I want to build a particularly nasty Ogre as villain, so I went to Savage Species to see what they could tell me there. The thing is, the Ogre as described there is not quite as powerful enough for my taste (and the party's ability, I may add), so I wish to make it an Ogre 6//Fighter 6. So my questions are:

  • Would this be possible in the first place?
  • What would the CR of such a creature be?
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you the DM? Players cannot typically choose to use gestalt, and as a variant things like this are usually up to the DM. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 7 '14 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I want to build the monster in question as the one of the campaign's villains, so yes, I can make that call. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs Jul 7 '14 at 15:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Won't it be easier to just give the ogre a few levels in a class? For example, a "regular" ogre has 4HD and CR 3, giving him 2 levels in fighter will result in a 6HD monster with CR 5, and 3 more combat feats (one from 6HD, two from fighter class). What do you hope to gain from using the gestalt rules here? \$\endgroup\$ – G0BLiN Jul 7 '14 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson An Ogre Fighter 6 has 10 HD, while a Ogre//Fighter 6 has 6 HD. This may result in more appropriate numbers (HP and saves) than the usual method, while allowing a greater number of class/racial features to keep the fight interesting/pump up his effects. Bigger numbers are often a poor answer. Though, to be honest, this technique works better with more interesting races than ogres and/or more interesting classes than fighters. Ogres and fighters are usually just about numbers. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 7 '14 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user2097818 Heh, thank you. Mostly, monsters with special abilities, but weak "numbers" -- things that can be improved by the fighter's HD, BAB, and armor proficiency. Fey, perhaps? Or bruiser monsters with skillmonkey or casting classes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 8 '14 at 3:16

The rules don’t really say; gestalt is a variant that’s pretty well fleshed-out, but it’s even less comprehensive than the usual rules.

Generally speaking, there’s no reason it can’t work. Particularly for a non-player character, where LA doesn’t come into play, you can just gestalt it with Monstrous Humanoid RHD. It will be fairly effective without being as devastating as having both all those RHD and all those class levels (i.e. many more total HD). It’s a quite appropriate way to power up a monster without making a lot of math wonky by inflating coincidental numbers.

But the rules don’t actually suggest or recommend this approach (or suggest or recommend against it, for that matter).

Challenge Rating

As for CR, that’s a nearly-impossible question to answer. I’m reasonably confident that I could find CR 3-4 monsters that could keep up with this guy (allips and That Damn Crab come to mind), and also reasonably confident that I could find CR 10-12 monsters that he could handle. Meanwhile, 6th-level parties could potentially founder on those CR 3-4 monsters, or kill even things CR’d higher than that 10-12 range. CR is, effectively, useless, because there’s no standardization.

For this case, are we claiming that a Fighter 6 is a CR 6 encounter for this party? Most parties I’ve been in would make short work of a Fighter 6 even at levels well below that (quick, four Will saves, fail any one and you’re out of the fight!), but nominally it’s a 6th-level character. For the sake of giving some answer, I’ll assume it is.

So what does being an ogre add here? Large size, which is awesome, +5 natural armor, which, fine, OK, and... that’s about it. If you use the elite array, some really solid ability scores, but lacking the Intelligence to take Combat Expertise and therefore Improved Trip (unless he dips Wolf Totem Barbarian 2, which would be awesome for him). With Large size and no trip, I’d want to go with Dungeoncrasher from Dungeonscape, grabbing Power Attack, Improved Bull Rush, Knockback (Races of Stone), and Shocktrooper (Complete Warrior).

He now can potentially do huge damage if he shoves someone into a wall, and he gets a free bull rush on each attack. Easily looking at around 70 damage on a charge or regular bull rush since you can safely Power Attack for full in those cases, and 60 damage on a regular attack (with the possibility of an iterative), assuming that he can’t reliably hit while Power Attacking for full. But that damage is contingent on slamming things into walls. Aside from bull rushes, he has no ability to control the battlefield, which means a smart group can deny him the ability to land that damage; typical attacks are going to be more like 20 damage, up to about 35 if Power Attacking becomes an option (e.g. on a charge).

Since landing both iteratives is probably unlikely, and a single dungeoncrash hit probably won’t kill in one, that could make the fight an interesting tactical encounter in the level 6-8 range. Or it could be brutal because there aren’t good options for avoiding the dungeoncrashing, the party isn’t prepared to protect squishier assets, and so on. Or it could be a cakewalk because the party immobilizes him well away from any walls and just destroys him.

Ultimately, I would CR this encounter based on how many times I expect a character have to weather a dungeoncrash hit, and look for HP values based on that. For my parties, I’d expect them not to let him do it twice, so I’d want them to survive the first hit but die if they were dumb enough to let him do it twice. You might want to give a little more leverage based on how quickly you think they can evac whoever took the hit, and how capable they are of preventing a second. For two-hit kill, probably around CR 6-8 like I said. For a three-hit kill, probably around CR 10, though I’d boost his health and saves for that. His damage is too high to allow more hits than that at levels where he could even conceivably be a threat.

If you don’t go with Dungeoncrasher, his damage goes down dramatically, and it eliminates any real hope of getting a particularly tactical encounter out of this. Then it just becomes a calculus of how many hits you expect the party to have to take in order to put him down, and CRing him based on that. Hopefully they haven’t got any clever battlefield controllers.

For players: LA

For the record: when a player in a gestalt game wants such a character, the question of LA has to be addressed. This is somewhat awkward. But in my experience, and I’ve played in many such games, simply putting the LA on “one side” of the gestalt works well (though it will be inconsistent with NPC gestalt characters built as above), since most monsters are over-LA’d and the gestalt devalues the effect. In most cases, it’s still underpowered, though of course exceptions abound.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add that even though most LA'd races/monsters are bad even with the LA on one "side" of a Gestalt progression only, it still leaves lots that suddenly become very good. \$\endgroup\$ – Ernir Jul 7 '14 at 16:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ernir Is my statement that "In most cases, it’s still underpowered, though of course exceptions abound," unclear or insufficient on that point? I also wanted to include that. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 7 '14 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I somehow managed to completely miss the "though of course exceptions abound". You're clear enough! \$\endgroup\$ – Ernir Jul 7 '14 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hm, so CR means little to nothing, and it's all in the EL... alright, I'll look into this some more. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs Jul 7 '14 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasJacobs EL is not the end-all, be-all. Definitely do not want to give that impression. There are a lot of high-HD bruiser monsters that just do not keep up with characters of the same number of HD. Take the tarrasque: it's not much of a threat to a 20th-level character; a 48th-level character would just laugh at it. Ultimately your only hope is to try to evaluate what the monster can do, what the party can do, and how those are going to interact. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 7 '14 at 20:19

Of course it's possible (as the GM) to make a Gestalt NPC, it's just a really, really bad idea. Here's some points to keep in mind.

  1. Sentient monster benefits aren't strictly racial, despite mechanical constructs. That Ogre has some built in levels of "hit-stuff-with-other-stuff" just like that CR 20 red dragon has a fair number of built-in levels of "magician/god".
  2. Rules (albiet questionably playtested, but less game-breaking rules) exist to do exactly what you want. Various supplements have contained "monster levels" which assign abilities to each racial hit die which could allow you to partially level your Ogre up as a monster and then add some early levels of Fighter to the mix.
  3. Or you can use the "monster as PC" rules to stat an NPC. Of course, with the 4 Racial Hit Dice and +2 Level Adjustment, you've technically already hit an ECL of 6 which would make this a CR 6 challenge even without Fighter levels. Don't ask me how that level adjustment math is supposed to work out when the Ogre itself has a CR of half that, but there you have it.
  4. Or you could just use the easy and at least somewhat playtested default rules and give the Ogre 2 levels of Fighter, bringing it up to CR 6.

If you still really want to use the Gestalt rules for monsters then you should probably just allow Gestalt PCs, make sure you remember to give improved monsters a new class after their HD, use the regular CR as a guide, and recognize that your game is going to be horribly imbalanced because it was never designed to run that way.


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