str for crushing blows, massive flab-drops and the like, and Charisma for supernatural abilities. You are not, however, beholden to this.

  • Select your feats! Any creature with an intelligence of 2 or above is entitled to 1 feat at its first hit die, then another at the 3rd and every 3 levels thereafter (just like a PC). Additionally, you can assign bonus feats you feel are appropriate for your monster - just mark them with a little B next to the feat name. Some feats that you might want to keep in mind include Ability Focus (increases the save DC for a monster ability by 2) and, for flying monsters, Flyby Attack.

  • If the monster can use items, decide if it has any items and assign them accordingly. This part I can't really help on, as I've got VERY little experience with it, but past a certain point even the monsters need magical items to compete. Plan accordingly.

  • Crunch out 'derived' attributes like its saving throws (the types will tell you what the base saves should be), initiative, attack, damage, and the like. Select an alignment for your monster (this can have mechanical effects, so don't skip it unless your game has skipped out on alignments entirely).

  • Ideally, at this point someone double-checks your work, or you post it online for general review and then make what changes are necessary.

  • Unleash your translated abomination on unsuspecting players.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 good summary of 3.5 monster creation. I do have experience making monsters in 3.5, and a lot of it, so I was hoping for more from the 4e angle. Or does this capture all of that as well? \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ It...doesn't, but there may be some ways to help generalize about how 4e could translate back. For example, 4e monsters tend to be tagged with a role like Striker (deals damage) that helps describe how it's supposed to act in combat. Taking those roles can help you decide what abilities to put on the beast in question. I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with 4e myself but there's plenty of folks on chat/around the site that could probably break down monster roles for ya. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2013 at 18:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 great answer; it is a lot of work though..I wish someone would make an online tool to stramline the process and others similar to it but thats probably not gonna happen (esp w/5e around the corner) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can actually hunt up a few guides if you want. They're not really a tool in the sense of an interactive monster-creation program but they DO help with things like defining abilities and determining CR. I've gotta play with my toddler right now (Plants vs. Zombies woo!) but if you wanted to float around chat I'll dig the link up when I get back. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2013 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=10313 <-Here's the guide I was talking about. It deals strictly in 3.5, and right at the top there's links to additional resources (including the Vorpal Tribble's EXCELLENT guide on making monsters for 3.5). Like I said, it's not an interactive sheet or program, but any port in a storm, hey? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 8, 2013 at 20:08

I did find this as a solution, I'd like to know what the 4e and 3.5 players think of it. It's my own guess at an accurate answer, as I have next to no 4e experience.

  1. AC stays as is.
  2. To get your Fort/Ref/Will saves, shave off 10 from the Fort/Ref/Will defenses.
  3. HP... I either kept them at full, or perhaps went 3/4 of maximum.
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    \$\begingroup\$ My bad, the link specifically says Pathfinder. In that case I've got nothing, but at least three people believe this to be a viable solution. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Dec 26, 2012 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ A Pathfinder stat block is going to look pretty similar to a 3.5 stat block. \$\endgroup\$
    – corvec
    Jan 8, 2013 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @corvec that's sort of what I thought to, but it's a really chop-off-the-corners translation. \$\endgroup\$
    – LitheOhm
    Jan 8, 2013 at 18:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LitheOhm: Pathfinder changes almost nothing about this answer. I don't know 4e well enough to judge it, but Pathfinder and 3.5 are effectively identical in these regards. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 8, 2013 at 19:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Like it, but figuring out CR is hard. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nat
    Jan 22, 2016 at 7:52

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