So here's the situation: In D&D 4e, I have began to reduce monster's HP by a lot (at least by half or even more than that).

The reason for this, is that I realized the combat encounters can take quite a long time!

(By the way, yes I'm using Monster Manual 3 and the monster vaults, but even by the standards of these books, they can still be long. Or at least, they take an amount of time that I would consider appropriate for a dramatic combat, even when I already have reduced HP by a lot. And I wouldn't want to make it even longer).

Now, paradoxically, individual monsters die way faster than I had anticipated (PCs are level 10, so they deal a lot of damage. Especially since there are three Strikers in the party).

I reduced monster HP, but I have forgotten to take into account that it means I would have to also boost their damage to compensate for that!

But I'm not sure how much damage is too much. Also, is it better to boost the number of damage rolls, or is it better to boost the static damage?

Fo example, let's say that according to the Monster Manual, the attack of my monster deals 2d6 + 7 damage.

Well, then should I boost it to, say, 3d6 + 7 damage? Or should I rather boost it to, say, 2d6 + 15 damage? Or is it even better to boost it to 3d6 + 15 damage?

Any advice regarding that?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Heh, if you are not careful, you may end up with a game of rocket tag. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2022 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're not wrong! \$\endgroup\$ Nov 22, 2022 at 18:03

2 Answers 2


Try mixing things up

If encounters feel too long, maybe they're just too repetitive? Try mixing them up with...

Mixed Unit Tactics

(If you happen to recognize the heading as a title from a certain book, here is the full text from Skyrim. It's about a page long wall of text and actually does describe the advantage of mixed unit tactics.)

If your party's tactics are too strong, maybe your monsters need to employ new tactics. This may complicate combat a bit, with different roles to keep track of, but if your party is always sticking to Defender+3xStriker a.k.a. Tank N Spank, there are ways to break that up.

  • Enemy Controllers can lock down defenders and let in Strikers.
  • Enemy leaders can force-multiply whichever striker the controller gets into place.
  • An encounter between two groups of intelligent Tank N Spank parties may become a bloodbath with only a diplomatic solution.
  • Skirmishers or minions will overrun Strikers if they have cover fire from a Controller or a proper distraction from a hardened elite brute.
  • Intelligent monsters want to prevent casualties, so when defending hardened positions against your commando unit, they may rotate in and out elites to neutralize the Defender, and then all the minions and Artillery will pop up and aim weapons at the Strikers, then offer a disadvantageous diplomatic solution. The win condition here is not to defeat their elites, but to get past them and capture a leader, so as to have a bargaining chip in the diplomacy.

Leader, Controller, Defender, Striker is not all there is:

Monster Roles

There are also monster roles:

  • Artillery - ranged combat, vulnerable in melee, stay behind soldiers & brutes.
  • Brutes - high-damage melee, high HP, simple to run, protect Artillery or Controllers
  • Controllers - same as ever
  • Lurkers - Lone monster ambushes party. If they have friends, they're basically sneaky skirmishers.
  • Minions - Disposable, swarm tactics, AOE vulnerable, uniform mob of one monster type
  • Skirmishers - Mobile, bypass defenders to reach squishy back-line, hit-and-run tactics
  • Soldiers - Front-line melee, close-range control effects, protect Artillery or Controllers, punishes foes for attacking allies

Combat styles

And an alternative taxonomy particularly appropriate to unintelligent monsters, the Tierzoo combat styles:


  • Grab on and prevent an opponent from attacking or escaping.
  • Weak against Projectile users.
  • Strong against Spacing combat styles.
  • Stealth heavy. Often ambush or combo into big moves.
  • Under-represented in D&D as individuals. Often represented by cooperative tactics and combo moves between Defenders, melee Strikers, Soldiers, Skirmishers, Lurkers.


  • Throw, spray, or cast something that kills or weakens an enemy's resolve (Save-or-suck).
  • Weak against Rushdown combat styles.
  • Strong against grappling combat styles if they can spot them.
  • Awareness heavy. Good with tools and esoteric tactics.
  • Ranged Strikers, Controllers, Artillery


  • Aggressively try to isolate members and land a lot of low-damage attacks that add up.
  • Weak against Spacing combat styles.
  • Strong against Projectile users (note that humanoids using projectiles often use their technology to switch to Spacing!)
  • Mobility heavy. Good for minion swarm tactics.
  • Minions, Skirmishers, Soldiers


  • Deal high-powered damage while staying just out of reach, using a disjointed hitbox like horns, armor, long legs, etc.
  • Weak against Grapplers.
  • Strong against Rushdown combat styles, but only when isolated from the pack.
  • Power heavy. Often use horns, tails, armor or long legs to keep the body or head away from damage.
  • Elite Brutes, Defenders, Soldiers. In cooperation, always watching one another's flanks for grappler protection.

That's: Grappler > Spacing > Rushdown > Projectile > Grappler

Tie it all together

If the party finishes off 1/2 the HP of the brutes too quickly, have them disengage and re-form with nearby allies into a completely different formation of baddies. In a pack, Elite brutes aren't thinkers. They're usually weapons of control wielded by leaders over the minions.

But in many cases, thinkers are mostly interested in minimizing casualties or their own internal power struggles. So are there competing power centers among the enemy? If an elite brute goes down in encounter one, does a controller suddenly take advantage, using completely new tactics and troops they've kept in reserve until now?


You're the DM, you decide how the monsters act.

The OP stated issue

The original question is how to properly boost monster damage -- particularly, how much is too much. Your combat encounters were taking too long, so you cut their HP in half. Now the encounters are unbalanced.

Not every encounter has to be to the death.

Why not give each monster a Save-or-suck-to-escape power, so the monsters have a reliable way of running away? That way, it's up to the players to decide whether to extend the encounter by tracking them down.

With a few examples like wolves attacking travelers who will reward their rescue and be on their merry way a moment later (or at level 10, Outsiders that pop off back to their own dimension), you can make it clear that the adventurers have won. You can especially make sure they understand that still means full xp and commensurate rewards. If the monster is the kind to take their treasure with them, make sure an NPC saw the encounter, and rewards the party. Or the monster's cut-and-run power is to throw down their weapons and/or coin purse and hoof it in the opposite direction.

It's pretty rare that you'll see an animal in nature fight to the death -- generally only when they're cornered or guarding their offspring. Any monster with friends or better gear or better cover nearby will probably take the same tactic. That could lead a greedy party into an ambush or a diplomatic encounter.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .